Packing features into an electronic instrument – say, adding a recorder or sampler – tends to make for a bulky device with a seriously complicated menu system. Teenage Engineering’s OP-1, part of a category of devices musicians call “grooveboxes,” bucks that trend. It fits all the bells and whistles into a trim 11-by-4 inch slab that does away with menu-digging. It’s a sophisticated, all-in-one noisemaker you can carry, and play, with one hand.
In “tape recorder” mode, the AMOLED screen shows when you’ve reversed the sound or changed its speed, just like an analog tape.
The OP-1 can replay sounds recorded from a built-in microphone, a plugged-in instrument, a connected computer – even its onboard FM radio.
Four knobs shape sounds, such as simulated stringed instruments and classic vintage-inspired synths. With eight different synth engines inside, the OP-1 is as flexible as a full suite of hardware and software.
The OP-1 lets musicians manipulate up to four tracks at once, warping and merging them together to produce new sounds. For example, changing the speed changes the pitch, as with an analog tape, and extreme changes produce glitchy distortion, as with digital audio.
Four More Electro-Instruments
Free apps let musicians customize this minimalist 8-by-8-button keypad so they can do tricks such as slice beats and produce hypnotic melodies.
Monome Grayscale 64 $500; monome.org
Dock your iPod or iPhone in Akai’s keyboard to make a synthesizer. The piano keys control the app’s synth sounds, drum kit and beat arrangements.
Akai SynthStation25 $100; akaipro.com
The S4 marries computer DJing with the control of turntables. Magnets decrease resistance as you spin its jog wheels faster.
Native Instruments Traklor Kontrol S4 $1000; native-instruments.com
Four decades ago, the Minimoog introduced the world to the all-in-one synth keyboard. This year’s update has more keys (61 instead of 44) and a ribbon that transforms sound with finger pressure. Musicians can also patch its circuitry to produce new sounds from scratch.
Moog Music Minimoog Voyager XL $5000; moogmusic.com