It's been a while since Swedish music technologists Teenage Engineering had produced a new hardware unit since their OP-1 machine (a very swish all-in-one digital machine that can now be found for around £450-£600 second hand), however their recent releases at NAMM have been causing a stir at the lower end of the market.
So what are they? Like the Korg Volcas, these are three cheap (£45 each!) sound generators based on drums (Rhythm), bass (Sub) and leads (Factory) with built in effects, limiting/compression and loads of samples and sound engines to play with. In a backwards nod to 80s calculators and game machines, there's a huge liquid crystal display on the top that animates depending on the different sounds that are playing at once, which look really fun. Like the Volcas, they can sync together using a clock pulse that can also sync to the Korg Volcas and are so small that they can run off of two AA batteries, which would make them the best thing for on the go if it weren't for the fact that the board is very much exposed. They do come with cases, but this almost doubles the price of the unit and I think that these are designed to be put into the hands of as many people for the cheapest price as possible.
According to Sonic State's recent coverage of the Pocket Operators in their videocast, Teenage Engineering had an estimated 40,000 orders for these little digital synths, and given how interested I have been in them ever since Cuckoo covered them on YouTube, I'm not surprised how popular these are in the post-NAMM 2015. After hearing that there are waiting lists of three months to get a hold of these, I'm going to hold off of buying them until the furore has died down, but I am definitely interested in checking these out if only to add a bit more weight to my Volcas when jamming.