marino Posted May 31, 2022 Share Posted May 31, 2022 Someone might remember the thread about the Uno Synth Pro analog monosynth from IK Multimedia, where I wished to have the chance to play one soon. Well, thanks to the historical music store Your Music here in Rome, I had the chance to try one at home for a few days, so here are my first-hand impressions - and a little video with a bunch of patches I have programmed. The usual disclaimer: I'm going to focus on the aspects that matter the most to me: Sound, voice channel, programmability, playability, ease of use - in other words, the "synthesizer" bits. I didn't test the sequencer or arpeggiator, and I didn't give much attention to paraphony. At least, this time I have the partial excuse of the limited time available... In short, I treated the Uno Synth Pro as an old-style monosynth. I'm so happy to see new synthesizers coming out from Italian developers, especially when they sound this good. But just to be sure, I'll make no discounts about things I didn't appreciate. Let's start. IK Multimedia, previously known for their software instruments, came out a couple of years ago with the original Uno Synth, an extremely small desktop analog monosynth with an aggressive sound. With two oscillators and an OTA multimode filter, 2 ADSR, one single LFO, and a delay unit, it was priced competitively with the cheapest Behringer desktop instruments, with the added bonus of patch memories and effects. Shortly later, the Pro version was released. The oscillators became three, a second, different filter was added with serial/parallel configurations, plus a second LFO, analog drive, and three stages of good-quality effects - and, perhaps the most important, a large mod matrix with 16 slots. There's also a 64-step sequencer and a 10-mode arpeggiator. There are two versions of the Uno Synth Pro: The one I have tested has a full-size three-octave Fatar keyboard with aftertouch; then there's a desktop version, which is much smaller, lighter and cheaper, and has a touch-plate "keyboard" and two tiny strips in place of the two wheels. Internally, the two instruments are identical. 1. APPEARANCE AND HANDLING. The Uno Synth Pro is *small*. I mean, there's no concession to extra space on either side of the 3-octave keyboard. The pitch and mod wheels are placed above the keys. And the panel isn't big, either. In contrast, it weights almost 6 kg (about 13 lbs) with its solid metal chassis. The overall impression is quite satisfying: Compact but sturdy. The keyboard feels *very* good to my fingers. Actually, I think it's the same Fatar keyboard that's mounted on the Sequential Pro 3. Maybe this version offers just a bit less resistance, but given that the Pro 3 keyboard is one of the stiffer synth-action keyboards around, I'm not complaining. The aftertouch is activated a bit brutally, with little graduality - at least on my unit. And there's no provision for different aftertouch curves. But there's a workaround: Each of the modulation slots in the Mod Matrix (more on that later) has a "Fade In" parameter. Setting that beetween 700 ms and 1.2 seconds generally makes the aftertouch response much smoother. (the Hydrasynth has a similar setting, specific to the aftertouch). There are dedicated knobs for Cutoff and Resonance, four generic pots, and a Data encoder. The panel functions are clearly laid out, but even though you have four knobs at a time to tweak in any given page, you can only see one value at a time in the microscopic OLED display. And I thought that the Pro 3 display was small... Also, the four soft knobs are potentiometers, with the usual choice of Jump, Relative, or Pass Thru behaviours, none of which I find ideal; I would have preferred endless encoders for this application. The lone Data encoder, however, is very useful, and works as a pushbutton too. With this small amount of hardware, programming is not exactly a super-fast affair... not that the system is difficult to grasp, just a bit slow and tedious. Fortunately, there's a software editor, which is very clear and easy to operate. For logistical reasons, I had to program using the panel only, which made my sound building a bit less fun than should have been. I feel that by using the editor, I would have come up with many more sounds in the same time frame. 2. INS AND OUTS. 5-pin MIDI in and out with provision for Soft Thru, regular 1/4" main stereo outs, minijacks audio in, CV/Gate ins and outs (2 of each), stereo minijack headphones out (umm, ok), USB. The desktop version has a second USB port dedicated to power exclusively. If I got it correctly, the keyboard version can't be powered thru USB. Oh, and - external power supply. Urgh. Ok, it's a small unit with a reasonable price, stop complaining. EDIT: Initially, I thought that this synth had no power-on switch, until someone pointed me to the "Hold" button, which can be used as a on-off switch while connected to the power. Still, I think that a proper power-on switch would be a better idea. 3. ARCHITECTURE. In a nutshell: - 3 VCOs with continuosly variable waveforms - Dual analog filters with serial or parallel configuration - 2 ADSRs, 2 LFOs, FM, Sync, Ring Mod,16-slot Mod Matrix - Analog drive + 3 effect stages (modulation, delay, reverb) - 64-step sequencer, arpeggiator 4. OSCILLATORS The VCOs can go from a triangle to a saw to a square to a narrow pulse in a continuous fashion, and that offers a lot of possibilities if you set your starting point and mod amount with accuracy. They sound robust and satisfying to me. I used waveform modulation of some sort in most of the patches I have programmed. The three VCOs are identical except for the audio range settings. Osc 2, 3 or both can be synced to osc 1, and they can function as FM modulators - all at the same time if you want. The oscillator sync sounds full enough, even though it doesn't reach the piercing acidity of the Odyssey, which I have recently reviewied. Osc 1 and 2 can be ring modulated, even though ring mod level can't be adjusted in the mix; it's strictly on or off. Bizarre if you ask me. 5. FILTERS. As mentioned above, there are two filters, of which the second sounds quite different and can self-oscillate. The first filter is a two-pole, offered in LP and HP configurations; you can invert its phase if needed. The second is strictly lowpass, but it comes in 2- and 4-pole versions, either in series or parallel. There's no provision for bandpass, but you can build one by putting HP and LP in series, and linking their cutoff frequencies. There's a "Spacing" control to adjust the bell of the passing band. Intelligently, any one of the filters can be individually bypassed, for simpler and quicker configurations. The output of the synth's audio path is *not* stereo; The Pro relies on its effects for its stereo imaging. 