teenage_op1

Photo by Teenage Engineering. Check out their full photo gallery.

Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 is something unique in music hardware. It’s got a form factor inspired by the Casio VL-Tone series – you know, those cute little 80s-vintage synths. It’s a sampler. It’s a synth. It has an FM radio. It will have a variety of sequencers. It has, we’ve just learned, a multi-track tape mode that lets you do beat-synced virtual splicing as a performance technique. It is expected to integrate and interoperate with a design lifestyle including, if you like, a luxury-priced, meticulously-machined desk lamp, and according to one rumor I heard, perhaps even a specially-designed electric bicycle. (Seriously.)

I got to spend some hands-on time with the current prototype of the OP-1, and hanging out with the guys from Teenage Engineering. I do mean “the guys” – I had expected to go out to dinner with the CEO and found myself with almost the entire team of 9. (One was sleeping off Sweden-to-California jetlag.) The company has a pedigree in sound engineering, including the legendary drum maker Elektron, but also in marketing, advertising, industrial and product design.

The OP-1 is real, it’s coming, and it’s far enough along in the prototyping phase that I think we’ll see real details on getting one soon. Pricing will be under US$1000 – perhaps a goodly amount under, depending on the final details of manufacturing. There’s no availability date, but progress appears to be accelerating. I poked fun when the OP-1 was introduced, only because it seems like something too cool to be real. I am surprised, though, that people are now complaining that the OP-1 is taking a long time – I think some people don’t realize how time-consuming hardware development really is, and we only just saw an under-glass prototype last spring. The fact that the OP-1 does integrate hardware and onboard software tightly and does do things in new ways is a testament to having a single, small team that works on the whole product.

Teenage Engineering – OP-1 @ NAMM 2010 from Neil Bufkin on Vimeo.

Reporting for CDM, Neil Bufkin shot this discussion with more details on what to expect from the OP-1. Via our namm blog.

In the din of the NAMM hall, some people didn’t seem to “get” the OP-1. The prototypes available aren’t entirely refined in regards to the sound engine, so it’s too soon to judge sound quality, and some functionality was missing from the units on display. And it’d be easy to see this its collection of synthesis and sampling tricks as nothing new. (In fact, I get the sense that some people dialed up essentially an init preset and judged the sound quality based on that.) But look closer, and even prior to the finished product, there’s real design genius here. Some of the little touches I was able to glean:

You can record backwards, an idea so simple in sampling, but also powerful, it’s a wonder it’s not widespread. Go crazy with this, and you can prove some pretty out-there results. It’s not hard to imagine putting an OP-1 alongside a computer, and using it alternatively as a hardware synth and a tool for resampling the output of a live computer mix.

It’s a four-track virtual tape recorder, complete with virtual splicing. The craft of early electronic music was deeply connected to the process of recording to tape, then splicing, into a finished product as a collage. The OP-1 is the most convincing adaptation of that idea I’ve ever seen. A simple, iconic on-screen representation of a reel-to-reel shows you your recording in real-time, with even some light physics simulation so it behaves like tape when you stop the transport. But you can also cut the virtual tape – split, lift and join features are quick key shortcuts away. Just like on tape, you can change the speed during recording, not just during playback. And, so as not to be too caught in the past, the tape deck itself can be beat-synced. Let’s just reflect on that for a second: you can sample the instrument or an external source, and then speed and slow the recording like tape synced to beat, all on hardware. Sampling features are nothing new, but the implementation here really is something special.

Whereas clunky hardware designs from mainstream manufacturers have typically treated tape recording as something you do to record an arrangement, the OP-1′s tape recorder is one you can play as an instrument. (See our video of one of the Teenage Engineers jamming with this feature, which I smuggled off one of their Mac laptops.)

And it’s finally a sampling feature that functions on recording like tape, not just on playback. That sound you heard all around NAMM was the sound of developers and engineers collectively saying to themselves, “why didn’t I do this myself, first?” (Okay, knowing this site, I’m sure we’ll get someone on comments who has done this first, so do speak up.)

Watch it in action in this video of a live jam, shot by Teenage Engineering and smuggled off one of their computers for CDM:

The screen isn’t just beautiful: it fits perfectly. To me, the greatest accomplishment of the OP-1 is making a small screen seem integral to a hardware design, rather than a concession to practicality. Since computers became commonplace in the 80s, the primitive screens on music hardware have seemed an anachronism, a compromise. I remember synth shopping for the first time around 1990 and being frustrated by that, and things aren’t much different now. The design of the OP-1′s interface is so minimal, however, that the onboard screen seems perfect. The display itself seems like part of the hardware and the instrument, rather than being a menu system or a tacked-on indicator.

It’s finally a small screen that seems ideal for its purpose – maybe even better than looking at a computer-sized screen. And that’s not just because it’s pretty; it’s because it’s functional. For a look at some of these beautiful design ideas in motion, here’s a video from a hands-on (more with sound yet to come):

Above, quick video shot on the screen, showing how physical interactions map to iconic, graphic feedback — all appearing in high-density, 60 fps glory on the OP-1′s screen.

The synth and sampler are friendly – toy-like in the best way. In keeping with some of the most fun instruments of all time, the OP-1 is something people will want to play. Color-coded knobs and extensive graphical feedback make a reasonably sophisticated set of synthesis, envelope, and sampling options accessible. There’s nothing revolutionary in the synth or sampler; it just takes the 90% of sound-making techniques most people use and makes them more immediate.

All of these things are wonderful, and clearly it’s a gorgeous little device. And it’s impossible, as always, to judge a design that isn’t finished. I have a suspicion, however, that some of the most important magic of the OP-1 lies in what the impishly-secretive Teenage Engineers aren’t saying:

  • What are the sequencers? I don’t know what braincell-killing spirit the Swedes prefer, but I’m going to need a lot of it if I want to find out what the deal is with the OP-1′s internal sequencers. That’s sequencers – plural. Teenage says they’ll have multiple ways of sequencing the instrument, and they won’t say what any of them are. I saw a brief glimpse of a grid of dots that suggested a tracker-style sequencer of patterns, but I wasn’t able to conclude anything. And ask anyone from Teenage what this is all about, and they’ll hint that what we haven’t seen is what they think will make the hardware must-have.
  • We haven’t heard most of the synths yet. When it ships, the OP-1 promises the following models: “FM • String • DRW • Pulse • T10 • Cluster • PSE.” I did get to play with the pulse synthesizer engine, which you can see a little bit in the short video I saw, and was struck by how intuitive the display is – the OP-1 really makes it easy to visualize the harmonic content of your sound patch, and gives you immediate control over the sound. But I didn’t get to hear much, and some of the synth models I most want to play with weren’t ready yet. That means most people at NAMM missed out not only on the coming sequencers, but also on a lot of the sounds. I’m convinced enough by the interface that I think those synth models hold a lot of promise.
  • What other sonic recipes might make it onto the OP-1? Teenage prototypes their sound creations and interface in Python, wrapped around native code, before re-implementing them on the device. That means there are all sorts of potential software features that could still make the cut. By the way, if you’re wondering why hardware tends not to work this way, it’s because too many music hardware developers have huge gulfs between the people who engineer on the hardware/embedded/DSP side, and on the computer desktop software side. At Teenage, it’s really just one group of guys who know their way around both. They’re in one office, not separated by lots of time zones or a language barrier. (It makes a difference; trust me.)
  • Where do the bike and lamp come into this? This isn’t Roland or Yamaha, or even IKEA. Teenage have an immaculate studio, and have conceived and built an expensive work-lamp that’s machined out of medical-grade metal tooling. The lamp can be used to conveniently produce stop-motion animation, noted one of the Teenage staff. It’s not only a standalone lamp: it’s a modular system for all sorts of application. Oh, yeah, and they’re also working on an electric bike. TE are design-obsessed, and I get the sense that there could be a connection between these products. Already, it sounds like it’ll be possible to integrate the lamp and the OP-1 in your work setup. Could the electric bike and the OP-1′s synth have some connection in the future? TE weren’t saying. Will I be able to afford this luxury? No. Does it tickle my inner design geek? Yes. Oh, yes. Maybe for those of us who are poorer, I can publish some hack that lets you connect your OP-1 to the unicycle and cheap IKEA desk lamp you own.
  • There’s been no mention of MIDI in. Something a number of people seem to have missed: TE has promised MIDI output (so you can use the device as a controller for software), and even a USB storage device (for drag-and-drop sample interchange). But one thing they haven’t yet said is that you’ll be able to route MIDI into the OP-1. This could be a deal-breaker, of course, to some people. But I’m holding out hope for another solution, like finally having hardware you can sequence with OSC. (I’m going to be doing as much research as I can on USB OSC implementations and dumping them on the studio in Stockholm, just as a hint.) The problem with MIDI has been that it tends to impose certain design decisions in regards to timing, how musical events are represented, and even the size of devices (given the amount of hardware that still has onboard DIN connections). So, while this aspect of the OP-1 remains a mystery, I’m intrigued by where it could lead.

