Op-1 genuinely useful or just a fun box

Just got an Octatrack. Love it but I didn’t really think things through and it’s not as ‘portable’ as I’d hoped. Especially if I have something linked up for polyphony. Volca keys combo isn’t too bad but it’s pretty limited and I bought the OT to jam on sometimes when I’m chilling at home with my kids, hoping to either Form the bones of new songs or design some cool sounds etc to bank and use later, but it’s proving to be too many wires with 3 kids under 4yrs…

Are there many Op-1 users out there that find a lot of stuff they’re doing on it making the cut to be used in finished songs?

And also a few questions. Googled but I’m still not fully clear on some important things. Just wanna make sure that if I get one there aren’t any nasty disappointments waiting due to terminology in the manual and hidden work flow limitations etc… Also some info is conflicting cos of firmware update history etc.

  1. Sample memory. I read it’s max of 6secs per sample. That’s not great but workable. How many samples can I store on the op-1 and have ‘to hand’? Are there any hidden polyphony/timestrectch/preset etc limitations in every day use?

  2. Synth presets. How many can I store to memory and can I blend/layer a synth sound with a sample and save as a patch?

  3. I read it doesn’t have a traditional midi socket. Anyone recommend a cheap/solid adaptor etc?

  4. Is number of Projects limited only by memory? What’s loading time like between songs?


Just by your questions i can tell you need to know a bit more about the op-1: As far as saving different patches I’m not sure how man you can save (probably at least 10-20) I think it’s all dependent on how much sample memory is already taken up, though you do have 8 different synth patches and 8 different drum kits available to you at any time.

All the synths share the same sequencer and all the drums share the same sequencer.

There are no “projects”, what you have is a 6 minute four track tape emulation. You also can burn those tape tracks on to its "vinyl record section which basically just saves it for playback like a cd or record would. With the four tracks on the tape you can adjust each’s level and overdub as well, you can then take segments of the tape and drop it into the sampler. You can also playback the tape forward, reverse, and at different speeds not completely unlike changing the pitch on a sampler.

The op-1 has two different samplers; the synth sampler which can hold 6 seconds of audio and plays the sample back like a keyboard transposing the sample per each note. Then there is the drum sampler which can hold 12 seconds but is more lofi when pict adjusting it has a very bitcrushed type artifact.

For midi there is the op lab which is expensive or you could get something like a Kenton midi to cc converter. I think the op1 has cv but not midi, so not quote me on that though.

So is it useful? The synths aren’t awesome, a lot are very casio toy type sounding but I find it’s good for bass and I like the fm synth slot, but for house or techno music probably not as helpful. The sampler works fine it’s not a warm sounding sampler and not as high fidelity as the octatrack. I would say that the whole synth is designed with live performance in mind each knob and page is simple enough to tweak and get back to your original spot. Using it will guitar pedals being a lot to the synth.

I purchased mine for live use where I can put full ambient transitions or songs in the four track and play them from that , there is also one master effect which I can then tweak. You can also load it with one chit samples and stuff like that.

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What brought me in the direction of Elektron was the limitations of the OP-1. I know some will disagree but my take away from it was that it was a fun “sketch pad” type of portable synth unit with limited multi track recorder (destructive). I always felt that if I made something i really liked I had no way of recalling exactly what I had done. audio quality bugs and very limited connection ability and I sold to buy an A4. Also the very digital sounding synths just didnt do it for me. It has a place and I really enjoyed using it but at the price point, I just couldn’t justify it.

Thanks for the insights guys. Something about the op-1 has had me wanting one since I first saw it before release. I love the sk-1 vibe and the ‘tape’ gimmick. But it sounds like it doesn’t really fit with what I’m looking for overall. Looks like a lot of fun but I don’t have that kind of money to spend on something with the limitations mentioned and could just bum me out/buyers remorse after a while.

Beginning to think about an Ipad or Ipad mini. I was trying to swerve resorting to Ipad as a portable jam/patch creation unit, cos I wanted something with keys/knobs felt like an instrument, and I know the big shiny screen will mean my kids are super drawn to it, but it might be the best fit for me with everything considered…

@Callofthevoid OP-1 is really a powerful instrument.

Ask any question here :

Folks there are truly cool people.

