Teenage Engineering Intros 3 New Pocket Operator Synths

At the 2016 NAMM Show, Teenage Engineering introduced three new pocket operator synthesizers. 

PO-20 arcade is an ‘arcade synthesizer’ and sequencer, with parameter locks, chord control and punch-in effects.


  • rapid beat making and chiptune improvisation
  • synthesized arcade sounds
  • 128 chord chaining
  • 128 pattern chaining
  • 16 sounds
  • 16 punch-in effects
  • step multiplier

PO-24 office is a noise percussion drum machine and sequencer, with parameter locks, solo functionality and punch-in effects.


  • sampled vintage hardware and real synthesizer engines
  • solo control
  • 128 pattern chaining
  • 16 sounds
  • 16 punch-in effects
  • step multiplier

PO-28 robot is described as a ‘live synthesizer’ and sequencer, with parameter locks, glide control and punch-in effects.


  • real 8-bit synthesizer engines for making live and sequenced melodies and leads
  • 15 sounds + micro drum
  • live play + sequencer combo
  • 128 pattern chaining
  • step multiplier

The three new Pocket Operators are priced at US $59 each. See the TE site for details.

46 thoughts on “Teenage Engineering Intros 3 New Pocket Operator Synths

      1. There are plenty of people who enjoy the OP-1 as a “proper” synth. I don’t have one myself but my friend had one for a while and I thought it was great music making device and different to most synths out there. I had a lot of fun using it and would consider getting one myself.
        There are probably more synths out there for you to play with / buy than ever before and even more coming at NAMM. Choice and range is a good thing. If you don’t like these thats fine but just move on instead of whinging about “toys” and “proper synths”. Or maybe provide some actual constructive criticism such as price, features, connectivity, etc? You never know, you might actually help these manufacturers design the products you so dearly want and free the comments from the usual “toys”, “mini keys”, “proper [insert music making device name here]” comments that plague these boards. Then its a win win for everyone! 🙂

        1. subjectively, objectively, which ever way you want to look at it, compared to what Korg and Arturia have blessed us with this year, these are toys and clearly aimed at beardy, tight jeaned, Tattoo adorned morons who don’t know any better.

          1. I’m not beardy, nor tight jeaned… NOR MORON (ok, i have tattos 🙂 and I love using my PO12.
            I also own a Microbrute, a Yamaha DX7, a Tenori On, a Septavox, a Supernova and a bunch of 3000+ $ guitars, that’s not my problem if you need a 1000$ synth to make music, a great musician make great music with a bottle and a pencil, so maybe POs owners are not the moron ones… 🙂

          2. How do you think Korg did the research and funding for the minilogue? Monotron’s, Volcas, MS-20 mini maybe? I would think all of this has greatly helped in the development and also funded the designing and making of the minilogue.
            Teenage Engineering aren’t anywhere near the size of Korg and you just expect them to make massive $1000+ synths to compete with the big guys? That would be a massive risk to them. Like another poster said they innovate and try different things with cheaper music making devices like these. Don’t forget that even the big guys haven’t been making polyphonic analog synths again until recently, most likely due to cost.
            Why would you even compare these to $1000+ synths?
            For Teenage Engineering these are actually a good price as I think some of their stuff is very expensive. They look fun and I can see myself getting one to use to maybe sample or use in bits of a track. It’s just a shame the cases are close to the price of the actual unit.

            1. Well said.
              For the price, I think these guys can afford being called toys. Also, I like the idea of a very portable noise-maker or whatever you want to call it.

    1. There are plenty of other manufacturers making what you would call “proper” synthesizers, like Korg, Roland, Arturia, Moog, Dave Smith, Tom Oberheim, MFB, Vermona, Novation, and Buchla (among others). What is it that you can’t get from any of these companies you want from Teenage Engineering (a company known for making digital music toys)?

    2. The thing I love about all my Teenage Engineering stuff (POs and OP-1) is that playing with them feels like playing with a toy. But not in the sense that they are cheaply made, but in the sense that they are fun. Their products are extremely well made. The sounds are unique and interesting. There are plenty of companies making knock offs of each others’ work or things that have already been done. But TE is making stuff no one has ever seen before. It’s innovation. Maybe it’s not for you, and that’s fine. There’s a lot of gear I don’t particularly care for that others adore.
      I think it is important to understand that whether or not you like what they do, the fact that they are doing it is good for musicians as a whole. It’s challenging expectations. If manufacturers aren’t willing to take risks in their work, then we are going to see a very monochromatic selection of gear.
      In my experience, the only people that have complaints about TE’s gear are the people that haven’t actually sat down with it and given it an honest chance. I’m sure there are exceptions, but most people are pleasantly surprised. I respect TE because they are deliberately trying to do something different. I’m a fan because what they are doing is really freaking fun and cool.

  1. well, looks like I’m gonna have to buy that arcade one and pair it with my Vsample. just wish they had better enclosures. those barebone boards look too fragile for live, and i don’t like their cases…. maybe i should 3D print my own?

  2. Who is buying this tat? They are the definition of cheap and nasty, not a single saving grace. Horrid sounding, boring, cumbersome and fiddly – why would someone want to force you to make music on a f*cking calculator? That person hates you.