The OP-1 is definitely one I’ll be following; it’s at the top of my list for the year. And it’s about time we got some really significant new hardware. For more information…

MusicRadar got a hands-on with some sounds.

Teenage has a lovely set of photos on their blog – and yes, that’s me, by coincidence amidst a crew from Hispasonic:
NAMM Photo Bananza

Check out the full Teenage Engineering blog for loads of videos, including a few in the fabulous luxury of their Super 8 motel room:
http://www.teenageengineering.com/now/

And don’t miss the product page, which now has a lot of detail on it:
Teenage Engineering OP-1
Among the juicy specs: how about an onboard accelerometer, Li-Ion rechargeable battery, a 60-fps display, and a powerful (for this kind of gear) 400MHz processor core?

Just please, please, don’t judge the sound quality of a non-shipping synth based on YouTube videos. I’ll be sure to report back on final sound quality before you unload your hard-earned change.

  • http://www.keyofgrey.com Sean

    Man, that looks like so much fun to play with. I can't wait for more the full details!

  • Seth

    Just wanted to add that the bottom of the OP-1 product page has an interesting FAQ where they casually mention a wireless syncing feature. Yet another cool addition to this seemingly Swiss Army knife of keyboards.

  • http://www.wiretotheear.com/ Oliver Chesler

    Last year I didn't think much of the OP-1 but now I "got it" and gotta have it!

  • Syafii

    What's the build quality like, Peter? Would it be able to withstand copious amounts of button mashing?

  • Polite

    Looks like alot of fun. Always good to have more toys :) Especially one that isn't just the same synth/sequencer/recorder combination that all the companies have been doing for years, but still haven't perfected somehow.

  • matt

    The build quality is real good. Everything feels sturdy enough but I don't think anyone would get the sense that the OP-1 should be slammed on. I think the design aesthetic and sound engine lends itself to a more delicate, maybe quirky style. Unit was fixed to the table so I'm not sure about how heavy/robust it really was.

    Screen is really top notch and makes it truly fun to play. Most interesting thing I've played with in months and would love to own one. After being spoiled by software for years, there was something about the immediacy and simplicity that really connected with me.

  • http://www.max4live.info Michael Chenetz

    When i talked to the guys from Teenage Engineering they did mention that OSC was a definite possibility. One of the other things I asked was how much sampling time it had. I believe that said 512MB and that the samples could be something like 8 seconds a piece. But, I could be remembering that wrong as I have been in two airports for about 18 hours now waiting for a plane. I will have to look at my notes. I was definitely very impressed with the OP-1 and it hit all of my tech synapsis firing in my brain.

    Out of a pretty dole NAMM, this stood out WAY beyond everything else. I will have some additional footage soon.

  • velocipede

    It seemed pretty cool. I especially liked the color coded knobs and LCD. Very nice looking device. MIDI IN would definitely be good because playing those keys is only a notch above playing virtual keys on an iPod touch. Hard to get inspired about playing.

  • http://www.memorybits.co.uk/ psp memory stick

    Hello

    This is very interesting to know about OP-1 and OP-1 is truly unique in music hardware.I have also checked those video which you have given.It is cool.Thank you very much for this wonderful post.

  • Microwave Prince

    "Pricing will be under US$1000" – It's a fucking toy for christ sake… For this sum of money you can buy a laptop. Soundwise it will be like ordinary iphone app.

  • Kyrceck

    Definitely the coolest thing on the floor this year. Blew everything else out of the water. Those guys from Stockholm really know how to make intuitive, beautiful hardware.

    It seemed like this and the Mungo were all people were talking about in synth circles this year around.

    Tiptop's new DSP effects for eurorack and MakeNoise's sequencer were also cool things to see in the analogue haven booth. The Moon Modular was cool too, from the Noisebug booth.

  • http://dailymixdown.com Mark

    If I'm Roland or one of the other big boys I'm kicking myself right about now. While they have invested tons of money in buying out software companies and working 'round the clock to sync their traditional boards to it, these boutique engineers are busy making the toys musicians really want. Peter you are spot on when you say there hasn't been a lot of hardware to get excited about. Thanks for this great write up. I too have this one on my list :D Looks like a blast.

  • http://document02.bandcamp.com Document 02

    While this might not be a desperately needed equipment for an already equipped studio, it look like the most worthy first synth available. And around 1000$ it is not to expensive for such a technology packed intuitive piece of hardware.

  • Rich

    Looking at the specs, it seems there is no DC input, so seems to only be powered by the battery or possibly bus-powered.

    Bit of a worry if you were planning on using it on its own and not plugged in to the laptop.

    Looks beautiful though, but I hope the max. sample length is longer than 8 seconds!

  • Martin

    Looks great, any idea when it will be available, roughly …

  • J. Phoenix

    Damnit, I really want one now. This would definitely stave off boredom in a wide variety of circumstances. Really surprised at the variety of sampling features you've described; I had a feeling the OP-1 was more focused on the synth side. Can't wait to play with one.

  • Sebastian

    If you want to listen to good quality sound examples of the OP-1, there's an album on itunes called 'Op-1 Experiments 1'. You can check 30 sec. of each track for free to get an impression.

    Sounds pretty good to me :-)

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    I don't know why, because I certainly feel as though I should be getting excited about the OP-1 – it looks gorgeous, it's the right size, I'm a sucker for multiple synth engines, it has Elektron pedigree – but for some reason I'm just not. Maybe because I was really hoping for something that might come in at about £150-200, rather than somewhere several times that? Or maybe because I'm just not being caught by the terminally hip image? I dunno. I do wish them luck, though.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    …Which reminds me of something. Whatever happened to the acidcode tweakbox? They announced a price for it, but then they kept doubling its spec every time Microchip announced a new dsPIC, and then it disappeared altogether… except that now there's a page at http://www.tweakbox.info saying "soon".

    Whatever – something like that is, for some reason, more exciting to me than the OP-1. Perhaps it is just a question of slickness – maybe I'm destined to forever be on the rough and ready end of things?

  • lu

    I heard of the OP-1 just a couple of days ago here on this site.

    SInce then I've read almost everything on Teenage Engineering's website and looked and listened to all the demos.

    From seeing that, I already like it so much that I try to get one when it's available. I hope I have enough money laid away by then.

    Sampling Memory 512 MB would be a bit a pity, I hope it's gonna be double when it's ready.

    I think the small size and the all-in-one concept could lead me to new ways of creating music and sounds.

    @Sebastian: thx, i'll check these

  • http://femo Femo

    The desklamp is LOLtastic to the Nth degree. The design aesthetic on their website is lush and extremely pretentious. A desirable object and alot of fun but unfortunately it looks like they're intent on pigeon holing themselves in the hipster-with-more-cash-than-sense market.

    650 euro for a desk lamp ? Oh wait it's medical grade metal ? Oh ya cos like, i'm going to stick it in an open wound sometime ? …

    Whatever these guys do to make money ordinarily they obviously make enough of it, they don't seem to keen on being accessible.

