Teenage Engineering’s newest ‘Area’ merchandise are testing buyer loyalty

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

Ten years in the past, Teenage Engineering made a splash with the quirky, “boutique” OP-1 synthesizer. The b-word will get quotes as a result of the OP-1 would go on to be an enormous hit, having fun with a ten yr run and a number of other re-stocks alongside the way in which. The success of the OP-1 and the equally distinctive merchandise that adopted noticed huge manufacturers lining as much as collaborate within the hope that a few of that design magic would possibly do wonders for their very own merchandise. Immediately, Teenage Engineering’s distinctive model may be present in all the pieces from lovable gaming consoles to dwelling rooms and pant pockets throughout the globe.

Again right here in 2022, the corporate just lately unveiled the sequel to the synth that began all of it – and it’s known as the OP-1 Area ($1,999). The brand new “Area” line additionally contains the TX-6 mixer ($1,199) and it appears to be like like the corporate is repositioning itself with a brand new design aesthetic and… worth vary. Teenage Engineering has all the time charged a premium for its genre-bending, playful design however on condition that the unique OP-1 value round $800 at launch and that the OP-1 Area is essentially based mostly on it, it’s comprehensible that some loyal followers are feeling a little bit… priced out this time round.


Maybe the larger query is, will the brand new Area collection supply sufficient magical music mud and Nordic design delight, to not solely justify the expense, however to additionally maintain Teenage Engineering’s distinctive strategy to creating music related to new and present artists alike?

@Random Mcranderson (YouTube) – I feel what TE missed is the general unfavorable impact on their fame this has had.

Introducing the TX-6 and OP-1 Area

Earlier than we will try to perceive “Area” and what it means for the corporate, we must always in all probability get a really feel for the newest two merchandise which are dividing followers in feedback sections and on boards. We’ll begin with the TX-6 as that’s a completely new product for Teenage Engineering.

In the most straightforward phrases, the TX-6 is a tiny battery-powered mixer and audio interface. Regardless of its diminutive dimension it has six stereo inputs, a built-in synth, eight results, “DJ mode”, an instrument tuner and wi-fi/Bluetooth MIDI management. For one thing as moveable as a deck of playing cards, that’s fairly spectacular. The TX-6 may very well be your important desktop audio interface by day and the beating coronary heart of your hyper-portable (or not) multi-synth studio by evening.

James Trew / Engadget

Unsurprisingly it’s significantly properly fitted to connecting and mixing smaller studio gear. Not solely Teenage Engineering’s personal merchandise, however Korg’s Volca vary or Roland’s many compact synths and drum machines are additionally an excellent match. In the end, something you’ll be able to wrangle right into a 3.5mm line-level output is truthful recreation right here. Something with both an XLR connection or that requires phantom energy goes to be a problem in fact. For outputs there are: important, aux and “cue” (for DJ mode).

@Fairly.mess (Gear Area) If I had sufficient money to purchase certainly one of these, I’d in all probability purchase one thing else. However I do love TE and the in-built sequencer and synth appears to be like attention-grabbing.

As is usually the case with Teenage Engineering merchandise, there are some options that one won’t usually count on. On the TX-6 that will be the synth engine that features drums sounds. With no MIDI controller you’ll be able to’t play it chromatically, however it’s uncommon to see creative tools like this in most mixers and provides a way to poke out ideas proper on the system. The inclusion of Bluetooth MIDI actually feels in step with the moveable type issue and a latest firmware replace allowed for recording the mixer’s output on to USB drives, which suggests you’ll be able to lay down tracks with out even needing a phone to file into. One would possibly argue some inside storage might have been included for the worth, however we presume the density of the {hardware} doesn’t enable for it (we hope).

The OP-1 Area, alternatively, could be very clearly a successor to the decade-old OP-1. The launch was bought as the brand new synth being “100 instances” higher with a listing of 100 new options or enhancements. In sensible phrases, the primary upgrades appear to be a lot improved on-board storage, new “tape” modes (extra on this later), full stereo sign chain, a brand new synth engine, a brand new reverb impact, an improved show, longer battery life and 32-bit float recording.

@Tarekith (OP-Boards) not all the pieces needs to be aimed at the lower end of the market. This can be a huge replace for an already very succesful instrument.

