It’s time to go hands-on with the Teenage Engineering TX-6 mixer and interface hybrid music machine. The TX-6 is much more than just a mini mixer. It certainly does sum individual audio signals/inputs into a single stereo output, six to be exact, like any good mixer should, but it can also act as a sort of audio hub on-the-go, completely tether free, for on-site recordings, live music sets, DJing, and one of the most feature-rich portable audio interfaces out there. Connecting to your DAW over USB-C for 12-track multi-track recording – it is also MFi certified for use with iPhone – plus you’ll find a built-in, albeit relatively basic, drum machine/synthesizer and a series of both standard issue workhorse and more boutique FX that can be used on all of it. Head below for a closer look.
Hands-on with the Teenage Engineering TX-6
Teenage Engineering describes it as “the first portable pro-mixer that can be used as a multi-functional 24-bit 48kHz audio interface that has an instrument tuner, built-in digital fx, synthesizer, and drum machine.”
You’re looking at up to eight-hours of completely tether-free battery life, built-in send effects like reverb, chorus, delay, freeze, tape, filter, and distortion (three-band eq and an adjustable compressor as well). There’s a secret arcade game for some reason (lol) and you can even turn it on its side and use the channels as a DJ-style crossfader.
But even that really doesn’t fully do it justice.
When it comes to the actual build here, there are not many surprises – you’re looking at a well-made TE CNC aluminum construction with 2K molding, solid custom-made knobs, faders, clicky tactile buttons, and a main rotary encoder with subtle, satisfying incremental notches when you’re giving it a turn. The faders themselves are smooth and well made with just the right amount of resistance so as to mitigate accidentally adjusting the levels/values more or less than intended in my experience – there is a tiny bit of horizontal wobble on them, but just barely.
While it can be a little bit cumbersome to get your fingers around the 3×6 layout of knobs above each fader, especially the middle row on tracks two through five, it doesn’t entirely kill the experience for me. Just be aware that if you have even slightly larger fingers, it’s going to be a very tight squeeze.
The miniature 48×64 pixel monochrome display looks great in just about any lighting situation with fonts, meters, and menus that will be familiar to anyone who has experienced a TE screen like this on other gear. While there are smaller elements of the UI here that can be tough to see at a glance and may very well require a bit of a double take for folks with aging eyesight like myself, I would suggest it does about as well as it could considering the tiny amount of real estate the overall design accommodates here.
As for as the USB-C, 1/8-inch audio jacks, and power button surrounding the sides, back, and front of the little hybrid mixer, many of the same impressions apply. There are six inputs, a pair of stereo outputs, and a stereo headphone jack with support for headset microphones. Everything feels solid with no wobbly connection points, but one thing to keep in mind here is how tight the main six track inputs are on the back. Not all standard 1/8-inch cables are going to fit side by side – the inputs are just too close together. Obviously the Teenage Engineering cables will get in there just fine, but you’ll need to make sure the wrapping around the actual connectors on whichever cables you use are as tight and thin as possible in order to get six of them in there (or two right next to each other).
Teenage Engineering TX-6 I/O at a glance:
- 6 input connectors (stereo or mono)
- 1 stereo headphones connector
- Bluetooth low-energy radio interface
- 3.5 mm mini jack to 6.3 mm jack main output
- Aux output
- Cue Output
- USB-C (charging or for use as a 24-bit/48kHz USB interface)
The sort of flipper power switch delivers a unique look and feel that’s about as satisfying to trip as it is arguably in the way – I can imagine some folks preferring something more flush to the unit than having a hard plastic flap sticking off one side of the otherwise mostly clean perimeter, but it has never gotten in the way for me.
All in all, it is a well-built machine with a few quirks that certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going to break under typical use conditions, but that is just to be expected with Teenage Engineering gear for me at this point.
Built-in synth with a sequencer, FX, and more
The TX-6 also boasts a built-in synthesizer and sequencer – it’s an interesting addition to a miniature mixer like this, sounds great, but, at least for me, falls more into the fun distraction category. You can essentially load up a sound on each fader (kick, snare, hi-hat, clap, and one of four synthesizer waveforms – sine, saw, square, and triangle). All of the FX the unit carries can be applied here, alongside a number of sound-shaping functions including sample length, EQ, pitch, and things of that nature – the customizable 3×6 bank of knobs come into play here much like when you’re using the machine as a straight mixer. But the sequencer setup is quite basic. You can’t plug in your own patterns or beats but rather choose from a series of pre-made options ranging from your usual four-on-the-floor to more syncopated sequences and a random option – you can set the sequencer to a sort of always-on-like mode for the synth waveforms on up to all six channels to create drone sounds and ambiances as well.
It clearly would have been nice to be able to tap in your own patterns in some way or other here, but the 20+ patterns available are quite extensive and things can get quite interesting with the sustained drone notes and randomized setups – one might argue that most of these patterns are the same beats most folks would create anyway, but I can’t help but feel a lack of complete musical freedom.
Having said that, Teenage Engineering relishes and even flourishes in the creative limitation space, sometimes even forcing creatives to be even more so when faced with boundaries DAW-based workflows have long since knocked down, and I have to admit, that’s certainly the case for me here.
A secret hidden arcade game as well?
Spoiler warning – Avoid this section if you would rather discover the TX-6’s hidden arcade game yourself.
Like many of TE’s other musical gadgets and synth, the TX-6 also has a hidden novel little arcade game in the system just for fun. It’s clearly a very basic experience as far as arcade games go, but you can get Knock Off – a simple pong-like paddle game – to run on the miniature screen by holding the Aux, Cue, and Shift buttons. Once you see the Knock Off logo on-screen, press the main rotary encoder knob (also used to play the game itself) to launch it.
Teenage Engineering TX-6 wrap-up
The Teenage Engineering TX-6 is a compelling and interesting little mixer. There’s much more than meets the eye here, like most of the best TE gear, alongside the usual limitations that, while for some are just drawbacks, others will find creativity-inducing bliss.
For me, it sits somewhere in the middle. The TX-6 certainly inspires creativity and makes me want to pull out all of my hardware sound making gadgets to create a boutique arsenal of instruments and get busy. But therein lies my final verdict.
The relatively exorbitant price aside, it would appear to me the TX-6 is really most useful for folks specifically looking to sum together the outputs of a series of hardware gadgets in the form of a unique, literally outside-of-the-box audio creation setup and/or more avant-garde live performance rig.
Its tiny form-factor clearly works nicely as the main audio hub for mobile setups, but it is also nearly as useful at home, and it certainly does double as an interface when it’s time to get your DAW involved. One important point to keep in mind here is that it is inherently expensive to land even a standard issue audio interface that will provide six discreet stereo inputs in a single unit like this, never mind one with physical mixer controls, a built-in synth/drum machine, DJing capabilities, and an arcade game.
In the end, its clear there’s nothing quite like the Teenage Engineering TX-6 out there – you would need to purchase several different pieces of kit in many cases to achieve the same thing. Just be prepared to reach deep down into those pockets to shell out the $1,199 it will cost you to land one. And if I were you, I would make good and sure you really need the six stereo inputs in mobile form before you do so as the rest of the bonus goodies here are just that – fun extras that inspire creativity and transform a well-built and frankly gorgeous mixer/interface combo into a wonderful audio geek oddity without being particularly useful. It’s fantastic, inspiring, and I love it, I just wish it was less expensive and I’m not sure I really need it.
It’s one small little mixer and one giant leap in innovation for any mixer of its kind, but only a select few will really find it a necessary one.