Teenage Engineering OP-1 Portable Synth


It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a true synth-nerd moment.  Having been an analog/modular buff since high school, but lacking the funds and general pro ‘tude of a true musician, I rarely get fired up about the synth market these days. The last time I got my hopes up was about the Hartmann Neuron , which turned out to be kind of a Fairlight/Synclavier-style “audiophile” platform, prohibitively expensive and exclusive, built for only the smoothest synth freaks in the biz. Lately, I’ve been submerged in nostalgic-retro sonics, which have been sweeping the American DIY underground with great success for the past 2 years or so. But now, I’ve emerged from my audio cave of blissed-out 80s polyphonics and chorus-drenched arpeggiations to wax on about a truly original piece of new-tech, exhibited at NAMM 2010 last month.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Portable Synth

I will go on record to declare that the OP-1, a new portable synth/sampler/sequencer/controller from Sweden-based Teenage Engineering is without a doubt the most exciting electronic object I’ve seen in a while.

OP-1 Portable Synth

First of all, and probably most importantly, this thing is beautiful. Equal parts Macbook Pro, Olivetti calculator , and Casio VL-Tone (the last truly portable, truly bizarre synth to grace the market). Flat, compact profile, color-coded knobs and buttons, one-piece solid milled-aluminum chassis, super-sleek hi-res AMOLED display, and nothing but precise, clean lines all around. Stockholm’s really giving post-iPad Cupertino a run for its money on this one.

OP-1 OLED Display

As great as it looks, though, its the totally next-level functionality that’s got the internet switchboards all lit up. Sure, it’s got a couple different synth modes including string synth, fm, analog modeling, pulse wave modulation, and some real slick-sounding head-scratchers like “T10” “PSE” and “Cluster” (obviously the most cosmic of the group). And yeah, it’s got a super-simple sampling interface (think SK-1, but more Web 2.0). And sure, you can add envelope control, and program 4 separate sequencers, all represented visually in brilliant, TRON-style neon-on-black colorways. But that’s just the beginning. In a true stroke of genius, the hypnotized minds behind this little jammer dreamed up a feature they call “TAPE”. What is “TAPE?” you might ask? Live, dynamic tape-deck emulation, of course. Check out some sample videos, for some truly chopped n’ screwed sonics. I seriously can’t over-state how great of a concept I think this is. Record every keystroke, tweak and sequenced sound live – then rewind, slow down, filter, over-dub, cut n paste, wreck n effect.

The Teenage Engineering developers kept this landmark feature secret for almost a year, finally unveiling it at this year’s NAMM, after the OP-1’s debut at the Frankfurt Musik-Messe in 09. Other innovative, state-smashing features include a built-in FM radio tuner as a sound source, routable accelerometer control (for Keith Emerson-style histrionics), usb connectivity, and top-secret wifi capabilities. The capacity for live performance and sheer audio insanity are near limitless.

No price set yet, and no release date, but damn if everyone isn’t clamoring. If this one gets lost in the shuffle, I’ll never forgive them. Finally a cross-brow device for academic explorers and underground knob-freakers alike.

Hit up Teenage Engineering for more delicious details.


One Response to “Teenage Engineering OP-1 Portable Synth”

  1. 1 ferd&djeuk's

    c’est super beau le design,la fonctionalité…mais sur leur site ils sont en rupture de stock.je ne trouve nulle part ou tester le Portable Synthesizer OP-1.on dirait qu’ils nous vendent des illusions à la fin.aucun site ne le vend.De mon precédent voyage pour les Etats unis,toutes les grandes surfaces attendent toujours.mais pour ce que j’ai vu cet appareil faire dans “the one” de la swedish H M,j’ai hate de le mater

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