    Still hoping they see sense when it comes to mass-production/pricing decisions. Otherwise it's just going to be another tenori-on, albeit with slightly trendier coverage.

    staying tuned!

  • s ford

    In some ways it's good to see the innovation of some sorts championed by Elektron still carried on. The head of Elektron's untimely passing was of great sadness not just because it was the untimely passing of someone before their time, but there was much more the music industry could have been given.

    As for sampling memory being 512mb, that is a shitload of sampling memory! I have an Akai S2800 which has 2mb!!

  • http://www.max4live.info Michael Chenetz

    The sample memory definitely did not seem like a limitation. Don't forget it has a 4 track playable multi-recorder that you can do crazy stuff with too. Believe me, Once you play with it, you will realize that there is an insane amount of capabilities crammed into this little box and wrapped in a beautiful package.

  • Robsol

    I know this may not be very relevant right now, but I see passing mentions of an FM radio. As there are lots of potential electronic sounds "between the stations" I hope it will be tunable in the same analogue fashion as the tape recorder.

    More importantly, if the OP-1 could also act as a four track looping device I think we have a winner, even with an apparent high price.

    In any case, Teenage Engineering seems like a switched on team, so I wish for them to be able to continue dreaming up new products for a long time to come!

  • Alex

    Its really great, but what about been white??? I bet that even in the most clean environment/hands, this is going to look terrible in six months of heavy use…especially if the surface material can't be cleaned with something that contains alcohol…

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    takes me back to the glory days (almost 25 years ago?!) of the Casio SK4.. 8bit sampling, 4 samples in memory (and they stayed in memory as long as you kept the batteries in). it was a lot of fun to play with, and the sound quality was just part of the charm/character, and of course it had built-in speaker so you could play with it anytime, anywhere

    the great thing was— it was cheap! an awesome toy which could be used musically (i think it cost between $40-$60 dollars)

    have anybody seen anything similar in the last many years?? fun, self-contained, sampling keyboard for super cheap? Please tell me! (i know you can sometimes find SK's on ebay (and sometimes modded))

    but Korg makes some ridiculously priced $600+ mini-form sampler (OP-1's only competition??)

    hopefully the OP-1 will have speakers (at least a headphone jack) and be able to run on batteries independent of needing a computer, etc. to enjoy it's pretty great-sounding capabilities.

    but it better be $500 max– otherwise, as pointed out, you can buy a whole computer/DAW for just a little more than that. i don't want a boutique toy sampler — i want a robust cheap working class toy sampler!

    if this thing cost under $200, they'd sell a million

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    ps– are the keys velocity sensitive? better be at their proposed pricepoint (non-velocity sens at this age/date/time is unacceptable – that includes monome, launchpads, apc's, etc.)

  • http://fallsastar.com Foosnark

    Did you get the impression that they are all mad geniuses or something? They've gone to kind of a weird place with this. It looks like a toy, so people are expecting it to be priced like one and to sound like one. And the whole lamp and bicycle thing is just kind of… off. There's some obviously brilliant work here though as well.

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    to be clear, i don't "expect" it to sound like a toy (better sound pristine at a probably >$500 pricepoint!), and i don't expect it to be priced like a toy, given its capabilities.

    i was lamenting the lack of such a "low"-end "working class" solution/option for portable, quick n dirty, fun n sampling.

    yes, these guys are brilliant, innovative thinkers, as evidenced by the capabilities of the OP-1 (and i love the idea of a lamp that doubles as a stop-motion camera!), and, of course, they can price it wherever they want – there are plenty of people that can afford an expensive instrument (just a much larger potential user base with a lot less disposable income — that's the business calculation that every company makes, and judging by TE's other work, they are focused on high-end innovative solutions). it sounds like a much cooler, much more original product than Most of the analog synths (leads) out there and for a very competitive price.

    hmm, Kaos pads are/were another innovative sampling/fx tool that sorta seem like a toy, but with great capabilities — interesting how nobody has ever really competed with them (maybe because it's well thought out and hard to improve on)

    hopefully OP-1 at least lights a fire under other instrument designers' asses and leads to more original/innovative approaches all around

    maybe they make a low-end Opie Jr. without the synths/arpeggiators? (but i wouldn't hold my breath)

    any chance it could do wireless OSC??? can you sync 2 of em together?

  • Microwave Prince

    I think that op-1's main market will be geeks, because most of them don't produce any music at all, they just play….. and, let's face it, op-1 is just expensive toy…

  • http://femo Femo

    just look at the classic machines that we all know and love, and had such a profound effect on our lives as electronic musicians and electronic music consumers…

    all those roland boxes were AFFORDABLE in comparison to their nearest competition. The tr-808 was a fifth of the price of the (linndrum) LM-1

    I'm agreeing with alot of what JohnK said in the posts above

  • real_number

    < $ 1000… what the..?

    You can get a Nord for less!

  • Particle Accelerator

    @Microwave Prince

    from your previous comment, its plainly obvious you have no interest in this device. fine. …so why have you come back several hours later to voice your dissent again? and not all of us consider the rumored price to be ridiculously expensive. …you're just poor.

  • Particle Accelerator

    ..also if you watch the video from music radar, when chris asks the price, john from te responds by putting the number 799 on the screen.

  • http://femo Femo

    P.A.P

    why are you luring him into (heated) conversation if you are bewildered by his presence here ?

    Why stifle open discussion by insisting participants must agree with you or not take part.

  • lematt

    well, i was secretly hoping that Elektron would unveil a Machinedrum with a USB port to transfer samples and 1Go of RAM to stock them.

    i'm sure they must be working on a machine like that.

    i'll wait…

    :) gearlust !

  • DongleKong

    The projected price doesn't bother me as much as the possibility of TE pulling a monome — making their product artificially difficult to obtain in an attempt to increase the fetish factor.

    Seriously TE, don't do that. You don't need to, while it could be argued that due to the simple, stealable nature of their product, monome had no choice but to try such shenanigans.

  • http://www.renoise.com/ Dac Chartrand

    I literally had to fight my way into their NAMM booth, it was so crowded. Whatever these guys are up to, they are on the right track.

  • helloitabot

    Everyone seems to be forgetting that Akai's SynthStation Studio iphone app/keyboard combo will directly compete with the OP-1. At $99 + $199 for an ipod touch…pretty much makes the OP-1's assumed price point absurd plus you get an ipod touch. They could ditch the milled aluminum case and li-po batteries to cut costs.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Femo: pretentious. Yes, that's the word I was looking for! In fact, the TE website's styling reminds me of nothing so much as wallpaper* magazine… so yeah.

    John K: oddly enough, a few of Casio's recent keyboards have been able to play back user samples; the latest round have sampling onboard (the CTK2100 will store one 1s sample, the CTK4000 a few more and longer). They're a bit bigger than the SK4 was, though…

  • WHIV

    @Dac Chartrand — I don't know when you went to the booth, or if I just missed the peak times, but I never had a problem getting at the thing. There were usually a few people milling about but not much. And they had a seriously prime location, too.

    I really don't see why people are so excited about this thing. It sounded decidedly mediocre when I was playing with it, and it's a seriously plasticy little thing. Worse, for ~$700 I can get a low-end laptop, or Ableton Live Suite, or Cubase, or Logic Pro, or any number of infinitely flexible better sounding alternatives. Never mind the excellent hardware synths that can be had for that price. This is a total non-starter for me. At $150-$200 it'd be a different story, but this thing is literally a toy. $700 is ridiculous.

  • Orubasarot

    Fuck iPhones, Nords, Ableton Akai and all that sensible shit. I've been crusading against audio hardware all decade but this product actually looks INTERESTING, which alone accomplishes so much more than your practical, refined, ubiquitous and ultimately utterly boring gear.

    I don't want a good product.

    And neither should you, unless you're completely entrenched in some sort of industry, in which case you have my condolences.

