I need voice recognition, because I’ve just covered my keyboard with drool.

The Teenage Engineering OP-1 (Operator 1) is a “pocket-sized” controller and synth. For once, it eschews the cliches of modern hardware design for a look that is truly 2009, influenced by the layout of classic Roland drum machines but made minimal and elegant. It’s a controller. It’s a synth. It has … an FM radio in it? (Yes, that’s FM radio, though it also has the FM synthesis you might expect.)

Features:

  • Controller functions: transport controls, 4 rotary encoders, 16 dedicated “quick keys”
  • Motion sensor so you can shake the thing
  • Stand-alone synthesis (no computer needed), with 8 synth models, 8 samplers
  • Synth models: FM synthesis, virtual analog, more (can’t tell what other synth models they intend)
  • Effects: Delay, Flutter, Filters, EQ
  • Sequencer — described as “at present time, secret.” A secret sequencer? Isn’t it already somewhat secret, seeing as the device isn’t shipping?
  • Arpeggiator
  • FM radio (so you can record Akufen-style radio samples?)
  • Built-in mic, speaker
  • Record to MP3
  • 12 mm thin
  • USB 2.0, minijacks for audio in / out+heaphones
  • Battery-powered using the power connector, which is “the same as used in robotic automation applications”
  • Holes for a carry strap

Don’t be a dream. Don’t be a dream.

All of this has an unbelievably beautiful interface.

Teenage Engineering Operator-1

The only real question is, is all of this too good to be true? Teenage promises an initial run of 100 to the “beta” list, with the project completion slated for 10-12 months and price TBA. Now, we’ve heard that before, and painfully, we tend to see a rough correlation looking something like this:

 

 

But note, this is only correlation, not causation. That is, the awesomeness of something does not prevent it from shipping. So I’m holding out hope that the OP-1 will indeed see the light of day, and we’ll be sampling FM radio and programming FM synth sequences on a bus. I can’t wait.

(I’ll amend the illustration, and we’ll put the OP-1 alone in the upper right-hand corner of this graph.)

As noted in comments, LSDJ creator Johan Kotlinski is on the team, too. That makes the “secret” sequencer all the more tantalizing. (It still makes sense that it’d be some sort of step sequencer, given the hardware interface, but what kind?)

Teenage Engineering are not new to truly brilliant designs. They created an installation of toy-like robotic singers for Absolut – the vodka company – called Absolut Choir. Heck, I want these, too. Brilliant work.

Photo: Sesse Lind.

Found via the wonderful True Chip Till Death.

More information

Operator-1 Details: The Casio VL-Tone of the 21st Century, Plus the Synth Alarm Clock!
High-Density Screens Due; OP-1’s Gorgeous Display

  • http://truechiptilldeath.com peter

    The guy who makes LSDJ works there:

    http://nostromo.noisepages.com/2009/03/29/en-rout

    So maybe the sequencer is a tracker? Maybe LSDJ wav style synth is one of the synth options?

    One can only dream. :D

  • http://www.nickstutorials.com SoundDesignTutorials

    I rarely have any twinges of gearlust these days, but that thing is seriously up my alley. Will definitely be keeping a close eye on any developments, thanks for the info, Peter.

  • solipsistnation

    WANT WANT WANT WANT WANT. Holy cow, that's super-cute and pretty and everything. I bet their beta list is already full. But, wow. If they ship, I'm totally buying it.

    I have a portable noise bag I have gigged with once or twice– Korg Kaossilator, Gakken SX-150, tiny amp, some stompboxes, an old tiny Casio… It sounds like it would be pretty thin (aside from the Kaossilator taking over the mix, heh), but with a couple of delays you can build up layered rhythmic stuff. I used to have a 202, which was also fun and ran on batteries… This OP-1 thingy looks like it would fit in really well with that bag o' gear.

