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Akai MPC 2000XL vs. Teenage Engineering OP-1

Akai MPC 2000xl vs. Teenage Engineering OP-1

Recently,I was blessed with the opportunity to procure an Akai MPC2000XL, and test drive a few of the features I’ve read so, so much about. Many artists like Clark, Damu the Fudgemunk, and Klaus Layer, are inspiring a new generation to try the heralded MPC2000XL. The MPC is still the traditional leader in sampling percussion and arranging melodies without the need for a laptop. I would’ve argued the MPC even trumped the clever OLED interface of the Teenage engineering OP-1, until the recent OS update added an essential feature: arpeggio. Now comparing an MPC and an OP-1 just got a little more interesting. There’s no way to compare these easily, but if you’re a producer with limited space and a good ear, either of these samplers, could provide the near endless possibilities touted by modern DAWs like Ableton Live, Logic X, and Cubase. I don’t intend to compare these machines point for point because they’re both very unique samplers, however, I may point out some of my favorite features from each device, to suggest why I feel one may benefit a producer from one production style to another. Additional posts may follow, regarding an upgrade for the MPC to an HxC SD Card. The SD card would place the MPC on par with an Elektron Octatrack, and surpass the OP-1’s current 12 second sample limitation.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

The fabled OP-1 from teenage engineering has to be one of my favorite instruments in the last decade. I’ve included photos of a my recent logic board repair to resolve an issue recognizing the OP-1 in Ableton Live.

op-1 keycaps

Key cap removal is an essential part of repairing the OP-1. iFixit’s guide provided a few instructions, until I found a forum thread (maybe at elektronauts?) that included a full teardown of hardware that needs to be removed before attempting to lift up the keyboard and replace the logic board. Tools like exacto knives (flat) and tweezers were super useful for safely removing the key caps. A Phillips 00 also worked perfectly for disassembling most of the synth.

op-1 key removal

OP-1 Midi

Above, we can see the OP-1 Midi out

op-1 usb test

Super cool Teenage engineering included an on-board diagnostic for testing your synth!

After replacing the I/O board in the OP-1, I suspected a logic board may be the issue, so I went ahead and gently lifted the keyboard after removing the keycaps to reveal the OP-1’s gorgeous interior design. The device has very few connectors and the body seems like a tank. Proceed at your own risk here, as many of the components appear to be super fragile. I replaced the logic board successfully, but Teenage engineering accidentally sent a locked version of the DSP. Shortly after receiving another logic board and shipping the old back, I was in action again. The logic board replacement fixed the USB issue.

op-1 mlb

The op-1 can do so much: midi, sound design, sampling, recording, radio, and tape editing. I was happy to know the designers at Teenage engineering placed as much detail in their industrial design as they do their user menus. The architecture is stunning (if you’re lucky, I’ll find a snap of the Manhattan breadboard). Since the repair, I’ve been focusing on swapping original samples for the stock sounds and created some absolutely radical sounds out of the OP-1. There is a rich, digital sonic character that reminds me of the Blackfinn DSPs built into older high-end synths and soundcards of yesteryear. There isn’t much room for lining up stock samples, and I found the recommended software solutions on the teenage engineering website minimal at best. However, if you’re ok with a few analog drums and some big synth patches, the OP-1 most likely has more than enough an aspiring musician could need on tour. The 1/8th inch connector out is limiting in the studio, and the features like recording and tape editing seem to lack the tempo matching capabilities of Ableton or Octatrack (although, the TE store offers an interesting platform called OPlab for CV, Stereo, and Midi Sync expansion to the OP-1). Highly likely, the omission of full size audio ports was to preserve the authenticity of the OP-1’s nod to old Casio SK samplers.