Original MSRP: $599
Current Price: $599
Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z is not like other drum machines on this list. In fact, it’s not just a drum machine—it’s a multimedia synthesizer that can handle synthesizers, samples, and even control visual media. But those who sleep on the OP-Z as a drum machine option do so at the risk of never realizing its unique drum programming potential.
Oh, and the OP-Z is digital. Proudly digital. And with focused tweaking, it can sound both digital and analogue.
The OP-Z’s power lies in the user’s ability to tweak factory beats, but also load their own samples, and even future drum sounds that Teenage Engineering might well develop for the synthesizer. While there are only four patches for beats (kick, snare, hi-hat, and samples), multiple different sounds can be layered within these four voices. And variability can be introduced via step components that can mute sounds or move them to neighbouring steps. And the Performance Mode allows users to apply various effects, including randomness to both the drum and synth (bass, lead, arpeggiator, and chord) groups.
Right now, it is a cult favourite amongst electronic musicians, as it can do the dynamic sounds demanded by those interested in complex electronic music (think Autechre), but also house, synthpop, and hip hop. And it’s not just a powerful drum machine, but an incredibly versatile overall music-making device.
Yes, it has its limitations (four voices for beats, and four voices for synths), but if you embrace the limitations, and focus on what you can do, it’s a wonderfully inspiring beat and sound design device.