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Thoughts on the OP-1?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear  
Author Thoughts on the OP-1?
slicetwo
I've been debating an OP-1 for a while now as a portable scratchpad for when I don't feel like going down into my studio. On one hand, having all that synthesis, sampling, and drum machine stuff in a little physical box is unbelievably tempting. On the other hand, I know I won't use it for full tracks and it's inability to easily do MIDI out into my other synths is a bit of a pain without buying a converter. The cost is also high, which makes me wonder if it's something I'll get my money's worth out of. I'm at a point now where I'm really only buying gear that I'll actually use (as opposed to just stuff that might be fun).

Here are my pros and cons from the bit of research that I've done:
PROS:
- multiple awesome synth engines, sampling, drum synthesis
- keyboard
- cool visual feedback
- sampling/recording
- exporting of individual tracks (right?)
- super portable with a built in speaker for when I forget my headphones

CONS:
- battery isn't replaceable
- only 4 tracks
- no midi out without more $$ for a converter
- I've heard the output jack is quite noisey
- expensive
- 12 seconds of sample time means no real vocal scratch recording


Is there anything in the pros/cons that I may be overlooking?

The music I do is all over the place. I know I wouldn't use this to write full songs, but I feel like it'd be great to get ideas out that I can transfer to my DAW/OT later on. I have an Android phone, which has pretty crappy music apps. I don't want an iPhone because I dislike the OS and they're way to $$, but I have considered picking up a used 6S or 7 just for the purpose of having music apps. Maybe that's the way I should go instead?
folpon
PRO: can sound amazing through effects and a guitar amplifier.

Many times someone has asked me "wow, what's that keyboard texture" on some track, and turns out it was just an OP-1 through a big guitar rig and mic'ed with a 57.

If you take the edges off the OP-1 with a nice preamp it can be a great starting point for sculpting a more complicated texture.
Shrigg
Nothing out there compares to the OP-1, and an inexpensive midi host can be found if you hunt. I scored an original version iConnectMIDI for $23 off ebay a few weeks ago.

As far as iOS devices, I'd suggest a current model iPad over an older gen iPhone for about the same expense. I found a 128GB model open box at my local Best Buy for $350 and it is very capable.

Both iOS and OP-1 are good avenues that I think warrant exploring. Some people really gel with the iPad as an instrument, some don't at all. The OP-1 is more universally loved and has updated well over the years through firmware. Even many that sold their OP-1's later say they'd buy another, that says a lot.
Scot Solida
I've had the OP-1 for a few months and I had some of the same reservations - however, after spending time with it, my reservations have all vanished. I really like this little thing (I may in fact be selling mine, but only because I need money in a hurry for something special I am buying - I will certainly be re-buying the OP-1 at the first opportunity, if I do).

slicetwo wrote:

PROS:
- exporting of individual tracks (right?)


Yes, you can do this.

slicetwo wrote:

- super portable with a built in speaker for when I forget my headphones


The built-in speaker is really bad. Very quiet and thin. Don't forget those headphones.

slicetwo wrote:

CONS:
- only 4 tracks


Many users consider this a "PRO" rather than a CON. I am not yet sure I entirely agree - 4-tracks are fine for a bit of retro fun, but I lived through the Portastudio era and am not sure I like facing those limitations again. Still, it's hard to argue with some of the things I've heard people do with the OP-1's four tracks.

slicetwo wrote:
- I've heard the output jack is quite noisey


I think a lot of issues people have had with the output are down to user-error. I haven't had any trouble with it unless I have it connected to a computer via USB - then it's noisy as heck. You can keep it plugged in and switch off USB connection, though, and that helps. me, I just don't keep it connected when in use.

slicetwo wrote:

- 12 seconds of sample time means no real vocal scratch recording


You can record to a tape track instead - that will give you all the space you need for a vocal track - you can then copy bits over to the sampler engines for some fun.
Scot Solida
folpon wrote:


If you take the edges off the OP-1 with a nice preamp it can be a great starting point for sculpting a more complicated texture.


I agree. I generally track the OP-1's through A Chandler TG2 or REDD.47. The OP-1 reacts very well with a good pre.
Madrayken
The *sampler* has a 12 second recording limit.
The *tracks* are not limited like this, although you are limited in the size of any block of audio you want to cut/paste. There's nothing stopping you recording an entire vocal line on one track.

I personally don't really like the raw sound of the synth engines all that much - I think they always need help in post to sound anything but cold.

That said, I've produced a videogame soundtrack that used it extensively, and I'd probably let a lot of my other gear go before my OP-1.

The OP-1 demands creative use. If you treat it 'normally' you'll only get slightly disappointing sounds out of it. Treat it like an OP-1 and you'll never let it go.
slicetwo
Thanks for all the input! Knowing that I can record directly to tape for vocal ideas is fantastic. Can you layer multiple instruments to 1 tape track? So like I could have my drums and bass on different tracks, get them where I like them then comp them to 1 track? Is it safe to assume that I can save and load different projects so I'm not overwriting stuff?

