Buying your first synthesizer is a big deal and one that can lead to many different results, especially if you're on a budget. Earlier this year, hardware/software developer IK Multimedia, known for their iRig iOS music making tools, surprised the world with their very first synthesizer, a lightweight, 100% analog machine they dubbed UNO synth. Their success in the "producer on the go" market lead them to develop a tool that would bridge the gap between inside and outside box, creating an instrument that was fun and easy to use, regardless of skill level, all at a great entry level price point. In this review, we'll be taking a look at the UNO, and its VST Editor, to see if it really is the perfect place to begin your synth journey.
What is it?
UNO is a 2 oscillator, 100% analog synthesizer. It's extremely lightweight and is able to run off either batteries or USB. It also has a two-octave keyboard and works either standalone or with your DAW of choice, via the free UNO Editor software. Aside from being a synth, it can also be used as a midi controller.
How does it work?
As stated, the UNO can run off either batteries or USB cable, which is great if you're on the go. Each oscillator has 4 different waves to choose from, with the ability to sweep in between each to find the sound you're looking for. The keyboard is touch sensitive, giving the synth a very sleek and futuristic look. The LFO is unfortunately not assignable, but it is adjustable via the envelop and pitch knobs. There is also a built-in 16 step sequencer.
IK included 5 what they call performance buttons, which are essentially effects to be used when playing the synth live. The effects are vibrato, wah filter, tremolo, dive, and scoop. While the LFO itself is not assignable, each effect has parameters assigned to the LFO for more control over the effect. UNO also has a delay built in, and MIDI in/out capabilities, although not full-sized. The editor is available for both computer and iOS.
What do I think of it?
When IK Multimedia first announced the synth, I was definitely intrigued by the company's move. I've become very fond of these types of synths, ones that pack power in a small and approachable pricepoint package. In terms of overall design, I'm not a fan of touch-sensitive buttons and keys. It takes away from the tactile experience that I love about hardware. There are 7 knobs, so it's not a completely dull experience. I also found the provided micro-USB cable to be a bit too short, but if being used with my laptop it wouldn't be an issue at all.
While I might not be too keen on the way the synth feels, I'm certainly satisfied with how it sounds. It's a nice buzzy little machine, but it can also create some really decent sounds. On the box of UNO, the company writes that it's "easily programmable". I'd have to agree with that statement. The workflow when using the editor makes everything clear and easy to understand exactly what you're doing. Speaking of the editor, personally, I prefer to use UNO with it than without.
Should you buy one?
If you are looking to buy your first synth, but are either on a budget or want something extremely portable and headache free, then I would suggest taking a look into a UNO
Sometimes, companies can try to pack too much into too small of a package, but IK Multimedia chose to keep things simple. The synth is exactly as advertised. Getting up and running is quick, and you'll be making music in no time.
Pros: Analog, portable, easily programmable
Cons: not the tactile keyboard experience some might be looking for
Final Score: 8/10