Teenage Engineering has finally unveiled its new “magic radio,” OB-4. Early leaks of the product suggested it was going to be another one of the company’s minimalistic speakers, as opposed to one of its quirky music production products. But this is Teenage Engineering after all, so there’s a lot more to this odd little contraption than meets the eye. Head below for a closer look at the OB-4’s time-bending FM receiver and hidden features.
New OB-4 magic radio:
The OB-4 magic radio is essentially a Bluetooth speaker with a number of quirky features up its sleeve for music producers and audio tinkerers. It is a portable “high-fidelity” speaker housing a pair of 4-inch bass drivers and two neodymium tweeters to deliver “crystal clear, open natural sound with 38 watts per channel — that’s around 100 decibels of incredible sounding stereo” audio. It has a line input as well as your typical Bluetooth streaming capabilities, but you can also make use of an FM radio receiver and the machine’s disk (more on this below).
It is very much another minimalist design with very little visual graphics to get in the way and an extremely simple control panel. It sports a 5,000mAh battery that offers up to 72 hours of radio playback or roughly 40 hours of regular use.
Motorized “tape” dial:
The OB-4, at its most basics, is a pretty Bluetooth speaker with that Teenage Engineering touch. However, a motorized “tape” dial (along with other under-the-hood possibilities) really make the design stand out for music producers and the like:
OB–4 continuously memorizes everything you listen to on an endless looping tape. Rewind, time-stretch and loop at the flick of your fingertips. On purpose or by accident. Instant rewind on radio is just one of the OB-4’s magic tricks.
Much like the radio feature found in the TE OP-1 synthesizer machine, OB-4 features a radio antenna, allowing users to pull in local audio and then manipulate it as they see fit, and maybe even use some of this experimental audio in their productions. The tape dial is motorized, which means adjustments made over Bluetooth on your phone will be able to control the physical knob and subsequently, the tape/loop system inside the machine.
The tape control function will work on Bluetooth, radio, and line inputs, but there is also a curious and very much experimental Disk mode that sounds quite interesting. While still in its infancy, this is the space where Teenage Engineering and its community will develop new wacky features for OB-4. As of right now, there are three experimental features available here at launch: Karma (a sort of “30 in 1 musical mantra box” that plays quotes back with crazy effects), Ambient mode to “zone out to a drone generated by snippets of a radio broadcast, and a basic Metronome mode. But again, this mode is rife for enhancements and new features down the road including AI-based synthesis and more.
The new Teenage Engineering OB-4 “magic radio” is now up for sale starting at $599 USD direct from TE.
Teenage Engineering is one of my favorite audio companies out there for its quirky and unique take on retro-inspired gear. The 400 Pocket Operator modular synth was a joy to build and play when we reviewed it, and we suspect much of the same from OB-4. While the new magic radio seems about as niche as you could imagine — it’s too expensive to be used as a basic Bluetooth speaker and most musicians will already be able to figure out how to do much of this without one— but there’s just something about the minimalist, specialty products TE creates that just gets the creative senses tingling.
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