IK Mul­ti­me­dia UNO

Does IK’s de­but ana­logue monosynth do enough to stand out in a crowded mar­ket­place? Si Truss finds out

Future Music - - CONTENTS - CON­TACT KEY FEA­TURES WHO: IK Mul­ti­me­dia WEB: www.ik­mul­ti­me­dia.com Two os­cil­la­tor mono­phonic ana­logue synth with se­quencer, arpeg­gia­tor and de­lay. Fea­tures 100 pre­sets. I/O: mini-jack au­dio out­put, mini-jack au­dio in­put, mini-USB, MIDI in/out

IK un­leash their first ever ana­logue synth. We take it for a test drive...

With prod­ucts rang­ing from mam­moth ROM­plers to ana­logue ef­fect em­u­la­tions, amp-sims, MIDI con­trollers, a huge ar­ray of iOS apps and ac­ces­sories, and even a selfie stick, Ital­ian brand IK Mul­ti­me­dia must be one of the most pro­lific out­fits in hi-tech mu­sic mak­ing. Un­til now, their range has leant to­ward the dig­i­tal realm – but that changes with the ar­rival of UNO, their first ana­logue in­stru­ment. Fear not though, UNO doesn’t come to­tally with­out her­itage; Ital­ian synth brand Sound­ma­chines and Ale­sis An­dromeda de­signer Erik Nor­lan­der both had a hand in its cre­ation.

The look of UNO may prove a bit di­vi­sive. Its slanted pro­file and push but­ton con­trol panel have a retro charm, but it’s a de­sign that brings to mind the early days of home com­put­ers more than any vin­tage ana­logue synth. On un­box­ing UNO, the first thing that struck me was how light­weight and pla­s­ticky the in­stru­ment feels. In all hon­esty, the hard­ware feels a lit­tle cheap – no ‘lux­ury’ wood or metal, and the con­trol panel re­lies heav­ily on ba­sic-feel­ing push but­tons with a sin­gle row of plas­tic ro­taries for proper tac­tile con­trol. It would be easy to balk at this seem­ing lack of qual­ity – par­tic­u­larly com­pared to sim­i­larly-priced synths like the Mi­croBrute or Mono­logue – but in the big­ger picture, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily an is­sue. There’s a lot go­ing on fea­ture-wise, and clearly IK opted to save money on the hard­ware to keep the price down. I can live with that, but if you plan on trav­el­ing with UNO, con­sider a hard case.

Con­nec­tion-wise, UNO has mono-summed mini-jack in and out ports on its rear. The lack of a proper, full-sized out­put is a shame, as there’s def­i­nitely space for one, but this is clearly an­other cost-sav­ing is­sue. The au­dio in­put al­lows an ex­ter­nal sig­nal to be mixed with the synth and pro­cessed via the de­lay, although there’s no level con­trol. Along­side the au­dio I/O, UNO has

mini-jacks for MIDI in and out, with DIN adapters in­cluded. Fi­nally, there’s also a mini-USB port for MIDI and power. Users can se­lect whether UNO is pow­ered via USB con­nec­tion or AA bat­ter­ies.

Un­der the hood, UNO fea­tures an all-ana­logue two-os­cil­la­tor synth en­gine. Sound edit­ing is han­dled by a neatly laid-out ma­trix which uses four but­tons and four ro­taries. Each VCO has a con­tin­u­ous wave­shape con­trol rang­ing from tri­an­gle through saw and square waves, with pulse width mo­du­la­tion in­tro­duced to­wards the right of the dial, rang­ing from 50% up to 98%. As with quite a few fea­tures of UNO’s sound en­gine, pulse width mo­du­la­tion only has a lim­ited level of front panel con­trol but a num­ber of deeper con­fig­u­ra­tion op­tions avail­able via MIDI CC or IK’s free soft­ware ed­i­tor.

Each os­cil­la­tor also gets a bi-di­rec­tional tune con­trol, which can be used to make fine de­tune ad­just­ments and, at the ex­tremes, ad­just the os­cil­la­tor tun­ing by semi­tone in­cre­ments. Th­ese two os­cil­la­tors are joined by a noise gen­er­a­tor, with a sec­ond tier menu of­fer­ing con­trol over mixer level for all three sources.

UNO’s fil­ter is a mul­ti­mode 2-pole OTA de­sign. Hand­ily, fil­ter cut­off is one of the few pa­ram­e­ters with its own ded­i­cated ro­tary, which sits along the top of the in­ter­face. The rest of the fil­ter pa­ram­e­ters are ac­cessed via the ma­trix. Here we can con­trol fil­ter mode – switch­able be­tween low-, high- and band-pass – res­o­nance, drive and en­ve­lope amount. The res­o­nance doesn’t push into self-os­cil­la­tion, but it is ca­pa­ble of some re­ally ag­gres­sive rasps and squeals, and can add res­o­nant bite with­out de­stroy­ing the low end – great for acid-style basslines. The drive con­trol is a nice touch too, al­low­ing for a lit­tle ex­tra sat­u­ra­tion and grit, although it doesn’t quite dis­tort things as much as I’d like.

