Ah, how I loved my Fisher-Price Music Box. It played stone-cold bangers including (but not limited to) Hickory Dickory Dock, London Bridge and Where Has My Little Dog Gone, which I listened to throughout a carefree childhood until the pastel-colored 'records' had huge chunks missing and the wind-up mechanism all but conked out.
So when I happened upon Teenage Engineering's inexpensive turntable creation, the PO–80 Record Factory, my eyes lit up – although I wonder how many hip young designers of today can remember a product launched in 1971.
The design language is all there though – red chassis, 1970s font with cute curly flourishes, rudimentary tough-to-break plastic tonearm – but this cheap record player has an ace up its sleeve: you can also cut your own records with it before listening to them.
Because of this, the PO-80 Record Factory (which you assemble yourself at home) is unlike any of the best turntables I've seen to date.
And we should definitely take Teenage Engineering seriously – it is one of the founding partners of Carl Pei's Nothing, after all. Yet to have the pleasure? Teenage Engineering is a Stockholm-based consumer electronics specialist that makes premium audio products such as the OP-1 synthesizer and music devices such as Pocket Operators. Oh, and the design house also had a hand in iconic products such as Ikea’s Frekvens collection of speakers and subwoofers. Enough said.
Back to the PO-80 Record Factory then, and comes with six black five-inch blank records plus sleeves, ready for your audio creations (although do note you're limited to recording singles of up to four minutes in mono per side, in what the makers are calling 'lo-fi' quality), a spare cutting needle, a USB power cable, a 3.5 mm audio plug and an adaptor for seven-inch records.
How does it work? All you need is a USB power source as well as a 3.5mm input from an audio device. And although you shouldn't expect crisp leading edges of notes within your creations, Teenage Engineering does offer a mastering tool which accepts MP3 or WAV files, to help you get the most out of it.
Opinion: I'm all about generating love for vinyl, and this is a great gateway product
It would be easy to write disparagingly about this cute and inexpensive little vinyl-spinner and cutter, but on reflection, that isn't how I feel.
Aside from the fact that you're required to assemble it at home yourself (which was once the case with all hi-fi kit), the PO-80 Record Factory offers a creative outlet too, which will doubtless generate new and lifelong love for the tangible music product in fledgling vinyl heads and artists – just as my Fisher-Price Music Box did for me.
To be clear, I'm all for this – and if you're just getting into analog, see our vinyl collectors' 101.
That said, it should be noted that because of the self-assembly and small sharp parts, the PO-80 Record Factory is not recommended for children under 12 – as the name suggests, the novice engineers should be teenagers, at least.
In terms of playing your existing vinyl collection (rather than cutting your first demo single and B-side, you crooner, you!) the PO-80 Record Factory also comes with an adaptor for accommodating seven-inch records – and the built-in speakers and amplification mean you won't need any further separates to hear music.
And the wildest bit is that all of this will cost you just $149 / £149 (around AU$259) without shipping!
Unfortunately, others have also discovered it and thought it a top deal too. At the time of writing, the PO-80 Record Factory is completely sold out – although you can sign up to be notified when more are ready to go.
Full disclosure: I may have signed up…
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.