Swedish design studio Teenage Engineering's OP-1 synthesiser, launched at 2011's NAMM trade show in California, was an instant critical success, lauded for its radical looks, industrial-grade components and intuitive programming. A strange hybrid of analogue style with digital technology, the OP-1 is potentially as radical a piece of equipment within its field as Apple's candy-coloured iMac was when it first appeared; transforming a dull grey and rather hostile box into something playful, user-friendly and deceptively powerful.
Roughly the length of an A4 sheet and half as wide, the OP-1 is a one-piece aluminium unit. The moulded keys symbolically recreate a piano keyboard, while the controls are based on four Pantone-coloured knobs and diagrammatic buttons. The design is clean, international and - a rarity in synthesisers - fun.
Even without any musical knowledge, you can work out the basics of the OP-1 purely by looking at it. 'My political view is very left wing and I really want this stuff to be for everyone,' explains Teenage Engineering director Jesper Kouthoofd. 'In the synth world, people tend to have things super technical because they want to feel special and feel that only they can control the machine. I think that's wrong.'
The OP-1's AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display technology is based around an illustration of a tape reel that turns and winds as the user manipulates the relevant knobs. It's a funny touch, harking back to an outmoded recording form while driving a piece of cutting-edge technology. 'We had a lot of discussions over the tape, because it's odd in a way. But if you treat the OP-1 more like a musical instrument, then it gets more interesting than just recording.'