Teenage Engineering OP-Z


I hear you. I’m interested, but can easily see how it can also be the opposite of enticing for many.

Overall, for me, I think that I’d have to get hands-on time with it to actually decide whether I’d like it. For me, the draws are something like:

-versatile MIDI sequencing
-self-contained ‘groovebox’
-ability to drive modular through FH-2
-Unity / gfx capabilities

But apart from the graphics aspects, battery and portability, nothing that’s actually really huge – unless the hands-on experience is really really good.


I got one the other day.
Sequencing is fun, steps can be set per track, punch-in effects are fun (dunno if the fun will last or not). Performance and Master tracks are very nice (the master track will try to recognize the key and transpose everything in that key).

There’s not much you can tweak in the synth engines, it feels like adjusting presets. Samples are all very short one-shot and are transferable via the app in the op-1 drum format (OP-Z cannot sample). Effects are nothing to write home about.
Every track has a predefined purpose and not very flexible (bass, synth, arpeggio, chord).

I’m thinking about returning mine because it feels much more of a PO on steroids than an OPx. I’ve wanted it for a long time and it feels so different than I imagined. :frowning:


I forgot: tape is nothing like in the op-1. It’s now a speed-up/slow-down effect in the op-z. :frowning:


The sequencing aspects of the OP-Z seem like an OP-1 on steroids. But yeah, much of the rest of it are PO-like, but in a good way. And then there’s the visual sequencing side of it too. Definitely not for everyone.


Me realizing the above is what ended up making me decide to pick it up. Of course, I haven’t touched one so I’m going purely on youtube and conjecture (which is also the name of my next album…just decided).

I kept comparing it to the OP-1, which is my favorite instrument. The last instrument I’ll pawn when things go south, the instrument I’d put in my bag to live out my final hours on the iceberg as the ship sinks, the instrument that I want with me when I go over the top of the trench. Etc.

When I compared the feature set of the Z to the 1, it just didn’t make any sense. I also have three of the PO’s. The PO’s are the reason I often go into the basement to get a screwdriver and come back up after a half hour with a beat instead of the toolbox. They tend to drag me in and then time slips away.

Watching videos of the Z this week, it hit me that it’s not a OP-1+, it’s a PO-xx++. Maybe it’s a lowering of expectations? Maybe it’s being open to what TE is delivering and hoping for the best? Maybe I have stockholm syndrome? Extreme GAS? Who knows.

I do know that when I showed the handful of TE produced feature videos to my 11 year old, his eyes lit up. So I’m going to go with that. TE makes instruments that feel like toys. Toys are great, because…they’re toys.

Ahem, more, deep psyche dive

Side note, if you want to go deeper into some of my motivations here. I run a software group inside a big giant enterprise. We build software using techniques that emphasize a sort of game approach to figuring out how we want to work. Our meetings are fun, people enjoy the work and we produce good things. However, our parent company is enterprise so we run into issues sometimes where people think we’re giggling too much? Or we like gif’s too much? Or we’re clearly having fun instead of stressing out? A very senior executive once accused us (me?) of making toys instead of products. Which I guess makes me Santa Claus? And my team elves? It really made me mad…and sad…and embarrassed. I went back into my candy cane workshop all downtrodden, like I needed to push the team to be more serious. Then I looked around…realized I liked making toys (they’re not toys! they’re actual things companies will pay actual money for!) and that guy used the right word, he just didn’t give it the right spirit. If you say toy with a sneer, try saying it again with a giggle and see how that feels.

I like that this place tends to look at products in terms of how they make us feel or what they help us do, instead of side by side feature comparison. It’s a good way to live.


I feel like its very early days for the opz. In terms of synthesis, there isn’t a lot going on. To the extent that it seems obvious that that wasn’t the point of it.

The op1 didn’t do anything really new – but it did made 4 track recording, making weird sounds and working inside the box fun again. In such an extreme way that people still either love, or hate it. The opz follows the same line imho.

The opz is not unique in its features, and like the op1, doesn’t do anything really new (even the unity controlling could already be done via midi for years) – so what is it for? If not for synthesis, then for sequencer, or groovebox, or controller? All of those things have been done very very well already by other machines.

How does this particular machine effect your personal workflow. Does its combination of features unlock something new (like the op1 did for so many) or not? Who can say.

From using it for a few days, my answer is that it absolutely does unlock something new. It has quirks, take it or leave it. But it has an effective workflow for sequencing visuals from unity with a hardware synth/sequencer, that is nothing short of epic. For that alone I am sure the opz will find its place in history.

Also regarding the screen: For anything deep (of which there is plenty) it will get complicated and you will need the screen. Count on it!

In short – amazing device worthy of infinite praise …if you want to use it for what it does! :smiley:


I got one of the first OP-1’s back in 2011; had to have it shipped over from TE directly, pay weird import fees and stuff. It’s sitting next to me on my desk at work right now. I’ve toured with it, played shows with it, made records with it, etc. The OP-1 is second only to the SP-1200 and Music Easel in being “more than the sum of its parts” - there truly is a weird, transcendent magic at work.

