Teenage Engineering's OP-1 is 10 years old, but is it as relevant today as it was a decade ago?

10 years of the OP-1
(Image credit: Teenage Engineering)

Celebrating the 10 year anniversary of a synthesizer may seem like a strange concept, but considering we live in a world struggling with crushing levels of waste produced by outdated technology, it actually is a cause for celebration.

Released in 2011, The OP-1 was Teenage Engineering's first synthesizer, and caused much chinwagging when it was first revealed at Musikmesse back in 2009.

Despite some thoughts to the contrary, the hype around OP-1 was most certainly justified. This was a small portable synthesizer that defied laws of what was expected from small portable synthesizers at the time. Sure, the lofty price point reflected this, but until people got one in their hands, there was no denying that TE was onto something.

The OP-1 gained instant cult status as a fun-filled well of instant inspiration. At that time, it provided unparalleled levels of editing and though many of the controls required having the manual to hand, that didn't matter as just exploring the thoughtfully designed interface brought about instantly gratifying results.

Not subscribing to the tried-and-tested formulae of synth design is one of the OP-1s strengths, but its longevity can be attributed to one key feature: updates.

When Jesper, David and Jens of TE first conceived the OP-1, one thing was made a key principle in the product's identity; it needed to last for 20 years. None of this build-and-forget business, the OP-1 was going to be the recipient of incremental improvement. And we're not just talking bug fixes.

With regular updates, Teenage Engineering has been able to keep the OP-1 relevant. Major additions to the OS over the years have seen the inclusion of the Voltage synth engine, arpeggio sequencer and improved connectivity.

Sure, there have been a few bumps along the way... Like the time it looked like production was going to be halted for a good while and then there was the crazy price increase

However, through those trials and tribulations, the OP-1 is as popular today as ever, with its ever-growing fandom not showing any signs of abating. 

To mark the 'halfway' stage of the OP-1 lifespan, Teenage Engineering has given the little white machine its own website featuring a beat contest with Nosaj Thing and TĀLĀ, where you could be in with a chance of winning a trophy and new accessories.

Talking of new accessories, you'll also find an anniversary shop where you can purchase a whole host of new Teenage Engineering merch around the '1112 theme, including a mystery box worth a cool £500.

Firmly housed in the 'and finally... ' section is a veritable shed ton of curated videos and content from all over the web, ever since the OP-1 landed to the present day. Including videos from Depeche Mode, Childish Gambino, Bon Iver, deadmau5 with Steve Duda, Dirty Projectors, Chvrches and Animal Collective alongside some of your favourite Instagrammers and YouTubers such as True Cuckoo, Jade Wii, Hainbach and Emymelis to name but a few. 

And of course, we couldn't miss out on young Master Musk's efforts recently. But we'll leave you with this dancing OP-1 robot, a massive OP-1 in Minecraft and a side order of accordion metal, courtesy of The Mothball Fleet.

Simon Arblaster
Video Producer & Reviews Editor

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.

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