    I also question the motives of a company that makes expensive luxury products and then also cheap tat, with the same tech, with nothing inbetween? Are you a peasant or a king, lets bring back serfdom while we are at it – with a structure like that they need to go out of business as quickly as possible.

    Teenage Engineering needs to grow up, it is a company that hates people.

    1. Wow there’s a lot of hate in that post. Did you have a bad experience with TE or or one of their products?
      Selling lots of small cheap devices helps fund bigger and better products as Korg have done starting with the monotrons. Money doesn’t grow on trees and the economy isn’t exactly great. These smaller companies need to generate steady revenue to continue operating. We have seen many great Music device making companies go under over the years being too ambitious or not innovative enough. Do you really want more companies to go this way? It will means less choice and innovation for all. Also what do you care if other people buy this stuff, there’s no need to insult them dude! If people can find a use for something that you can’t, that’s not a bad thing.

      1. I don’t think I insulted anyone for buying these things, I personally feel people who buy these things deserve them, they more than deserve them – and deserve more of that into the future.They are cheap and nasty tat, and if people that buy this feel insulted for me stating the obvious then I can’t be responsible for that mistake by themselves.

        And you get to talking innovation and ambitious, is this innovation and ambition at play? If it is I wouldn’t shed a single tear for losing a lame ass company like this.

        I stand by what I said, because it is more than justified, is is obvious. And I care if people buy this tat, but if they can find a use for them then fair play. I just don’t want to see more of this rubbish, what about real innovation and ambition? As we all know what happens if you don’t take risks, nothing – and this is very close to that.

        1. lol you just came off (at least to me) angry about the situation calling stuff tat and saying people deserve it. Like its a complete outrage! if your intention wasn’t to insult people then that’s cool it just came off like that to me is all 🙂
          Anyway like I said in other posts, companies need to sell lots of different stuff. E.g. Korg selling lots of monotrons helps them develop things like the filter chips used in them and start mass manufacture. Then they introduced the Volcas using same parts like knobs and stuff (which they now already manufacture / buy in even more bulk reducing cost and development and so on. As nice as it would be to see companies building mega synths all time, it’s not sustainable, most likely extremely costly (especially if it goes wrong and you end up with something like the Timbre Wolf) and takes a massive amount of time to research and develop. Would you really throw all your new eggs into one basket at the risk of your whole company? I just don’t see it as feasible. This might not be for you and that’s cool but some of us do like this stuff and can find ways to use it in our music making process and if it helps support another music device making company then I think that’s a good thing. Competition in a market is a good thing.
          It looks like they are releasing the OP-Z. Regardless of whether it’s good or not that seems to be their new “main” synth thing so we get the choice of both, either or none if you want but personally I think that’s better than just the option of another mega synth I can’t afford lol 🙂

          1. But why rubbish?? If you expect something at a pro level in this price range you are being a fool! Other people may
            simply look for some fun in instruments. What’s the damage in this? Someone else may really think outside the box and make brilliant music with these… Why not?

            1. Rubbish because they are cheap tat. What is fun about forcing oneself to make music on a calculator? I don’t expect anything at this price point other than a cheap piece of rubbish, and guess what?

              Ok, someone may make a great piece of music on these, but really they won’t will they? They have had 12 months already.

              The damage is that if people buy these, and the next day throw it on a shelf or eBay, then the market thinks this is what you want, and next year you get more of the same tat – like what just happened. The market doesn’t understand you got 3 days frustration out of this before smashing it to pieces – is doesn’t ask that.

              If you buy this you deserve it, and next year you deserve more of it, and you deserve more and more of it until all you have is little tatty pieces of sh*t to make music on.

              But they have a right to make this stuff, and I, like everyone else, have a right to comment on it, in a hope that someone at TE reads such a comment and feels totally ashamed of themselves, like they should feel.

              Or are we saying they should be proud of making these pieces of tat? really, proud of that tat? Is that what you are saying? No, they should feel shame.

              1. Crack on mate.

                Why do synthesisers have to be a full sized keyboard and knobs? I love the originality of the concept and the format as it makes me think differently. I also have a Bugbrand Weevil and various CMOS oscillator performance synths I have made. I use all of them to make music. I use them to sample from. I use them to make new sounds. I have fun with them.

                I am an old git and if these were available when I was young at this (relative) price I would have jumped at the chance to buy them.

                Who would use a toy to make music? Kraftwerk and the mighty…..

      1. There are also a lot of “proper synths” finishing on ebay pretty quickly. Some people buy them only to discover that the legendary proper synth requires some proper synth knowledge, and then some to squeeze some decent output from them. I have nothing againts “toys” – I like choice. Moreover I live in a country where 1000 USD for a synth is a LOT of money. So think sometimes of us, living in less developed countries or kids that have pocket money and want to start doing something. I have some synths, some not-electrical instruments, and then some “toys” like PO-12 or 1st gen kaossilator or Gakken SX-150. And they are all great. For recording, playing or just having fun. So why suffer?