With the Area, the OP-1 has been refreshed to deliver it updated after a decade of person suggestions. And this contains squashing some long-held limitations of the unique. Most notably, the power to work on a number of tasks on the system with out the trouble of backing them as much as a PC. Yep, the unique OP-1 solely had the power to file one music (or extra precisely, one “tape”) at a time. One other huge one, significantly for the synth and drum engines, is the introduction of stereo.

To indicate this off, there’s a brand new synth engine known as “Dimension.” It joins the opposite 10 that had been on the unique (which already lined most bases). Dimension is a subtractive/analog-style synth with a variable waveform (it progressively adjustments from numerous pulse kinds by means of sawtooth after which noise).It additionally has a refrain function for a fuller stereo sound. It does a fairly good job of replicating extra analog model sounds in addition to lush pads and even some horns and wind devices.

With so many various synth engines you’re not wanting alternative, however the OP-1 is typically thought-about as having fairly a colder, digital sound. That is true to a level, however – as with most issues on this synth – there are artistic methods to get round that if you recognize the place to look.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field synthesizer.
James Trew / Engadget

As an alternative of there being an inside sequencer, Teenage Engineering determined to mimic recording to tape on the OP-1, with simply 4 tracks, together with a bodily time limitation of six minutes for every monitor. The analogy is taken critically with no “undo” or “copy/paste” as an alternative you “elevate” tape and you’ll drop it again elsewhere. There are trendy concessions in order that it’s not nearly making life needlessly laborious – as an alternative it’s a really completely different method of constructing music that urges you to construct songs in a method that the majority software program’s infinite choices and countless tracks sarcastically doesn’t.

Nevertheless it’s exactly this uncommon strategy, anachronisms like “tape” and imitating bodily limitations in a digital surroundings that arguably makes Teenage Engineering merchandise stand out. Most digital music manufacturing today seemingly occurs in software program on laptops. As computer systems grew to become highly effective sufficient to imitate outboard gear, typically the one {hardware} you would possibly see producers utilizing was a MIDI controller for taking part in software program devices with. Within the final decade, not less than, there’s been a gentle re-emergence of {hardware} on the middle of the workflow. However most don’t make use of such a restrictive workflow because the OP-1.

@ellisedwardsx (Reddit) Find it irresistible. All the things cool about Op-1 to me however minus the issues I didn’t like. I really like the brand new additions.

“It favors people who have taking part in abilities” YouTuber and OP-1 professional Cuckoo instructed Engadget referring to the OP-1’s reside tape recording strategy. “Like if you wish to be extremely rapid, and also you recognize that, then it’s for you,” he added.

Cuckoo, like many followers of Teenage Engineering, sees the shortage of issues like a MIDI sequencer or the power so as to add and take away results at any stage within the creation course of as an excellent factor. A typical DAW permits you to transfer single notes round or change nearly something at any time which “feels” extra helpful (and it’s how most trendy manufacturing instruments work). The OP-1, for instance, is simply much more committal. As soon as that concept is recorded to tape, you’re restricted in what may be carried out with it. However for some, that’s what makes it so thrilling. All the things you do nudges you ahead within the song-making course of or, on the very least, avoids you jamming away a number of hours as you trawl by means of VST presets as typically occurs in one thing like Ableton Dwell.

“Teenage Engineering, they’re excellent at minimizing your choices, and in a great way. Like on a pc, all the pieces is feasible. However as a result of all the pieces is feasible, it’s not like one optimized workflow. It’s essential discover that workflow for your self. And most of the people in all probability don’t create like, a good workflow.” Cuckoo stated.

Whereas this various method of working does have its followers, it may nearly really feel like studying a brand new language if you happen to’re used to a extra standard DAW+MIDI state of affairs. It will seemingly imply, initially not less than, you’ll nearly definitely spend as a lot time googling for solutions as you do truly creating. Earlier than lengthy although, you’ll begin noticing the thrilling issues you are able to do that your trustworthy previous DAW might by no means have put in your thoughts (even when it’s one thing it can do).

