Teenage Engineering OP-1 Review (Still Worth It Today?)

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Teenage Engineering OP-1 Review (Still Worth It Today?)
VERDICT
Even in the current era, there's no doubting the impressive versatility and performance power that the OP-1 offers users. After ten years in the game, the device is still one of the most innovative in terms of usability and design. 
Sound Quality
9
Build Quality
8
Workflow
7.5
Value For Money
7.5
PROS
An incredible amount of features and controls are packed into one device.
Novel and cohesive stock selection sounds make it easy for simple and quick composition
Powerful tape recording device with unique editing, mixing, and control system,
CONS
The asking price might be too high for the overall sound quality and performance.
Will take the proper time and learning to master fully.
Some producers and composers might find the workflow on this device slow, confusing or clumsy.
8
OUR SCORE
  • The OP-1 is one of the most innovative sonic devices of its time
  • Discover what made this synthesizer so popular
  • Find out if it’s still worth the hype today
  • Also, check out our guide to the best OP-1 alternatives.

The OP-1 is possibly one of the most innovative sonic devices of its time. It’s hard to believe that this powerful machine has been around for ten years.

Since its inception, the OP-1 has sparked much debate around its usability and value for money. After a decade in the production game, many ask, “is the OP-1 still worth it in 2022″?

We’ve put together this brief review to explore this hot topic and will look into some primary features that define the OP-1 and discuss their relevance in the current day and age. 

What Is The Teenage Engineering OP-1? 

While the OP-1 is mostly marketed as a portable synth for music production, it does much more than allow you to play pretty synth sounds. The OP-1 carries many user features in its unassuming compact housing, including sampling, mixing, and recording.

The OP-1 is a portable studio that allows users to compile, capture and perform ideas without using outside gear.

The hardware and software interface of the OP-1 are also purposely designed to encourage exploratory creativity and have a very playful aesthetic and design.

However, the childlike aesthetic of the OP-1 is a stark contrast to the sophistication of its design, and even in 2022, there aren’t many devices that can match its usability and overall novelty. 

The Teenage Engineering OP-1: Breakdown

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Portable Synthesizer
$1,299.00

With its futuristic design, the OP-1 takes on the role of synthesizer, sampler, and controller all-in-one highly stylized package. 

Why We Love It:
  • Stylish design
  • Versatile Swiss army knife for music makers
  • Built-in 24-voice instant live sampler
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We’ve put together a brief list of basic specifications with the OP-1 to give you an idea of its fundamental design and performance capabilities. 

Specs

  • Price – $1299
  • Size – 282 x 102 x 13.5 mm
  • Weight – 580 g
  • Battery Life – 16 Hours
  • USB – Mini USB for Audio/Midi/Data
  • Line In – 3.5mm
  • Line Out – 3.5mm
  • Storage – 512 MB Nand Flash Storage

The Teenage Engineering OP-1 also includes a few forward-thinking and overlooked design elements, like the built-in FM radio or the 3-axis motion sensor that can be assigned to certain synth or effect parameters, 

It’s incredibly difficult to unpack everything the Teenage Engineering OP-1 offers, but we’ve listed some of its primary features below for you to review and consider. 

Look And Build

The OP-1 comes with a custom 12-step chromatic keyboard and menu and command buttons on the primary interface. The entire device is just a bit bigger than a large mobile phone, so users with large hands or clumsy fingers will take some extra time to get used to its tiny control surface. 

The top of the OP-1 interface features a bright and colorful 320 x 160 pixel AMOLED display that provides a variety of immersive graphic feedback to users depending on the function they’re using.

There are conventional displays for volume control or envelope filters and more entertaining displays for features like the sequencer and tape recorder. 

The OP-1’s compact housing is also designed to prolong its lifespan. No protruding keys or knobs can be knocked off easily on this device, and every button has been laid out to create a pretty smooth workflow. 

I/O

The OP-1 has a portable audio interface with 3.5mm line-in and line-out channels. Users can plug their headphones into the OP-1 or connect it to an auxiliary device for monitoring.

The device also comes with a mini USB connection that acts as another audio input, allows data transfer, or lets you use the OP-1 as a midi controller. 

Synthesizer

The OP-1 comes with a mono-timbral synthesizer capable of generating surprisingly useful sounds. There are 12 different synthesis engines included in the OP-1. Each one has a unique set of adjustable parameters and comes with its respective graphic on the LED display screen.

