Can You Build An Open Source Pocket Operator?

Toys are now musical instruments. Or we’ll just say musical instruments are now toys. You can probably ascribe this recent phenomenon to Frooty Loops or whatever software the kids are using these days, but the truth is that it’s never been easier to lay down a beat. Just press the buttons on a pocket-sized computer.

One of the best examples of the playification of musical instruments is Pocket Operators from Teenage Engineering. They’re remarkable pieces of hardware, and really just a custom segment LCD and a few buttons. They also sound great and you can play real music with them. It’s a game changer when it comes to enabling musicianship.

Of course, with any popular platform, there’s a need for an Open Source copy. That’s where [Chris]’ Teensy Beats Shield comes in. It’s a ‘shield’ of sorts for a Teensy microcontroller that adds buttons, knobs, and a display, turning this into a platform that uses the Teensy’s incredible audio system designer.

When it comes to the world of microcontrollers and audio processing, the Teensy is a champ. The Teensy Audio Library has polyphonic playback, recording, synthesis, analysis, and effects, along with multiple simultaneous inputs and outputs. If you’re building a tiny synth that can fit in your pocket, the Teensy is the way to go, and [Chris]’ Teensy Beats Shield does it all, with a minimal and useful user interface. You can check out a video of the Teensy Beats Shield below.

20 thoughts on “Can You Build An Open Source Pocket Operator?

  1. Congratulation, that is a very nice board. Probably you can manufacture and sell them later on so that the people don’t have to solder them self.
    The Teensy 3.6 is a very powerful system and the graphical audio designer is great.
    Usually I play with the STM32 boards and meanwhile there is also a possibility to make graphical synthesizer sketches.
    Here is the graphical designer:
    which generates the code.
    And here I squeezed the synth into an Arduino library:
    Well, not as powerful as the Teensy things but a quite good start.

  2. AFAIK, a monome is just a stylish MIDI controller with lots and lots of buttons in a grid. This does have a small grid of buttons, but is more influenced by the ‘teenage engineering’ series of minimalist synth ‘toys’.

  3. I see a few comments on here about MIDI. Is there room on this to add MIDI? Is it *worth* adding for a device like this?

    Regardless, it’s a cool project and I’ll add a +1 to making a kit (or just the PCBs and any “nonstandard” components like the screen, pots if they are a weird form factor etc..)

    Nice work Chris, thanks for sharing.

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