A Comprehensive Guide to the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-33 KO!

version 0.1
2018-12-01
Brian Hilmers

The purpose of this document is to expand on the official PO-33 documentation and much of the content is directly lifted from the website and owner's manual supplied with the device. In addition, I have scoured the Internet for tutorials, forum posts, and basically anything I can find to supplement the official, publicly available docs. Most, but not all, of the additional information has been tested personally. This page exists primarily for my own reference, though I hope it will be helpful to others. Please contact me if you have any corrections or additions.

Getting Started

Power and Clock

Insert two fresh AAA batteries. Pay attention to plus and minus poles. Set time by turning knob A for hours and knob B for minutes. Press any key to confirm and exit. Reset the clock by removing the batteries and start over.

Pocket operators auto power off after 5 minutes of inactivity. All patterns and settings will be saved leaving only the LCD lit. This state draws very little power so there is no need to remove batteries. If there is a cable connected in the line in, the unit will auto power off after 60 minutes of inactivity. Press any key to wake the unit after sleep.

To show battery status, press sound + bpm. Batteries can last up to two months. Removing the batteries will not erase sounds, though it is possible to do a factory reset by holding pattern + write while inserting batteries.

Alarm Clock

Set alarm clock by pressing sound + pattern then turning knob A for hours and knob B for minutes. Disable by turning knob A all the way down to the left (the LED will show OFF). Press a pattern key (1-16) to use a pattern for the alarm. Pressing anything other than a pattern key will default to the built-in alarm. To stop the alarm, press any key.

Playing Sounds and Patterns

Select a sound by holding the sound key and pressing any key from 1-16. While holding the sound key, a red LED will show over keys that have sounds. The LED will flash over the currently selected sound. Press any key from 1-16 to play. Or, hold the sound key and press the currently selected sound key to scroll through note/drum slices. If nothing is heard, you might be in Step Write (Edit) mode. Press the write key once to switch to Performance (PrF) mode. Keys 1-8 are designated melodic voices and keys 9-16 are for drum voices.

Playing a Pattern

Hold pattern and press any key from 1-16 to select a pattern. LEDs will light over non-empty patterns and a blinking LED indicates the active pattern. Press play to start playing. Press play again to stop. A pattern consists of 16 steps.

Tempo

Press bpm to switch tempo. the bpm will be displayed in the upper right corner of the screen. There are three preset tempos:

Hold bpm and turn knob B to fine-tune tempo from 60 to 240 bpm. Hold bpm and turn knob A to adjust the swing.

Volume

Hold bpm and press any key 1-16 to adjust the master volume. Note: be careful with the volume setting when using headphones. Only exceed volume setting 5 with caution.

Making Beats and Melodies

There are two different modes for creating patterns: step mode and live mode.

Step Mode

To enter/exit rec mode, press write. Enter sound/notes in grid. The last sound you played with be the active sound. Active steps will be lit. Press play to listen to your pattern.

Live Mode

While playing a pattern, hold write and press any key 1-16 to punch in notes. Notes will be quantized along with current swing setting. Release write when finished. Note: You can live write over pattern chains.

All Modes

Holding any step allows for additional functionality.

Hold for one second to copy the step. The display will show (CPy). This active step can written to other keys (1-16).

Continuously holding a step allows you to adjust the length of that step by turning knob B or adjust the note/slice by turning knob A.

Hold a step and press bpm to retrigger the sound 1,2,3,4,6,or 8 times (tr #). This is good for flam effects on drums.

Note: The Pocket Operator PO-33 KO! has four monophonic voices. The voices are divided into melodic and drum voices. If a pattern exceeds four note polyphony, melodic voices take priority over drum voices.

Recording Samples

Hold record + any key from 1-16. The microphone will record until the keys are released and the recording will be stored in the position you selected (1-16). If a cable is inserted into the line in jack the PO-33 will record via line in. PO-33 has a total of 40 seconds recording memory. While recording, the number of seconds left will be displayed on the LCD. If the memory is full, delete or record over an existing sound.

Melodic and Drum Voices

PO-33 has 16 sounds divided into two sections; melodic and drum. A recorded sound will behave differently depending on which section it was recorded to. In the melodic section the keys from 1-16 represents a scale, and each key will trigger the whole sound. In the drum section each key from 1-16 represents a slice of the sound. When recording directly into a drum slot, PO-33 will detect transients and auto-slice the material.

Melodic voices use key 5 as the root note. The intervals follow a minor scale and provide both a natural and augmented 7th allowing you to play harmonic minor as well as natural minor. Sampling melodic voices in the key of A will thus provide a C major scale. You can transpose by pressing FX until "ton" is displayed, then turn knob A.

