Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field: Is this Portable Synth the Way of the Future? -
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Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field: Is this Portable Synth the Way of the Future?

We invited Jonti into the studio to explore the new Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field. If you know, you know. If you don’t — it’s a drum machine, synth, 4-track tape machine, sampler and more, all about the size of a family chocolate bar.

Teenage Engineering has been making products that inspire musicians to think differently about music and to get away from the computer since 2011 with their first release the OP-1. Fast forward 11 years later and they’ve released the OP-1 Field.

In their field series — this is the second product, the first being the TX-6 mixer/interface/drum machine — Teenage Engineering is envisioning a future where all our music will be made with our phones. It’s in the name — get out into nature (in the field) and make music without the constraints of electricity.

To help us explore this new all-in-one portable synthesizer, sampler and controller, we kindly asked Jonti to stick around after he performed his song ‘Rain’ for one of our Live from Happy sessions — watch that performance here. Jonti’s bandmate and collaborator Ben Freeman (dieyoungs) had an impromptu play on it too, as he owns an original OP-1.

So what’s new? Why is this better? Why is it more expensive? and why is it not called the OP-2? Teenage Engineering says: “Louder, thinner and 100 times better.” We agreed, and have summed up a few key features that will raise the eyebrow of OG owners and newcomers.

op1 field

The OP-1 Field is stereo. Every synth engine, drum sound and all the effects are in stereo. Each engine in the original was mono, even though you could pan your mix for stereo output, everything is mono.

There’s 4 new tape machines — a porta cassette, vintage and studio tape machines and a mini disc — and there’s a bunch more effects including a really cool reverb called Mother. In this reverb, there’s a silhouette of well… a mother and a small child standing behind her (that’s most likely you). As you increase the mix of Mother she moves forward, and you can Gate the reverb and when you do, the image shows a gate closing in the small child. Kinda creepy, kinda cool.

op-1

The screen and graphics are so much more pleasing, with more contrast, adjustable brightness and a hardened glass hi-res flush display. The battery lasts for an incredible 24 hours. There are only 8 hours on the OP-1.

It’s got a much better speaker, and Bluetooth connectivity — it can be a host or device for audio or midi, it has a USB-C connection, the buttons and knobs feel more solid, and it has a new low-profile aluminium body.

Letting Jonti explore these new features and get use to moving around the OP-1 field, he quickly found a drum sound he liked and laid down a beat. Diving into the huge synth menu, he added some keys on top and then a bass line. There was some trial and error, learning some tape tricks — loop, reverse, lift and drop — and some experimentation at the end with the Tape Speed functions and the Mixer.

new op-1

As I had never used this before — or the original OP-1 — it was a steep learning curve, but once a few things were understood, it was all play! For those who are uninitiated, as Jonti and I were it’s pretty simple.

The 4 sections are on the top left — Drum Engine, Synth Engine, Tape Machine, and Mixer. From there each section has 4 pages, use the 4 numbers (1, 2, 3, 4) in the middle under the display to see each of those pages. Shift (down the bottom) and the comment/help/speech bubble are your best friend. If you want more details we did a short explainer in our video!

teenage engineering op-1 field

This is a seriously fun instrument that you will not regret spending money on. Seeing Jonti’s impression and first explorations solidified that this instrument — once you learn it briefly — is intuitive and inspires.

The OP-1 Field comes in at $3,299 Australian dollars and you can get from anywhere you get your musical gadgets from. For more details head over to teenage.engineering.