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About the OP-Z

The Teenage Engineering OP-Z is a yet to be released portable sequencer and synthesizer. It's the successor to the venerable OP-1 with a penchant for liver performances.

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Third Teenage Engineering OP-Z Preorder

December 9, 2018

Today, Teenage Engineering, announced the third pre-order for the coveted OP-Z. Those who were on the ‘notify’ list received an email with the bundle information (same as last time, gray PVC case and OP-Z) for $618 USD.

For the email I received, the link to buy was here although it looks like this might be customized per email.

If you haven’t picked one up yet, now is likely the last chance before the holidays to spend some quality time hiding from the family with the new OP-Z!

OP-Z Hidden Features Roundup

December 6, 2018

The OP-Z has a number of hidden and undocumented features that people have started to uncover. We’re wrangling up the ones we know about. I’m sure there will be more soon.

Backlit keys

No there is no glow in the dark paint (removed late because it was apparently rubbing off too easily), but you can change a configuration file to make the buttons on the OP-Z backlit. To do that, connect the unit to your computer in configure mode (with the unit off press and hold the track button while turning the unit on), and change the general.json file.

Example general.json:

{
	"backlit_keys" : true,
	"disable_microphone_mode" : false,
	"disable_start_sound" : false,
	"disable_track_preview" : false
}

OP-Z backlit keys

Hidden iPhone stand

If you take the back of the OP-Z off (unscrewing the yellow feet), in the expansion module area in the center you can take out and remove two hook-looking parts (takes some force to remove it from the plastic).

Taking off the back of the unit the module slot contains the phone stand pieces

OP-Z iPhone Stand 0

Here they are

OP-Z iPhone Stand 1

You can then use the lego end (looks like a plus sign) to stick into into the side of the unit facing away from you and place your iPhone in it to hold it up. Neat!

OP-Z iPhone Stand 2

The stand pieces fit perfectly into the ‘plus’ sign to unscrew the back panel in the future.

OP-Z iPhone Stand 3

Pretty thoughtful touches!

Step component modes

Some step components have variations of values you can control by pressing the step component value mutliple times (black numbered keys after you select the step component to use). For example, using the spark component which will trigger the step every n times, pressing the number value month rotates between whether to play the note the first time then wait and other variations of when the first trigger will happen.

That’s all for now!

Cuckoo OP-Z iPad Synth Workflow

December 5, 2018

Cuckoo (cuckoomusic on YouTube) posted a new video showing off his workflow for using the OP-Z to control iPad synths and building up a pattern. All the usual things appear to be working such as mute groups and patterns. There’s even some tape track work, but uncliear if that actually does anything to midi.

There’s no information about the kind of device he’s using for sync’ing midi to the iPad and we’re pretty sure it’s not midi over bluetooth.

OP-Z Second Pre-order

November 26, 2018

Teenage Engineering listed their second call for pre-orders over the weekend. Folks who opted into the ‘Notify Me’ option on teenageengineering.com got a link to pre-order a slightly updated bundle which includes a gray (grey for our EU friends!) PVC rollup case.

Reddit user u/joyceashleeeee posted this on r/opzuser:

OP-Z second pre-order

Of course, retailers are starting to ship their pre-orders so at this point it’s a toss-up of which will get you an OP-Z faster. If you’re on the fence about ordering check out some recent videos and part 1 of our OP-Z review on why this thing is amazing.

You can sign up to be notified of future pre-orders here.

Teenage Engineering Videolab Release

November 20, 2018

The Motion app in the OP-Z’s accompanying iOS app is powered by Unity3D. Today Teenage Engineering posted a marketing page about Videolab, a plugin and toolkit for Unity3D to make rich visuals controlled by the OP-Z.

You can check it out the new page on Teenage Engineering’s website here.

Since we last checked out Videolab on it’s GitHub page, there is an updated wiki and some new helper functions for bezier curves, noise, deformers, and a host of built in effects to apply to a game object or scene.

Few have delved into it so early, but there are some early prototypes happening including this break dancing power ranger:

The commit log shows that the Videolab libary is active and accepting pull requests so if you felt inclined to do so you can jump in!

Here’s one more from Polyoptics:

Updated OP-Z Firmware - Better Battery Life, Bug Fixes

November 13, 2018

Earlier today Teenage Engineering released their first update to the OP-Z firmware since the pre-order over a month ago. The version 1.1.12 release notes have some interesting notes including bug fixes and, surprisingly, an improvement that should improve the overall battery life of the OP-Z! We haven’t had a chance to test the claims, but an additional 5-10% is a welcomed improvement. Hopefully we will see more of these in the future.

