The synth wizards at Swedish electronics maker Teenage Engineering just introduced perhaps their most perplexing and intriguing product yet: a rewindable radio and speaker system called the OB-4. The device, which is available now in black or red for $599, is as sleek and well-designed as the company’s standard synth products, but it packs a whole lot of interesting tech under the hood.
The core feature of the OB-4 is its manual rewind dial paired with an integrated motor, which the company says will let you rewind back to anything you’ve listened to in the past two hours on a rolling basis — whether it was live radio, a Spotify playlist played via Bluetooth, or even an instrument plugged in, like one of Teenage Engineering’s synths. From there, you can replay what you’ve heard or mess around with the audio itself by time stretching and looping it.
Image: Teenage Engineering
“Have you ever wished you could instantly rewind when listening to the radio, to hear the title of the song just played? OB–4 continuously memorises everything you listen to on an endless looping tape,” the company writes on the OB-4 product page. “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.”
What might you actually do with this? It’s not entirely clear right now. The company has only a short teaser video showcasing the OB-4, and it doesn’t include any real-time demonstrations of the rewind tech.
That said, it’s not hard to imagine some pretty interesting use cases, like grabbing a sample from an FM radio cast and integrating it into a mix you’re putting together on a Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth. The company says the device supports the newest Bluetooth standards, so down the line the OB-4 will be able to connect wirelessly to its newer OP-Z synthesizer, too. There’s also an add-on called “disk mode,” which Teenage Engineering says will include various experimental features starting with an ambient player and a metronome.
“If you skip the traditional inputs like line in, Bluetooth and FM radio, you end up in disk mode,” the product page reads. “This is where we will continuously develop new experimental features for the OB–4. It’s our public research space, where we allow ourselves to explore and prototype everything that this media-instrument, as we call it, can become.”
Image: Teenage Engineering
Beyond that, it’s clear Teenage Engineering sees the device’s function partly as a very nice-looking but pricey Bluetooth speaker. The company says you can use it to just relax and listen to the radio or your favorite music, and it has a carrying handle for bringing it to a friend’s place or a park hangout. The handle also doubles as a stand when folded appropriately, letting you prop it up to better access its physical buttons and dials. It has an average battery life of 40 hours of listening on a single charge, and there’s an in-depth breakdown of the actual speaker specs on the product page , for those who’re interested.
It’ll be interesting to see more of what this device can do when it’s in the hands of the crowd of producers and music aficionados that can really make magic when they use Teenage Engineering synths and similar devices. For right now, though, it’s still a really well-designed radio, if not the most expensive one you might have ever seen.