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I’d suggest an iPad and a small keyboard controller.

I use a Keith McMillen QuNexus. Not to everyone’s taste but it’s very small and very light and practically indestructible. It goes in my overnight backpack along with the iPad and they travel with me everywhere. The breadth of music making options on the iPad is absurd.

I still have more fun with my Elektron boxes, but as a portable solution it’s incredible.

Horses for courses this one. I’m looking to sell an OP-1 for the second time so why am I selling? Well, I blame myself - it’s an incredibly easy machine to get into and it def ticks the fun box but if you don’t have that spark of imagination or are too set in more “traditional” ways it can be a little frustrating if trying to make anything meaningful. I’m also simply running very low on time to dedicate to making tunes at the moment but that’s no fault of the OP-1!

If I had to pick between an OP-1 and an iPad + controller for music only then it would be the OP-1 every time. There are some unreal apps out there on the iPad that sound, frankly, unbelievably good but as a do all in one box option I just cant be arsed with the iPad. It’s a lot more fannying around than with the OP-1. An OP-1 and an iPad though - now that gets interesting…!

I suggest buying an OP-1 second hand and giving it a try. There are bargains out there to be had and you’ll, at worst, lose out on only a few quid should you not gel with it. Going down the iPad route I predict instant rewards and gratification but within a few months you’ll hit the frustrations 90% of iPad users come up against.


The thing with the OP-1 is that it’s a great example of “the package is much greater than the sum of its parts” - it really feels like a special instrument.

Sure, I agree with some of the complaints on some of the synths being harsh, or the sequencing is a bit limited, or the tape recording can be a bit of a struggle sometimes, etc, but the overall package really is a treat.

I have both Ipad and OP-1, and when I travel, I only bring the OP-1, which is way more fun to jam on IMO. But I think you have to try one to make up your mind though, as it’s not for everyone.

I find the iPad to be a couch-friendly source of Octafood. Not least because there are a few self-contained apps (read: they’ve got integrated synths, effects and sequencers) that you can use to create loops. A bit of patience with the touchscreen and iTunes file transfer allows you to bring software-quality stems into your OT, so you can work with it on the couch without needing cables all over the place.

Ugh… Now I’m swaying back toward trying to raise the.cash for an Op-1! Gonna read the manual again and check out some more tutorials etc.

What’s the deal with op-1 ‘snapshots’? Are they basically user presets? Really I just want a box I can fill with tons of patches/ideas/rough song parts to use later in proper sessions when I’m not being jumped on by my kids… That’s the Ipad appeal. Massive memory and almost endless sounds/synths etc fuck around with/store for later… But I had one a couple of years ago and it was never ‘fun’, and everything was so scattered around I rarely thought to dig through my patches again after making them. even with some really nice sounding apps (korg ims20,korg poly, animoog etc)… I think I only ever actually connected it to Daw to use sounds from it 4 times in 2 years!

Re style of music/op-1 compatibility etc. I’m not really doing the techno/edm thing as much as a lot of the people on here, I guess stuff more pop/loose/lof-fi/noise/field recordings etc something like Black Dice, Animal Collective etc.

I wouldn’t call the OP-1 a 4/4 techno/edm machine - with the tape system, it’s much more of a free-form instrument than people think. Although you can do x0x style sequencing on it, a lot of the tunes at operator-1 would fall into the loose/groove category. You really need to try one to decide, cause it ain’t cheap!

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Yes - they are genuinely useful and heaps of fun too.

I’ve been so much happier since I bought one - just looking at it makes me smile. I find it hilarious because of the contrast between looking like an overly well designed joke and it actually being an incredibly powerful tool.

It can sound completely shit but in a wonderful way and you can do some other worldly things with it. They have a unique personality. It’s so immediate that you will probably come up with more ideas using one in one hour than in five with any other piece of gear. Seriously. I take it everywhere and now use it regularly on finished tracks but I can’t say I have made a track ‘solely’ with the OP-1. It’s definitely possible but that depends on what you’re after or what you prefer… that’s subjective as is my opinion to a degree.

My initial idea was to pair only an OT and A4 … I wanted an all singing dancing sampler but I opted for the crazy portable synth / sampler all in one tiny package and it has (amongst other wacky things) a double monkey drummer sequencer and a cow stomach delay filter resonator totally weird shit effect. Oh, and a radio and a G-Force accelerometer and…

They are bonkers - just get one.