Deleting and Copying Sounds

Hold record and press sound to delete the currently selected sound. To copy sound, select a sound, hold write + sound and press any key 1-16 to copy the current sound to that position. Individual drum slices can be copied. To copy the last triggered slice from one drum sound to another; hold write + sound and press any drum key 9-16 and then any key 1-16. You can actually copy a drum slice into a melodic slot, but the entire sample along with the trim settings is also copied, not just the slice.

Tweak the Sound

PO-33 has a total of six adjustable parameters. All parameters are adjusted using the two knobs, A and B. Press FX to toggle between the different parameters:

Trim

press FX until (tri) is displayed in the top right corner. Turn knob A to set the start of the sound and knob B to set the length of the sound. In the drum section each slice can be adjusted individually (the last triggered slice will be adjusted).

Tip: Copying a melodic sound into a drum slot will automatically slice the melodic sound into 16 parts. This can be an easier way to load drum kits. Start by recording a drum loop into a melodic slot, capturing a little extra sound after the end of the loop. Use this excess as a guide. Trim the excess as close as possible (the trim pots are jumpy!), then copy the sound into a drum slot. It's possible you might have to do a little adjusting, but in general this is more reliable than PO-33's transient detection.

Making a Song

Pattern Chaining

Press and hold pattern and select which patterns 1-16 to chain by pressing the corresponding key 1-16. Up to 128 patterns can be chained. One pattern can be selected multiple times, for example: 1,1,1,4 plays pattern 1 three times then moves on to pattern 4. After the last pattern is played the sequence will start over again.

Copy or Clear a Pattern

Hold write + pattern and press 1-16 to paste the active pattern to the corresponding new slot. Press record + pattern to clear the active pattern.

Parameter Locking

While playing a pattern, hold write and turn knob A and knob B to lock the currently selected parameters. The parameters will affect the currently selected sound. Lockable parameters:

Adding Effects While Playing

Hold FX and press any key from 1-15. If write mode is enabled the effects will be saved in the pattern. To clear the saved effects make sure write mode is enabled while holding FX + key 16, otherwise the effects are temporarily bypassed.

Effects:

  1. Loop 16
  2. Loop 12
  3. Loop Short
  4. Loop Shorter
  5. Unison
  6. Unison Low
  7. Octave Up
  8. Octave Down
  9. Stutter 4
  10. Stutter 3
  11. Scratch
  12. Scratch Fast
  13. 6 / 8 Quantize
  14. Retrigger Pattern
  15. Reverse
  16. No Effect / Bypass (While playing, mutes all FX. While writing, clears effects)

Syncing Devices

It is possible to sync multiple pocket operators with a click track using line in and out. Warning: Sync levels should not exceed 5vpp (volt peak-to-peak).

Connect a standard stereo audio cable between the units. The master unit will control the tempo of the slave unit. Hold record and press bpm on master unit to toggle the 5 sync modes, displayed in the upper right corner of the screen. Press play on slave unit to wait for master clock sync. Press play on master to start.

Sync Modes:

ID     Input        Output
--------------------------
SY0    Stereo       Stereo
SY1    Stereo       Mono/Sync
SY2    Sync         Stereo
SY3    Sync         Mono/Sync
SY4    Mono/Sync    Stereo
SY5    Mono/Sync    Mono/Sync

Default mode is SY0. When sync is used the signal will be split between audio (right) and sync (left).

Sync Example:

chain:   PO-32 -> PO-35 -> PO-33
setting:  SY1  ->  SY5  ->  SY4

Data Management

Lock Tab

Breaking off the lock tab freezes the device's current state. Once the tab is broken sampling is no longer possible and you cannot do a factory reset. (Note: This fuctntion is reversible.) In locked mode you can:

To restore back to the freeze point, temporarily remove the batteries. To reverse the effect of freezing, solder the two pads by the lock tab together. Sampling will then be possible as well as doing a factory reset.

Backup and Restore Data

Sound and pattern data can be stored to any recording device for saving and sharing. You can backup the data via line / headphone out. First connect a standard 3.5mm stereo audio cable from pocket operator line out to a recording device. Then start recording and press write + sound + play on the PO-33 to transmit data. Warning: Save as a stereo signal with a resolution of at least 16-bit, 44.1 kHz or the backup will be incomplete (both channels are used)!

To restore data, connect a 3.5mm audio cable from the source device to receiving unit. Press write + sound + record to enter receive mode, then play the backup material. Note: all samples and patterns on the receiving unit will be erased once transfer starts.

It is possible to directly transfer sound and pattern data directly between units using the method above.