Here’s the notes from the site

Features: - reduced cpu consumption, improves battery life by 5-10%

Fixed bugs:

  • occasional hang when removing a connected usb device
  • occasional craash when recieving midi identity request on startup
  • sequencer stalling when connecting a usb device
  • configurator sometimes causing pops in downloaded samples
  • imported sample packs to slot 10 lost after reboot
  • outgoing program change had inverted “alt_program_change” setting
  • app->synth connection lost when disabling midi out under midi settings
  • sequencer sometimes starting on last step when step by step recording

If you’ve encountered some of these annoying bugs (or maybe just suspected that it could be the case), the overall play experience should be much improved. We’ve had a lot of trouble with the OP-1 to OP-Z direct connection for midi that was pretty unusable. Here’s hoping that addresses the issue and we can jam peacefully on both devices!

New OP-Z Video From Andrew Huang

November 13, 2018

Andrew Huang is back with a new video showing off some amazing beats made on the new OP-Z! There’s a wide range of styles from glitchy to retro and hip-hop. All the sounds used were built-in rather than his own samples. The highlight for me is the use of step components on the hi-hat track to add all sorts of glitchy, but musical variety. Amazingly full sounding for such a tiny device!

Enjoy the new beats and A. Huang style OP-Z hype!

First Tracks on the OP-Z

November 7, 2018

Now that folks have had the OP-Z for a few weeks now, let’s start to listen in on what people have recorded. We’ve certainly been keeping busy exploring the workflow and the different stock sounds!

From Lymtronics, this song was completely done on the OP-Z:

From me (hisdarkmaterials) exploring 1 pattern variations, transposition, and judicious use of the performance track on the drums:

These patterns from OP-Z boy on YouTube

Another one from me showcasing the arpeggiator, mute groups, punch-in fx, and the performance track:

OP-Z Retailer ETA

November 5, 2018

We’re now about a month into sales for the OP-Z starting and different retailers have different estimates for when it will be available outside of Teenage Engineering’s pre-order. Here’s a list of stores that are accepting pre-orders and are shipping sometime between November and December.

  • Sweetwater (USA): Early November (some reported shipping on Oct 26th)
  • Moogaudio (Canada): December
  • Guitar Center (USA): Second week of December
  • Musician’s Friend (USA): Expected to ship end of November
  • Moma Design Store (USA): Expected in stock Nov 9th, 2018

Also keep an eye out for another pre-order from Teenage Engineering!

Going Screenless

October 31, 2018

Early reports from beta testers and videos from cuckoo have suggested that you can use the OP-Z entirely without a screen. For those coming from the OP-1, it might be hard to believe that this would be possible. I’m happy to report that the rumors are true, the entire experience of making music on the OP-Z is self-contained and my personal opinion is it’s even better that way.

What’s the big deal

The comparison to the OP-1 and it’s beautiful screen (which was well ahead of it’s time!) is not really a fair one. The tape based method for recording and ease of recording notes in directly meant that you need a lot of visual feedback to know where you are, where the loop point are, and to do delicate operations like splitting tracks, copying and deleting to try again.

On the OP-Z, with it’s emphasis on sequencing and patterns, you need substantially lower resolution into what you’re doing. There’s a well defined, albeit constrained, workflow that works wonderfully and provides just enough visual feedback to know where you are and what you’re doing. That’s why things as simple as say a monome’s grid of lighted pads can be all the interface you need.

Speaking of lighted pads, I find the LED feedback on all the buttons to be well thought out and mostly intuitive. Paging through encoder parameters with the lights changing to different colors is one small example that you might not even notice after awhile because it just feels right. Key combinations (i.e track + shift + some button) start to build up muscle memory and I find the need to reference the guide goes down quickly (although I understand the complaints about the sparse manual).

What do you need the screen for anyway

The iOS app does offer some non-essential perks. Seeing which synth engine you are using for example can be nice since you can better anticipate what the parameters and sounds could be. It’s also nice for looking at the current values of things like an LFO, but you also get a good amount of feedback from the LEDs like the pulsing of the LED as an indicator of the LFO modulation speed.

Finally the visualization sequencing of the OP-Z can only be done by connecting to the app. While it’s fun for a bit, I don’t find myself drawn to do that every time I use the OP-Z so it’s moreso a thing I play with once in awhile.

Overall I think Teenage Engineering made a well thought out interface and workflow which really doesn’t need any screen at creating music. The iOS app augments certain aspects of the setup, but is more of a bonus.