If you asked fans of Teenage Engineering’s musical toys and instruments what the company’s next creation would be, they probably assumed it would be a new Pocket Operator, another speaker, or maybe an update to the OP-Z. In reality, it’s the company’s first device that wholeheartedly embraces analogue audio: a portable record cutter.
Analogue audio formats once thought to be extinct are enjoying a surprising renaissance. Cassette tapes are finding their way back into stores and vinyl records are once again a booming business, despite the fact that most of us carry a device in our pockets with access to literally millions of songs. Does analogue audio sound better than digital? That may be a debate that’s never resolved, but records do have a distinct sound that many prefer over the exacting perfection of a digital file, and now Teenage Engineering wants everyone to be able to make their own.
Fans of vinyl records and turntables might find the new PO-80 familiar. It’s a collaboration between Teenage Engineering, designer Yuri Suzuki, and the Japanese educational toy maker, Gakken — although those last two have worked together before. A few years ago, Gakken and Suzuki created the EZ Record Maker, which we covered back when it debuted in 2020, and while we haven’t gone hands on with the new PO-80 yet, based on photos alone, it looks nearly identical to the EZ Record Maker, aside from some colour updates and snazzy Record Factory branding.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because getting your hands on the EZ Record Maker outside of Japan wasn’t easy unless you were willing to stomach some hefty import fees. The PO-80 includes both a tonearm that can play back five-inch or seven-inch (with an adaptor) vinyl records as well as a cutting arm with a replaceable stylus that can engrave three minutes of glorious monophonic sound (at 45RPM) or four minutes of lower quality audio (at 33RPM) onto a five-inch vinyl disc.
For $US149 ($207), the USB-powered PO-80 includes a built-in speaker, an extra cutting stylus, six blank five-inch vinyl records, and a 3.5-millimetre audio plug for connecting an audio source like a Pocket Operator synth. Teenage Engineering also sells a bunch of accessories including a $US59 ($82) carrying case, replacement stylii for $US15 ($21) each, and a 10-pack of blank records for $US20 ($28).
For those hoping for “the optimum sound quality for your recordings,” Teenage Engineering has also created an online mastering tool that “applies the desired equaliser curve to your music and makes it easier to achieve good lo-fi sound quality on your custom 5″ cuts.” Don’t expect miracles or a sound that compares to the pre-recorded vinyl records you can buy at a store, but when you’re dropping $US2 ($3) on three-minutes of analogue audio, you might as well do anything you can to make it shine.
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