    Also I can't believe this little thing takes retro elements, precisely what I've been raging against for years, and elaborates on them in a way that recaptures why they were so fascinating to begin with. It's a little tangible functions machine, that does stuff. I really thought I'd be a 100% software for life dude, but this makes me think that some day I'll actually want to put my hands on something.

  • http://aliberger.bandcamp.com ali

    Last time you ran a story on this I didn't really get why I'd be interested. Maybe I didn't read carefully, or maybe I was thrown by the 4 knobs, weird keyboard, and no midi. I clearly did not have the full picture. I want this, a lot. It looks like it actually makes new, interesting things possible. Hopefully I'll be able to afford it.

  • kid versus chemical

    This is the one machine I want more than any other. The thing about it that intrigues me the most is that it looks so fun. It also does alot of different things, which is huge for someone like me, who gets bored real quick.

    I find myself getting angry at people who are saying bad things about it, which is silly, but it just shows how much I want it. Yesterday I read people online complaining about a potential $700 price (who knows how accurate that # is anyway). Look at some of the gear in the same price range that no one complains about, like the DSI Tetra or the Doepfer Dark Energy (both of which I like btw). Those are just relatively traditional subtractive synths that don't do a fraction of what the Op-1 will do….

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

    This is still, based on what I know, only about *half* of the instrument.

    I'm surprised by the "toy" comments. It's small, and it has a layout inspired by the toy-like Casiotone. But its feature set and sound engine are certainly not going to give it the low-end price some folks are imagining. I like simple and toy-like devices, but there is some value to something with more versatility.

    We don't have good musical demos of this yet, necessarily; those will come in time. I can tell you having looked at the sound engine that this has a feature set in line with workstation synths costing much more. The fact that it isn't freaking huge, heavy, and overly complex doesn't necessarily make it a toy – to those of us who like a bit of minimalism in our design, it's an improvement. ;)

    Look at a sports car. They're smaller, lighter, simpler, and strip out certain features (to reduce weight). But they're not toys.

  • smartson

    Helloitabot, you don't understand the appeal of this product, that's like saying Ikea competes with real contemporary design boutiques.

    Stick with the bandwagon plastic crap, I'll take the innovative future classic piece of design.

    This is a product that's meant to be a proper instrument that inspires not a utilitarian tool like a low-end laptop, a Nord, etc.

    It's sad to read all the feature facists comment on how they think this product is flawed.

    The fact is that your are not in the product demographics, move on.

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

    Oh, incidentally, that's not to take away from the notes about the pricing of things like the 808 or the original Casiotone. *However*:

    * if you really want cheap, you can now do the sorts of things an 808 does on, say, an iPhone app

    * the 808 was mass-manufactured in large quantities. This is a boutique Swedish instrument with an aluminum base that's machined in Sweden.

    As for the questions about the keys, etc. — I just don't know yet, because these are not the final parts. Note that you do have a source of expression in the tilt sensor, however; I think that stands in for things like mod wheels and such.

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    @gwynh: thanks for headsup on casio ctk4000. it's weird – casio doesn't even mention it's sampling capabilities at all in its marketing blurb/description on casio's website. (description on amazon does mention sampling).

    so 25 years after the SK line, this flagship sampler offers 8 sample storage (5 melody, 3 drum – not sure if that actually has any practical meaning/differentiation) at a maximum 10 seconds each.

    plus keyboard is 61key touch sensitive and built-in recorder sequencer, speakers, built in lessons, etc.etc all for $180 bucks sugg.retail $150 easy to find

    is it just me or is this WEIRD. the fact that Sampling has become almost a ubiquitous part of culture, but the capability is almost totally ignored, even by an instrument maker that introduced sampling to the masses 25years ago?!

    an (unmodified) SK5 is up for bid on ebay right now for $100+…. (clarification– i've been mistakenly referring to the SK5 as the "SK4" until now)— peeps are obviously willing to pay for low-cost portable sampling

    @helloitabot: yeah, exactly – the akai/ipod combo could be pretty powerful….certainly competes with OP-1 in capability/possibilities (well, maybe more possibilities since it would be open to all ipod app developers)

    @orubascot:: why are you using a computer?? !! ?? but seriously, do you use any midi/usb controllers in making your software music? they do sorta count as audio hardware. (i do get your point about the absurdity of, for example, big "flagship" Korg keyboard sampling workstations, et al– i'm shocked they still make em, but hey, lots of people still take piano lessons, i guess, and have to transition to something if they want to expand their musical horizons later

    anyway– one point-> put speakers in these mini keyboard things so you can entertain yourself and friends without having to hook up to a freakin computer (like Casio! ah….)

    [i'm glad i still have my 4-track cassette recorder, just in case this whole computer thing washes out. but i remain sad that my SK5 was stolen many years ago]]

  • NXK

    This is a nice piece of kit, but by the time some of us sock away the money for it, they will gone due to the artificial scarcity that one often sees from boutique manufacturers. Luckily by that time one of the majors will have something pretty close for less than $200.

    Or make your own right now. Seriously, a Crystalfontz LCD and some Korg nano interfaces taped to a pico-ITX board would be nearly the same form factor for much less than the OP-1. This solution also can use your library of soft synths, surfs the 'net and integrates into whatever 'design environment' you care to create for yourself.

    This is a wonderful exercise in case design. There are some innovative features. It is a very expensive geek toy.

  • http://femo Femo

    Hey peter,

    It outputs sound via a mini-jack. it's input is via a mini-jack. Come on man, be real.

    as for boutique – it's only boutique because they call it boutique. For the longest time Machinedrums were actually made in Estonia. High standards, I'm sure, but still just hired out factory workers in another country for a cheaper deal than doing it in Sweden.

    I want one. I'll buy one if they price it sensibly.

  • PooPoo the Korruptah

    hipster vogue.

    makes the kaoss pad look like a piece of old cheese.

    oh, yeah, the kaoss pad IS old cheese.

  • http://femo Femo

    as for the keys being velocity sensitive…I really doubt it, considering the form factor.

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    mm. a "toy" is an object that you (and especially children) can have fun with, that probably encourages the use of imagination (in the case of "the stick", for instance).

  • http://pierrefontaine.bandcamp.com/ Pierre

    I initially thought this instrument would be an interesting precisely because it reminded me of all the wonderful consumer keyboards that Casio and Yamaha released in the 1980's. I understand this is a boutique instrument but at $700, it just doesn't seem worth it, regardless of what it does.

    Why is $700 not worth it? Because I can't justify an expense for something that has less functionality than my $350 Asus EeePC and my Korg NanoKey.

    I really wish that Casio or Yamaha, or some other enterprising company, could release a really neat $100 keyboard with limited sampling/synth capabilities and without the auto-accompaniment. I wouldn't even mind the mini-keys, which i consider to be part of the charm of these kinds of instruments.

    The release of Casio's SK1 was an amazing event for me. I was still in college and couldn't afford a "real" synth but the SK1, as well as Yamaha's VSS series really sparked my imagination. The CZ-101 was another game changer as well.

    I still have most of my Casio's and consider them to be of real historical value!

    Pierre

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    well said, pierre

    cheap, immediate, playable sampling is really engaging!

    maybe somebody will release some more fun minikeys – the 80's was their heyday, and there sure seems to be an 80's Re Wave revival going on now (at least judging by the videos shown weekly on New York Noise)

  • Damon

    I think the form factor and the unique combination of elements/toys to bounce around will justify the price. Something like this does not need to sound like a Waldorf to me. It just needs to inspire. I do hope though it is durable. A nice aluminum case offset by a potentially fragile front end seems a bit inconsistent. The battery is clearly an expensive addition but does well speak to the immediacy and portability factor.

    On the other hand, when you consider the level of interest in this product you at that point can bitch at the price. It is probably gonna sell in droves anyway, and I hope they account for that in the bottom dollar.

    Ps.

    When is Honda gonna start producing synth products?

