Become A One Man Band With Teenage Engineering’s OP-1
It doesn’t happen all the time but gadgets do live up to the hype. First seen in the Swedish House Mafia’s music video for their 2010 song “One”, the OP-1 was finally released in late 2011. The portable music workstation developed by Stockholm-based Teenage Engineering is an integrated gadget. It is a synthesizer, sampler, sequencer, multi-track recorder, drum machine, mixer, and controller; all in one. If you’ve always been interested in making music, the OP-1 is an easy and fun way to start.
Looks like a toy, constructed like a pro
With its construction and color-coded controls, it’s difficult not to think of the device as a toy. The OP-1’s fixed-velocity keyboard is standard but only goes up to two octaves. While lacking in complexity compared to other synthesizers, its simplicity lends itself to ease of use. To the left of the keyboard are the conventional playback controls like Play, Stop, Record, Forward, and Rewind. You can even join two tracks together or use a pre-set beat on the internal metronome. Above that is a built-in speaker so you can start playing music even without a set of proper loudspeakers.
The numbers 1, 2, 3, and , above the keyboard refer to the number of tracks that you can record on the OP-1. The line of keys beside them is the group of eight different synthesizer effects that can be applied when you’re mastering your track like reverse playback. The colored knobs control the intensity of effects. The button with the four dots, when pressed, allows you to go all out and customize every beat or note in the song you’re composing.
Finally, on the side are 3.5 mm stereo in and out jacks and USB port for charging and transfer of files, which is the same size as Verizon’s 3.5mm stereoheadset with microphone. You can connect an audio device for the OP-1 to record or to play around with. A microphone can be connected, which allows you to create a track using your voice. If you have an iPad with synthesizer apps, you can also hook that up to extend its functionality. To do that, you will need a Camera Connection Kit to convert the connections between the tablet and the synthesizer.
The device also has a 320 x 160 pixel OLED screen which displays animations corresponding to the different controls. Press a button, turn a knob, and push a key – that’s all that you need to do to create music that you can also view on the screen.
Portable musical fun at a price
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the simplistic beauty of the OP-1 is its tag: $1,100+. For most, that’s a deal-breaker and the same amount of money could be used towards amassing a decent set of software and hardware for music-making. That is if you already have a laptop, desktop, or even a tablet to connect to and play around with. If you don’t, then this intuitive gadget provides endless hours of value and will make a musician out of you.
A Final Word
With the I/O being simple stereo jacks, expect minor noise feedback when connecting or disconnecting devices. The same noise appears if and when you decide to play live from the OP-1. The only solution is to transfer your music via USB to another device and master it there. Your tracks are saved as .wav so they still retain their quality.
About The Author:
Lucy Price is usually found concentrating on the latest the web, twitter, startup companies and the latest gadgets.