What would a portable tape recorder look like in the 21st century? The received answer to that question is “landfill”, but the design obsessives at Teenage Engineering have a different answer. And it’s as beautiful as it is ridiculous.
The TP-7 is a field recorder for taping interviews on the go, and while it’s every bit as digital as your smartphone of choice’s recording app, it has all the trappings of the analogue world gone by. Think big, chunky buttons to record, play and stop, a nice red light when it’s on, and even a spool-like wheel that rotates when it’s in action.
Want to rewind or fast forward? Spin that wheel like you’re a giant DJ on a mouse-sized turntable (or press the rocker on the side, if you must). Want to stop the recording while your interviewee says something off the record? Just press down on the wheel to stop it moving.
It’s beautifully tactile, even if adding unnecessary moving parts is just reducing the battery for no real reason (you still get a perfectly adequate seven hours, but I wonder how much more you’d get without the fun spinning).
Of course these trappings of the past are just window dressing, and on the inside it’s very much a 21st century product. It has 128GB of storage for your recordings, and it connects to your phone or laptop via USB-C or Bluetooth. With Teenage Engineering’s connected app, it will automatically transcribe the recorded words on your behalf — which remains cool, even if the likes of Google and Otter.ai have been doing similar for a while.
So what justifies the “ridiculous” part of the headline? The price. This beautiful device will set you back US$1,499 — or around NZ$2,410. Short of a lottery win — at which point I’d probably be too busy enjoying my brand new yacht to conduct any field interviews — I can’t see a way I’ll ever own one of these beauties.
That’s okay. I actually have a system of recording interviews that I’m very happy with, and heartily recommend this approach to anyone in the same boat.
It consists of three parts: an iPad mini, an Apple Pencil and the Notability app. Tap ‘record’ on the app and then take notes via the Apple Pencil in real time. When you return to the recording later, your notes will gradually fill in as the recording plays, allowing you to revisit your thoughts. Alternatively, you can jump to a specific bit of the recording simply by tapping the thing you wrote at the time. It’s a great way of putting you back in the headspace you were in when you made a now incomprehensible note.
Granted, the hardware involved will cost you around NZ$1,278, but that’s still around half the price of Teenage Engineering’s offering. You’re welcome.