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Teenage Engineering’s ‘Field’ products are testing customer loyalty

A decade ago, Teenage Engineering made a splash with the quirky, boutique OP-1 synthesizer. The b-word gets quotes because the OP-1 would continue to be always a huge hit, enjoying a 10 year run and many re-stocks on the way. The success of the OP-1 and the equally unique products that followed saw big brands lining around collaborate in the hope that a few of that design magic might do wonders because of their own products. Today, Teenage Engineerings unique style are available in from adorable gaming consoles to living spaces and pant pockets around the world.

Back within 2022, the business recently unveiled the sequel to the synth that started everything – and its own called the OP-1 Field ($1,999). The brand new Field line also contains the TX-6 mixer ($1,199) also it looks like the business is repositioning itself with a fresh design aesthetic and cost range. Teenage Engineering has always charged reduced because of its genre-bending, playful design but considering that the initial OP-1 cost around $800 at launch and that the OP-1 Field is basically predicated on it, its understandable that some loyal fans are feeling just a little priced out these times.

Possibly the bigger question is, will the brand new Field series offer enough magical music dust and Nordic design delight, never to only justify the trouble, but to also keep Teenage Engineerings unique method of making music highly relevant to new and existing artists alike?

@Random Mcranderson (YouTube) – I believe what TE missed may be the overall negative influence on their reputation it has had.

Introducing the TX-6 and OP-1 Field

Before we are able to try to understand Field and what this means for the business, we have to probably get yourself a feel for the most recent two products which are dividing fans in comments sections and on forums. Well focus on the TX-6 as thats a completely new product for Teenage Engineering.

In probably the most simple terms, the TX-6 is really a tiny battery-powered mixer and audio interface. Despite its diminutive size it has six stereo inputs, an integral synth, eight effects, DJ mode, a musical instrument tuner and wireless/Bluetooth MIDI control. For something as portable as a deck of cards, thats quite impressive. The TX-6 could possibly be your primary desktop audio interface by day and the beating heart of one’s hyper-portable (or not) multi-synth studio by night.

Teenage Engineering's Op-1 Field and TX-6 mixer.

James Trew / Engadget

Unsurprisingly its particularly perfect for connecting and mixing smaller studio gear. Not merely Teenage Engineerings own products, but Korgs Volca range or Rolands many compact synths and drum machines may also be an excellent fit. Ultimately, whatever you can wrangle right into a 3.5mm line-level output is fair game here. Anything with either an XLR connection or that will require phantom power will probably be a challenge needless to say. For outputs you can find: main, aux and “cue (for DJ mode).

@Pretty.mess (Gear Space) EASILY had enough money to get one of these brilliant, I’d probably buy another thing. But I really do love TE and the built-in sequencer and synth looks interesting.

As is frequently the case with Teenage Engineering products, there are several features that certain may not normally expect. On the TX-6 that might be the synth engine which includes drums sounds. With out a MIDI controller you cant play it chromatically, but its unusual to see creative tools such as this generally in most mixers and a method to poke out ideas directly on these devices. The inclusion of Bluetooth MIDI really feels commensurate with the portable form factor and a recently available firmware update allowed for recording the mixers output right to USB drives, therefore you can lay out tracks without even needing a phone to record into. One might argue some internal storage might have been included for the purchase price, but we presume the density of the hardware doesnt enable it (hopefully).

The OP-1 Field, however, is quite clearly a successor to the decade-old OP-1. The launch was sold because the new synth being 100 times better with a summary of 100 new features or improvements. In practical terms, the primary upgrades appear to be much improved on-board storage, new tape modes (more with this later), full stereo signal chain, a fresh synth engine, a fresh reverb effect, a better display, longer battery life and 32-bit float recording.

@Tarekith (OP-Forums) not everything must be aimed at the low end of the marketplace. It is a massive update for an already very capable instrument.

With the Field, the OP-1 has been refreshed to create it current following a decade of user feedback. Which includes squashing some long-held limitations of the initial. Most notably, the opportunity to focus on multiple projects on these devices minus the hassle of backing them up to PC. Yep, the initial OP-1 only had the opportunity to record one song (or even more accurately, one “tape”) at the same time. Another big one, particularly for the synth and drum engines, may be the introduction of stereo.

Showing this off, theres a fresh synth engine called Dimension. It joins another 10 which were on the initial (which already covered most bases). Dimension is really a subtractive/analog-style synth with a variable waveform (it gradually changes from various pulse styles through sawtooth and noise).In addition, it includes a chorus feature for a fuller stereo sound. It can a fairly good job of replicating more analog style sounds along with lush pads and also some horns and wind instruments.

With a wide variety of synth engines youre not lacking choice, however the OP-1 may also be regarded as having a significant colder, digital sound. That is true to a qualification, but much like most things with this synth you can find creative methods for getting around that should you know where you can look.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field synthesizer.

James Trew / Engadget

Rather than there as an internal sequencer, Teenage Engineering made a decision to imitate recording to tape on the OP-1, with just four tracks, including a physical time limitation of six minutes for every track. The analogy is taken seriously without undo or copy/paste instead you lift tape and you will drop it back elsewhere. You can find modern concessions in order that its not only about making life needlessly hard instead it is a very different method of making music that urges one to build songs in a manner that most softwares infinite options and endless tracks ironically doesnt.

But its precisely this unusual approach, anachronisms like tape and imitating physical limitations in an electronic environment that arguably makes Teenage Engineering products stick out. Most electronic music production nowadays likely happens in software on laptops. As computers became powerful enough to mimic outboard gear, usually the only hardware you may see producers using was a MIDI controller for playing software instruments with. Within the last decade, at the very least, theres been a reliable re-emergence of hardware at the biggest market of the workflow. But most dont employ this type of restrictive workflow because the OP-1.

