Teenage Engineering's New OP-1 Field Updates a 10-Year-Old Classic

Just don’t mention that price

  • The OP-1 Field is a hi-fi, modern take on the Swedish classic. 
  • It costs $2,000. (Yes, you read that right.) 
  • Teenage Engineering hasn’t messed with the original design. They just made it better.
The Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field.

Teenage Engineering

Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 is a stone-cold classic, a quirky, lo-fi sampler and synthesizer beloved by owners. And, after ten years at the top, it finally has a successor. 

The new OP-1 Field tweaks almost every part of the original, including its already-high price, and yet at the same time changes almost nothing. The update will keep the OP-1 going for at least another 10 years, and that’s because the mojo is in the design and UI, which will never age. 

"I’ve always felt that the OP-1 is one of the most inspiring music gadgets while also being one of the worst sounding, and for whatever reason, I am happy with that," electronic musician and OG OP-1 fan Bemo said in a forum thread participated in my Lifewire. "I love the OP-1, but more as a piece of art to inspire than a quality sounding instrument."


First, let’s see why the original OP-1 is so revered. Its features are pedestrian, if comprehensive. It has a sampler, several weird synthesizers, a handful of even weirder audio effects, and an FM radio (yes, the kind for listening to radio stations). And a virtual four-track tape recorder. But the magic is in the way this is all put together.

Teenage Engineering’s genius is its UI design, and the OP-1 demonstrates this over and over. Each of these features interacts with the others yet never seems complex. Quote the opposite. It is always utterly intuitive. 

For example, to record a sample via the built-in microphone, you hit the mic button to switch on the mic (or the radio, or the USB input, whichever you have already selected), then you press a key on the built-in keyboard. Hold it down to keep recording. If you hold down the C key, it assumes the sound was pitched at C, and so on. 

You can record anything you do to the tape, but you can also lift an audio clip from the tape and drop it into a sampler. You can play the tape in reverse, but if you do this while you’re recording, you also record in reverse. You can also record from the radio or set an audio effect controlled by the built-in gyroscope. Or modulate an effect by tapping your finger on the mic. 

In short, it’s utterly nuts, and at the same time, many owners consider it to be an inspiration machine. It doesn't hurt that the battery seems to last all week, that the unit can be used standalone, and that TE spent the last decade adding new features via software updates. 

So why did TE make a new one?

The Same, Only More

The quirkiness of the original OP-1 comes from its low-fi nature. Everything is in mono (although you can pan sounds to the left and right), and the effects all suffer (or celebrate) background noise, glitches, and a general old-school vibe. And connection-wise, the OP-1 is best used alone. It has MIDI and a recent update (ten years after launch) added USB audio, but they’re limited and quirky. 

Closeup on the OP-1 Field from Teenage Engineering.

Teenage Engineering

The OP-1 Field, which along with TE’s new TX-6 mixer, makes up the beginnings of a new "Field" product range, is the OP-1 refined. Everything is stereo, and recordings and internal audio are handled in 32 bits, which means it can handle anything, quality-wise. It also lets you connect a USB audio interface directly, which is something almost no music boxes do—you usually need a computer for that. It adds Bluetooth, and it can now send and receive FM radio. And it adds Velcro donuts (never change, OP-1! Never change.) and a passive bass speaker on the back. 

But the best new feature is that it hasn’t changed much. The button layout and functionality are the same. TE didn’t mess with the best. 

Not everyone is happy, though. The €2,000/$2,000 asking price is causing arguments all over the electronic music forums, and some fear that the OP-1’s soul may be lost now that it doesn’t sound so bad. 

"I wonder, though, without Bon Iver [a heavy supporter of the OP-1] on the scene and with so much competition, is there room for 'another' OP-1? The original is a modern classic, I very much doubt this will be," says electronic musician Sevenape on the Audiobus forum

I disagree. I think this will be every bit as popular as the original, and may even replace a computer for some musicians.

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