OP-Z synth

My son got one of these for Christmas:


It’s remarkable how much they’ve been able to cram into this little box. A 16 track, 16 channel sequencer, with the ability to chain multiple tracks, keyboard, polyphonic synth with sampler, ADSR, LFO, pretty decent resonant filter, delay, reverb, etc. It has an internal speaker, stereo audio output and does MIDI in, out and sync via USB. We had great fun last night using it to sequence some Audulus patches. According to my son, they’re working on a CV expansion module for use with Eurorack. Kind of pricy, but a lot of bang for the buck


Critiques I see online:

-The remote control/ game controller form-factor is designed for teenagers, gives people over 30 Carpal-Tunnel.
-Built-in sounds are super generic.
-8 of the Tracks are actually not audio related and, unless you learn how to work with the unity game engine, limited to the gimmicky animations that quickly grow old.
-You need an iPad to make to the most of it anyways.
-If the OP-1 is any indication, ports will be fragile and the battery may not charge as a result.

That said, I picked up a Teenage Engineering PO-33 myself for my birthday and it has definitely impressed me!

This guy is a calculator-sized sampler and sequencer. You have 8 slots for “melodic” samples which are just one shots but they have diatonic transposition, and is pretty easy to play. You also get 8 “drum” slots that have 16 automatically generated slices per slot and works superbly. The sequencer can only play 4 samples at a time, but seriously it’s a lot of fun. My only complaint is that the silicone case I got for it was a nightmare to get on (in fact I tore it while getting it on) but it does make the buttons feel less pokey.

Yeah, Teenage Engineering is a pretty awesome company, and their products have way more going on behind the screen than the toy-like appearance would suggest.


@robertsyrett I love my KO! This is the best of the Pocket Operator bunch for sure. So easy to use and so fun to play with the live FX. One of my favorite things to do is just plugging the PO-33 into the Geiger Counter Pro and splitting hands-on time between twiddling pedal knobs and soloing on the Pocket Operator live FX. Huge props to Teenage Engineering on just design alone.

I’ve also clocked the KO from my modular as well as clocked my modular from the KO for perfect syncing or creating interesting beats from the pocket operator with sequenced rhythm gates to clock the KO instead of a straight clock.

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I like the “naked” look without the case, plus it kind of matches the aesthetics of the Folktek Mescaline modules I have (potentiometers on the outside of the board, no knobs, etc.). I kind of like the pokey buttons too. :smirk:

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The 8 tracks you mention will do more than the Unity graphics. They’re actually used to control effects, so they’re more like parameter automation. Run through a decent set of speakers the sounds aren’t too bad. Actually if it were just the sequencer at a more reasonable price I would be more inclined. As it stands it not really my cup of teat, but it’s a neat bit of engineering none the less. (and it was a lot of fun to play with)


I will definitely have to try that out!

I just got back from a Christmas party where I brought the PO-33 and got some fun samples of kids playing the piano with lots of background noise. I am looking forward to messing about with that.

Ah that actually makes a fair amount of sense. The PO-33 has FX also but you have to perform them live, so having dedicated tracks seems like a reasonable solution.

One thing I though was really interesting during Simon the Magpie’s NSFW OP-Z review was that inside the OP-Z are weird plastic cranks which I guess is where the expansion modules go? But it’s such an interesting and cryptic easter egg.

I definitely have enough gear, and I still think an iPad is a better groovebox, but I’m starting to see the appeal of the Teenage engineering stuff.

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Like you, I think I’ve got more than enough stuff at the moment, and I think it’s overpriced, but I was impressed with the overall design. There is space inside for expansion modules. The only one they’ve currently announced is a CV module to interface with eurorack gear. No idea if or when it will be available. Apparently they’re pretty hard to get, David was originally told he wouldn’t get his until March. I would love to see a similar unit without the synth at a much lower price point. Something with a small keyboard, a good sequencer and some I/O in that form factor would be a nice companion to an iPad Pro. It worked pretty well as a sequencer for Audulus.


True, but if you are in Write mode you can record in the live played FX into the pattern creating new and interesting patterns. I typically create a few variations of the same pattern this way on the fly and copy them to other pattern banks. This is why #16 doesn’t have any FX assigned is it essentially acts as the Clear FX function. You can also record live changes to the filter.


Great design is the one thing that Teenage Engineering seems to nail with all of their products. How do the buttons and everything feel on the OP-Z? I’ve never had my hands on an OP-1 either.

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The buttons have a nice positive feel and the encoders are easy to rotate and move smoothly. It’s small and light but the build quality seems pretty good.


Well I guess it works pretty well as a sampler.

For some strange reason, it’s not possible to use the built in mic to capture samples. You have to create them externally and load them on the device. I would guess that they didn’t want the overhead of an ADC and PCM encoder. Still, that’s not a bad performance for something that small.

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r beny was saying that the mic will become available for sampling with a future os update. I guess that must harder than it seems, because having a portable synth with a built-in mic and sample playback definitely suggests they want people to go out and sample the world.

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I’ve been enjoying the OP-Z. I live in a tiny apartment and don’t have a lot of extra room for large gear. This is just the right size. (Also why I am a big fan of Audulus vs. an entire Eurorack setup)

Here is a recent little tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtqG3nUJynQ

And a second one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mle5V3ma_ic


Nice tracks! My son that just got the OP-Z is also a big fan of Strymon pedals.

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How is the OP-Z for sequencing very long notes with occasional short notes? Say I have an 8 bar sequence with whole notes as well as 16th notes (128 steps). Usually the x0x inspired sequencers require pattern chaining to achieve that.

@taylor Short answer is really nice.

long answer: You have control over note length by pressing on the note in your sequence and pressing however many steps out you want it to last. You can create longer patterns by pressing shift and selecting one of the number keys. Each of the track’s sequencers can be independent from each other on length.

Another thing I like doing is creating really short sequences and placing step components to make certain notes only trigger on the second or third pass. This can also be used for a bit of randomness if you want.

I just sequenced this Satie piece on the OP-Z https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MafBUT-B9ZQ