  • leMel

    This is very much an art project, kind of an heirloom product. The usual product comparisons probably don't apply. Comparing it to tenori-on was probably fairly accurate, although it seems you're getting a lot more creativity and engineering here with the OP1. Yeah, mostly fetish, but that has its place as well. It's artisinal. this is obvious from the studio's profile and past projects; not sure what's with all the hand-wringing over price – it's not a good deal gear-wise and isn't meant to be – it's an object of craft. Can't believe no one has said it yet, so … Dieter Rams.

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

    @Femo: Ever priced out what it costs to build hardware? I got the impression that they are working to get costs lower. If you really want high-priced hardware, look at their EUR695 lamp, which is machined by a medical-grade supplier. The OP-1's cost is more a function of its parts, like its high-quality screen.

    Incidentally, the only real issue with minijack is that no one has bothered to invent a good, compact click-lock minijack plug. I wish someone would. Ditto on USB.

    But personally, I think the fact that people here are perceiving this as toy-like and not something that looks expensive is, in an odd way, a success. It's the same thing that makes it look friendly to people outside the usual music market. And it's some of the same features that makes it appealing to even some fans of, say, computers (like myself). (And yes, I'm not retracting any argument I've ever made for the economy of computer sound production. No disagreement here!)

    If you want to please everyone, do boring, familiar, middle-of-the-road design. I think sometimes it's the designs that are divisive and inspire real passion — including passionate hate — are probably doing something right. Or at least something more interesting.

  • thenullset

    I don't think the term 'toy' appropriately decribes the OP1. What excites me about it is that it packs so much 'serious' production power into such a sweet form factor. It looks cute, but its specs and UI reveal it to be a beast. Thats a design ethos I can get behind, and I suspect other manufacturers will too.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    But that's the problem, Peter – for me the OP-1 seems so relentlessly targeted at "inspiring passion" that it's just leaving me cold; I feel as though I'm being manipulated. (Which is a quite different feeling from the one I get with the Beat Thang – there I just got the impression, less so of late, that I'm not in their target demographic.) I get the sense that the electronic instruments people have really been passionate about over the last few decades have inspired that passion accidentally, not because they've been calculated to do so.

  • littlepig

    It might be great design, invoative, etc, etc. But you are still limited by its size. Any sort of playing on that tiny keyboard is going to be a rudimentary process.

    IMO this is a toy, maybe good if you are stuck somewhere but way over engineered and over priced.

  • Denis

    man, this display makes me jerk off…

  • http://femo Femo

    so Peter, are they medical grade minijacks ?

  • http://www.cuckoo.no Andreas

    @littlepig I don't think it's a device on which to play two handed contrapuntal sonatas, jazz solos or traditional virtuose finger-happy jamming, no. I think it's more like a device on which to build digital music, sample-jamming, bleep sessions, quickly modulating powerful sounds in the electronic world, then set them up in crazy loops and just play, play, play.

    You've got all the digital synth, loop, sample, sequence tools under your fingertips. Play with it! Improvise with it!

    I think it's the most serious digital instrument I've ever seen.

  • http://femo Femo

    "I think it’s the most serious digital instrument I’ve ever seen."

    lol ;)

  • littlepig

    @Andreas – I just can't see why anybody would choose to use something this fiddly if they had an alternative. $799 will buy you a reasonable set up at home… so then something like this would be for anyway from home but then $799 is a lot to spend on something portable. As previous posters have commented, the casio Sk-1 etc were cheap. You could buy a DS and the korg card for a lot less or Bhajis Loops.

  • Microwave Prince

    Medical grade aliuminium what a disappointment…I thought it was aviation grade aluminium, because it has better inspiration potencial :(

  • el capitan

    I pray the electronic gods for a reasonable price point and that the op-1 hold all his promises !

    Seriously I don't think we can compare the op-1 with the other products actually in the market… Of course for 799 $ you can have ableton live plus a good controller… It's like people using a mpc they could do the same and more with a software but they prefer their mpc

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Anyway, let's talk internals. Blackfin?

  • adam

    i think it's about having musical dsp power at your fingertips. in the bus. on the toilet. whereever. and it's meant to PLAY with it. no mouse. no qwertyu-keyboard that's got nothing to do with making music. so yes: u could get much more possibilities for less money. but will u be more creative?

  • littlepig

    @adam – what good is power if the knobs are so tiny you can't use it. IMO this is the fundemental issue with the design of many electronic items.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Trust me, adam, the last place I'm taking $800 of miniature musical instrument is into the toilet.

  • smartson

    There's a lot of harsh criticism here, as well as misconceptions about design.

    But I think a common denominator is the fact that you'd all like to have one if you could easily afford it.

  • http://femo Femo

    netbook with win Xp, 1.6ghz, ~120 gighd = ~$350

    akai lpk 25 velocity sensitive keyboard = ~$60

    korg nanokontrol = ~$60

    as for software, well, what do you own as it is?

    ableton (inc. operator) runs swell as hell (version 5 is ideal – freeze function)

    audiomulch… plogue bidule… phatmatikpro … shit where do I stop ? and all the opensource, free, donationwares ?

    you could even use an edirol um-1x if you wanted a midi in/out.. you can visit your buddies and connect it to their soundcard if you like. and I'm not talking about outputting through a godforsaken minijack.

    anyone debating that the OP1 is worth the cost for the portable music factor alone is just plain wrong. It is portable, it is fun, it is also too expensive just like a tenori-on.

    there's just no justifying the proposed $700 or higher. they want to be chic, pretentious, and full of some kind of hipster prestige ? good for them. they'll never be embraced the way 808s or casiotones were – that's not the market they aimed for, and that's why we still love them today.

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

    @Femo: Well, this is essentially the hardware versus software argument, though.

    You know I'm a huge fan of software and the value proposition of software. But in terms of design, I have to admire what they've done. I talked to them, and I really don't get the sense that they're trying to price this higher. It's not a Casiotone. It just happens to put something more powerful in that form factor.

    Also, I don't see any fundamental problem with using minijack ports; it's just a jack.

  • http://femo Femo

    oh ya, and you can get usb-am/fm receivers for peanuts too.

  • http://femo Femo

    No peter…it's not hardware vs software.

    the op-1 is software installed on custom hardware anyways.

    this is all about portability, ultra-portability you might say. and in that respect there's virtually no difference between a netbook and the op-1. besides, any differences are likely to accumulate in favour the netbook side methinks.

    Just putting things in to perspective for anyone justifying this ludicrous price-tag because they can use it on the toilet.

    again, for the record: I like and desire this unit as much as the tenori-on, but because of the bullshit price I won't bother with a new one. and because of the bullshit price they'll never make a mark like the classics of yester-year did. They were decidedly un-pretentious and that's the secret to their proliferation and great success and ultimately their indelible mark on modern electronic music.

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

    @Femo:

    The product's not done, and the price isn't yet set, so I'm inclined not to judge. However:

    The TR-808 may have been a fraction of the price of the LinnDrum (ignoring that the LM-1 was a more sophisticated piece of hardware made by a smaller manufacturer).

    But the TR-808 cost $1000 — *in 1982 dollars*. That means, by any measure, the OP-1 is significantly cheaper than the TR-808.

    The idea that "pretension" is driving up the price is what bothers me. Pricing is almost always set by the cost of components and the size of the run. Even software pricing is generally some kind of calculus of what it costs to run your business, support the tool, and how many copies you think you'll sell.

    I mean, would this be less pretentious if it were ugly and the website that promoted it looked like poop?

    Now, that's the 808. The Casiotone was indeed dirt-cheap. They also sold them in enormous volumes, and Casio is a manufacturer accustomed to doing that.

    I don't disagree that it'd be interesting to see something along the lines of the Casiotone. But for that, I'd look to the Bliptronic 5000 we saw last month:

    http://createdigitalmusic.com/2009/11/25/bliptron

    It's an aggressively simple noisemaker, reduced to just the functions that allow it to be cheap and fun. And Femo, I absolutely agree — that can be beautiful.

