Gear recommendation: Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout – pocket beatmaking and it’s genius

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Hello there! For this week’s blog episode I want to present to you a little piece of gear I fell in love with. It’s the Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout! I’m not really a gear guy. Simply because I don’t have the money to afford any expensive gear. But let me tell you one thing. If you really wanna make beats on the fly, with something so intuitive, something you can literally fit in your pocket, the P.O. 33 KO by Teenage Engineering is more than worth it.

And while that sounds like an advertisement, it’s true. Just whip it out your pocket – bam. It’s ready. Instant beatmaker.

Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout (Nihil Gear Recommendation)
Beauty shot of the Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout

Before I tell you a bit more about this thing, let me clarify that this isn’t gonna be a full blown review. There are more skilled people who have made great videos about the P.O. 33 and there is also a complete guide I’ll link here.

I rather wanna get across why I think this product is worth buying in every case. So strap yourself in and sit through my enthusiasm.

What is the Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout?

P.O. stands for Pocket Operator. That’s the name of the series of products made by Teenage Engineering, makers of the popular OP-1 and OP-Z. It’s a sampler and sequencer for you to make your own beats on the fly. Why on the fly? Because it’s hella small! Seriously, look at this pic:

Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout (Nihil Gear Recommendation)
Size comparison with a lighter

The P.O. 33 lets you save up to 16 16-step patterns at the same time. You can also let it play a sequence of different patterns which enables you to quickly make a whole track just by making all the different parts and sequencing them together in custom order.

A pattern is created by recording you playing the sounds on the Knockout live or by sequencing them in classic 16-step sequencer fashion.

The sounds

In terms of sounds Teenage Engineering has found a clever solution for the minimalistic layout of the Pocket Operator. You get 8 ‘drumkits’ and 8 melodic slots. The difference is simple but so genius: One drumkit can be filled with up to 16 sounds. If you do the math that’s 128 different one-shot samples you can have on this small device at the same time. In record mode you can either use the built-in microphone to sample some stuff or plug another device into the 3.5mm input. I often do this to sample beats I got on my phone. The P.O. 33 will then do it’s best to chop up your recording into 16 samples (to fill up the drumkit with individual sounds) for you to play. Once selected, a drumkit can be played by hitting the buttons 1-16.

So that’s it for the 8 drumkit sounds. The other 8 sounds are melodic sounds. Recording something here works the same but instead of having your recording chopped up you can now play your recording in 16 different pitches. Not that you can’t pitch a drum sound as well but this way you can directly record a melodic sequence (for example a bassline) on the spot without any further editing to do.

You also get 15 different performance FX to play around with and even sequence them as well! Of course the Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout comes with basic features like BPM selection, volume and swing controls and a small LCD display that tells you what you’re doing when you’re pressing the buttons.

Why exactly the Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout?

Man the size! You can literally take it everywhere and being battery powered it’s got juice for a long time of use. I’m sure many of you imagine how cool it would be to be able to make beats on your phone. The Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout basically is like a phone just even smaller.

Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout (Nihil Gear Recommendation)

There are no complicated menus and you’ve got everything at hand. Especially for beginners this is great. I’ve never used a real sequencer or sampler before and still I got a hang of it so quickly with this thing, it’s crazy. It is very intuitive but I still advise you to watch some walkthrough/tutorial videos and read a full guide to quickly learn all the useful features so that you can start making beats right away!

How do I incorporate it into my performance/live session?

As with pretty much every sequencer, the P.O. 33 can loop your current sequence. You could let your Pocket Operator play a beat and run that signal into a modular synth setup where you do all kinds of stuff to it.

But you can also go the other way round. The Pocket Operator puts out all the audio input that goes into it via the 3.5mm input. That means you could plug a synth into the P.O. 33 and play something on top of the beat you’ve got playing on the P.O.

As you can see there are several possibilities. You’ll see once you’ve got yourself a Pocket Operator of your own. There are many great videos on YouTube of people using their device along with other gear for a sick performance.

Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout (Nihil Gear Recommendation)

How to export my beats?

The P.O. 33 has a 3.5mm headphone jack. Use an Aux chord and connect the Pocket Operator with any device you can record stuff on. This could be your PC or a separate audio recorder, another sampler, a tape recorder…

It’s as easy as that. You could easily transfer your ideas into your DAW and sample or expand upon them! I personally don’t. For me it’s just a nice idea to get away from the idea that every idea you have has to evolve into something bigger, something complete. And of course it’s also just a lot of fun to play with this! Again, the portability aspect is a game changer. The Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 is probably one of the only products out there you can really use everywhere and at any given time, as it’s just that portable and easy to set up and use.

Teenage Engineering P.O. 33 Knockout (Nihil Gear Recommendation)
The 3.5mm input is right in the top left corner

Are the cases worth buying?

In my opinion: Yes, to be honest you should buy one even! Not only did it improve my user experience with this thing by a lot but it also protects the small device from all the smudge and dirt that would otherwise get stuck on it over time. On top of that, it just looks cooler and makes it looks like a small calculator or something.

Conclusion

I think you now know my opinion on the Teenage Engineering P.O. 33. Again, if you’re into beatmaking and want to have something you can just whip out your pocket and use without having to do anything else before, this is a must.

Let me know if you have one already or are considering getting yourself one. Make sure to check out some of the other blog episodes and until next time!


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