It’s now all but impossible to predict what Teenage Engineering’s next musical contraption will be. As the company has started to extend its design prowess to other products, like the Playdate handheld, it seems more comfortable getting experimental with its own hardware, as is evident by this collection of wooden dolls that can ‘sing’ individually, or as part of a larger, expensive choir.
The last major release from Teenage Engineering was the PO-80 Record Factory: a very non-digital music toy that can actually be used to cut and produce five-inch, lo-fi vinyl records. Before that, it was a six-channel handheld mixer called the TX-6 with an impressively small footprint but an unfortunately hefty $1,200 price tag. There’s no denying that Teenage Engineering’s talented designers are having fun and churning out the kind of hardware they want to play with, but we’re left scratching our heads as to who these singing wooden dolls are for.
According to Teenage Engineering, the collection of dolls was “inspired by teenage engineering’s first project, the absolut choir from 2007, an art installation made up of 22 wooden dolls of varying sizes...” You can find a handful of videos of the original installation still online, and while many of the designs have been faithfully carried over to this new collection, each wooden doll, made from solid Beech, now only stands about 10-inches tall, so it’s easier to crowd them onto a desk for a performance.
The individual doll designs are based on “different cultures and characters from across the world” and each one has a slightly different sound and synthesized vocal range. From left to right there’s Gisela (mezzo soprano), Leila (soprano), Miki (tenor), Bogdan (bass), Hatshepsut (mezzo soprano), Ivana (alto), and Carlo (baritone). While each one can perform individually through a built-in speaker, two to 16 of the dolls can be connected wirelessly over Bluetooth and perform as a full a cappella choir. Users can choose existing musical compositions for a performance, from “baroque to folk,” or play the choir live through a MIDI keyboard or the Teenage Engineering OP–1 field and OP–Z instruments.
The battery for each doll is rated at about four hours of performance. Each doll also features an accelerometer, allowing playback to be controlled by simple taps and volume adjustments to be made by tilting each doll left or right. As musical toys go, these sound most enticing with the entire collection at your disposal, but with a price tag of $249 each, that’s almost a $2,000 investment to gather them all together for a performance.