    A few years ago I'd have dismissed it as vaporware, and I still wouldn't be surprised if we never see it, but these days? There are so many neat little projects like that that DO see the light of day that I bet we do see it ship.

  • Jahmal

    HUH??!?! WHAT??!?!?

    Korg Microwha??????

    This boy. Needs now……

  • CV!

    Beautiful!

    I want it, let's hope they release it!

  • autoy

    I so totally want to buy this.

  • http://www.skratchworx.com Gizmo

    Best graph eva.

  • samu

    I don't want one, but I REALLY want it to be real. And for someone to have a setup consisting solely of this, a white MacBook, a Focusrite Saffire and a Wiimote. Please? It'd be sooooo prettyyyyyy…

  • A bright fearless su

    "secret sequencer"? New band name idea?

    I just need to ask what I just know everyone else is wondering: can I wear this as a belt buckle?

    Would I then be secretly sequencing my crotch? These things are important info.

  • L

    Teenage Engineering's Jesper Kouthoofd was involved in developing the Elektron Machinedrum and Monomachine…

  • http://rewiredforsound.blogspot.com JKirchartz

    http://the-palm-sound.blogspot.com/2009/03/what-i

    Has a video of some tests for this device … looks promising.

  • cloud

    Will it become a nice brown/gray/pee-yellow like the white macbooks after a few weeks of sweaty usage?

  • contakt

    thats the most amazing graph I have ever seen

  • ferri

    awesome !

  • http://myspace.com/fallsastar foosnark

    That's super-cute. Crossing my fingers!

  • http://www.keyofgrey.com KeyOfGrey

    So excited about this one. I signed up for the "beta testing" although, with only 100 slots, I'd imagine I'm late to the party. One can still hope though.

  • http://soyuz7.net Cosmonaut

    well, we can only see. I'd have to agree with Peter's little graph.. The flip side to all of it is that the awesomeness tends to be bait on which they hope to attract a producer for their slick looking industrial design.

  • http://www.actuel.fm actuel

    OH MY! please let this be real.

  • finnek

    "…and a Synthesizer

    When you disconnect the OP-1 from your computer you suddenly have a stand-alone portable wonder-machine with 8 synthesizer models, 8 samplers [...]"

    so it's only a controller when plugged in? That would be sad… :(

    p.s.: gotta love the german translation on their site of "The Portable Wonder from Teenage Engeneering": "Der portabel Wunder von Jugend Ingenieur" – i lol'ed pretty hard ;)

    has to be "Das portable Wunder von Teenage Engeneering" – damn find someone who translates correctly and never translate proper names!

  • finnek

    oupsie – "Engineering" of course ;)

  • Laul

    Looks and seems utterly wonderful enough to momentarily stall my curmudgeonly hatred of almost everything and make me grin like a toddler flying a kite.

    Please happen!

  • http://seguesound.com Dri

    Came for the graph, stayed for the awesome :)

  • teej

    boner-inducing, but with some concern. early April fool's? vaporware, ala Beat Thang? will Ableton have beef with the name seeing as it does FM synthesis? and the pics look like 3D renders, albeit decent ones. hopefully it is beyond that stage?

  • teej

    the display is indeed sexy as hell. vid:

    http://www.teenageengineering.com/now/2009/03/big

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    What a lil' Smoker… I love it!!!

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  • http://www.lividinstruments.com Peter Nyboer

    Swedish company with a Japanese-language friendly website. Put down your swords, humans, you have met your match.

  • Zexual

    YES YES YES

  • Sweff

    Sexy! But judging by the surface finish in these photos it could be a SLA rapid prototype. Witness the knob roughness and the uneven clearance around them.

    A 'CDM' button in the top image perchance? What's that do? :)

  • sclr

    holy. wow. want.

  • http://www.actuel.fm actuel

    SWF, i took that button to read as 'dot com'. on the site they talk about being able to upload and send to your friends. just a guess though.

