Teenage Engineering PO-33 Review

The PO-33 was the device that finally lured me into the Pocket Operator world (gotta collect ’em all!). Together with Korg, Teenage Engineering has been paving the way for a new wave of portable, hardware oriented music making. With each generation Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators have been gaining exciting new features. The PO-33 K.O.! (Knockout), part of the 3rd generation Metal Series, is a full-fledged pocket sampler that can take 40 seconds worth of samples for you to sequence patterns and beats with. Let’s review to see what the PO-33 is capable of.

Overview

It’s hard to put a concise overview up for the Pocket Operators with so many things that are packed into a little device. Generally videos do this product much more justice, but let me try to break down the PO-33.

We’re talking a battery-powered (2x AAA) sampling machine that resembles a calculator crossed with a Game & Watch system from the eighties. Actually, the PO-33 seems to be inspired by this old-school Casio calculator:

PO-33 Casio inspiration

The PO-33 has an onboard microphone and a line-in allowing you to record your surroundings or any audio out that you prefer. You can have the samples come in on the top eight slots, which allows you to play out the recordings chromatically or on the bottom eight slots, where the samples are each chopped up into 16 individual hits using an automatic transient detector. The latter is more suitable for percussive elements and drumkit samples.

PO-33’s 16 slots

The sequencing of samples is signature Pocket Operator style. When entering write-mode you’re able to step sequence your last selected sample into 16 steps in any of the selected pattern slots. These pattern slots in turn can be played back in whatever order you prefer allowing you to chain them in multiple bars. The step sequencer offers pattern locking, meaning you can sequence any version of your sample in any of the steps.

Yes, you don’t have to take each sample as is. The PO-33 offers to trim your samples with the rotary encoders, pitch them up or down or filter them using a high- and low-pass with a resonance setting. Furthermore, you can apply a set of 16 different effects on the entire pattern, which is neat to spice up static sounding compositions.

Here’s the full feature set.

PO-33 Features (from teenageengineering.com)

  • microphone for sampling
  • 8 melodic sample slots
  • 8 drum slots
  • sequencer
  • 16 effects
  • parameter locks
  • 40 seconds sample memory
  • built-in speaker
  • 3.5mm audio I/O
  • jam sync
  • animated LCD display
  • folding stand
  • break away lock tab
  • clock + alarm clock
  • battery powered (2xAAA)
  • 1 month battery life
  • 2 year standby time

PO-33 vs PO-35

A question I hear often is what Pocket Operator is best to get, the PO-33 or the PO-35? Both offer sampling capabilities but the PO-35 offers more sample time. What’s the deal about that?

The main difference between the PO-33 and PO-35 is that the PO-33 stores recorded audio in raw samples whereas the PO-35 synthesises your sound, making it resemble the recorded audio with synthesised effects. The PO-35 also offers a Microtonic supported drumkit on top of it.

I’d say if you want full flexibility producing sample-based music the PO-33 is the pocket operator to get. If you’re more a vocoder kind of musician and you’re keen on sequencing processed sounds then get the PO-35. In the end, get them both and synch them up using the sync cables.

Should I get a case for the PO-33?

The Pocket Operators are a very unique piece of gear. From the outside they’re nothing but very naked circuit boards. If you intend to take the PO-33 on the road or just want to not feel like you’re holding a delicate piece of gear, by all means get the official silicone case.

For the PO-33 you should get the CA-X case, which fits all the Metal series of Pocket Operators.

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The Teenage Engineering PO-33 is a portable, battery powered sampler. Use it to sample from a line-in source or the onboard microphone. It can store up to 40 seconds of audio and allows you to ...

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$89.00

8 Total Score
Essential sampler

The PO-33 is a device for the travelling sampler musicians. It will be blown away by much more capable gear in a professional studio environment, but on-the-go you couldn't wish for a better sampler to have with you. Teenage Engineering have done a great job providing musicians with an immediate experience and squeezing the most out of the the screen real estate and control limitations

Score
8.5
PROS
  • Portable
  • Battery powered
  • Capable sampler for its size
CONS
  • Limited amount of voices
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