Teenage Engineering’s hotly-anticipated synth / music-making hardware OP-1 finally got an official release last week. Early stocks promptly sold out, but new waves of deliveries should refresh availability. We’ll have more from TE on the launch and the instrument soon.
In the meantime, you can thank early-adopter Ludwig Mueller for being brave enough to post early experiments with the instrument. Ludwig is a proud owner of the beta release, one of a handful of people who signed up to get access to the OP-1 prior to its public launch – and even before functionality in firmware was entirely finalized. I’ve heard now from several readers who are beta users, and a variety of reactions to the instrument. Oversimplifying, they appear to break down to those who adore the OP-1′s restrictions and those who curse them (and those who do both). In the video at top, Ludwig shows off the process of layering beats and tracks; he not only plays the OP-1, but uses it as a production and composition tool. I asked him to share some further thoughts on how he likes his OP-1 — and what, exactly, it really is.
The OP-1 in short is a mixup of an [Akai] MPC, a pretty great synth, a radio, a mic, and a DAW [Digital Audio Workstation]. All of these components are rather limited looked at individually, but I guess what you can say here is that the sum is greater than its parts. It is the mixture of these parts and the device’s limits – recording is destructive, [so there's] no undo once you record two or more instruments on one track – force you to think ahead. But at the same time, the OP-1′s layout and abilities make you want to try out things you’d never consider in a DAW. So depending which takes over – your brain or your inner child – your results will vary from one extreme to another.
A thing that I really like about OP-1 is the fact that you can’t overtweak. In a traditional DAW, I’d EQ every track and add a little compression, etc., etc. On the OP-1, there’s no such thing. It either sounds good or it doesn’t – and if it does sound good, you keep going and building the track. At the end you turn up the mastercompressor, which BTW is quite amazing, and you’re done! Again: I love the mastercomp!
I can say that I finish a lot more projects / beats / tracks with the OP-1 than with a DAW. Granted, they feel more raw and have some hiccups here and there, but I’m willing to take that in exchange for the fun I have using that little device. And by now, quite often I actually prefer this rawness to the slick sound of my DAW tracks.
Of course there are times when I crawl back to the laptop, and do another track dissecting every element. But this doesn’t last for too long usually. With the OP-1, I can focus more on the music than on the technical side of things; it’s so immediate: No long boot up, loading programs, plugging in things. It’s just a switch and 5-second wait and you’re good to go. It also really fits the bill regarding the overall sound I want to achieve: it’s warm yet punchy. You can actually overdrive the output quite nicely using the mastercompressor within the unit. The achieved overdrive can be quite pleasing to the ear, I think.
I have heard many people say that TE should bring out an OP-1 iPad App. I am 100% certain that a touchscreen can not give you the same feel as a nicely-designed device with quality buttons and encoders.
Right now, I am on the latest OS (the one that is also available for download on TE’s site) and I didn’t have any problems at all since upgrading to that version.
If you visit www.soundcloud.com/yellow-tangerine there is a set on my page called “OP-1 Stuff”. All these tracks are exclusively OP-1 and nothing else.
Thanks, Ludwig, for the thoughts. Plenty of design and workflow thoughts to chew over here, I think, even if you aren’t using an OP-1 – some of these same ideas about limitation can be applied to other hardware and even to software. So I’m curious to hear people respond to the musical ideas here, and not just the issues specific to the OP-1.
I welcome any reactions from OP-1 users — praise and criticism alike.
For the latest from Teenage: