Howdy. I’ve been eyeing the OP-1 a lot lately. I’m pretty close to buying one but have some general questions. I tend to ramble a bit, I hope this makes sense.
I’m interested in the OP-1 because I’d like to have a semi-regular synth around that’s small. My limited studio space is pretty crowded as is. And being able to play with the OP-1 on the couch is an added bonus. I’m shedding myself of some larger synths/boxes (sold a Korg MS2000BR already, looking to sell my Electribe EMX-1 soon too) partially because I just don’t have room for them, and partially because while they have good sounds, they’re a bit too normal although I do enjoy the dirtiness of the Korg sound. The OP-1’s 4 track tape is also appealing to me as playing with such things and abusing them is in my roots. Basically having something portable and flexible that is NOT a laptop is very appealing to me right now.
Most of the gear I’m playing with and enjoying right now is various kinds of physical gear from a small Eurorack system to various synth/noise boxes and some new little arduino-based boxes from Bastl/Standuino, so the OpLab as a communication center is interesting.
My questions about the OP-1 are:
Is it getting a little long in the tooth? There doesn’t seem to be whispers of an OP-2 or any kind of hardware refresh coming up. I know that its software has been updated and it’s picked up new sequencers and synth engines in the past year and it seems easy to update. (I did see another discussion talking about lack of a NAMM-15 update but I imagine the POs are dominating everything right now). Does it still seem good enough? A lot of hardware synths stay good for a long time (I never fretted about updates to the MS2000BR), but this guy seems little different, and I’m mostly concerned about whether the RAM or storage are starting to be limiting since there’s no SD or Compact Flash card option.
How is it for more experimental music? The tumbler sequencer and CWO filters seem interesting. My complaint with some of Korg’s stuff has been that it seems great if you stick to 4/4 dance beats but they don’t work with well other time signatures or no signatures.
From all of the YouTube videos I’ve seen, it’s really easy to explore sound creation. Is this true? I’ve heard some complaints about the ‘shallowness’ of the engines, but is it pretty easy to make unique sounds or is the range pretty limited?
Can the Tape Deck record straight off of line-in or is line-in only good for sampling? I’d love to be able to record layers off my other boxes and build around them.
The OpLab seems a bit pricey. Is it worth it? I’ve tended to avoid doing too much with MIDI for most of my life and even now am basically only using it for clock, but as I get a lot of different gear from different sources, the MIDI-USB-CV idea is increasingly interesting, but the price… Well, I guess it’s not much more than a decent Eurorack MIDI interface module if it’s worth it. Does the OpLab work well with the Korg Sync? I’m starting to use that a lot, even though I don’t have Volcas (syncing Bastl Trinity to Eurorack to Mute Synth II right now).
Maybe the bigger question is: is there anything the OP-1 is bad at for its price? I’m looking to have it replace my Electribe EMX-1 (too big, has a couple of hardware issues, too locked in to standard timing/beats) and/or MPC500 (the little LCD on it is a pain to use when trying to edit samples and put together a drum kit on the device; putting together longer songs and sequences is kindof a pain too).
No op-2 that anyone knows about.
Great for experimental - have you seen any of my videos on YT?
The op lab owners will tell you that the midi out I think it is doesn’t work as it should. You should check out the iconnect midi +4
Or even kenton USB midi
I bought my op-1 2nd hand on eBay from someone who was the original owner and was a musician who treated it well (not a buyer/seller person). Personally I don’t know if I’d pay full wack for a brand new op-1. It is an awesome bit of kit though and I’d maybe go back on what I said if my one died one day and I needed one.
If you buy 2nd hand and you don’t like it then you’ll be able to sell for the same price. Whereas if u buy new you’ll lose money selling it. It will be covered with warranty though - that’s the bonus of buying new.
People who say the OP1 is limited have not explored it enough, there is a lot you can do with the synths, some are more flexible than others, then there is the whole sampling aspect, if you approach with experimental enthusiasm then you can get very creative with it, resampling from tape with fx, tape manipulation, the LFO’s, overdubbing, layering etc.
Yes you can record tape from line in, it is a mono input though,so stereo will take 2 tracks and 2 passes.
