Esem/Eesn

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Hype is unsustainable

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By now I've spent considerable time with the OP-1. Not merely playing with it and altering my workflow to fit its quirks, but critically thinking about what it does, what it doesn't.

I posted my impressions on the fantastic Lines forum, and so I wouldn't want to repeat that, but, after another jam with it yesterday, I think I've pinpointed my main problem with the OP-1.

Unkept promises

The OP-1 is big on promise. A great display, many tactile controls, clever workflow. It's practically a computer, with a very sensible 4-track recorder, sequencers, off-kilter synths, radio, microphone, all thrown in.

But here's the thing. Music of the kind I do is way much more complicated than additively repeating 1- or 2-bar patterns of 16-step drums and simple chords. The OP1 sets out to free me to experiment and explore, and then quickly comes down crashing, to a glorified mono looper that can't even loop without clicking, doesn't count-in, can't overdub one snippet onto another without rerecording, can't metronome in 5/4, has terrible USB problems, significant MIDI issues, and somewhat sloppy timing, so it won't play nice with other toys around it.

This is important groundwork for a musical workstation gone ignored, not a bunch of quality-of-sound gripes.

Design that overlooks these is vain.

I'm ready to accept all these limitations if they weren't to do with its software (inherently fixable and infinitely flexible); if the OP-1 didn't promise and attempt to do so much, and fail so miserably. If it didn't get in my way. If the "yes, and" promise, didn't materialise to a "but, no" workflow.

If Teenage Engineering wanted to make a Casio VL-1 for the 2000s, they should have owned that brief, narrow the scope, keep it simple, price it appropriately. Definitely not get Jean-Michel Jarre to endorse it among ARPs and Moogs of time-tested fame.

Instead, inside is a strained Blackfin DSP chip that runs buggy code, sounds pretty thin, and its SDK is so expensive the open-source community's hands are tied.

Will I sell mine? Therein hides the cruelty. I want to use it, not part with it.

Dear Teenage Engineering

Fix the basics of your flagship product. The level of engineering in it is somewhat underaged. It's an inspiring little synth about which we, the community, keep highlighting the problems of, and you - the maker - keep postponing the solutions. Stop making a toy out of it.

The $50 Korg Monotron Delay meets its brief better.

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