  3. if your expecting anything more than fun and inspiration for $60 your in the wrong hobby. hell, cables usually cost more.

    i just wish these couldbe wall powered, everytime i go to pick one up to diddle the batteries need to be replaced. shame the audio is first to go, lights and screen still work, would be nice to hear some powerstarved sounds.

    happy to see more models tho. matched with a decent sampler they are tons of fun. cant wait to give new ones a spin, especially the arcade.

  4. These look fun and the price point is right. I’ve got other things that do something similar, so I probably won’t be grabbing them, but all this talk about proper synths has me thinking. There are so many nice synths out right now, with plenty of variety to choose from for almost every budget. No matter what comes down the line in the future, people are always going to complain about something. Just try and enjoy these for what they are. It’s a great time to be playing music!

  5. I played with the PO synths at a local store. I was over it after about five minutes.

    I think you have really really love that chip tune sound to truly appreciate these things.

  6. the 24 and 28 look awesome – the 12 still seems like it is better than the 24 so I’ll prolly pass on that one and stick with my 12

  7. I got the OP-12 Rhythm for Christmas from a friend. I took it on vacation and was so impressed I took the wife on a ‘fun. scenic drive; that just happened to go by a Guitar Center so I could pick up the PO-14 Sub bass unit. A week later I also bought the PO-16 Factory. Do they have the functionality of my Korg R3 or the build quality of my Gibson J-45? No, but for $60 each they are some fun and portable tools. They’re much more versatile than my Monotrons or my Kaossillator (both of which I love!). It’s all about what you want to create. They’re not going to produce complex orchestration or ‘serious’ music, but I can’t make a dance track with my Gibson.
    If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. You guys keep making serious music and I’ll keep having fun.

  8. Bowie used a stylophone on space oddity.

    a stylophone.

    its entirely your problem if you aren’t creative enough to see the joy and potential in ‘toys’ like this.

    1. You do realize he did so in 1969, you’d expect some progress in 46 years?! No? And it was used in the background of the opening verse only, Rick Wakeman used a Mellotron for the musical parts.

      I don’t think the question is, could you use this on a modern track for an effect? But, would you want to? Isn’t that just self-hate to inflict that level of torment on oneself? Why crawl on your underbelly when you can fly?

      1. You’re being very narrow minded. You’ve just conceded that the styleophone WAS used on Space Oddity, even if just at the beginning – which pretty much kills your whole argument.

        I have the po-12. It’s very limited, but it sounds great when it’s synced and played with other devices. What’s wrong with something being a “toy”? Toys are fun, and music is supposed to be fun. Just have fun, and use your imagination, and don’t disrespect others for having fun making music.

  9. Wow the level of hate here is interesting. If you simply say it’s not for you, that’s understandable. But to nearly vilify TE and their products and to express such emotion and verbage over something you say is a ‘toy’ in a negative context is…comical. It’s almost as if some of the commenters feel threatened by these pocket operators. Threatened by a ‘toy’.

  10. these are appealing to me, but why not release 1 or 2 hardware units with flashable (and user programmable!) firmware and sell custom cases in order to differentiate functionality? i’d gladly pay more.

  11. I wish they would have made a sampler. It doesn’t seem like much of stretch for them to allow a built-in flash memory and USB connectivity or something. It would be fun to make crunchy music with my own samples, because the Chip Tune stuff doesn’t appeal to everyone.

  12. Is there such thing as an ‘Improper Synth’? Any device that can make a noise is an instrument if you’re creative and have some talent.

  13. All of this hate is actually quite funny. People REALLY have their priorities wrong if a company deciding to make fun, less serious products makes you mad. Its insane that every time something that has mini keys or is a “toy” there is just this massive backlash of true hate. Especially when there are more professional synths being released now than EVER BEFORE. People are just making portable stuff and toys AS WELL. ITS NOT LIKE COMPANIES AREN’T MAKING PRO GEAR.

    Anyway I have just the PO 12 and the PO 16 and I get lost in jams with them every week, the drum machine sounds are awesome and totally usable. I can play them for hours and not get bored. if you get bored after five minuted with these thing then its the users fault, not the synths.

  14. i used to not “like” thos hipster from TE for the simple reason that i didn’t know anything about their products. they seemed strange and expensive. like a bare board with buttons exposed.

    then i got one and then the others. yeah, they are fun. even the manual is strange but it’s also a hint not to use it. you figure it out. and for the things you can’t, they are mentioned in the manual.

    about “cheap”: using the display as a resonace space for the crappy speaker is pretty smart. and for open electronics the po’s are hardcore enough. oh, did i mention the available covers and the open schematics to make your own. thanks for the new ones.. as they are well thought out, i can have a tiny studio away from home that i could actually gig with, as i’m sure lots of people do.

    back to making music. ’nuff said 😉

  15. It’s ok to buy/use anything you like. It’s ok to not buy/use anything you do not like.
    It’s ok to like something and defend it.
    But you don’t have to.
    It’s ok not to like something and condemn it.
    But you don’t have to.
    It’s all ok.
    You guys are hilarious.
    Make whatever noise you want with whatever things you want and record them however you want.
    trolls: engage them or don’t.
    None of it matters.

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