Just these few comments above are moving me towards wanting the unit.
folpon
Scot Solida wrote:
I agree. I generally track the OP-1's through A Chandler TG2 or REDD.47. The OP-1 reacts very well with a good pre.


Redd47 is my go-to as well. Agree with a lot of what is being said here, especially that generally the OP-1 looks simple, but has a lot of potential if you get creative with it as a more general studio tool.

I'll add as a final PRO that you can also put buchla knobs on an op-1

folpon
slicetwo wrote:
Can you layer multiple instruments to 1 tape track? So like I could have my drums and bass on different tracks, get them where I like them then comp them to 1 track?


You can bounce down tracks using the sampler, yes.
Scot Solida
slicetwo wrote:
Thanks for all the input! Knowing that I can record directly to tape for vocal ideas is fantastic. Can you layer multiple instruments to 1 tape track? So like I could have my drums and bass on different tracks, get them where I like them then comp them to 1 track? Is it safe to assume that I can save and load different projects so I'm not overwriting stuff?

Just these few comments above are moving me towards wanting the unit.


You can overdub on and bounce to a single track, yes. Keep in mind that each of the four tracks is mono and there is no undo. Again, to some users, this is a creative feature.

Tape tracks are six minutes. That's it. Yet many people work on multiple projects using only the four tracks by putting stuff on different sections of the tape. It's that creative use of limitations that inspires many users.

For full on projects, though, you'll likely want to move projects back and forth on your computer. I actually find myself backing up to the computer as I go, so that I can re-load individual tracks later.

The synths are a mixed bag. Again, limitations are everywhere and are there by design. You won't find your everyday subtractive synthesis architecture here. I find that any limitation of the synths can be answered with samples. Still, for the most part, I like the way the synths sound - I just don't expect them to sound like anything else. In fact, the main reason I like having an OP-1 isn't for its much-vaunted portability, but for its (very digital) sonic character.
regularjackson
I'll also point out that the battery life on the op-1 is insanely good.
slicetwo
Scot Solida wrote:


For full on projects, though, you'll likely want to move projects back and forth on your computer. I actually find myself backing up to the computer as I go, so that I can re-load individual tracks later.


So it's not like an Elektron device where you can have different projects, it's more like an actual tape machine where everything you do is on the 1 4-track tape machine and if you want to start a new "project" you'll overwrite whatever is currently on there?
Scot Solida
slicetwo wrote:
Scot Solida wrote:


For full on projects, though, you'll likely want to move projects back and forth on your computer. I actually find myself backing up to the computer as I go, so that I can re-load individual tracks later.


So it's not like an Elektron device where you can have different projects, it's more like an actual tape machine where everything you do is on the 1 4-track tape machine and if you want to start a new "project" you'll overwrite whatever is currently on there?


Exactly. And like a tap machine, you can have multiple 'projects' on a single tape. Unlike a tape machine, though, you can lock tape and BPM together, loop a section of tape, and jump instantly to a given bar. In this way, many users will have multiple 'projects' that they can play and manipulate in real time.
slicetwo
Scot Solida wrote:
Exactly. And like a tap machine, you can have multiple 'projects' on a single tape. Unlike a tape machine, though, you can lock tape and BPM together, loop a section of tape, and jump instantly to a given bar. In this way, many users will have multiple 'projects' that they can play and manipulate in real time.


Damn. That's actually a pretty big killer for me. I wonder if I could use the USB OTG cable on my Android phone to back up stuff on the go so I can start fresh. Does the backup just backup the tape machine, or will it also do "project" settings and MIDI stuff?
folpon
slicetwo wrote:
Does the backup just backup the tape machine, or will it also do "project" settings and MIDI stuff?


Just the tape. By "backup" we mean you simply drag the four tracks of the tape off the op-1 (as four wav files) and drop them in a folder on your PC/etc.
Scot Solida
slicetwo wrote:

Damn. That's actually a pretty big killer for me. I wonder if I could use the USB OTG cable on my Android phone to back up stuff on the go so I can start fresh. Does the backup just backup the tape machine, or will it also do "project" settings and MIDI stuff?


Some people do exactly that: http://www.operator-1.com/index.php?p=/discussion/3530/backup-op-1-wit hout-pc

And though you can't back up as a project, complete with all settings, you can backup your synth and sampler patches, all your drum kits, all your tracks and the pair of two-track mixes from the 'Album'.
slicetwo
Scot Solida wrote:

Some people do exactly that: http://www.operator-1.com/index.php?p=/discussion/3530/backup-op-1-wit hout-pc

And though you can't back up as a project, complete with all settings, you can backup your synth and sampler patches, all your drum kits, all your tracks and the pair of two-track mixes from the 'Album'.


