OP-1 Portable Synthesizer

Musicians beware! The OP-1 is a synthesizer that some may love and others may dismiss as a mere overpriced toy.

For myself, Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 has been an indispensable addition to my synth arsenal: partly because it produces sounds I can’t find elsewhere and partly because it’s so incredibly easy (and yes, even fun) to use. (See video below.)

The color-base interface took me by surprise! There’s practically no learning curve for adjusting the eight separate sound engines (and effects) — the machine is highly visual in this regard. In fact I love handing my OP-1 to non-musicians and watching them as they almost instantly begin “programming” a sound. For a performer, this kind of ease-of-use is power: to effortlessly turn a few knobs and get to the sound one is after. No fiddling around. In this regard, the OP-1 is a musician’s instrument.

The portability is a nice plus. I can throw it into a backpack, take it anywhere, sketch out an idea for a song anywhere (using it’s built-in “four-track recorder” which operates much like a reel-to-reel tape). They advertise the batteries to last 16 hours… I haven’t tested that, but I have no frustrations in that regard.

More coolness about the OP-1:

* It has four intelligently designed sequencers that I absolutely love and continually use.

* Teenage Engineering occasionally releases new system updates with added functionality (new synth engines, new drum machines, etc…) And new new accessories, such as pitch bending knob and crank wheels for added functionality.

* It features both a built-in microphone and a built in FM-radio for sampling.

Is there anything bad about the OP-1? Yeah, its price. $849 is a lot to spend on any hardware synth where software synths are beginning to cost less and less.

I do wish the keyboard was more substantial. The Korg NanoKey midi controller is just a little larger and it has a nice resistance (and is velocity sensitive), whereas the keyboard on the OP-1 feels a bit cheap.

Is is a toy? I don’t believe so. I just produced a movie soundtrack and I often used the OP-1 for sounds I couldn’t achieve with any other synth. As an electronic musician, I now depend on it. It may not be for everyone, but it’s a great machine for use in the studio and, because of its small size and ease of use, it’s probably an even better instrument for use on stage.

The interface of the OP-1 is entirely color-based and very intuitive. For
example: the knob changes the blue number on the screen, the white knob
changes the white number. The above video (about one of the
sequencers) demonstrates this.

-- Robyn Miller  

OP-1
Portable Synthesizer
$850

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Teenage Engineering