Teenage Engineering are back with the OB-4, an experimental radio and portable speaker that looks to smash preconceptions of how radios work.
If you know Teenage Engineering then you know the incredible musical creations that they create. Their OP-1 still has us licking our lips to this day and their pocket operators never cease to bring a smile to our faces with their hilarious simplicity yet creative potential.
However, their new device seems to forego user control for it’s own creative potential with sounds. The OB-4 is at first glance a radio and portable speaker than can tune in to stations, play music from Bluetooth devices, and a line-in lets you plug in instruments and use it as a portable amp.
In terms of its first appearances, it seems to be a powerful portable speaker with 72 hours potential of listening – 40 hours on average. The speaker has been tailor-designed to provide high quality audio and fill rooms with sound with 100 decibels of potential from two 4-inch bass drivers and neodymium tweeters.
What makes it cool then?
This is where it starts getting a bit weirder. There is a motorised dial on the speaker that mimics a tape reel. You see, the speaker is constantly recording whatever you’re playing up to 2 hours in the past. So, at any point you can dial things back and revisit what you were listening to before.
Sounds pretty cool, but is that it? It’s Teenage Engineering so, no of course it isn’t. If you skip through the radio function, past the Bluetooth setting, and pass by the line-in playback then you come to the ‘disk mode’ where the real Teenage Engineering fun begins.
There are currently three functions available on ‘disk mode’:
Ambient: The speaker generates powerful and ethereal drone sounds from snippets of radio broadcasts mixed into alien soundscapes
Metronome: From 1 BPM to 800. Set the metronome, plug into the line-in and play along without missing a beat. The OB-4 records it all.
Karma: “30 in 1 musical mantra box. your spiritual companion”… uhhh, yeah we’re not sure either but it sounds cool.
This is just the beginning for their plans with the OB-4. They’re calling their ‘disk mode’ their “public research space, where we allow ourselves to explore and prototype everything that this media-instrument, as we like to call it, can become.”
The OB-4 sounds like an impressively powered radio and speaker and could make for high fidelity busking with it’s huge battery life and quality internals. But it also sounds like there is a lot of potential for weirdness and creativity here and we can’t wait to see what they do with it.
Unfortunately both the plain black version and their limited red edition have already sold out in advance of the launch. But in any case, you can find out more here and hopefully they’ll have more in stock eventually.