It does have a few flaws, like some annoying noise issues, and some limitations which are too much for some people, but if you learn to master it then there really is nothing else like it, it has a very Zen feel IMHO.
Oplab does not currently support Korg sync directly, but you can record sync onto the OP1 tape and pan it to get sync if you do not mind mono audio.
op1 is very cool. if you’re coming from a DAW then its work flow is a little more involved, think using a 4-track tape recorder from the 80’s. it’s limited, but limitations are great for creativity. i do think the op1, as far as its synth engines are concerned definitely have a certain sound. but going into it, i wouldn’t aim to be creating the sounds you get elsewhere, but to enjoy the op for all its quirks and characteristics and see what comes from there. it is a great standalone product for enjoying working with sound. i absolutely love portability so for me its incredible. i agree about the ‘zen’ feel. once you’ve grokked’ the op, flying around and doing what ever you want is a few presses from anywhere…
One suggestion I have is, if you have an Instagram acct, open the app and search for the #OP1 hashtag. You can get a pretty broad overview, in 15-sec. bites, of how diverse the sounds are. Do the same thing for other hardware synths, and you may detect a much narrower scope of ideas. The OP-1 appeals to users that fall on the more artistic side of the creative spectrum. It’s symbiotic. People that scoff at its limitations are generally the same types that can’t manage, with all their “pro” gear, to turn out anything but mannerist dance & dubstep snoozers.
@jshell - firstly i would say that the op-1 is anything but regular - imho one of its greatest virtues is that it is unashamedly different and proudly digital - i was undecided between the op-1 vs an analog synth but worried that with an analog synth i would get too drawn into playing with the knobs and buttons rather than productively making tracks - no offense to any analog aficionados out there just not a good fit for me - and i was right there’s a great workflow and i’m able to go from idea to finished track very quickly - to answer your second question about whether it’s good for experimental music yes this is certainly what i’m all about and most others on the forum to varying degrees - regarding any shallowness of the sounds yes some of the sounds can start off tinny but there’s a unison mode which kicks @$$ and fattens everything up plus the fx and modulation add considerably to the sounds - in fact i usually have the opposite problem of having to restrain myself otherwise it can get muddy - the key is not to fixate on how the filter sounds but rather to explore all the options extremes and everything in between - i encourage you to listen to some of the tracks from the battles etc - hope you decide to take the plunge it’ll change your musical life - best of all there’s this great forum with amazingly talented creative and supportive people - no affiliation with te btw i just really like my op-1 - oh yeah and waiting for anything new from te is like waiting for a bus you wait for ages and then three of them come at once so i doubt whether there will ever be an op-2 and i kind of hope there won’t
I’ll give my two cents as a (relatively) new user, basically echoing a lot of the sentiments above.
It is literally one of the most “experimental” pieces of gear I’ve ever had. In that it truly inspires experimentation. It’s hard to explain, but it happens right away. It really is a weird “zen thing”.
The atypical nature of the synth engines actually make them really interesting. I can program a standard subtractive synth to do just about anything they can do in my sleep, but I always know what it is going to sound like. With the OP-1 I stumble across new, unique sounds everytime I pick it up. It’s like you surprise yourself by accident, and it is sort of designed with that in mind. It takes you to far out places without you even realizing what happened. You can just flow with it where it takes you.
I used to be annoyed by the fact that everyone who had one acted like a crazed sycophant, but then when I got one it totally hit me like a brick. This is simply an amazing “instrument” or “tool” or “magic box of radness” or whatever it is. It has mesmerized me.
To weigh in on the Oplab - I have one, and it works for me the way I currently need it to - but it is fussy and confusing to an extent. It does play well with Volcas and the Microbrute and the Beatstep as far as getting everything on one clock without a computer. And I like the fact that it has cv. That said, IMHO it is a bit overpriced for what it currently does. They have been MIA when it comes to updating it. I don’t know if I can 100% endorse it.
You said you like experimenting with tape. This is the best conceived digital tape. Change speed in semitones ,% ,or double track suble. Throw in reverse, overdub. It’s a big part of the synth sound (like back in 70s )and such good editing(-dont need to stick to a grid).The sequencers are also a huge part of the synthesis,each one capable of different effects,designed simple but capable of hidden depths- really well thought out.The Sketch is like a super pitch envelope for example. Multi time sigs easy- Endless is two clicks to throw a 4/4 into 3/4 and capable of soo much more.
