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Teenage Engineering - Cool Things That Sound Good

Words:

Edd Norval
October 30, 2019

The cult Swedish hardware producers Teenage Engineering have built their dedicated following through a consistent catalogue of products that draw on diverse design influences combined with groundbreaking aesthetics to place their audio products on the precipice of creation.

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Scandinavian design is heralded around the world for its minimalistic aesthetic appeal and the way this marries with pure functionality. It doesn't favour form over function, neither function over form, they perform symbiotically and therein lies the reason (or one of them) that Teenage Engineering has become one of the world's leading producers of this particular sought-after ethos in electronics.


It's not hard to see either, regardless of your interests in music or design. There's something about their raw, stripped back interfaces that drive curiosity. When faced by them, we become children dying to touch them. Perhaps this childlike awe, the same curiosity that produces genius, is another of the reasons for their success. If every time a producer approaches his or her synthesiser and feels this magnetic appeal then the bridge between artist and tool, between human and machine, dissolves immediately.


Their most popular and iconic product is the OP-1 synthesiser. In many ways, this product embodies the company's approach to design. It's slick, stripped back and fundamentally offers a high degree of freedom by limiting options. It's uncluttered, putting the onus on creativity rather than a device that requires a complicated user-manual to understand.

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Building on the concept of intuitive design, the Swedish brand have developed a roster of faithful users. Knowing this, Teenage Engineering recently created their own record label as a means of communicating the power of both their brand, but more importantly, what people can do with their devices. Teenage Engineering Records thrives on its two simple rules. The song must be good and it must include the use of at least one of their instruments.


The first release certainly does. Beginning with the metallic cracklings of their 400 synth, one of Teenage Engineering's self-assembly models, 'You're In Love with Your Hair' by Swedish artist Buster shows the versatility and capability of the device.


Besides the sound of the device, its physicality is also something to behold. A bold yellow colour, it comes flat-packed like an IKEA wardrobe. Folding in on itself with a raw simplicity that mirrors the multitude of opportunities provided by it. Although a new model, its reputation has steadily started to grow as an analogue synth worth adding to any set up.

Starting out life in Stockholm back in 2005, the brand have helped establish their name largely based on the accessibility of their devices - not just in how they play, but how much they cost. Price was long a limiting factor for artists to enter the modular scene, a barrier that is beginning to be broken by some of the contemporary models in the brand's collection.


Their answer wasn't just high quality at low prices, but also customisation options that prevent the need for customers to purchase multiple devices. Even on a more macro level, there are customisable adaptor packs available to manipulate the sound of their devices in a multitude of interesting ways.


This year saw the company span out into the record label industry, as well as creating a handheld gaming device. With users such as Trent Reznor, Bon Iver and Depeche Mode, besides an interesting collaboration with the creators of Rick and Morty, this is a brand fully aware of where it stands and where it can go. In an exciting and collaborative creative environment, Teenage Engineering are at the forefront of brands pushing for involvement and innovation.

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