Teenage engineering is quietly making some of the most exciting niche gadgets in about 15 years. nau, his latest proposal is one of the strangest concepts he has ever produced. With OB-4, the boutique electronic studio wants to make radio exciting again.
Teenage Engineering fans mostly associate the brand with its cheap dirt Pocket operator devices and its more expensive line of unique synthesizers. But lately he’s been coming in home audio with products such as modular Bluetooth speaker design in made in collaboration with IKEA earlier this year. OB-4 is a new Bluetooth speaker, but it introduces a bunch of new features that absolutely no one has asked for, and in turn wins the title “magic radio” that its creators gave it – at least in concept, we haven’t used it yet.
As well as being a standard portable Bluetooth device with many speakers, the OB-4 records any sound played through it in a two-hour cycle. Teenage Engineering hopes to find creative ways to combine the tape with the built-in FM radio. Using the motorized “Tape” button, the user can instantly rewind the recording to allow you to catch the title of the song you just swung to, or pick up an interesting noise to include in your own music. Theoretically, I guess you could use it as a kind of TiVo for radio, if you’re so inclined. The device also allows you to manipulate the audio to stretch the time, switch it as a beat or just treat the knob like a small turntable.
Let’s stop here and talk about these motorized buttons. This is a new high-end device that will cost you $ 599 for the black model and $ 649 for the shiny red edition. Yes, you get a volume knob that will adjust itself even when you control the device remotely with a phone. Yes, you get the same great sense of design that attracts Teenage Engineering to the permanent design collection of SFMOMA. And yes, you get a bunch of sophisticated unique features. But $ 600 is a lot of money, and most of us will probably only look at that. That’s good, watching is good.
Teenage Engineering is about making design decisions that push users to make creative decisions with limitations. I don’t know if anyone will get much mileage from tape mode, but i will say i own a TE OP-1 synthesizer and the built in FM tuner is one of my favorite features. TE product designer Thomas Howard said Engadget that the team is really interested in radio in terms of “the feeling that it can get involved in something that is really alive and really local to your community.”
The designers want to expand the way people can use the radio and hope to put FM transceivers in future products to connect, for example, a synthesizer to a zero-latency speaker. The company told Engadget it could also use a low-power Bluetooth connection to transmit MIDI data.
The OB-4 is also a device designed to make you imagine the future. “Disk mode” is what TE calls its “public research space”. Here, the team will provide updates and test experimental features. So far, the only features are an ambient noise machine, a metronome and a tripi mantra generator. More things are coming.
Oh, that’s exactly what a portable speaker is all about. If you’re interested in boring stuff, it has two neodymium tweeters and two 4-inch ones bass drivers with 38 watts per channel. TE claims to have an average battery life of 40 hours and can last up to 72 hours with normal radio listening.
Of course, I can’t verify the quality of any of these features until I use it. For now, I can only tell you that it looks good on a shelf. Stay on the line.