Teenage Engineering has recently been in the spotlight for helping Panic create its Playdate handheld, but the company is best known for its brilliant OP-1 portable synth and sequencer. It’s been a beloved electronic instrument for musicians for 11 years now, so instead of completely reinventing it, the company has instead given it some major feature updates and a sleeker design with the new OP-1 field.
Although tablet devices have become powerful music-making tools thanks to apps that can recreate the sound and capabilities of classic sequencers, drum machines, and synthesizers, Teenage Engineering’s devices, including the tiny Pocket Operators, remain a popular choice amongst musicians for the simple reason they feature physical buttons and knobs that can make performing easier and more enjoyable than tapping a touchscreen.
Teenage Engineer’s recently announced TX-6 handheld mixer is a great example of what the company does best. It’s as small as a Game Boy but packed with loads of features someone mixing music would actually want, and despite the tiny size of its knobs and sliders, you can’t help but feel the urge to fiddle with it for hours on end.
Eleven years later, the new OP-1 field looks nearly identical to the original OP-1, which is a testament to what Teenage Engineering’s designers pulled off the first time around. There are some subtle colour changes, and overall it’s considerably thinner with a new aluminium housing, but anyone well experienced with the original OP-1 will immediately find themselves comfortable with the new version.
The biggest changes to the OP-1 field can be found inside, with Teenage Engineering boasting there are about 100 different improvements to the device including an upgraded speaker for louder sound, 32-bit stereo audio throughout, a USB-C port, Bluetooth MIDI, 24 hours of battery life per charge, an all-glass OLED screen that now sits flush with the rest of the interface, 160 minutes of recorded sampling storage, four styles of tapes to record to, and an FM antenna allowing audio to be broadcast through a radio or radio stations to be recorded and sampled.
When the TX-6 portable mixer was revealed with a $US1,200 ($1,666) price tag, it seemed like Teenage Engineering was shifting its focus from affordable audio toys to more powerful tools for music creation, and that trend continues with the OP-1 field. The original OP-1 is still available for $US1,400 ($1,943), but the new version gets a price jump to $US2,000 ($2,776) making it less of an audio toy for amateur musicians and more of a serious piece of music-making gear for professionals.