Home » Recording Resources » Featured Reviews » DECEMBER 2018: IK Multimedia UNO Synth

The UNO Synth is IK Multimedia’s first foray into hardware synthesis. It’s a monophonic synthesizer with an all-analog audio path, and the power it provides for the money is unheard-of for a true analog synthesizer!

It’s built into an remarkably slim and light case with a capacitance-sensing touch surface for editing and playing. Four AAA batteries will last for about 3 hours of constant use, or you can use an external USB power supply or hook it to a computer. Rear panel connections include MIDI In/Out, Audio In and Out, and a USB Micro-B port. All of these are on minijacks—the synth comes with miniplug-to-DIN adapters for MIDI, which can control all synth parameters in real time.

The architecture is straightforward, with two oscillators and a noise source feeding a multimode filter. The oscillators have a continuously variable waveshape that can be modulated from triangle through sawtooth to pulse, and the resonant filter can run in lowpass, highpass, or bandpass mode. There are ADSR filter and amplifier envelopes, a single LFO with multiple waveforms, and a digital delay at the end of the audio chain. Up to 100 presets can be stored on the device, 20 burned into factory memory and 80 rewritable by the user.

Tweaking sounds is easy; a set of buttons assigns four knobs to sets of four most-used parameters laid out in a matrix, from envelope stages and LFO rate to oscillator mix and waveshape. There are also dedicated knobs for filter cutoff, tempo, and volume. You use Data up/down buttons (which scroll faster when held down) to change the values of parameters not accessible by the four main knobs, and an Alt button accesses rarely-used features like sync assignment, metronome on/off, and oscillator tuning.

There’s a built-in arpeggiator and a 16-step sequencer that can be programmed step by step or in real time, used not only to remember note pitches but also to automate changes to parameters for lively and constantly evolving timbre. You can also choose a variety of scales (major, minor, blues, pentatonic, modal, etc.) so you can’t play wrong notes.

There are five dedicated performance buttons for effects that can be activated in real time or programmed into the sequencer: Dive (a quick drop down to pitch from above), Scoop (a quick rise up to pitch from below), Vibrato (LFO pitch change), Wah (LFO filter cutoff change), and Tremolo (LFO volume change). There’s also a Hold button for sustaining notes, latching arpeggios, and adding ties between sequencer steps. The LFO can sync to subdivisions of the step value set by the Tempo knob; unfortunately, the delay time can’t.

There’s more under the hood than can be accessed on the front panel; the UNO Synth can be edited (and patches loaded and saved) with an editor program for Mac, Windows, and iOS. It adds features like full envelope control, tweaking the performance buttons, setting pitch bend range and velocity control, and assigning various parameters to the mod wheel. The editor can even be instantiated as a plug-in within a DAW to automate parameter changes right inside a song.

Even with all these features, what really impresses me about the UNO Synth is how good it sounds. Basses throb with tons of low end, leads can be dialed in for softness or bite, and there are a variety of great percussive and sound-effects patches as well. Combining them with the sequencer can produce amazing results, and DAW integration is flawless. The editor software works beautifully and adds dimension to an already-powerful synth.

All in all, this would be a very impressive synthesizer at twice the price; for this little cash, it’s practically a no-brainer. If this is a first attempt, I can’t wait to see what IK Multimedia comes up with next!


Price: $199.99

More from: IK Multimedia, ikmultimedia.com

2018 Reviews