The next two rows of the ma­trix are ded­i­cated to mo­du­la­tion. There are en­velopes for the fil­ter and VCA as well as a sin­gle LFO, which can be routed to fil­ter cut­off and os­cil­la­tor pitch. The two en­velopes

While UNO might look and feel rather ‘bud­get’, its sound is any­thing but

are both four-stage, but only two of th­ese can be con­trolled from the front panel – at­tack and de­cay in the case of the fil­ter, at­tack and re­lease for the VCA. Full con­trol of all en­ve­lope stages and ex­tra LFO rout­ing op­tions are ac­ces­si­ble via CC or the soft­ware ed­i­tor.

UNO also fea­tures an ana­logue de­lay. This is con­trolled us­ing a pair of multi-func­tion ar­row but­tons to set mix level and de­lay time. Th­ese con­trols are fairly slow to make pa­ram­e­ter changes, although you can ‘jump’ through val­ues by hold­ing down ei­ther but­ton. The de­lay has a fixed feed­back amount too, locked in at a rel­a­tively re­strained level. As a re­sult, the ef­fect as a whole is more of a ‘set and leave’ tool, good for adding ex­tra space and in­ter­est to your patches, but not that handy for on-the-fly tweak­ing. Also note that UNO’s out­put is summed to mono, so don’t ex­pect any ex­tra width from turn­ing up the de­lay level.

The lower part of the push but­ton in­ter­face is taken up by a 27-note ‘key­board’ for live play­ing, or to in­put notes for the on­board se­quencer or arpeg­gia­tor. De­spite its rather ba­sic look and feel, it isn’t too bad to play. There’s not a lot in the way of tac­tile feed­back, but the ‘keys’ never feel cramped. The row of quick per­for­mance ef­fects that sit above the key­board are a nice touch too. Th­ese let the user add pitch dives and swoops, or vi­brato, wah and tremolo, by hold­ing down the cor­re­spond­ing but­ton.

While UNO might look and feel rather ‘bud­get’, its sound is any­thing but. Although the synth en­gine is straight­for­ward, there’s an im­pres­sive amount of flex­i­bil­ity and the re­sult­ing tone is char­ac­ter­ful with plenty of ana­logue weight. The fil­ter is a high­light – pleas­antly raspy with the res­o­nance cranked, but warm and smooth reined in. Paired with a square or saw wave, the re­sult takes UNO into con­vinc­ing 303 or SEM ter­ri­tory. While nei­ther fil­ter drive or de­lay are the most wide-rang­ing, both do add pol­ish and char­ac­ter.

The flex­i­bil­ity of UNO is shown off well by the 100 pre­sets. Th­ese are ar­ranged in banks of 10, cov­er­ing classic bass and lead sounds, arp-friendly plucks, drones and sound ef­fects. Of th­ese slots, the later 80 can be over-writ­ten.

As a pack­age, UNO is im­pres­sive, with a few caveats. Even com­pared to other af­ford­able in­stru­ments, UNO feels like a bud­get synth in hard­ware terms. Its con­trol in­ter­face isn’t ideal ei­ther – the ma­trix lay­out is a neat way to or­gan­ise the synth en­gine, and the key­board and per­for­mance ef­fects make UNO sur­pris­ingly nice to play, but the lack of ded­i­cated ro­taries, faders or switches makes it feel a bit awk­ward. Quite a few pa­ram­e­ters are in­ac­ces­si­ble with­out an ex­ter­nal MIDI in­put too.

On the sonic front, the place the UNO does show its bud­get roots – at least for our re­view unit – is the pres­ence of an au­di­ble cal­i­bra­tion noise, which leaks into the out­put when­ever the synth en­gine is in­ac­tive. IK are aware of this is­sue with some pro­duc­tion units, and have al­ready tamed it sub­stan­tially with a firmware up­date. We hope they can re­duce it more in fu­ture, but the noise is low enough to mask.

De­spite all of this, UNO is an ex­cel­lent-sound­ing, ver­sa­tile ana­logue monosynth, and you do get a lot for your money. The pre­sets of­fer a ton of highly us­able sounds, and I could cer­tainly see this be­com­ing a go-to in­stru­ment for classic basses and leads. The arp and se­quencer are great for in­spir­ing ideas too. At the time of writ­ing the soft­ware ed­i­tor is still forth­com­ing, but it prom­ises to ex­pand the ca­pa­bil­i­ties sig­nif­i­cantly, with plugin func­tion­al­ity for full pa­ram­e­ter re­call within a DAW, along­side a stand­alone iOS ver­sion. Es­sen­tially, if you can cope with a few com­pro­mises, UNO is a great source of classic, punchy ana­logue sounds at a bar­gain price.

De­lay Con­trol for de­lay is lim­ited, and the feed­back is fixed, but it adds a nice layer of pol­ishSe­quencer The se­quencer is only 16-step, but it’s easy to pro­gram and makes a good tool for sketch­ing ideasMatr ix Sound ed­its are made via the but­ton/ro­tary ma­trix, although some fea­tures can only be ac­cessed via MIDIHard­ware There’s no get­ting away from the fact that UNO’s hard­ware feels very light­weight and ‘plas­tic’

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