Teenage Engineering is best known for audio equipment with unique aesthetics, though it does sometimes put out unrelated products, such as a desktop PC tower, wooden “choir” mini figurines, and a toy car. That last one was its prelude to the real product launch it had planned, a product that seemed to straddle the line between a full-fledged tool and a sophisticated toy. Given its size, design, and pedigree, Teenage Engineering’s shiny new EP-133 K.O. II is something you might find hard to take seriously at first glance. Fortunately, it seems to have just the right knobs and buttons, literally, to make it a real tool for music makers, at least those that will be able to shoulder its price.
Designer: teenage engineering
This new sampler, sequencer, and composer takes its inspiration from the brand’s Pocket Operator PO-33 K.O. I back in 2015. This device’s small, calculator-like design and accessible price point really made it look and feel more like some fun gadget for some whimsical music mixing. In contrast, the EP-133 K.O. II, or just KO II, for short, is way too large to fit in your pocket, which is the price you’ll have to pay for significantly more functionality that makes this portable synthesizer worth its weight in gold.
The aesthetics are also worlds apart as well. While the Pocket Operators really looked more like black Pocket Calculators, the KO II more than doubles the size and injects a mix of grays, whites, and oranges all over the place. The large buttons, tall knobs, and industrial aesthetic might remind some of the props from sci-fi shows during the 60s, specifically those from Star Trek. The rectangular screen’s choice of colors and shapes to display the user interface is also reminiscent of the show’s LCARS user interface. It might even be able to play those tricorder sound effects because, after all, it is a portable synth anyway.
It actually has quite a lot of features for that purpose, including 999 sample slots and a built-in speaker. There’s also a built-in mic to let you record your own samples right then and there, as well as a selection of drums, bass, and keys to help you get started. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack in case you want to extend the sampler’s features, but do note it only has 64MB of memory, which is probably the biggest deal-breaker for this product. Apparently, the limitation is there to encourage musicians to finish their creations in one go rather than delaying them forever.
Teenage Engineering is slapping a $299 price tag on the EP-133 K.O. II, amusingly just $50 more than its toy Grip Car. It’s still considerably lower than its other synths, enough to entice music makers of all skill levels, but still quite a hefty investment. Then again, it’s a fully functional portable groove box that has quite a distinctive design you can flaunt around, giving you an image of a retro-futuristic music genius controlling the beat with your hi-tech tool.