Today I wanna tell you something about the iPhone of the synthesizers and keyboards out there.
It is small, handy, slick, elegant, minimalist and complex, and yet it costs way too much money for
these few features in it. I am talking about the op-1, produced by teenage engineering. Terms like
“musical synthesizer” would be not fitting for the category, to be honest.
I won’t go too much into the details of the specs, as it would be more practical for you to look it up on Wikipedia.
Strangely I didn’t find any information about its dimensions, so here they are:
Dimensions (LxHxD)11.1 x 4.0 x 0.5” (282.0 x 102.0 x 13.5mm)
This article also mentions 50% of important details that the Wikipedia site didn’t mention as well.
The synthesizer got quite popular from the beginning and Teenage Engineering grew fast as a company.
But you always should ask yourself some things…
Do I need it?
There are so many synthesizers out there. What is so special about this one?
“Wasn’t there a time when this was THE meme synthesizer?!”
“Could I spend my money more wisely?”
The answer to this is:
Yes, yes, and yes/no at the same time.
The main pro as I see it, from a perspective of a non-purchaser, is its mobility.
The Keyboard itself is as bis as 3 normally sized smartphones in a row.
It is a light weight, connectable via USB 2.0 and it has that minimalist touch of an Apple product.
It also floats around in that very same price range as a new iPhone X.
Maybe Teenage Engineering started out as a joke. They might have had the goal to build
one of the smallest synthesizers out there that looks like a funny gadget from a Toys “R” Us advertising campaign.
Will you use it once and then throw it back in its box, because you see the limitations in it?
Then there is this saying that pure limitation is the perfect ground to let your creativity grow.
Will it add value, even though I spent money on it?
There is always that certain point you need to reach, to make something worth your money.
Let’s say you buy an apple and you don’t eat it. You spent 2$ for something that would’ve
been nutritious and healthy, but you wasted it. It is the same with hardware and software
that you buy to produce music. Luckily I never spent too much $$$ on music hardware, but
I wasted a couple of bucks on software. So I know that I am not without “sins”.
I also know that I have to make up for it. It is the same with the op-1. I mean sure, you
could do at least 2 or 3 tracks with it easily in any DAW you’d like, but after that…?
There is this great YouTube channel out there called “Red Means Recording“.
That dude got mad skills. So if you think you can compete, go ahead.
I am just joking and messing with you. I just think that 1k is a little much.
You can good a solid PC for 500 bucks, Cubase for 80 bucks, 25$ for the
Cubase Protection stick for 25 dollars and for around 300 bucks you get the
smallest NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE ULTIMATE 12 version, which
is even in its compact form 20 times more versatile. Plus you have a neat
work station for writing your homework, essays, watching movies and / or play
games on Steam. Maybe all this salt comes from me, because I don’t own one?
If I have the money, I will definitely try one of ’em out. But at the moment the prizes
are getting quite ridiculous. Since the end of 2018 Teenage Engineering stopped
producing the synth. There are collectors synths out there that get sold for 11k.
I am not kidding you guys. 11k for this. This is 1 / 10 of a house. This almost
ranks with eating or burning your money. If I get one for 400$, I will get it.
You might stumble over a cheap sale yourself. Who knows? For live gigs this
might be quite handy though, instead of packing around heavy gear, you
just have to flip the synth in your pocked and your good to go.
Are there alternatives?
Exaggerated speaking: Yes. Everything that is freeware software. From my point of view its
like this, you have to understand software at its basic core and you need to get your hands
on as much software you can get, to understand the inner mechanics of hardware.
As a rule of thumb: Most analog synthesizers are way more expensive than their
digital VST plugin clones. So maybe in 2 or 3 years we might see a OP-1 plugin from
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS, u-he, Omnishphere, Arturia or even Teenage Engineering
themselves. Also, good to mention. If you want to make a compromise between
hardware and cheap and even with the tag “same company” in it, then you should check
out one of their musical calculators on their site. You can get the cheapest new models for 60$
Just 3 examples for show:
I must sound like I hate that poor little synthesizer
It just seems irrational to me that they offer their musical calculators so cheaply and the op-1 is a way to pricey.
When you read that Diplo, Avicii, Thom Yorke, Deadmau5 and Tame Impala also use it, you might get the urge to purchase it. With the thought in the back of your mind that goes a little something like this:
“Famous musician X got this instrument. If I get this instrument, I will get as famous as musician x.”
That is indeed partially correct. On the other hand:
How often do you see clips of street drummers that build their drum set from literal trash?
At some point you need to invest in your virtuosity.
If you’re into funny bleep sounds, you might invest once or twice in these calculators or even buy a whole bundle.
A Moog synthesizer is always expensive. Why? Because its sound is hardly ever reachable. That’s what everyone says.
Could you recreated the sound of an OP-1? Probably. With the right now how and enough YouTube demonstration videos, you could rip the sound collages and soundscapes. I think it might be also a fun task. Trying to force one synthesizer to sound like another. That might spice things up for you.
You need to decide for yourself if the OP-1 is what you want. Ask your local music shop if you can try it out if they have it, or even a friend purchased it and that’s why you stumbled over here, to get some more background on this piece of gear.
Spoil yourself with a massage and get yourself some proper software. You might not have the feeling for the knobs
when you produce and record and mix and master, but you will have a more straight-forward plan in which direction you are acoustically heading. With that in mind, I thank you for reading my bold statements and hope that you might take away one or two advices that I mentioned in here. Have a nice day.