Teenage Engineering's New CM-15 Field Mic Shows How It Thinks Different

Design is all about how it works

  • With its new microphone, Teenage Engineering takes a unique approach—again.
  • By entirely rethinking concepts, TE keeps making devices that musicians love. 
  • But they're not cheap.

CM-15 Field Mic

Teenage Engineering

TE's focus on design helps it solve problems differently than other manufacturers. 

At first glance, the CM-15 might look like an expensive portable field microphone, and that's because it is. But at $1,199, it compares to other high-end filed mics, and at the same time, it packs in all kinds of features that users want but manufacturers never seem to supply.

"There are many field recorders with stereo mics, battery operation, USB audio interface capability, plus the ability to plug in whatever other mics you want that cost far less than this thing. It's really all about the form factor + aesthetic design here and if that matters to you," electronic musician GurtTractor replied in a forum thread started by Lifewire

Teenage Engineering Thinks Differently

In many ways, the world of music gear is quite conservative. There are endless variations on the same old studio mixer designs, microphones, and synthesizers. Music gear forum users ridicule the new and, at the same time, complain about a lack of new features on recording gear. It ends up with a mismatch between what people really want to buy and what is actually on sale. 

The Teenage Engineering CM-15 Microphone on a stand.

Teenage Engineering

Enter Teenage Engineering, the Swedish design company that consistently invents new and genuinely useful twists on music gear. For example, its OP-1 synthesizer is an all-in-one music studio, complete with a virtual four-track tape recorder. The OP-1, its sequel, the OP-1 Field, is utterly beloved by its users for its unique take on music creation. The OP-1 F costs around $2,000. 

To really get an idea of how TE thinks differently, let's look at its hit from last year, the TX-6 mixer. Almost all mixers, what you might know as mixing desks, are old-fashioned affairs. They have a bunch of mono inputs for on-stage mics and guitars, while music producers are desperate for stereo inputs. They also either lack USB connectivity (for getting the audio into your computer and back out again) entirely, or it is a hobbled version that sums all of the inputs to a single stereo mix, so you cannot record instruments individually. 

Yes, I realize how ridiculous this all sounds, but it's true. The TX-6 fixes all of this while being utterly tiny, and it even works with an iPhone, allowing full multitrack recording over a single Lightning cable. The TX-6 is so small that it can actually be tricky to turn the knobs. And it costs $1,199.

Teenage Engineering TX-6

Teenage Engineering

You might be seeing a pattern here. Teenage Engineering rethinks basic tools until it comes up with surprising and often delightful answers. This small-batch, bespoke approach to design and manufacture ends up expensive, but you do get your money's worth. And this may be why nobody ever seems to copy this approach. It's too expensive and relies too much on the design process, having great ideas and whittling them to near perfection. Much easier to just bang out yet another mixer or synth clone with a few new features and call it a day. 

Teenage Engineering CM-15 Field Mic

Enter the new CM-15 Field Mic. The first thing you'll notice is how good it looks, which is a departure from the norm. Inside, it has a large diaphragm capsule suspended on a rubber mount, and this, too, is unusual for portable mics. 

"They've crammed quite a bit of tech in a small space. Large diaphragm condenser[s] are really not super travel friendly. A bit more delicate than a dynamic mic," said electronic musician Mikewb in an AudioBus forum thread participated in by Lifewire.

But then we get to the features. Usually, you have to choose the kind of connection your mic uses when you buy it: an analog XLR connection or USB. USB mics are often (but not always) fairly pedestrian in quality, intended for budget podcasting setups. This is a shame because USB means you can hook a mic to a computer (or phone) and record direct without an audio interface and extra cables. 

CM-15 Field Mic

Teenage Engineering

If you guessed that the CM-15 Field Mic has both (mini) XLR and USB, you'd be correct. And it's USB-C, which is nice. It also has a line out via a 3.5mm jack, good for plugging into cameras or anything else with an input jack, a built-in kick-stand, and can also be mounted on a standard tripod. External controls boil down to setting the analog gain (amplification) to high, medium, or low. Everything else is handled in software from the connected computer (if using). 

This is to say, the CM-15 Field Mic is both a high-quality studio microphone and can also be taken anywhere, run on batteries, and plugged in any way you like, all without compromising the audio quality. There's only so much you can do to rethink a microphone compared to a mixer or synth/sampler/recording studio, but TE has managed to deliver something that's way more useful than the norm.

In fact, "way more useful than the norm" could be its slogan. It's not particularly glamorous or catchy, but it is what a lot of people are willing to pay a lot or money to get. 

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