Teenage Engineering’s $1,500 audio recorder had me at ‘motorized tape reel’

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The TP-7 is an expensive nostalgia trip, but I want it anyway.

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Would you pay $1,499 for a dictaphone? What if it’s a really fancy dictaphone with a spinning “tape” reel? The folks over at Swedish electronics company Teenage Engineering certainly believe there’s a market by announcing the TP-7 field recorder — a quirky, compact recording device designed to capture audio “with zero friction in the highest possible quality.”

The TP-7 features a built-in mic / speaker, 128GB of internal storage, and three two-way 3.5mm jacks that can be used for both audio input and output. There’s also a USB-C port, which is used for data transfer and charging the device. Teenage Engineering claims a full charge should last around seven hours. It’s the latest addition to Teenage Engineering’s field system of portable audio devices, joining products like the OP-1 synthesizer, CM-15 studio microphone, and TX-6 audio mixer

A GIF showcasing the TP-7 from Teenage Engineering.

A GIF showcasing the TP-7 from Teenage Engineering.

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All of those gadgets blend aspects of retro-tech and futurism, and the TP-7 is no exception. It’s roughly the size of a deck of cards, featuring some nostalgic-looking buttons for audio recording and playback that wouldn’t look amiss on an old cassette player. A “motorized tape reel” in the center sticks with that theming, serving as additional controls for scrubbing, menu navigation, and visual feedback — spinning when the device is recording or playing back audio. There’s also a side-mounted rocker that can be used to quickly rewind or fast-forward through your recordings.

A side view of Teenage Engineering’s TP-7 audio recorder.

A side view of Teenage Engineering’s TP-7 audio recorder.

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The TP-7 has an iOS app that can automatically transcribe your audio as you’re recording. The device needs to be connected to an iPhone via Bluetooth or the USB-C port, and the app can even be used as a remote for the TP-7 device. There is no equivalent app for Android users. Teenage Engineering didn’t mention which languages would be available at launch but did promise that additional languages, text-to-audio editing, and other features would be added to the app “over time.”

An image of the Teenage Engineering TP-7 besides  an iPhone displaying the TP-7’s iOS app.

An image of the Teenage Engineering TP-7 besides  an iPhone displaying the TP-7’s iOS app.

Everything about the design and price is outrageous. I want one.

Teenage Engineering is pitching this as a device for “journalists, lawyers, and medical professionals,” but $1,499 is a lot to ask for something mostly riding on aesthetic appeal. At that price, it would have been nice to see some additional features included within the device itself, like local transcription without a tethered iPhone or built-in audio effects.

The TP-7 is expected to go on sale sometime this summer.

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