  • http://femo Femo

    tonnes of consumer electronics were crazy expensive back then. to really put things in perspective all we can do is look at how much it cost *comparatively* to anything else similar on the scene, and the 808 was a FIFTH of the price…for what it was, when it was, it was as cheap as chips.

  • http://femo Femo

    as for pretension. Brother please. They're selling a desk lamp with 'medical grade metal' for 650 euro. All the faux-futurist japanese characters, the ultra-stylish airbrushed photos of the op1 etc… it is the very definition of pretension. It is marketing 101 for justifying stupid prices for what is essentially cheap to produce.

    the r&d is virtually done, now if I were them I'd get on the phone to someone about a manufacturing deal in much the same way a musician would organise a publishing deal. But then again, maybe that's not their modus operandi. They obviously want to make more of a mark in the aesthetic design world than they do the music world.

  • salamanderanagram

    "if I were them…"

    puh-lease. YOU build something like this from scratch and then we'll talk. until then, your comments are hot air from someone who doesn't understand business.

  • http://femo Femo

    thank you for your invaluable input. but unless you're going to dispute my hot-air with some facts on the business, all you're doing is adding to the hot-air.

    I'm not expecting you to come back with anything even remotely on point. if you had a clue what you were talking about, I'm sure you'd have taken the opportunity to educate us by now.

    …back to the discussion…

  • salamanderanagram

    uhhh, the "fact" is, these guys have been working their asses off on this for close to a year now. they are looking to make money, like it or not, and are pricing their product accordingly. don't like it? don't buy it. nobody's forcing you to.

  • http://femo Femo

    lol! exactly the kind of response I was expecting from the industry expert.

    anyway, back to the discussion…

  • salamanderanagram

    so, basically, your argument is…. what exactly? that people shouldn't be rewarded for their work? that they don't have the right to decide how much to sell it for? or are yo just whinging about something you obviously don't want not being the price that you want?

  • http://femo Femo

    Right… if you say so.

    Truth is we were all having a fine discussion, albeit not in total agreement, until you arrived with your petulant ad-hominems

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Peter said "I mean, would this be less pretentious if it were ugly and the website that promoted it looked like poop?"

    Er… yes. Yes, it would. Wouldn't necessarily be cheaper, though – but then I don't think the pretension and the price are connected; all I said was (a) I can't afford one, and (b) the pretension leaves me cold. Even if (a) changes, (b) will remain true.

    salamanderanagram said: "your comments are hot air from someone who doesn’t understand business."

    It remains to be seen how well Teenage Engineering understand business, of course, having preannounced their lead product by a year and counting. I can't help but think that the first thing most people ever heard of Dave Smith Instruments was when the Evolver was released… So presumably that means there's a lot of VC riding on this. That's another thing that makes me worry. Indeed, couple that with a worrying lack of focus (when Yamaha make ski equipment and toilet seats, it's fair enough – large Japanese companies do that kind of thing – but when a 9-man company can't decide whether it wants to make synths, furniture or vehicles I think either it has ADD or its investors are getting twitchy) and… well, I wouldn't be buying shares, put it that way.

  • http://femo Femo

    nevermind – I see Peter deleted it (thanks Peter)

  • salamanderanagram

    @gwen, given that you can't buy shares in korg, i doubt you'll see teenage engineering on the market anytime soon.

    i also doubt that this product will be a commercial success, but i understand from my own experience at making hardware how expensive and time-consuming it is. it only makes sense for those who spend their time and resources to want to be rewarded for their work. it's very easy for people who don't understand the difficulties in this process to come in close to the very end and say "this should be cheaper" without having a clue how much time and effort, not to mention money, went into getting to that point.

    further, we don't even know how much this will cost yet. $500-1000 is a large range.

  • http://cl516.blogspot.com Calvin Cardioid

    if the "tape" function is as good as it seems, finally my prayers have been answered. the closest i could find to doing something similar was perhaps traktor pro with some sort of controller, but even then for some brilliant reason, no reverse. the ehx 2880 was also cool, but pitchshift was locked to semi-tones. i'm sure the OP-1 will have waay more interesting features with its "tape".

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    salamanderanagram, you do understand about metaphor, right?

  • http://femo Femo

    the time, research, development, resources etc are in the past now. At this stage it's about recouping their investments. The best way to do that imo would be to produce more units, with a more reasonable price tag befitting of the materials used to make it, and sell more.

    or they can make much less, but with a very large profit margin (on the materials – not the r&d) and recoup that way. Of course there's more prestige in being boutique, and they seem to like that market.

    What hardware have you made ?

    I'm in business too, pretty much anyone with a decent business acumen can comment on this topic realistically imo.

  • Abe Mora

    I'm soooooooo excited cant wait 2 get one!!!

  • littlepig

    @smartson – you are right, a product for people with more money than sense.

  • http://www.retrothing.com James Grahame

    @salamanderanagram You said: "given that you can’t buy shares in korg, i doubt you’ll see teenage engineering on the market anytime soon."

    Korg is a division of Yamaha, which is traded on the Tokyo exchange. ;)

  • salamanderanagram

    @gwen – ? my point was that they are probably self-funded. if they want to make lamp/cameras with their own money, i think that's great. it's not what i would do, but…

    @femo, i agree that mass-producing more and making less money on each one would be more ideal. i'm not in a position to judge, however, not knowing how much they cost to make and how many they think they can sell.

    the hardware i've worked on was very simple personal projects, i'm finishing up a prototype right now. it's a simple 4×4 grid controller with velocity sensitivity and RGB leds, like a more complex monome, with less grid real estate. nothing too fancy, but it has given me a lot of respect for people who can create full featured hardware designs. it's a lot of freaking work!

  • smartson

    That's not what I said, but if you need the distort my comment to make your point, so be it.

    I don't think TE are being pretentious, but maybe it seems like it if you're not very sophisticated.

    The japanese characters are probably to communicate to potential japanese customers, a significant market as they appreciate design and innovation.

    I'm an industrial designer, I designed products that are sold all over the world, and I can tell you for a FACT that innovative design, both in interface and fabrication, is very costly.

    Frankly if they end up with a sub-1000$ price tag I'll be impressed, that's a personal but well-informed opinion.

  • http://www.retrothing.com James Grahame

    No, I'm wrong. Korg bought Yamaha's US R&D center, where Dave Smith worked on the Wavestation.

  • salamanderanagram

    @james – huh. my brother tried to buy stock in korg one time and he told me it was a family owned company.

    according to wiki, yamaha once had a controlling interest, but the founder of korg bought all of it back in 1993.

  • smartson

    I'd like to add that the team who's creating this is probably doing out of love more than money, not that they won't make any if all goes well.

    But again, the FACT is that 9 people are involved in this, in a part-time or contractual manner. These people could be making more working for big firms doing less interested corporate work.

  • dang son…

    femo for the internet win!

    2010's loudest hater award…!!!

    yay!

    jesus christ guy…. i mean… i know this site is dedicated to the tender intricacies of music hardware production tactics and marketing research politics.. and i realize that you are the foremost authority in said area…. but how about you go make some music and give the people who aren't out to be the king of the comment thread hill, some quiet time…. ok buddy?

    teenage engineering rules…

    let em get sick with it!

    who give a shit how they are available?

    if you want it … get it…

    if not.. don't….

  • http://www.retrothing.com/ James Grahame

    @salamanderanagram – Yamaha bought a controlling interest in the company in 1986 or 1987 (conflicting dates are floating around the internet). Korg founder Tsutomu Kato bought out Yamaha's share in 1993.

    Confusing as hell.

  • http://www.darrenhalm.com Darren Halm

    Femo-

    Seriously, relax. Why are you getting so angry about a not-even-available piece of gear. Don't buy it when it comes out. No biggie. Some people have money to burn, some people don't like using exclusively a computer and controller to make music. To each his own. But you're acting like Teenage Engineering is going around kicking puppies or something. They're making a device that you think costs too much. Get over it.Move on.