There is occasional clicks (when chopping tape)and stuff,sure- but the overall workflow and combo is the strength of OP.
I think I’ve got myself pretty much convinced at this point. I’m applying and old and sick (but so damn pretty) Electribe EMX1 towards an OP-1 purchase and am just waiting for the trade to go through. Still going back and forth over the Oplab since there are still bundles available that include the Oplab case. It is a little surprising that they haven’t revealed how the expansion ports work (at least not in the current manual). I was wondering if they would play well with a breadboard-ish system like the Olegtron 4060. I’ve got such a wide variety of synths and toys and the promise of the Oplab may be what I want to do a lot of cross breeding (especially for experimental stuff) but it doesn’t seem quite there yet. Maybe I’ll just wait and see what Bastl Instruments is doing as they look to have something cool and mysterious coming up.
I’m suddenly finding myself very interested in the Op-1’s DNA synth engine. And with all the odd soundmakers I have available to sample, I’m hoping that being able to make some unique sounds from those proves easier than other tools I’ve tried in the past (MPC500).
The OP-1 getting “long in the tooth” over time and synth engine depth are part of it’s limits that are strengths in a VERY IMPORTANT aspect: workflow speed. Having 50 synths and 500GBs of samples can be exhausting when you just want to make a track or jam… The synth engines are deep enough to where you wont find every trick in the book in a day/month/year, but shallow enough to allow you to make a nice sound fast, to PLAY. Like a violin, or a guitar or piano… an instrument.
Experimental music? Absolutely. It’s the perfect contrast to my growing pile of “4/4 dance beat korg stuff”. And it plays well with them too cough cough Volca Sample
At times I have myself convinced. Other times, I don’t. Ugh. Wishy washy me. I think it’s a bad sign that I’m non committal. I really admire the Op-1. Maybe getting a used one is the answer if it’s in good shape.
Other things being considered (some combination thereof for the same amount I’d spend on an Op-1):
More Bastl Trinity blocks. These are really fun with a fairly unique sound but their sonic palette may ultimately be a bit too limited, even for the kind of leftfield stuff I like to do.
Patchblocks. More options for creating the leftfield sounds I want. But I’m not a fan of doing programming at the computer any more, even when the Patchblock makes it easy to package it up into a small unit so I can walk away.
The Dark Interpreter Lady of Darkness version. I have the low-end version of this chaotic noise granular synth/effect and I love it. I’m finding myself pulled towards the full version that features analog alongside digital pathways and more ‘skin contact points’ for control. But I already have a good version of this and enough other little noise synths including touchable ones.
Op-1. Some cool synth engines and effects. The DNA synth has especially caught my eye lately. And as I think I said up above - with all of the chaotic noise synths that I have, it might be nice to have something that can provide grounding where needed. Get some more normal sounds and control while still being in something that is very interactive and ‘finger friendly’. It’s just that I could get quite a few little oddball synths for the same price even though all of them together can’t do as much as an Op-1.
This has been driving me crazy for the past few weeks, and I have to make a decision soon.
And to further chronicle my madness, the vote has swung back in favor of the Op-1 + Oplab + Case deal. Hopefully Perfect Circuit processes my trade before I change my mind again.
I’m still a bit skeptical of the Oplab but I hope it has a reasonable future. So many things marked “for future update…” in the guide. I can’t tell if the clock option works on the CV Gate outs. I’d love to have just a trigger pulse that I could feed to modular and/or volca-oids. Or take that stuff as input/output/through…
Got one! With OpLab. Haven’t done anything with the OpLab yet except put it in its fancy case. I’ve done a little with the Op-1. A little underwhelmed by some of the synth engines and sounds but I love how tweakable and playable they are and I’m sure I’ll continue to find ways to make them my own. But the portability alone is a huge win. Portable and tweakable. I have an MPC500 which is not nearly as portable as this, but portable for an MPC. Nice playability when you’re just hitting the pads, but its user interface is a pain.