Why I wouldn’t and why YOU shouldn’t buy the teenage engineering op-1

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.

Source: Russian Wikipedia

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:

Teenage Engineering TE010AS020A PO-20 Arcade Pocket Operator

Teenage Engineering TE010AS014 PO-14 Sub Bass Synthesizer & Sequencer

Teenage Engineering TE010AS028A PO-28 Robot Pocket Operator

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.

And finally:

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.

(Official home page by the way)

Comparison: Cubase, FL Studio, Ableton and some others.

In this section I will review 3 DAWs that I used over the years. Cubase, FL Studio and Ableton.

Cubase

Cubase has the most common UI out there. Many other DAWs use familiar designs. I put the most work hours in Cubase. A very solid DAW that never disappointed me. While in the newer version are some more bugs that I don’t enjoy, I suppose they’ll fix ’em in the future. Otherwise I will change up to FL Studio, which I will mention in the next section. I wanna stick with this DAW forever if possible. The problem with every kind of software are updates and downgrades. Sometimes an old version of a DAW is better than a new version. You have to change the facts if the upgrade is better or worse. At the moment I am really dissatisfied with Cubase 9.5. Cubase 5 – 9 were highly addictive for me and helped me enormously with my workflow. Let us pray that Cubase 10 works properly again so I don’t have to compare all those DAWs out there.

Edit:

I got myself Cubase 10 and some more RAM. I am really excited to try out everything new.

Cubase 9.5


FL Studio

My personal second choice. A lot of installments and projects mend and bend together for me in Cubase in FL Studio. Very basic design that you can expand and modify how you like it. Image Line made only positive changes over these years. Keep in mind that you will not find small updates on this DAW and it has a solid fan base. The variety of plugins you get is also quite astonishing. The stuff you get inside from FL Studio is enough to work and experiment around for over 2 years in a row if you keep on doin’ tracks. You’re quickly working step from step and in no time got yourselves a finished song. If you’re an avid music listener as I am, you might even discover one or two samples that are in FL Studio that you can also hear in other professional productions. Now in regards in plug’n play you also got some advantages to some other DAWs since there is a big canvas of samplers and keyboards and mixers and what-not that you just can select in the settings and you don’t need to set it up.

FL Studio 20


Ableton

The one I got the least experience with. A solid and fundamental base for live performances. Many artists swear that Ableton is essential for live performances. Only a few tries to avoid and undergo it by buying expensive hardware and software just so that they can perform live without the aid. If you want to go live you definitely have to spent time with this tool. It allows you to play finished sets, improvise on the spot (if you got the skills of course 😉 ). You can DJ with it and produce, mix, compose, write down your score and just toy around with it. I seriously had problems cutting and editing single samples in it. But maybe I just did something wrong at the time. Here’s a fun bit for you if you’re interested: Ableton put out Max. Max is somewhat related to VCV Rack. While Max is very expensive VCV Rack is for free. Maybe there is a reason behind that prize, but I prefer to go with cheaper versions, as I am limited to a budget.

Ableton


Bitwig Studio, LSDJ, VCV Rack, Nanoloop, others:

Bitwig Studio had some nice options in regard to production. LSDJ is an 8-bit tracker for Game Boy that you could also run with your emulator on a PC, Mac or Android if you want, but you get the real raw sound from an original Game Boy of course. VCV Rack: Modular synthesizer sound that you have to build up from the ground yourselves. Very hardcore stuff. You can learn your whole life about this area and never finish it, it’s a vast universe of soundscape and it’s an advantage if you know how everything is connected and how others synthesizers or drum computers / samplers / effect pedals, etc. are build. This is a big deal when you consider that everything is basically circuitry. So VCV rack should be a basic for you, the stuff that follows afterwards isn’t “that important” afterwards. So focus on getting a lot of input from this program and afterwards you just do what you want. I seriously regret not getting into that stuff earlier. This is music at it’s core. At the cost of 0,00,-€. That should be somewhat in everyone’s budget. Let’s hop on to Nanoloop. Nanoloop is insane. Very minimalist design. You can do twisted stuff like turning up the BPM to 300k. Insane sound collagés and more. Only one reach away from your hands. There is a Game Boy version out there that is logically limited because of its retro and old-schooly-vibed hardware. The version you get from the Google Play store costs you a bit but it’s worth it. On the other hand it costs a lot of power for your smartphone to put out a beat on 300.000 BPM. I think it’s possible to overheat some older smartphones maybe with Nanoloop. Imagine that for a moment. Get yourselves an old smartphone buy the app from the store and run that app till the accumulator of the smartphone is burning through. What a beautiful thought. You got an optical component when the smartphone goes up in flames and an acoustical component when the audio chip is melting.

BitWig Studio

LSDJ

Nanoloop


Conclusions, conclusion, conclusions…

So where are we at at this point? What can you take home or consider for yourselves at this point? I know that I am a voice of many. I know a lot of people write, blog, record themselves about what software they use and what hardware and what not. In the end you need to decide yourselves what you want to do. As a kid that grew up in a digital age it is kinda hard for me to get a grip at hardware. Software is getting cheaper, you can try out programs and you’re always mobile if you wanna. The programs I mention here should basically cover in regards in what you want to do. Who knows. Maybe you find your own DAW that you don’t want to miss or you made the experience that I talked trash and other software is better. I seriously hope I could help you out with this post and you somewhat know now where you are standing. See you soon. =)