The synth engines' creative visualizations have inspired me to explore fantastic, nontraditional sounds on more than one occasion – several of which became the basis of entire songs. This tiny workstation is deceptively versatile!
When I first set eyes on the Teenage Engineering OP-1, it made me think of a toy. However, once I actually started using it I realized it was anything but. The OP-1 has features for anyone - from the beginner following the step-by-step tutorials to the seasoned pro who dives into its diverse sound creation capabilities. This is the type of tool that can bridge the gap from a practice device to a stage-worthy instrument.
OP-1 synth is so fun to play with! And the sweetwater service is the best!
Unbridled Fun! Productive? Jury is out...
Getting an OP-1 is one of those experiences where you know it's probably something you don't need, but it's so darn cute, portable and so much fun to play with that you can't resist. I actually bought one, felt guilty after spending so much, returned it, and then saved up and bought it back! It definitely isn't cheap. It may have a toy-like presence, but it is not a toy, and doesn't come with a toy price either. So it really is a tough decision as to whether you need to spend so much on something like this.
Once I decided to really keep it, I started to really enjoy playing around with it. It is a great machine for making beats - I'll say that right up front. However, it's not as easy (at least it isn't for me) to do traditional songs on it, with an intro, verse, middle 8, chorus, etc... it's just not set up that way at all. You can force it into that mold, but it's not really how it shines. It shines when you start experimenting with it, finding crazy new sounds and looping them against a wide variety of drum samples and such. Beats are where this little powerhouse really comes alive.
The sounds are good, and sometimes great. It seems more difficult to get really warm sounding patches from it - most are really digital/chip tune in nature. You can squeeze the synth engines and find some warm, analog-ish sounds if you are really patient, but again, not really where this synth holds it's strength. If you're looking for lush analog sounds, this isn't really the box for you. Think 90's video game consoles, i.e. Megaman, etc... that's the type of sound you'll find the OP-1 really excels at. They advertise 8-9 synth "engines" but yet I find several of them to be rather thin and similar sounding - so I'm gonna call a bit of hype on that claim. Maybe it's true, but I would expect more sonic variety from nine different engines.
The humorous approach to graphics and to the overall user feel with this box is definitely part of it's appeal. It's charm lies in it's ability to not take itself so seriously, even as it can get serious if you want to. It's not meant to be a serious production workstation that you can replace your massive keyboard with multi-timbral capabilities and such with - it's meant to be fun, first and foremost. It's really a bonus that you can create tracks that you can eventually "master" in the box and finish off all without leaving it's confines.
You won't find a more polarizing device than the OP-1 in terms of "love it/hate it". There are tons of stories of people buying and then returning it after only a few days, feeling frustrated by it's limitations and it's way of forcing you to comply with it rather than it being flexible enough to adapt to you. For those people, there are a ton of workstation options that will fit the bill for them. However, they won't find so much capability in such a small box anywhere. The OP-1's size is really it's ace in the hole. All of the negatives can really be washed away with the fact that you can practically put this thing in your back pocket (although I don't recommend doing that!)
I give the OP-1 four stars. I enjoy it, I love fussing with it, and I've made some great beats and grooves with it that I promptly erased, never to be heard again. I will be taking it with me on every vacation, and probably will use it in studio situations as well as live. I don't think it's full potential has still been realized almost four years after it's initial release, and I've seen all the OS upgrades so far. Again, a companion app would have had me giving it five stars.
Bottom line: if you like to have fun making beats, and you love tweaking sounds and coming up with unique grooves, this machine will deliver in spades. If you want/need portability and want something to spark creative juices on the go, there is nothing that compares to this little box. If you are looking for a no-compromise workstation that you can craft complicated songs using multiple tempos, time signatures, etc., this probably isn't the box for you. Buy it, and enjoy it, like a boat or motorcycle or any other leisure entertainment - and appreciate it for being the perfect way to kill a Saturday afternoon. Just don't assume you will record the next Sgt. Pepper on it - even if they did record Sgt. Pepper on a four-track.
The best portable unit on the market
Just Get It
I've owned the OP-1 three seperare times. Once it was stolen, and the other time i ended up selling for new equipment. Finally after awhile I realized how much I missed it. It wasn't just the absolute state of the art interface, sound construction, and sampling capabilities, but mostly how much inspiration during production gets sparked by this little synth. This workstation is way too versatile to not have around the studio, or in your work bag at all times.
No words can describe.. It's the experiance
At first look, "Why is Sweetwater selling Fisher Price toys", but I was wrong by a long shot! Don't let the looks fool you because this thing has more to offer than meet the eye. It's worth every penny for what this thing does and I can certainly say ANY producer/DJ will find this device a very valuable in their arsenal of production tools. I was certainly blown away at the versatileness of these device. I can go on but like the title says "No words can describe, it the experience".. I say no more.
...and yet packed full of features. What struck me as "great" about the TEOP1 is the simplicity and usability factor that isn't always prevalent in synths. Within minutes of opening the eco-friendly package, you'll be twiddling knobs and getting to know the 4 track recorder. It's easy to function deliver extremely powerful and fast editing capabilities. You can easily split, splice, and bounce clips with ease. The synth engines were also designed with usability in mind, as each colored knob controls the same colored function on the screen.
Where I am not such a fan is within the drum sequencing, as I think it could be simpler to program. Of course, the TE team is constantly delivering new features and will likely develop more sequencing capabilities down the road (this is a bonus).