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field shown close up.
James Trew / Engadget

Take the built-in FM radio on the OP-1, for instance, as Cuckoo illustrates. “Generally I’ve been performing with an OP-1, and been sampling from the FM radio, chopping up a [drum] package, singing, making an improvisation in like, perhaps seven minutes or so?” Singing based mostly on sampling the radio in below 10 minutes is just not one thing most gear conjures up you to do.

Most don’t have an FM radio to be truthful.

It’s also possible to use that radio in different, bizarre artistic methods. You might use it to modulate an LFO, for instance (so the music on the radio is controlling a filter or different parameter). Or you’ll be able to create synth sounds utilizing a random FM pattern looped and twisted in artistic methods. It’s also possible to broadcast over FM (albeit extremely brief distances), which works completely with Teenage Engineering’s OB-4 speaker, which additionally has an FM receiver.

@finc (Reddit) However what’s a tiny low powered FM transmitter for?

That is actually the place Teenage Engineering excels: including playful touches that open artistic alternatives you won’t discover elsewhere. Together with the FM radio, the OP-1 Area has a gyroscope that may also be used as a modulator, which makes it thrilling for reside performances.

And whereas MIDI Bluetooth LE is changing into extra frequent, it makes a lot sense within the moveable form-factor of each the TX-6 and the OP-1 Area. Utilizing the TX-6 wirelessly with the OP-1 Area was straightforward to setup and felt very pure. In reality they each play good with iOS natively too, so if in case you have a set of cell apps you take pleasure in utilizing already, you’ll be able to carve out fairly a succesful cell studio with an excellent mixture of {hardware} and software program alike.

Utilizing the OP-1 Area along with the TX-6 does really feel decadent. The three.5mm inputs on the mixer naturally makes you assume twice about what you would possibly plug into it. I might plug a full-size synth into it, or perhaps one thing just like the MPC Dwell II, however this is able to even be a bit weird. A comparatively complete mixer it is likely to be, however its dimension begs you to, properly, take it outdoors we suppose?

“I feel ‘Area’ leads my thoughts to consider subject recordings and to be out within the subject, work outdoors of the workplace… music that’s moveable. And I feel it’s very apparent particularly if you happen to have a look at the TX-6 mixer […] this factor is so extremely properly designed. And it’s laborious to persuade those that get offended once they see the worth tag that how extremely properly engineered it’s.” Cuckoo stated.

@Brokener Than (YouTube) The non-public facet of shopping for the OP-1 and what you get out of it’s actually the one justification it’s essential to overpay for an instrument.

But when portability is the important thing behind the “Area” moniker, Teenage Engineering has to persuade individuals to half with hundreds of {dollars} when there are apps and even mixers that may mix to do one thing comparable for a fraction of the worth.

“Lots of people say, properly, ‘you are able to do all of this with Ableton Dwell and a pc that prices half the worth!’ Nevertheless it’s not the purpose. It’s, I feel, if the result’s all that counts, the top product you are able to do quite a lot of stuff with an iPad, and a few apps are free even. The consequence is just not all the pieces, it’s additionally mastering a tool. Like, taking part in this reside is a pleasure.” Cuckoo stated.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field and TX-6
James Trew / Engadget

Have a look round on YouTube at who is definitely utilizing the OP-1 or the TX-6. When you look (and pay attention) lengthy sufficient you’ll perhaps begin to see that there has perhaps lengthy been a nook of the music making world that doesn’t really feel at house with the pads of an MPC, or the countless expandability of Ableton Dwell. A bunch that doesn’t wish to get pulled into the world of modular synthesis or circuit bending. Those that have a keenness for various strategies however with an appreciation for well-designed {hardware}. So long as they’ve the means.

It’s laborious to not get sucked into the OP-1 Area. I personally struggled with the workflow initially, however I discover it curious. One thing tells me that if I keep it up and break my previous MIDI/DAW habits, nice rewards await. The TX-6 mixer alternatively is a tougher sell whereas nonetheless by some means extremely interesting. Particularly in case you are already flush with moveable gear, it makes much more sense. Maybe the necessary query is: What’s subsequent within the Area collection. An OP-Z Area? Some high-end Pocket Operators? One thing fully completely different? No matter it’s, it may very well be the corporate’s most important system but, or what finally alienates the corporate’s loyal fan base.

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