  • teej

    @Peter Nyboer: totally! the whole vibe is very Elektron. gotta love those Swedes.

  • teej

    am i the only one thinking they should axe the little built in speaker up there? cmon, seriously.

  • http://sarmoung.livejournal.com/ sarmoung

    I can't be the only one getting a distinct Casio VLTone sensation from that design! It's quite gorgeous. Any idea on the actual dimensions?

    Although having a calculator function would be the deal clincher for me…

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  • http://www.midi.com midigeek

    midi?

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  • Eoj

    +1 on all accounts of this thing being awesome and the fact that it has to be released

    +1 on the amazing graph!

  • LittlePig

    Looks like a modern version of the casiotone.. not that that is a bad thing. Hope it makes it into production

  • the raker

    By the way, Teenage Engineering must have the funniest teenage logo I've ever seen.

    That, along with Peter's graph, has made my day. Even my non-gear-loving girlfriend is laughing. Vapourware Event Horizon indeed.

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  • Redcopter

    arf. slurp.

    want. now.

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  • blip

    finnek: Same thing with the Japanese. The company is "70 yrs old" in the details and the blog title (next to 'now' under 'speak') says "(to) keep distance/separate", a homonym to "speak" but different characters for the content part and all sort of weirdness. Methinks they're pulling our legs a tiny bit. :P

    And jebus I've dreamt of "pocketable" synth/sqeuencer since oh forever. It's the "dedicated hardware when on the run" that I just can't shake off. (I have a "compact living" fetish as well I think, and anything mobile). All the software coming for different mobile devices is great but I'd choose something like the OP-1 over them anytime.

    Please, please don't break my wallet. The Tenori-on was my first wet and sadly unattainable dream in recent years and now this. Second time's a charm?

  • http://soundcloud.com/cynic Cynic

    no midi? how do you control it from your computer? vst plugin?

    interested to hear more.

    3.5mm jack seems kinda bizarre, but i guess it's more a design constraint since it's portable.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Cynic: It has USB, so presumably MIDI over USB. It does mean when it's in "standalone" mode, it's *really* in standalone mode — it would rely on the computer for MIDI functions, I'd guess, seeing as there's no other I/O.

    3.5mm = 1/8" minijack. Not strange at all, not on an ultrathin device. And since it's battery-powered, no ground loop concerns. ;)

  • http://soundcloud.com/cynic Cynic

    interested to see the sampling / sequencing capabilities on it. too bad no midi ports, might be a nice sidekick to the mpc :)

  • pussyface

    APRIL FOOLS!!!

  • teej

    srsly. best company logo ever.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    No, now the rest of what I have to post for Messe will look like April Fool's because it's comparatively less interesting. ;)

  • Damon

    Awesome… I would love to see this with an integrated modular configurable synth plug in slash sequencer thing. I would also see the buttons blink in colors specific to how you configure the synth and sequencer. I would also like to see the buttons light up revealing LED labels specific to how you configure it. I would also like to see iPhone style application synths and effects you can download and install into it. I would also like to see cool, cute, and fun covers and skins you can purchase for it. I would also like to see a hybrid version that runs on both gas and electricity. That way it is not so hard on the environment.

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  • Sven

    Damn, so slick, so cute, so Stockholm…

    Even though Peter's graph is a piece of art and quite right, I do believe OP-1 will be real. One of the guys behind it has made a small fortune in the ad business and is known for solving problems. T.E. wont fight the big ones, they have another plan. Just look at the happy face of this dude presenting it at the Musikmesse! And besides, Swedes can't lie… ;-)
    http://matrixsynth.blogspot.com/2009/04/musikmess
    Prize said to be 500-700 euro, out in a year. Time to save up.

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  • inverted314

    Why does it not have a midi port!?!?

    This thing looks amazing! But please put on some real connectors such as 1/4 outs. I want one for my MPC…

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  • martin

    hit me up at martykraham@yahoo.com , im interested in purchasing one.