We love creative instrument design here at Serious Wonder, so last weekend when I got my hands on Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 I had to write about it. The Japanese instrument makers created something special with the OP-1, I’m floored by the physical design, interface, and quality.
The OP-1 is an intriguing instrument for a few reasons. It has a piano like “keyboard”, but its not strictly a keyboard-like synthesizer. First whats under the hood: The OP-1’s sleek and highly portable body houses a powerful synthesizer engine, effects processor, sampler, and four-track recorder. It can connect directly and control your preferred Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), or it can be used by itself. So technically-speaking, the OP-1 is a fantastic device to add to a seasoned musicians’ collection, and maybe even a better one to introduce beginners to.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B00AZ98Z8U” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Kya45c92L._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]It’s the OP-1’s physical design and visualizations that set it apart from most other devices. Devices with the OP-1’s computing power and features have been around for a few years, but never in such a beautiful and agreeable package. It’s a device designed by and for a generation brought up with video games and during the evolution of personal computing. It feels almost like a computer keyboard and video game controller were fused together, with neat pictographs used to signal key functions. The keys and the OP-1’s visual display are color coded, so you can easily see what knobs will do what to your sound. Which leads me to my favorite part of the OP-1, its visuals on its OLED display.
The visualizations harken back to Nintendo’s Punch Out and Windows 98 screensavers presented in beautiful technicolor. Even if you don’t know anything about music, you’ll find hours of entertainment playing with the visuals on the OP-1. And that’s the true beauty of the OP-1. It creates a language that promotes creativity in nontraditional context. Anyone could sit down with the OP-1 and create a song based entirely on the look of the visuals. You could paint a picture instead of just listening to the music your making. Or you could slap down some mean bass lines, sharp synths, and driving drum patterns. That’s quite acceptable too.