Teenage Engineering is a company that follows its own path. It’ll release a $250 toy car one day and a full-featured groovebox/sampler for $300 on the very next day. That’s what happened this week. Teenage Engineering just surprise-launched the EP-133 K.O. II, a portable sampler/groovebox that's feature-rich, looks absolutely stunning and costs just $300. You read that cost right.
The only musical instruments in TE’s lineup that approach this price point is its catalog of Pocket Operator portable synthesizers, so it’s no surprise that this is a direct followup to the best one, the PO-33 KO sampler. The original Pocket Operators were marketed as something of a toy, despite being surprisingly robust, but the EP-133 K.O. II is being advertised as a workstation. This is a fairly large, but still portable, device that more closely resembles an Akai standalone machine. It won’t fit in your pocket, but will fit in your bag.
Let’s go over some specs. The K.O. II boasts 64MB of memory, which isn’t a lot, but TE products typically come with some tradeoff. It’ll be enough for a bunch of samples and a few projects, though, which the company says was intentional. Teenage Engineering co-founder and hardware lead David Eriksson told The Verge that if the sampler had too much storage it would “give the user the option to finish later” instead of completing a song in one-go. Will nobody think of the poor musicians out there who love starting things and hate finishing things? Asking for a friend.
There are 999 slots for samples, as a matter of fact, and an internal microphone for making your own. Though this is, first and foremost, a sampler, it ships pre-filled with drum hits, synths and other sounds so you can get straight to work. It connects via USB-C for loading samples from a computer or MIDI devices. The K.O. II is also portable, running off of four AAA batteries. In other words, there’s no internal rechargeable battery, but that $300 price tag had to come about somehow.
The unit features a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack and the most important buttons and knobs are orange, to help musicians find them during live sets in dark, smoky clubs. That’s a nice touch. The device itself is gorgeous, with a handsome panel of buttons, knobs and connectors. The keys are clicky and, more importantly, velocity sensitive. There’s a rectangular LED screen up top that boasts similar design language to the OP-1 and OP-1 Field portable synthesizers.
Teenage Engineering hopes this product will attract newbies to the world of music-making, so the workflow is designed for simplicity, a trait shared with its forebear. Despite that caveat, this is a powerful instrument that should lure in professionals and amateurs alike. It features 12 mono and 6 stereo voice polyphony, stereo/mono sampling at 46.875 kHz/16-bit, 12 pressure-sensitive pads, 6 built-in FX sends with a punch-in mode, a master compressor and both manual and automatic sample slicing tools. It also looks really cool, like an accounting calculator from the future.
The EP-133 K.O. II is available today and, again, costs $300. The day before Thanksgiving is an odd time to release a new piece of hardware, but Teenage Engineering is based in Sweden, so what does it care? It’s worth noting that this is the first dedicated music-making machine the company has released since last year's OP-1 Field.
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