The UNO Synth is a monophonic, true analogue synthesiser and IK Multimedia’s entry in the hardware synthesiser world. It’s a combination of IK Multimedia’s experience, the knowledge of synth expert Erik Norlander (Alesis Andromeda, anyone?) and the expertise of synth-maker Sound Machines.
UNO Synth offers an analogue audio path with 2 VCOs, a noise generator, resonant multimode VCF and VCA, two independent VCOs with Saw, Triangle, Pulse waveforms with continuously variable shape including PWM of the square wave plus a separate white noise generator and a 2-pole OTA-based analogue resonant sweepable multimode filter with LPF, HPF and BPF.
The synth has a custom-designed, dual-stage overdrive that provides filter input overdrive for a classic synth saturation tone and an LFO with Sine, Triangle, Square, Up Saw, Down Saw, Random and Sample-and-Hold to modulate Pitch, Filter, Amp and continuous oscillator wave shapes including PWM.
OK, those are the specs. The UNO Synth is monophonic, but its two oscillators can be tuned independent from each other, which lets you generate interesting pad-like interval sounds and octaves. Pulse-width modulation of each oscillator provides the ability for a single oscillator to sound like two while the second oscillator can be tuned to an octave or interval for advanced modular-style timbres from the greatest classic synths. The result is a rich and comforting or an aggressive sound, depending on how you turn the knobs.
I found the controls — the knobs — to be very responsive but you do need to familiarise yourself with the shortened system messages on the small screen. While I understand why IK Multimedia has the knobs also control multiple parameters/filters/LFOs, etc — at least to me — that was sometimes confusing. You can easily get out of that confusion, though, simply by using the UNO editor — that one gives visual control on a computer screen but is much bigger and more elaborate than the physical unit.
If you have a MIDI controller, you can drive the UNO Synth and most of its controls via the controller. I used my Nektar LX88 and could use the controls on the LX88 without ever touching those of UNO. Those work very well, except on the controls for automation, such as the sequencer and arpeggiator, which didn’t seem to have an equivalent on the LX88 keyboard/controller.
There are over 40 controls on the UNO Synth’s top panel that give access to its synth engine parameters, while the software Editor allows you to store and manage an unlimited number of presets.
The UNO Synth’s 27-note on-board multitouch keyboard offers over two octaves of sound control as both a chromatic keyboard or as a predefined scale keyboard. You can select from 13 scales and the built-in arpeggiator has 10 different arpeggio modes and a 4-octave range.
The UNO Synth keyboard also enables step-edit control for its built-in sequencer, with sequences potentially programmed both in real-time or in steps and including up to 20 synth parameters for every step.
Five instant performance modulations are also available (Dive, Scoop, Vibrato, Wah and Tremolo).
Of course you can’t expect the UNO Synth to be able to generate the ultra-complex musical abilities a software synth like Alchemy or Hexeract are capable of, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get tin can sound from it. Quite on the contrary, I was amazed at what you can get out of the UNO even as it is “only” a monophonic synthesiser.
I did, however, find it more comfortable to use the UNO in combination with its editor because that gave me much clearer feedback to what I was doing. That is probably due to me not being a synthesiser expert nor even a musician. It’s very clear, however, that IK Multimedia has a winner with their UNO analogue synthesiser. It retails for slightly over or under 200 Euros, depending on where you buy it.