Back in the 1980s, Casio came with series of mini-keyboards called Casio VL-Tone. Although it was not actually the best one to use, it was portable and it was cool. Few years ago in Sweden a group called “Teenage Engineering” came with prototype of mini keyboard which looks very similar to original VL-Tone. The new one is called OP-1 and it should be a modern version of VL-Tone. This modern reborn of VL-Tone looked interesting, but lacked any functionality.
However, as the time passed, Teenage Engineering made a great success. After several years of testing and further development they came with functional version of original instrument for 21st century. Interest in this project was so big that the pieces of the first series were almost immediately sold out. But what is OP-1 in reality? Is it worth to buy?
Synth & Sample
First of all, you have to realize what is it capable of. OP-1 can work as synth, it can add effects, samples, record up to four tracks or even play an FM radio. Of course there is also microphone and MIDI keyboard, and all the functions can be displayed on small OLED display. Recording abilities are wide, you can record both, internal and external sounds. And what more, you can also manually change settings for recording. All in all, you can add up to four effects. While recording, you can adjust the speed of the tape by one of the four knobs. Playing with them can lead to creating lot of interesting results.
Your only limit for recording is time, while record cannot exceed total period of 6 minutes. Nevertheless when you have one, you can adjust it as you wish and complete a brand new composition from all four tracks you have. But you can only record in mono mode, because OP-1 respects heritage of classic recorders from 1980s. Actually it does not matter at all, because it still provides enough performance to enjoy using it.
In case, you don’t want to use it as a recorder, you may only use it as an instrument on its own, because there is a synth and sampler. And we can guarantee that you would have lot of fun while using this gadget as a synth, because it prefers intuitive and funny interface before standard bunch of options on classic synthesizers. You can choose from up to 7 synth engines which can by adjusted by four knobs.
Fun with OP-1
Real fun is supported by absence of detailed manual, so you can proceed while using a “what if I did this” method. OP-1 is for people who loves experiments, so if you´re not compatible with this kind of work, you should rather seek for other instrument. However, if you are creative and if you love to explore and discover, you would really enjoy work with OP-1.
Sounds of the keyboard goes through MIDI or one of 3 internal engines of sequencer. Sequencer called infinity works like that you hold shift button while recording your sequence. When you´re ready, just hit any key and the engine will transpose the sound. If you want to play with drums, you can use sequencer called pattern, which allows to play forward, backward or even loop your sequence. The last one is called tombola. It makes a note visible on your display in a rotating hexagon, and every time the note hits the wall of the object, it plays the note. With this sequencer you may enjoy lot of fun while using OP-1.
But it´s not as easy as it looks. When it comes to sharing and exporting, OP-1 loose breath and struggles to stay use-friendly. You can connect OP-1 via USB to your computer, but you would only see your track without any effects. So you only get your single tracks and your mixes stays connected strictly to your OP-1 device.
Your composition may be also recorded as a single file to your album and you can access it via computer in disc mode, however, working with those files is strictly limited.
So, who is an ideal customer for OP-1? It is somebody who does not mind that very open minder process of sound design, who does not mind that OP-1 is unable to connect with any type of other sound systems, and finally who does not mind higher price. It´s not the right instrument for professionals, but you may enjoy lot of fun with it.
- Brilliant design work (body, graphic etc.)
- Sound quality
- Versatile synth engines – limitless creativty with them
- After some experimenting is easy to use
- Small, portable – you can take it and play
- Relatively high price
- Output connection could be better
- No velocity-sensitive keyboard
- Sometimes noisy input
|CPU||400MHz core processor (800 MMACSS performance) 64MB low-power SDRAM (12ns) 512MB NAND flash storage 24-bit 96kHz ADC/DAC|
|Body||Advanced CNC 1-piece aluminum design 2 x M6 Mounting holes for accessories 2 x Cuts for strap accessory|
|Dimensions (LxHxD)||11.1 x 4.0 x 0.5″ (282.0 x 102.0 x 13.5mm)|
|Battery Type||Li-ion 1,800 mAh|
|Battery Life||16 hours (active)|
|Charging||Via USB port|
|Input / Output|
|USB||2.0 high-speed (OTG)|
|Line In/Out||3.5mm jack|
|Speaker||Mini: High output, 8 Ω, 1 W|
|Motion Sensor||3-axis accelerometer (G-force) Assignable to any synth, envelope, effect parameter, or to pitch|
|Radio||FM Band Support: Worldwide (64 to 108 MHz)|
|Type||Amoled display running in 60 fps|
|Resolution||320 x 160p|
|Color Depth||16.7 million|
|Contrast||10,000:1 (good for outdoor use)|
It´s just unique instrument, visually and sonically. Fun to play and discover possibilities and very inspiring.
Teenage Engineering 002.AS.001 OP-1 Mini Synthesizer Pack
1 used from $ 1,299.99
- Op-1 comes loaded with great kits
- If you want more just press the mic key to sample anything
- This product is manufactured in Sweden