@ellisedwardsx (Reddit) Think it’s great. Everything cool about Op-1 if you ask me but without the things I didnt like. I really like the brand new additions.

It favors people with playing skills YouTuber and OP-1 expert Cuckoo told Engadget discussing the OP-1s live tape recording approach. Like if you wish to be incredibly immediate, and you also appreciate that, then it’s for you personally, he added.

Cuckoo, like many fans of Teenage Engineering, sees having less things such as a MIDI sequencer or the capability to add and remove effects at any stage in the creation process as a very important thing. An average DAW enables you to move single notes around or change just about anything anytime which feels more useful (and its own how most modern production tools work). The OP-1, for instance, is a many more committal. Once that idea is recorded to tape, youre limited in what can be achieved with it. But also for some, thats why is it so exciting. All you do nudges you forward in the song-making process or, at the minimum, avoids you jamming away a long time as you trawl through VST presets normally happens in something similar to Ableton Live.

Teenage Engineering, they’re excellent at minimizing your alternatives, and in a great way. Like on some type of computer, everything can be done. But because everything can be done, it isn’t like one optimized workflow. You should discover that workflow on your own. & most people probably don’t create like, a good workflow. Cuckoo said.

While this alternative method of working has its fans, it could almost feel just like learning a fresh language if youre used to a far more conventional DAW+MIDI situation. This tends to mean, in the beginning at the very least, youll probably spend just as much time googling for answers as you do actually creating. In a short time though, youll start noticing the exciting actions you can take your faithful old DAW may do not have put in your brain (even though its something it can do).

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field shown close up.

James Trew / Engadget

Take the built-in Radio on the OP-1, for instance, as Cuckoo illustrates. Sometimes I am performing having an OP-1, and been sampling from the Radio, chopping up a [drum] kit, creating a song, making an improvisation in like, maybe seven minutes roughly? Creating a song predicated on sampling the air within 10 minutes isn’t something most gear inspires one to do.

Most dont have an Radio to be fair.

You may also use that radio in other, weird creative ways. You could utilize it to modulate an LFO, for instance (therefore the song on the air is controlling a filter or other parameter). Or it is possible to create synth sounds utilizing a random FM sample looped and twisted in creative ways. You may also broadcast over FM (albeit incredibly short distances), which works perfectly with Teenage Engineerings OB-4 speaker, which also offers an FM receiver.

@finc (Reddit) But exactly what is a tiny low powered FM transmitter for?

That is really where Teenage Engineering excels: adding playful touches that open creative opportunities you will possibly not find elsewhere. Combined with the Radio, the OP-1 Field includes a gyroscope that may also be utilized as a modulator, that makes it exciting for live performances.

Even though MIDI Bluetooth LE is now more common, it creates so much sense in the portable form-factor of both TX-6 and the OP-1 Field. Utilizing the TX-6 wirelessly with the OP-1 Field was an easy task to setup and felt very natural. Actually they both play nice with iOS natively too, if you have a suite of mobile apps you love using already, it is possible to carve out a significant capable mobile studio with an excellent mixture of hardware and software alike.

Utilizing the OP-1 Field alongside the TX-6 does feel decadent. The 3.5mm inputs on the mixer naturally enables you to think twice in what you may plug involved with it. I could plug a full-size synth involved with it, or maybe something similar to the MPC Live II, but this might also be considered a bit bizarre. A comparatively comprehensive mixer it may be, but its size begs one to, well, go on it outside we suppose?

I believe Field leads my mind to take into account field recordings also to be out in the field, work outside the office music that’s portable. And I believe it is rather obvious particularly if you consider the TX-6 mixer […] this thing is indeed incredibly smartly designed. And it’s really hard to convince individuals who get angry if they see the price that how incredibly well engineered it really is. Cuckoo said.

@Brokener Than (YouTube) The non-public aspect of purchasing the OP-1 and everything you escape it really is the only real justification you should overpay for a musical instrument.

But if portability may be the key behind the Field moniker, Teenage Engineering must convince visitors to part with thousands whenever there are apps and even mixers that may combine to accomplish something similar for a fraction of the purchase price.

Many people say, well, that can be done all this with Ableton Live and some type of computer that costs half the purchase price! But it isn’t the idea. It’s, I believe, if the effect is all that counts, the finish product that can be done lots of stuff having an iPad, plus some apps are free even. The effect isn’t everything, its also mastering a tool. Like, playing this live is really a joy. Cuckoo said.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field and TX-6

James Trew / Engadget

Have a look around on YouTube at who’s actually utilizing the OP-1 or the TX-6. In the event that you look (and listen) long enough youll maybe begin to see that there’s maybe always been a large part of the music making world that doesnt feel aware of the pads of an MPC, or the endless expandability of Ableton Live. An organization that doesnt need to get pulled in to the world of modular synthesis or circuit bending. Some people that have a fondness for alternative methods but having an appreciation for well-designed hardware. Provided that they will have the means.

Its hard never to get sucked in to the OP-1 Field. Personally, i struggled with the workflow initially, but I think it is curious. Something informs me that when I stay with it and break my old MIDI/DAW habits, great rewards await. The TX-6 mixer however is really a harder sell while still somehow incredibly appealing. Particularly if you’re already flush with portable gear, it creates much more sense. Possibly the important question is: What’s next in the Field series. An OP-Z Field? Some high-end Pocket Operators? Something very different? Whatever it really is, it may be the companys most important device yet, or what ultimately alienates the companys loyal group of fans.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. A few of our stories include affiliate links. In the event that you buy something through one of these brilliant links, we might earn a joint venture partner commission.

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