EDIT _ Addendum… I just read this from Callofthevoid…

Re style of music/op-1 compatibility etc. I’m not really doing the techno/edm thing as much as a lot of the people on here, I guess stuff more pop/loose/lof-fi/noise/field recordings etc something like Black Dice, Animal Collective etc.

I am totally into the same stuff - I think you will love an OP-1.


This is exactly why I sold mine, there is no file system to speak of and you will need to dump everything to any external device. For a ‘portable’ device this was a complete deal breaker for me.

Still if an OP-2 was released which had a file system, was multi-timbral, noise free (from the start), more durable audio fittings, and velocity sensitivity, I’d buy it.

I bought mine at the time I was looking to get my first synth. I was looking for something portable. To be honest it blew me away and if u want to call a device magical it really is one. It does have its limitations though, and they annoy me, but it is fun. I dont think it was ever intended to compete with ‘real’ synthesizers, but it stands up on its own. You CAN make it sound huge though, make no mistake. But its noisy output has always kinda bummed me, when it comes to getting it into a setup (you wind up recording to tape and transferring samples by usb). That said people make great stuff on it - I’ve always enjoyed making more ambient music with it. In the end though, I would never sell it. I’ve thought about it, and realized its something I could never do. It’s too unique. And I’m sure I’ll continue to find new ways to use it in the future.

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it’s worth it for the CWO filter / 4 track tape recorder

very nice interface, a much nicer keyboard for the A4 and processing the op-1 with the A4 FX really make the little guy shine. sequencing is fun too, you can get the A4 out of 4/4 boredom easily :slight_smile:

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Op-1 genuinely useful or just a fun box

It’s not one, or the other, or both, or neither.
It’s a law unto itself and I love the little blighter.
It prods me creatively in ways that other machines do not, especially when I’m on the train or in an airport :slight_smile:

If all my gear was stolen, I think the OP-1 would be the first thing I would replace.

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I bought one early on thinking it would just be a fun way to get ideas down when out and about, but have finished more complete songs with it on its own than I ever have with my proper hardware setup. It’s not for everyone, but people that ‘get it’ really seem to have their creativity sparked by it.

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There is also the Korg Electribe/Sampler. Might fit your needs! I had the Electribe, didn’t like it, but you might! The sampler might be better, depends on your needs I guess.

Thanks everyone for the info etc. Op-1 def seems like it has an organic/fun/spontaneous kind of work flow that can lead to unexpected results, + polyphony, battery power and built in mic/speaker etc. Super portable. I’m still thinking hard about trying to get one…

Re the korg esx2, I was thinking about that this morning but after checking some forums there are a lot of people complaining about serious bugs and build quality issues. And after my experience with korg microsampler (no updates at all…) I dont have much faith in korg for following up releases past the ‘it kinda works OK, screw making it great’ stage…

Still vague on op-1 ‘presets/file structure’… I watched a Cuckoo video this morning where he’s giving out 50 patches. All are saved within his op-1. So I’m assuming it does have reasonable memory/bank/samples storage after all? Hopefully get time to retread the manual later today.

You will have to give up on any conventional notions of patch and sample storage, projects, interfacing, “workflow” etc when comparing the OP-1 with any other gear like the OT or the Electribes. It is definitely not designed to win any spec wars. Reading the manual will not tell you how you can work with it.

You will get a little more insight from watching videos by users like Cuckoo or Thomas White in which they create actual songs on the machine.

The keyboard seems like a toy at first look, the sequencers seem like they’re derived from cheesy video games, the synth machines have only 4-8 inscrutable and non-numeric parameters, the sampling time is short, recording and bouncing tracks to a virtual tape machine appears to be an anachronism, you render songs to a master that cannot exceed 6 minutes, which has to be dumped to a computer. There is a game in there somewhere. It’s not a SERIOUS machine.

It’s actually a FUN machine. If you’re willing to use your imagination (in a kind of The-Beatles-only-had-a-four-track-tape way), you can create whole albums on it. Just don’t approach it by counting tracks, presets, file management systems or other Music-Industry-nerd-spec barriers.