Oh excellent. I found that I can do the same with my Octatrack. I guess the only way to back up MIDI patterns would be to live record it into a computer or my phone.
Scot Solida
slicetwo wrote:
Scot Solida wrote:

Some people do exactly that: http://www.operator-1.com/index.php?p=/discussion/3530/backup-op-1-wit hout-pc

And though you can't back up as a project, complete with all settings, you can backup your synth and sampler patches, all your drum kits, all your tracks and the pair of two-track mixes from the 'Album'.


Oh excellent. I found that I can do the same with my Octatrack. I guess the only way to back up MIDI patterns would be to live record it into a computer or my phone.


Like the Octatrtack, the OP-1 shows up as a drive on your computer and you just move stuff to and from it in the same way you do on the Octatrack. Incidentally, the OP-1 and the Octatrack make a great combo. Lots of inspiration to be had from intermingling the two.
Jamnuska
You think the price might have come down a bit (released in 2011) especially if the new one is supposed to be out (OPZ)?
folpon
Jamnuska wrote:
You think the price might have come down a bit (released in 2011) especially if the new one is supposed to be out (OPZ)?


I have two: one I bought for 400, a second I bought for 600. When TE has been out of the news cycle for long enough the secondhand price on local CL can find a pretty low floor.

Also the OP-Z is not a replacement or upgrade for the op-1
Jamnuska
Apologies, I guess I thought it was trying to be one.
Illwiggle
Ive had mine for 5 years or so......love/hate relationship. On one hand, portable, unique production methodology, you can essentially do a "whole" track on it. I love it when Im tired of everything else I have and when I travel. Other than that I never use it. The battery has given me no issues....still works like new. Ive even gone a couple years without touching it.....No problems. Its a bit small & gadgety for me, im used to bigger more rugged gear like mpc's & sp1200.....but like I said, when travelling the OP-1 Rules. I think itd pair very well with the Roland sp-404 as a portable rig
22tape
The OP-1 is fun, and that's the bottom line. Although I wouldn't necessarily praise it for its limitations. Sometimes limitation are just limitations, especially at that price point. 8 tracks would be a nice limitation without feeling stifled. If you use it with another sampler/multitrack/DAW, it's no issue at all. Some really great stuff can be made with it in that context.

One of the bigger annoyances for me, besides the lack of MIDI, basic CV/gate/sync, was that it is so small. When I played with it on my lap, I had to use one hand to slant it towards me to see the screen, which can get tiring, and I didn't really feel like I could jam on it. Laying it flat on the table was okay but I found myself leaning over a lot to see the screen which wasn't ideal. If there was an OP-2, with 16 tracks, MIDI (3.5 jack, even), basic cv/gate/sync, and the size of a Microsampler with a slanted screen. I'd be all over it.

Besides the OP-1 and Microsampler, there seems to be a huge gap in the market for portable synth/sampler/sequencer workstations with KEYS.
mmp
The USB noise issue is caused by creating a ground loop. If you buy an USB isolator, you can get rid of it. Most musical instruments with USB can have the same issue as USB is rarely isolated from the audio ground. MIDI DIN plugs have opto-isolation built in as part of spec.
bobdylan
I lucked out in a trade and got an OP-1 for a decent deal and I can confidently say it's my favourite piece of gear I've ever purchased. Obviously your workflow and what you're looking for will dictate how useful the OP-1 will be in your setup but for me it's just so damn good.

For one I found the sounds to be top quality and super malleable. And it's so intuitive to work with. For one it's tiny, light, portable, and sturdy so I don't mind bringing it around with me (IN THE BAG OF COURSE). This past summer I spent a lot of days sitting in the grass with my OP and making songs that I'd later sample and mangle and make full compositions with.

Also it's a great instrument for acoustic jamming. I play in a band and we have a lot of acoustic guitar and piano songs and with the OP I can immediately jam out ideas with the built in speaker. Yeah the speaker sounds small and tinny but like... it has a tiny speaker in in what would you expect? I find myself using it really often.

Also also as a sequencer it's really powerful too. For one it has my favourite sequencer I've encountered yet - the tombola sequencer. Look it up if you don't know what it is. I used to use it a ton as the main sequencer for my modular until I got a beatstep pro. Yeah the midi converter box is an annoying extra expense but I found one for ~$100 CAD and playing an OP-1 with a full keyboard is a whole new experience. Like the best poly synth on the market imo. Especially for the price (definitely expensive but very worth it in my eyes)

Also also also the battery life is i n s a n e. I did have a problem with it not fully charging so I just left it on the drain and reset the battery and it took about 3 FULL DAYS to go from 40% to 0%. Unparalleled battery life. I rarely have to charge it.

I literally can't even fully explain how much I love my OP-1. It's my desert island instrument for sure.

Can you tell I love the Op-1???
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