  • helloitabot

    Everyone relax. Jeez. They should get Apple to manufacture the OP-1. They'd get to keep the lovely industrial design aspects and we'd all get to pay under 300 dollars.

  • http://femo Femo

    smartson "These people could be making more working for big firms doing less interested corporate work."

    well, that's something i hinted towards earlier. but i used the analogy of a musician getting a PUBLISHING deal as opposed to signing to a label.

    Basically the r&d is done, and they have something very real and very interesting to sell. At this stage I'd just get a big manufacturer to mass produce it for a reasonable cut while the T.E. team reserve creative control and royalties. I mean, I wouldn't just do that because it's less work and more profitable, I'd do it because I'd want my device to become legendary and have a lasting, rippling effect on future music… that's not really going to happen unless it's truly accessible, imo. Maybe because the unit has the potential to be widely cherished, they are more afraid of giving some of it away….

  • smartson

    Femo, thanks for switching to constructive criticism.

    There's two reasons not to hand out the r+d :

    1-Market-wise, this is not something 25 000 people want and the 2000-5000 people who want it have 1000$ to pay for it.

    2-Design-wise, you want to keep the control over fabrication, so that it doesn't lose it essence.

    I wouldn't be surprised if someone on the team scores a contract with one of the bigger companies after this, that in itself is a good reason to do it all themselves.

  • helloitabot

    @smartson

    I think potentially, a lot more than 25,000 people would want one if they knew it existed. We didn't know we needed ipods until they were marketed at us and if Apple can sell 100,000,000 ipods, i think selling one percent that amount should be possible.

  • http://femo Femo

    smartson: regarding point1

    well, i think this is where tenori-on failed and perhaps op-1 will follow..

    I do believe 25,000 would buy it – at the right price.

    these are immediate devices, and I know the thought of referring to it as a toy is anathema to some readers, but really the tenori-on and op-1 seem perfect for the young as well as old. Priced accordingly, and marketed accordingly, I could see parents buying it for their kids, adults for their nieces & nephews… as well as us adults getting it for themselves…

    what other electronic instruments are really thought provoking for kids out there… i can think of a couple nintendo ds games, like elektro plankton…

    we'll never know if kids would love it or not because very few will have their altruistic parents/aunts/uncles buy one for them at these prices…

    again, it's just something I feel from keeping an eye on these types of things and without having done the market research

    as for point2, well, as the designed I'd do my best to retain as much control as possible, but my ultimate goal would be proliferation…

  • http://femo Femo

    designed = designer

  • Pingback: OP-1 Kenobi | firemusic

  • ra

    @Peter Kirn "This is a boutique Swiss instrument with an aluminum base that’s machined in Sweden."

    That's Swedish, not Swiss, Switzerland's not Sweden… Both countries share a tradition of modernist design, high quality production and wealth, which all can be found in the OP-1.

    It's obvious that this is about creating a product independently from the big industry, without any compromise in design, function, concept; Made by a group of people that obviously has a background in design – It's their style, not a marketing trick. I guess they're also dressed better than most other people behind NAMM booths…

    cheers from Switzerland, ra

  • real_number

    The design looks very good, but the name Teenage Engineering doesn't fit. As noted, this object is way too expensive for most kids..

    If, with all the current available software and hardware, one still dreams of a product that will 'finally inspire again' I'd suggest to take a break or try another hobby. Inspiration doesn't have to come from a tool. A true artist will always find a way. Then again, for some gearlust has replaced the rush of creation itself.

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

    @real_number: Some of the folks who read (and produce) this site themselves create tools, as well as musicians. Some are "designers" in the traditional sense of the word. So I think people are inspired by the design of the tool. If you're investing money in tools, period, you would hopefully be inspiring in design you care about. Now, of course, if you can't also produce your own inspiration, that's another issue, and I don't mean that everyone is going to love this particular object. But this is a design to which at least some people do respond, and while it is produced in "boutique" quantities, it's also cheaper than a lot of the mainstream music products – even those supposedly marketed to teenagers. I don't think that's gear lust. In fact, I'd hope gear occasionally inspires love.

  • real_number

    The object looks like it was made with a lot of love. But to me it illustrates a certain tendency. I'm all for inspiring design, and I won't even consider using software that doesn't have a nice looking GUI. Design is most definitely important. But it's like we are getting a bit too Brian Eno, too obsessed with novel ways to find inspiration. Here we have a little fetish object that generates desire, a blogospherical wet dream. But what happened to the dream of exploring the depths of sound, pure sound?

    PS – A Kim Cascone Linux update would be interesting. Does he still use Ubuntu? (given the criticism it got here recently)

  • http://www.myspace.com/althompson9654 beatnik

    I can't wait to play one!!!

  • Michael Coelho

    Peter – great coverage as always. The OP-1 is truly lust-worthy.

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

    @ra: Whatever possessed me to type Swiss instead of Swedish in the comment above, I've corrected that. And yes, I am in fact familiar with the difference between Sweden and Switzerland. ;)

  • http://pierrefontaine.bandcamp.com/ Pierre

    I wanted to clarify my earlier point about the price/performance potential of the OP-1.

    My interest has always been in inexpensive consumer electronics that transcend their limitations, or else are so focused that they do a couple of things very, very well. This is why I love the idea of cheap keyboards like the Casios and Yamahas that can still be used to make great music.

    It's why I use a cheap netbook to create my own personal music, drawings and animations. It's why I try and make something out of the cheapest software I can find because it's all I can afford without going into serious debt, which I promise never to do again. I also know that the limitations imposed push me to find more creative solutions.

    When first learning of the OP1, the untapped potential of such a device excited me. It was a portable synthesizer with tons of added functionality. I could imagine packing it in my travel bag and using it on trips. Unfortunately, the price just shoots that fantasy right out the window because of the reasons I have previously given. The OP-1 an extravagance in this age of frugality.

    Having said all this, I greatly admire the great thought and care that went into the design and implementation of this device.

    I've had a fantasy for a long time of developing a line of dedicated electronic devices that were cheap and portable, such as a cheap and portable electronic sketchpad or music making device. When I saw the OP-1, I thought that this is exactly what I would have designed, given the opportunity!

    I guess that's why I ultimately feel bummed out that the price is so high!

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

    @Pierre: Well, I think there's plenty to learn from the OP-1 in terms of software design. So yeah, I hope that software designers and DIYers take this as a challenge.

  • adam

    @gwenhwyfaer: making music while taking a shit is fun!

    @littlepig: u r right. IMO f.e. the iphone is too small to have real fun with music apps. but did u try the OP-1? is it really that small? or is it just minimalistic and neat?

  • PooPoo the Korruptah

    Unless this things sounds meaner than a virus ,trippy like a VCS and able to bash out beats like an mpc then i laugh at anyone and their hipster (un)coolness willing to fork out that kind of cash for a lil plastic keyboard with bad pastel knobs. Its so very very Ikea and the fact that somewhere down the track a lamp and bike come into play is laughable.

  • real_number

    Ikea has some excellent products. If you're smart enough to buy the good stuff from their collection… Well designed, durable and affordable.

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  • http://d.d.d joe

    way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, too expensive.

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

    @joe: Okay, name your price. $9.99?

    It's a powerful synth + sampler + sequencer engine running on a fairly high-end chip with an aluminum base and a very high-end, 60 fps, high-density display.

    Meanwhile, you get some pretty crap-built hardware in this market for $2500, $3500 if you like, without that quality display and manufactured in mass quantities.

    So, I'm confused, frankly. I don't know what people want. You keep going, man.

