Teenage Engineering has once again demonstrated why companies like Panic, creators of the Playdate handheld, regularly enlist the company’s help to design products for them. The TX-6 is TE’s new handheld, battery-powered mixer, and it is a thing of beauty. It’s so pretty, in fact, that it’s a shame how only a very small group of mobile music makers will get use out of it.
Best known for its line of pocket-friendly electronic sequencers, accurately called Pocket Operators, Teenage Engineering made its name through compact electronic instruments that are surprisingly feature-packed despite their small footprints. The new TE TX-6 continues that tradition of perfectly balancing form and function in a device that looks smaller in hand than the Nintendo Game Boy.
Packed inside a case made from precision CNC’d aluminum, the TX-6 features a rechargeable battery good for about eight hours of jam up-pumping that powers custom designed and built encoders and faders (given no one makes parts for a mixer this small). It accepts signals from up to six stereo sources using 3.5-millimeter jacks located across the top of the device, and can both mix and apply effects like reverb, chorus, delay, distortion and even a three-band EQ using three knobs on each channel that are all completely customizable.
A tiny 48x64-pixel monochromatic display in one corner of the mixer features a pixelated but easy to navigate user interface for configuring the TX-6, but it’s got Bluetooth onboard too, allowing it to wirelessly connect to and interface with apps as a MIDI controller, or connect physically to other devices using a USB-C cable.
Teenage Engineering has even included synthesizer and sequencer functionality in the TX-6 with “4 oscillator waveforms and 4 synthesized drum sounds,” although you’re probably better off using the company’s other instrumental creations for laying down beats. But what’s most surprising about the TX-6 is its price tag. At $1,200, available now through the Teenage Engineering website, it’s almost as expensive as the company’s much-loved OP-1 portable synth that usually sells for $1,300 but is currently sold out. That makes it a tough sell for casual musical experimenters like myself who just want to fiddle with the TX-6's lovely knurled knob, but serious musicians who do their best work while crammed into a tiny airplane seat will probably see more value in it.