Wednesday, January 09, 2013

“OP-1 Is What It Is”

I don’t have much for today, but I have a little post that is very interesting to me. This is something that has given me a lot of thought over the last few days.

I’m going to talk about that little Teenage Engineering music workstation again, the OP-1. I still haven’t bought one, but I’m still very interested in it.

A few days ago I read, somewhere, that some people have discovered some glitches with the OP-1. So I looked around the net and found an “unofficial” site dedicated to the OP-1, unofficial OP-1 forums. Looking around there, I discovered that some people find the headphone output of the device to be unacceptably noisy for a very expensive piece of digital equipment. Since CD players have come out, most everybody expects audio now to be almost always something near perfect.

In the course of reading through one of the threads at that site, I saw this very succinct comment replying to the complaint about noise on the headphone out:

“This is what an OP-1 is. What does it
sound like? It sounds like an OP-1.
If you don't like what you got
return it. OP-1 is what it is. Lots
of people love it.”

It’s hard for me to describe how much time I’ve spent thinking about this comment.

First of all, my initial reaction to a noisy digital device is to simply dismiss the device. It’s the twenty-first century. Audio engineers can design very clean circuits these days. It’s almost inconceivable any company would charge almost a thousand dollars for a device that doesn’t have clean outputs.

But then I read that little comment simply observing that the OP-1 sounds like an OP-1.

Now I don’t really know what to think.

I’ve posted about some other modern music tools. I’ve talked about the Dave Smith Tempest, and I’ve talked about the Korg Kaossilator.

The Scarf Would Be Like Dancing

A Cool Kaossilator 2 Tip

And I’ve mentioned, at least, very cool powerful small synthesizers like the Virus and Gaia.

“The Piano Singing Back To You”

One of the thing I’ve noticed about these machines/instruments is that they are very machine-like. I know that sounds like tautology, but what I mean is that musical instruments have historically been very human-centric devices. They’re designed to be held. In fact they’re designed to be held very close. And performers often, poetically and perhaps otherwise, sometimes speak of becoming one with their instrument.

A lot of modern “instruments”—synthesizers and so-called controllers (controllers are devices designed to interface to a computer and control a digital audio workstation software package or other virtual instrument: The Orchestra As A Mythical Creature)—seem to be machines designed simply as machines. There is very little thought given to designing and constructing them as devices that a person would want to hold and, too, even, want to hold close.

The Teenage Engineering OP-1 is very unique in that of all the synthesizers and workstations I’ve looked at over the last few years, the OP-1 is the only machine that even attempts to have a “personality.” Both the hardware and the software have elements that are colorful and anthropomorphic and respect both the complexity of the task they’re performing and the humanity of the performer trying to accomplish some musical task.

For instance, the OP-1 is the only machine I can think of where so many of the music videos people create feature close-ups of the machine’s display, simply because the machine’s display isn’t only functional, it is also fun. For instance, watch and listen to the video at this link which includes many images of the display captured while the music is playing.

So this is a real interesting topic for me.

I’ve heard many demos of the OP-1 and I’ve never noticed any noise from the line out signal. If it is there, it is not offensively high to me. However a lot of people have noticed noise on the headphone output.

Even after thinking about this for a few days I can’t come to any conclusion about it.

Do I regard this as bad engineering?

Do I regard this as an interesting device with a personality of its own?

I don’t know.

But, to tell the truth, it makes me smile just thinking about a consumer product that is interesting enough to raise an issue as thought-provoking as this.

Someday I’m going to buy one of these. I know it. But not yet.

But it’s a lot of fun thinking about it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Beautiful Queen Of All The World’s Gadgets

Mindstorms And Music And One Smart Brick

Secret Gadgets And Gadget Secrets

No comments: