Interview with Teenage Engineering OP-1 Team
Teenage Engineering is a combination of members from a varied history of beloved electronic music tools. Johan Kotlinski behind LSDJ is on the team as are people who worked on the ever-popular Elektron MachineDrum and MonoMachine. It's no surprise then that their upcoming product, the TE OP-1, or 'Operator' is already anticipated with great lust by many.
The OP-1 is a synthesizer and controller. There are 8 synth models, 8 samplers, effects for producing sound, not to mention an FM radio tossed in for good measure. You can also use it to control your software sequencer thanks to 2 octave keyboard and buttons for play, stop, record, forward and rewind. The Operator is not only built to impress internally, it also has a very sleek and modern looking exterior and user interface.
In terms of inputs there's a 3.5mm input for audio or mic, 3.5mm output for line out or headphones, a proprietary power connector, a USB 2.0 port and holes for use with a carry strap.
The OP-1 team at Teenage Engineering was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions about what the device was about and where the inspiration came from.
Your mission is "to create products with superior quality, functional design and top-class engineering." It may have been believed that you are solely looking to create electronic music devices but products such as the Studio System work light and the nefarious looking Syricon confuse expectations. Can we expect a TE Toaster as well? Can you expand on your mission please?
I guess you can expect anything from TE in the future. But we have a plan with all products and all will have one thing in common. You'll see.
What products (musical or otherwise) inspired the OP-1? Was something missing in your own studio?
The first idea came up about 10 years ago. Some of the team worked together on the MachineDrum and the MonoMachine with Elektron, that's the reason behind a synthesizer.
We wanted to create a modern portable unit with a real and intutive UI. The inspiration for the Op-1 is a mix of a lot of machines (not just synthesizers) that we all love. To mention some: DX7, JX3P, SH-101, Nintendo and the LSDJ (Johan Kotlinski is a teammember), Buchla, Fairlight MFX3, Animac, Electrolux, Vortex... Also we want the Op-1 to be a fun and creative tool. We think we have some great new stuff here that opens up for that.
What are your thoughts on allowing the public to update, program and access the software of the OP-1? Will there be a publicly available API so that anyone can hack and modify the machine? If not, why not?
Good question! In some ways it will be "hackable". We have some great ideas on this subject. Can't reveal that yet, sorry.
There's a noticeable amount of concern about the price of the OP-1. Success of other machines such as the Elektron MonoMachine indicate that there's a market for well-built, unique electronic music machines. However, the 649 EUR (~$950 USD) price of your Studio System light is making people very nervous about where you could be headed with the price of the OP-1. It's clear that you're not targeting the mass market, but how concerned are you about making your products affordable?
We want to create great products with superior quality. We hope that people will understand, and appriciate this. But we also try to make it as affordable as possible of course. We are doing the best we can here. But we will not trade quality to a lower pricetag.
Are you including software that will allow us to store and manipulate patches on a computer?
No. Not in that way. Yes, in another way. Very simple.
Can you explain the sequencer? How many sequences/banks can it store? Can you automate the envelopes, copy/paste sequences and export sequences via USB/midi?
How customizable and how sensitive is the motion sensor?
+/- 3g. And assignable.
Can you tell us about some of the other synth models?
We have FM, Cluster, DRW, Pulse, String (and maybe a few more) ready.
Can you explain the purpose of the FM radio?
We wanted a built-in FM radio. Just for the sake of it. And it's useful sometimes.
What type of battery will it use? Can users take it out and put in a new or stronger one?
It's a Li-Ion type. The battery takes up a great space of the Op-1's interior. It's 3600 mAh. You are not supposed to change the battery.