While hardware analog synths in this price bracket can far outshine the OP-1 in terms of sound quality, few can further match that with portability and other functions. 

The synths in the OP-1 range from softer lofi-like textures (FM, Pulse, Phase) to harsher and dreamier textures (Cluster, D-Box Dr. Wave). Users can stack up to 6 voices on a single synth engine.

Users can also save any adjusted synth presets as a custom patch for later use. All synths come with a 10-octave range, and the overall range of sounds is wide enough to suit various music styles and genres.

Fans of traditional synthesis control will learn to let go of what they know, as the OP-1 offers its unique set of sound-shaping controls and graphics with each synth type. 

Sampling And Sequencing

Many producers tend to overlook the powerful sampling devices that come with the OP-1. A drum and synth sampler is included in the OP-1’s design.

The Synth sampler allows you to sample in real-time using the onboard microphone, line-in, or FM radio. You can even route the OP-1 into itself for resampling. 

All sampled sounds can be further morphed or adjusted using a span of the OP-1’s onboard controls. You can take these sampled sounds and compile them in the Drum Sampler to create your custom drum kit for use while composing or playing.

Each drum sample can be up to 12 seconds in length, which allows the creation of some unique combinations on-the-fly. 

The sequencer is where producers can layer, map, and compile all elements of their OP-1 ideas onto one board. This sequencer works off a traditional 16-grid format and should be simple enough for new and experienced users to navigate.

Essentially, five sequencers run simultaneously in this function, but only one can be live at the time. There is also an Endless sequencer mode that lets users dial in up to 256 notes for step-style playback. 

The OP-1 offers another unconventional function in its sequencing mode through the Tombola sequencer, which operates by letting users bounce around rhythmic balls on a graphic polygon.

This function is certainly one of the more tactile and intuitive sides of the OP-1 that not many other modern devices currently offer. 

Mixer And Tape Recorder

The Tape Recorder is possibly the most valuable and novel feature of the OP-1. In this feature, users have a 4-track tape-style recording device that lets them capture any compositions built on the OP-1 for further use.

Users can also slice and edit their arrangements in a digital reel-to-reel style format which can be either incredibly fun or frustrating, depending on your preferred workflow. 

What’s important to note is that when the tape recorder is capturing data from the OP-1, it records audio and not MIDI – which other workstations in this price range tend to do.

Also, when you slow down or speed up your recorded sample, the audio pitch and quality change in the same style as classic analog tape. 

Each of the four mono tracks in the tape recorder is routed through a mixer with volume and pan controls and a handy three-band EQ for quick treatment. The mixer also features a master channel, which can have devices like a compressor or effects added to it for extra color.

All in all, this is what makes the Teenage engineering OP-1 a portable studio. 

Like it or not, the tape recorder function alone sets the OP-1 apart from many other modern synthesizers or workstations, as it has a unique stylistic element yet to be rivaled. Users can store up to six minutes of audio in 44.1 kHz 16-bit resolution. 

Onboard Effects

Included in the OP-1 are a handful of traditional and custom effects units. All the effects can be routed to various parts of the device, from the drum sampler to the master chain and tape recorder.

The effects range from conventional devices like reverb and delay to more experimental units like a lo-fi telephone box and radio-sourced modulation.

You can combine a few effects to create some truly unique soundscapes, and even if the overall sound quality of these units isn’t top-class, the sonic results are certainly intriguing. 

Final Thoughts

While it deserves its place in the world of synthesizers, the OP-1 might not be the ideal device for everyone. Anyone curious about OP-1 must remember that it still comes with certain limitations. Anyone that wants to use it as their primary workstation will likely fall short on storage space and sonic options. 

However, for anyone that does not have budget restraints and is looking for a unique and fun device to add to their portable studio, the OP-1 is a pretty solid buy.  

FAQs

How Many Tracks Does The OP-1 Have?

The OP-1 comes with a 4-track style tape recording device, and each track has a set of controls for volume level and panning. 

Is The OP-1 A MIDI Controller?

The Teenage Engineering OP-1 does come with a mini USB port that users can connect to their PC/laptop to use as a midi controller. The device is compatible with most major DAWs. 

Why Are Teenage Engineering Products So Expensive?

The OP-1 has more than doubled in asking price in 2022. Teenage Engineering attributes this price hike to the rise in production and development costs and increased economic inflation. 

Before you go, check out our guide to Syntorial Review: Best Way To Learn Synthesis?