    Oh, and to save up money, yes, I'm actually buying a new workspace on the dirt-cheap from IKEA. ;)

  • teej

    wow, a pissing match of Beat Thang proportions! love it.

    do people react the same way to Elektron and it's instruments?

    they are pricey, beautiful, Swedish and are part of the same "umbrella" mothership as Teenage Engineering, ACNE Design. Elektron also uses very stylized marketing, and even a little Japanese text! gasp!

    they also happen to be extremely powerful instruments. i don't mind paying a premium for an emphasis on UI or industrial design, but i think people might be overlooking what is under the hood here as well.

    i have a funny feeling that if this thing wasn't tiny, and at first glance, resembled a Casio VL-Tone that they might be singing a different tune. there's a decent amount of technology in that little thing! the screen alone is super impressive. and if the audio and DSP features are half as cool as they say then it could be a mighty device.

    the fact that it's tiny, for me, is just icing on the cake.

    i'd love to see what people thought of it were it larger, had less colorful components and no little built-in speaker. it might be taken more seriously. personally, i think it looks extremely promising as-is.

  • basics

    What makes OP-1 so neat is that its form is in elegant harmony with its function. The OP-1 is, beyond being an instrument, an idea.

    I don't know enough about design to riff on about this, but as an amateur voyeur of digital gear, I see the OP-1 as something that speaks to my own need to navigate digital surf in a way that is equally fun and open, without being overwhelming.

    The OP-1 doesn't take itself too seriously, and by achieving design balance, it seems to whisper to the imagination to play, play, play.

    Expensive? It's relative. I bet that after a year it comes down to $400.

    I think this is the Micron-killer I've been waiting for. I could care less about i-Phones: I want a standalone toy that takes me seriously enough to get lost in for days.

  • http://d.d.d joe

    peter don't be ridiculous! 9.99 ?

    the right price would be more like $350

  • http://www.barrythrew.com Barry Threw

    The interesting thing to me was that at the NAMM booth these synths were all physically attached to their podiums.

    I am concerned that there was a cord running through the bottom of the podium to the hardware for this thing, Is there one actually working in that form factor yet.

    I smell vaporware.

  • guest

    …..anyway we want free entry to the festival, free dope, and all the money from the box office so we can distribute it amongst the people…..

    its simple really things have different prices dig, somethings are free some things cost a lot, no doubt there will always be people willing to make something that appears to be similar at a cheaper price.

    Lets wait until we hear what people do with it before wondering if will be legendary.

    You wont ever hear the sound of a lemur but boy it looks great for making digital music , and you know what some people even use them too

  • fingerfunk

    here's an idea for live performance — make multiple low power fm transmitters and use them to broadcast different sound sources. these could outputs ableton if you wanted. you probably can't tune to more than one fm channel at a time, but this could be an interesting way to select and effect (resample?) different presequenced sound sources, in a live setting. plus, you'd look cool with this thing and all those fm transmitters.

  • fingerfunk

    cooler idea — make it possible for these to sync to a tempo over fm. you could have a party with multiple op-1s hooked up to different soundsystems all over the place, and let people just jam with them, all synced to the same tempo.

  • fingerfunk

    and provide a complimentary sonic pallet, both stored in the different machines, and broadcast over fm.

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  • Dave Onions

    Boutique Boutique Boutique.

    Who cares. Boutique is for chin scratchers who probably never get around to writing any music.

    This product, at the current price point, is playing on the insecurities of jazz-bearded, monome-fixated macbook users.

    Smacking bin lids with wooden spoons FTW.

  • Martin

    This product, at the current price point, is playing on the insecurities of jazz-bearded, monome-fixated macbook users.

    -

    Do i know you?

  • lu

    CONTENT:

    I just want to say to those who see a problem in a small boutique company designing a portable Synthesizer, a Lamp and maybe even a Bike:

    Multidisciplinary in 2010 is an old hat for me.

    If you have great ideas, why not realize them, no matter in which area you have them?

    It definitely doesn't have to mean a lack of focussing.

    What a heated discussion and in the end it all boils down to the price tag.

    I will get one if I can somehow painlessly (next personal valuation here, like for every single $) afford it once it's available. Right now that's not the case.

    The biggest concern that I have is that it could be a toy that you play with for a while and then put it away.

    It could really impact creativity in a good way, but it could also be that after some time you realize what you tend to make with it ends up all too similar.

  • jimmie

    Totally agree with teej! only wish it'd be cheaper tho ;p

  • littlepig

    I've thought of an analogy: it's like taking a bog standard car, sticking in a sports car engine and expecting it to perform like a sports car. The engine might be great but you are still held back by the suspension, transmission, brakes, etc.

    Here whatever great internals you have you are held back by a tiny little non standard keyboard and tiny little buttons.

  • http://spsean.com Sean

    beyond over priced at $700,…$400 is the max this is worth. Anyone bleeting on about what's inside should remember it's connectivity is limited to minijack in, minijack out and usb.

    that's seriously lame – how do I connect it with all my studio gear, without using minijack-1/4" converters..that sucks. or connect it to my computer only with usb ? … so to get the best out of this you need to use it with a computer at some point ? why not just use a computer…

    etc etc

    too pricey.

    too, too, TOO, pricey.

    sux.

  • http://www.soundclick.com/kilon Kilon

    Sure you can get a laptop with less money and a ton more functionality.

    But it will never be a neat , ultra fun synth like this in just one small , optimised package. With a computer it will be a mess of cables, diffirent parts and highly uncomfortable interfaces.

    Optimisation costs, but in the world of options, none should complain. None can prove that this is either over priced or a toy.

    However I have to agree I would love to see a super cheap , even weak sampler. How come, none is making one ?

    In the end OP-1 is going to appeal , having money to spare. But yes it will never be a high priority synth.

    At taht price range I would prefer a Korg Radias.

  • Dave Onions
  • http://cavr.info faultyanalogy

    haha looks fun… that freestyle in the first demo vid up top is similar to something I did in Reaktor a few 3-4 years ago: I use a slightly bulkier IBK 10Control for knobs and buttons. OLD SKOOLE ya teens!

    checkit on last.fm:

    <a href="http://www.last.fm/music/Center+for+Audio-Visual+Research/You+Too+Can+Care/You+Too+Can+Care&quot; title="You Too Can Care" rel="nofollow">

    And as far as a cheap sampler… you can get the best hardware sampler made, the Akai s6000, for around $600 loaded on eBay, formerly 6Gs, and it is FUN! Detachable faceplate is the about the same size as the above toy, and packs a hell of a wollop.

    2cents

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  • Daniel

    For me it all comes down to the sound of it and the funfactor! I't doesn't seem to sound that well to me, but i don't like the sound of monomachine either. To me the FM-radio is junk and waste of time/money, i'd rather like a better rec. plugs. Why white, looks like something from a hospital.

  • X. J. Scott

    This is a cool instrument with a unique feature set and a fascinating user interface.

    It's in a small case, but doing that makes it more expensive to manufacture, not less. The price they mention is very reasonable given the feature set, which is NOT found in $200 Casiotone keyboards. Those who think it would be the same for them should read the feature set more carefully, or just get a Casiotone and be happy. Obviously this is substantially more sophisticated inside than many other popular instruments in the $700 range.

    Usability is worth a lot. You can have something with an impossible to figure out interface that is seldom used, and one with similar features with a gratifying and intuitive interface that you happily use every day. Which is worth more?

    As far as the FM radio, it's a great idea as a noise source from non-stations, especially if it can be routed into the synths as a noise component. It would produce a much more interesting noise source than those in other instruments.

  • Mrvica

    When I first saw this OP-1 I thought it doesn't really exsist. I saw it on the video of Swedish house mafia: One. Now I'm reeeeeeeeeeeeeally interested especially cause I'm a teen. =D

  • Alan

    I don't care how much it costs. It looks nice and i'm having one

  • yoman 23

    soooooo sick i want one sooo bad

  • Jason Manson

    OP-1 stands for Over Priced One

  • http://twitter.com/sbiernacki Stephen Biernacki

    Nice. Prepare for a few more hits… Trent just tweeted this link:&nbsp ;http://twitter.com/#!/trent_reznor/status/40509353605873664

  • Sarah Eylicio

    If I was A schoolteacher who tought music Id get one for everyone of my students, and of course one for m,uaah;)

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