With a large user community, extreme portability, and a complex array of features, the OP1 is far from the toy it appears to be. I've made tracks on the beach with this thing, attracting attention as people are wondering what I am doing. If only they knew...
If you have the cash you certainly won't regret it!
My Sweetwater rep Ben Robinson had high praise for this unit, I was a bit apprehensive as it seemed cool, but found it a little goofy (with some of the humorous on-screen graphics of boxers, Cows and monkeys playing the drums). I asked if it was a tool or a toy and his response sealed the deal,
I've only had it for 4 days, but I quickly realized that there is only one reason not to buy it (Lack of cash). There are tons if content on YouTube and some excellent tutorials from Teenage Engineering.
While it has the look of a fun gadget, it is really incredibly useful, Lots of Synths, lots of Drums, plenty of effects and filters and there was an incredible amount of research done to make it user friendly, The color coded encoder knobs come into play often and they correspond with the graphics on screen, (So you immediately know what knob to turn to edit the sound or effect).
Teenage Engineering is amazing with free updates and they even have 3d models of some of the plastic accessories on their website, so if you have a 3D printer you can make your own. I'm really happy that Ben made a point of saying how great this unit is.
Another upside, if you are a musician, producer or gadget head that has a decent commute on a train, plain or car passenger, this is a battery powered 4 track self contained workstation that is very portable. This along with a pair of headphone and you can turn your downtime into production time, or even just sketch out a few ideas while they are fresh in your head.
If you are on the Fence, check out the companies tutorials on YouTube,
This thing does so much for something so compact. I was amazed when I discovered how intuitive this thing is and how many different sounds and parameters it does/has!
The OP-1 is a triumph of design as it manages to simplify its operations with a brilliantly simply, color coded user interface. Instead of spending lots of time doing gearhead things, i end up creating music. Yes, it is a pricey piece of kit, but it is highly portable and runs 16 hours on a charge. I consider it to be the "laptop of synthesizers". Teenage Engineering has also released a couple of system software upgrades that contain new synths, filters, and effects. There are too many cool and amazing things about the OP-1 to begin to cover them in a review. Cheers!
If only all synths worked this way. Seeing is believing!
This is a good starter synth all the way to the pro. If your in the market of portability.. Or in the studio cranking out the next 4 on the floor JAM.. I liked how simple it was to be able to record sample edit.. Don't let the small on board speaker scare you.. It thumps as well.. Totally invest into all the little gadgets that they offer u.. This is so u can whip up totally original warped up.. Sounds.. Price wise it's alot but worth all its weight in gold!
Teenage Engineering goes above and beyond...
purchased the op-1 after many months of hesitation, along with saving up the money to put towards it. so i finally took the dive and purchased it. i decided to go with sweetwater since they offered a free two year warranty. ill start with the customer service on this item. i didnt expect to receive a call in regards to my order. i spoke with sean geyer and i have to say i was blown away with the great one on one customer service that they provide. i dont necessarily know how to use this synthesizer but i will say that the quality and craftsmanship is beyond words. i cant wait to learn how to use this thing to its fully potential. ill be coming back to sweetwater to purchase some of the accessories.
GOOD THINGS DO COME IN SMALL PACKAGES!
I am amazed how fully functional this is. The OP-1 is quite sturdy with controls that are intuitive and well organized.The multiple synths and drum machines are endless fun. And it comes with a great selection of drum and synth sequencers, ranging from standard to exotic. It even can sample from the built-in microphone or FM radio. The Op-1 is a fully functional workstation, great for music production at home or while traveling.
This is one of my favorite pieces that I've bought in years. Great, fun and simple interface and some really wild sounds. Hours and hours of fun and ever expanding possiblities... Teenage Engineering are super innovative and they are just going to keep making things better and better (which your OP1 will get in the way of firmware upgrade that add new features).
Just buy it already..
If you're on the fence about the OP-1 . . .
I love the OP-1. It's a truly unique instrument and a serious upgrade from the Casio VL-1 it kind of emulates. There is tremendous power under the hood and I feel I've only scratched the surface. The interface is less intuitive than Apple products, but you can start playing and having fun without even cracking the online owners manual. The build quality is fantastic, heavy and designed to last. The sound quality is better than I expected and I expected it to be good. While the OP-1 is a very playful tool, don't let the looks fool you into thinking it's a toy. It is not. The OP-1 has a great amount of depth and complexity lacking in all electronic music toys I've encountered.
That said, there are times I wish the OP-1 was more like a conventional instrument. I sometimes long for a filter cutoff or envelope controls. But wanting such things kind of misses the point. The OP-1 is it's own thing and you find yourself respecting it for being different than everything else in your kit. In the end, the only thing I really wish for (which wouldn't break the personality of the instrument) is the ability to juggle more than one song in the virtual 4 track tape recorder. I like to sketch a lot of ideas at once and bounce back and fourth. OP-1 makes you commit to an idea and see it through. For better or for worse, like a marriage, lol.
If you're on the fence about getting one of these, you probably aught to buy it. Yes, it seems expensive, but adjusting for inflation, it's only twice the price of it's predecessor, the Casio VL-1, and for that you get about 10 times the power and versatility. If you already regard this as a toy, it's probably not for you . . . then again . . . have you ever heard the beginning of Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft? There you have a professional major label recording using a toy piano*. My point being, even if it is a toy, who cares, you can still use it in a professional manner. It's not the tools that make the music, it's the musician and the OP-1 is a great tool.
*see also Da Da Da by Trio and Get Carter by the Human League, both of which prominently feature the "toy" VL-1 by Casio, mentioned previously in this review.