I’ve had a Z on preorder for a long time. My excitement is waning daily, though. The first batch apparently shipped with some sort of printing error and TE’s response is to shrug and say “you got a collector’s item now, LOL!” Their approach to support is very lackadaisical like this. My OP-1 was bricked, completely dead to the point of not starting up, by their last OS update and I ended up having to pay to ship it back to them so that they could flash the ROM. It was expensive, and that sucked on principle. With the Z already having problems like this, it’s frustrating to see that that’s their philosophy toward their customers.

The Z has since been yanked from the website - who knows what’s going on?


So late last night, I discovered via the app that at the longest note length setting(ln the synth tracks) the value changes to “drone” instead of a number. The note holds indefinitely.

You dont have much control over synthesis, but with the 4 synth tracks droning with some lfo, fx sends, master chorus/filter, and careful level adjustment, you can get some really thick musical/non musical textures. If youre leaning on the musical side, the master transpose track lets you play the drone nicely.


Its so wierd to have tons of DSP and not being able to control more than 2 synthesis parameters on the units :frowning: At least it drones I guess!

I’ll hold on for now and see if Teenage Engineering deeps dive in that in the next couple updates!



I can wax poetic about the power of toys all day, but this kind of stuff does bug me. Hopefully they’ll get it fixed and talk to their customer service people about the power they wield. Customer service is a window to the soul of the company. That’s my line. You can use it in the future if you’d like.

I went to operator-1 to see what people were saying. I can find three issues:

  1. The first batch doesn’t have glow in the dark paint.
  2. The app is disagreeing with the hardware about some of the icons (but it’s unclear which ones).
  3. The battery life is 4 hours instead of 20.

The only one that I worry about is number 3, the battery life. I’ve never turned on the OP-1 and been disappointed. It seems to be always charged. I’m hopeful that this is a firmware issue. If not, it looks like the battery is replaceable, so…maybe there’s hope there? My guess is there isn’t a more powerful battery in the same form factor so this will need to be fixed in firmware or we’ll just need to live with shorter battery life.


The tape is more than speed change. It’s a playable/sequenceable audio buffer, and you can pick and choose which tracks get sent to it. Very useful for extra textures on your track.


Yeah, I’ve probably oversimplified. I’m really disappointed. :frowning:


What’s extra concerning is that they’re apparently going back and scrubbing information from their website, such as the promised battery life and glow-in-the-dark legending. They’re literally trying to make it look like that was never promised. Very concerning.


i’ve been starting to think of the op-z as the drum machine complement to my op-1 tape deck and synth/sampler


No superlong bassdrums though :slight_smile:


To be fair, they only thing they’ve ever ‘promised’ is that the specs and features were subject to change.

After the initial pre-order page went up (this lasted for a day or so until they sold out) it was removed from the home page, but the preview page is still accessible here:



8 posts were merged into an existing topic: VideoLAB Thread


Snagged one from Big City from that small batch, was really excited to have a handheld CV sequencer - remember very clearly seeing the CV and gate outputs. Dove into the manual and wait a minute! Now the CV outputs are gone?! :man_facepalming: Guess I’ll be tinkering with a goofy little sequencer until the expansions start to roll out. Anyone know if the visualizer will work with a newer iPod?


Mine arrived today, and I’ve been playing with it for a few hours. It’s wild!

It’s strength is definitely the sequencer. There’s a lot of power accessible quite quickly. Sixteen tracks, each with different length and clock divisions. The Step Components are especially interesting: per-step rules like probability, random note selection, note slides, even jumping around within the sequence on that track specifically. For instance, I can have track two play a stable 8-note pattern, but have track four playing six notes before jumping to a random step on only track four. There are ten projects, with sixteen patterns per project. Project changes are instantaneous.

By default, each track is already set up to output MIDI on separate channels (track 1 to channel 1… track 16 to channel 16). This means that I was able to plug it into my Hermod and start sequencing my modular with no additional setup.

The sound “plugs” (generators) remind me more of the Pocket Operators or Braids. Each generator only really has two parameters, but then there are two filter controls (cutoff + res), four envelope controls (ADSR), four LFO controls (rate, depth, destination, shape), and four mix controls (two effect sends, pan, and level). For samples, the only sound manipulation control is pitch. While Braids proved that you could do a lot with two knobs, I’m hoping they throw in some weirder synth and effect engines in a future update.

One odd complaint is that the case is kind of sharp and pointy. Hopefully someone will make a rubber bumper case for it.

The app is very cool. I definitely needed it for training. There are a few things that you can only do with the app (assign MIDI out CC values to each knob), but their all setup related. After an hour or two, I became much more comfortable using the device without the app, although I definitely prefer using the app to visualize the Step Component relations.


This is interesting. I didn’t realise it was set up like that.