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Review: Teenage Engineering TP-7 Field Recorder

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Review: Teenage Engineering TP-7 Field Recorder

Recorders are generally intended to sit in the background and quietly absorb sound without contributing to it. It is a neutral, unobtrusive product type, almost out of necessity. If you’re recording field audio, for example trying to capture the perfect diver call in the wild, you’ll want to use a good shotgun microphone to locate the sound. Audio recorded directly in a studio sounds great on the TP-7, but again, you can handle that with some much cheaper but still really good microphones.

The device can also be tricky to navigate, requiring some menu diving to access certain features that don’t immediately feel intuitive. There are also some kinks you’ll encounter if you’re coming from a different type of recorder.

For example, I tried sending music from Spotify through the TP-7 to test its line-in functions, with headphones plugged into the output jack so I could monitor the sound. At the time, I didn’t realize that the audio was still playing natively through both the connected headphones and the speakers on the device. That is, until my girlfriend walked in from the other room, laptop in hand, to tap me on the shoulder and say, “I’m on the phone with my boss. Can you please stop shooting that song.”

I was able to solve this small problem, along with a few similar negatives, by flipping through the thick little flip book that is the manual. But sometimes there wasn’t exactly an intuitive way to figure that out without manual diving. And some interactions take some time to master.

For example, if you leave the recorder on, it will last two button press: one tap on the red record button, then a separate press on the play button next to it. On similar devices from other brands, you usually just tap the record button once and recording starts. These little quirks are the price you pay for something like this. (Besides, you know, the actual price you pay for it.)

Girls just want to have fun

It might be a little unfair to look at the TP-7 from a kind of hoity-toity-professional point of view. Because the TP-7 is just a good time. It’s much more fun than you’d expect from a recorder. After all, you’ll remember that the entire front drive spins while you’re recording, and the thing just feels great in your hand, with all its clicky buttons and smooth switches.

There are also smart, well-thought-out features that make recording more interesting. If you press the play button a second time during playback, the disc will rotate and the audio will play backwards. It’s a nice little option that could be great for music producers playing around with a sample or anyone checking their recordings secret satanic messages.

The ability to mix and match inputs and outputs with the plugs on the top also offers a lot of flexibility for combining with other audio gadgets. I combined the TP-7 with another Teenage Engineering creation: the EP-133KO2, a remarkably affordable (for Teenage Engineering) sampling device. By mixing and matching the input and output cables between the devices, I was able to record from the sampler into the TP-7, manipulate the sound there, and transfer it back to the sampler, leaving the DJ scratch sounds completely intact.

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