Even though there are a lot of available sequencers and synthesizers in the market, Teenage Engineering OP-Z is something that caught our eye (how could it not? It’s beautiful). Here is our Teenage Engineering OP-Z review – a product from one of the most innovative synth makers to hit the market in recent times. For an aspiring musician, music producer, DJ, a synthesizer is a must-have and must-know, so let’s start!
Synthesizers vs Sequencers
We should start by explaining the differences between synthesizers and sequencers.
Synthesizers are commonly known as electronic keyboards that can produce or copy various sound from real pianos, trumpets, drums, etc, and can even make new sounds. It can mimic the sound of any traditional instrument you can think of! It is a collection of sounds and “modules” that will let the users connect them in infinite ways. Some of these modules can even make sounds and tunes that are usually impossible to be made by people; which in turn expands that sounds and tunes musicians, composers, and audio technicians can use and make.
We can think of synthesizers as a gadget that can make “old” sounds become new and new sounds become unique. Basically, synthesize means to create something new from manipulating existing ones.
Synthesizers vs Keyboards
Some keyboards come with a synthesizer, some don’t (and vice versa). Devices that have both a synthesizer and keyboard are either called either synthesizer or keyboard (confused yet?). It will all depend on what the manufacturer wants to emphasize for their product.
A sequencer is a software or hardware device designed to record, edit and process the data – sound, tune, music, etc – and play it back in sequence or in any order. And today it is considered as one of the most important pieces of equipment used in the recording industry or in any home music studios.
There are two main types of sequencers
- Hardware Sequencer – These type of sequencers are easy-to-use and move around. Can be used in both in your home music studios and/or live performances. Some examples of this are MIDI controllers.
- Software Sequencer – These type of sequencers are used to process data using computers. They are known to give more control compared to hardware, over the user giving a lot of different settings, levels, and parameters. A common example of this is DAW software like Reaper.
Teenage Engineering OP-Z
Teenage Engineering is known to build complex but very versatile and portable music gear and OP-Z is no different. And they ooze cool. So, let’s look deeper into the OP-Z and its features.
We should check this video first before we talk about specs and features of Teenage Engineering OP-Z. It is made by Andrew Huang showing the basics of using this very portable sequencer.
Pros and Cons
Teenage Engineering OP-Z is a portable standalone device or can be paired with an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth.
The iOS OP-Z app from apple store proved the system’s display with various sound editors, project management tools, MIDI configurations, photo/3D video hubs, and more! By using the app, you can also use your device’s camera to take photos and arrange them. This will also allow you to create custom graphics, patterns, color pallet, stop motion videos, artwork, or photos in your iOS device or Dropbox folder.
OP-Z does sequence notes, lights, visuals, and even motion automation. Also, it comes with 8 synthesis engines, 16 category packs each with 24 samples. There are 14 different types of Step Components with 10 values each.
It comes with more than 9 different drum samplers and built-in synths. Whether you are looking for the traditional synths or drum machine sounds, you will find them here. But the samplers and synths might not be the most versatile. Also, the actual sampler instrument/synth engines are kind of basic as well.
You will only get a few controls in editing your sound, a high and low pass filter, ADSR, and a single LFO.
A host of built-in virtual instruments samplers and synths and the choice to add your own sound, beats, and tunes in the mix are included in this device.
You might need a certain level of mastery when using this hardware. But there is a huge chance that you will be impressed with the wide variety of notes, parameter changes, re-trigs, 3D graphics, and much more that you can use! Also, it comes with a usefulmanual, so if you have enough patience, this manual might be able to help you get started.
Teenage Engineering OP-Z vs OP-1
The biggest difference between OP-Z and OP-1 is the lack of a screen. OP-1 has a screen with good graphics. With OP-Z, you will need an iOS device to connect it and have a screen. Which might be a liability if you do not have an iOS phone or iPad.
When it comes to portability, OP-Z has a more compact design compared to OP-1. Also, when it comes to weight, OP-1 is heavier compared to OP-Z.
Battery life wise, OP-Z claims to have up to 6hrs of battery life while OP-1 is up to 16hrs. Which can be very handy when you are on the go.
When it comes to the build, OP-Z is made from composite plastic with a replaceable battery. While the OP-1 is made from metal which is more durable compared to plastic. OP-Z is more economical but OP-1 is built to last. But this is only based on the materials used for these 2.
For a more in-depth comparison of these two models from Teenage Engineering you can check out this very detailed review/comparison by Ollie Loops. It is a short video but very educational. Enjoy!
Competitors of Teenage Engineering OP-Z
Here are a few more devices worth checking just like Teenage Engineering OP-Z.
For the price of the Korg SQ-1, you will get a lot of features and it is also made from sturdy metal which is very durable.
It is a more modern version of SQ-10. SQ-1 offers a large collection of I/O, a wide array of synthesizer modes, and puts 2×8 steps in a very compact package.
SQ-1 is actually created to go with Korg MS-20 but SQ-1 will still be great for any vintage analog synthesizers. Also, it will be great with any MIDI keyboards. But there is only one MIDI output minijack. So, the input can only come from your computer. Also, you can only receive MIDI clock over USB, but don’t expect a lot because it’s limited.
Just a little reminder, it is a little box and with limited controls. There is a 50:50 chance that some things you like to do might be not available in Korg SQ-1.
The Behringer Neutron features 2 oscillators which have a similar set of controls and generates 5 different wave shapes. The Range button will let you switch in 3 different octaves. While Tune control provides +/-1 octave of adjustment.
Sine, Triangle, Sawtooth, Square, and an additional one called Tone Mod will let you dial some additional sonics. With these, you can use Width control which lets you adjust and do some kind of wave-shaping circuit. While the Shape control allows you to smooth transition between adjacent wave shapes. Also, you can add an external audio source as well via plugging it into the rear panel audio input.
Neutron’s 56 point patch bay will give you the flexibility just like many fully modular synthesizers.
But small amounts of resonance are pushed in the filter into saturation territory. This is not a huge deal but it is something worth mentioning.
Moog Mother-32 semi-modular has a massive analog tone from fat wooly to sharp and metallic. You can route almost all of its modulation sources via mini-toggle switches, giving you access to impressive sound design power. With its32-point patchbay, you can easily connect other Eurorack modules to make complex and great synthesizer.
The LFO offers square and triangle wave shapes that can reach a wide audio range for more creative effects. Mother-32 lets you generate a lot of sounds to sustain leads and evolving sounds. You can also choose from lowpass to highpass modes. Also, the filter can be manipulated via LFo, envelop, or external CV control.
Mother-32 has 2 sequence modes, KB and Step. Step lets you program noted manually. While KB allows you to play noted directly from the keyboard. You can combine the 2 modes to edit and play on patterns to show your creativity.
Teenage Engineering OP-Z combines high functionality with a special kind of cool.
Having said that, it takes a lot of time and practice to use this device. It is not for beginners but it can be the one for you if you are looking for a great synthesizer and sequencer and are willing to learn. Just bear in mind that it can be complicated and if you are just looking for a simple one, this might not be the one for you.
But, the OP-Z is a great and amazing sequencer and synthesizer which can help you produce great sound, music, and tunes. Creativity, experimenting, and practice are the key to make great sounds and these things should also be in you when using this device.
Overall, OP-Z is a very well thought in term of the hardware and its app. It will let you use a lot of layers like mic options, visual sequencing extras, motion sensors, and also, OP-Z is expandable, with Oplab CV expander. Which is great for pros.