6. ENVELOPES. What can I say, these are two ADSRs, one prewired to the filter(s), the other to the amp, and each can be directed to anything in the Mod Matrix. The response sounds slightly exponential to my ears, but there's no parameter to adjust that. The envelopes can loop, and there's a choice beetween single trigger ("Legato") and multiple trigger ("Mono"), plus the Paraphonic mode. 7. LFOs. A couple of LFOs with the usual waves, plus S&H and "Random", which is a smoothed S&H - *very* useful in many circumstances. (Are you listening, Sequential?) The LFOs can go into the audio range, and - of course - they can be synced to clock. 8. ANALOG DRIVE. This saturation effect is one of the best of its kind to my ears. It sounds aggressive but smooth, it marries the sound of the oscillators and filters very well, and can be modulated. Thumbs up. 9. EFFECTS. Three stages of effects: - Modulation, with a choice of chorus, phaser and flanger; - Delay, with a choice of Mono, Stereo, Doubler, Ping-Pong or LCR; - Reverb, with a choice of Hall, Plate, Reverse and Spring. The order of the effect chain can't be changed, and every algorithm has a few parameters that you can adjust. Not much, but for being onboard effects, they sound quite good, and once again, they go really well with the overall sound character of the synth. 10. MODULATION MATRIX. A satisfying choice of sources and destinations, with some unusual choices: For example, Filter Cutoff and Resonance are among the destinations (obviously) but among the sources as well - as is LFO Fade in time. More importantly, all oscillators and *noise* can be used as audio-rate sources. I find that this is a great resource. Any omissions? Well, at least one: Individual envolope segments can't be modulated. Of course, none of the vintage instruments that we love so much had this feature... I think I saw it for the firat time when I got my Matrix-12 in the late '80s. Other than this, the supply of parameters is generous, and quite conductive to creative sound design. 11. SEQUENCER AND ARPEGGIATOR: This synth has a sequencer and an arpeggiator. A bit more seriously, the sequencer can reach 64 steps, the arpeggiator has 10 modes, and the two can interact. Sorry, I haven't tested them. 12. SO HOW DOES IT SOUND? Full, rich, solid. I like it a lot. Even the naked oscillators sound satisfying to me, and the filters are very well matched to that initial quality. It's very difficult to program a blah sound on this machine. As I said before, I was forced to program it using the panel only, so it was a bit more tedious than I would have liked... but once a patch was there, I found myself just *playing* it for an unordinate amount of time. This is a sure sign that I had found an affinity for the instrument. Also, I find that it's equally suitable for aggressive electronic music, with piercing saturated basses etc., and more traditional "keyboard player" applications, especially leads. The great-feeling keyboard also helps a lot. Even the paraphonic patches sounded full and warm to my ears, and that's saying a lot. To be sure, the Uno Synth Pro has a definite sonic personality, which tends to be present in the most diverse patches. It doesn't have the incredible versatility of, say, the Pro 3 (and what instrument could have it?). This "recognizability", if you will, could be a negative if you don't like this particular character; personally, I like it very much, and I'm happy it's there. 13. WISH LIST. Ok. With such a sophisticated instrument, I would have liked the possibility of modulating the individual segments of the envelopes. And speaking of that, two envs and two LFOs are a bit skimpy as a dotation of main modulators. However, some of the most unusual modulation sources in the Mod Matrix could partially make up for that. Since there are so few knobs on the panel, I would have made them endless encoders rather that potentiometers. And really, this trend of microscopic OLED displays is getting a bit to my nerves. I would advise any serious programmer to use the editor. It's well done, can be resized, it's clearly laid out. You don't have the immediacy of "analog" programming - but with so few knobs, you don't have it from the panel, either. 14. FINAL CONSIDERATIONS. The Uno Synth Pro is a nice/nasty beast. It sounds "naturally good", it's small and portable but extremely powerful, and it's priced very reasonably. Here in Italy, it costs about half of a new Pro 3. In different countries, it's probably a slightly different story, of course - but if you love powerful analog sounds and like the sound personality of the Uno Synth Pro, I'd say it's worth checking in any case. Maybe this is a good place for a clarification: This is a totally unbiased review. I am not in contact with IK Multimedia, and I have no specific interest in pushing the Uno Synth Pro in any way. The great guys at Your Music lent me the synth for a few days, just because I had expressed my interest in trying it. The only deal was that I would make a video about it. 15. THE VIDEO. I took the same approach of my latest videos, of illustrating 'some' of the parameters that I was using with subtitles. In homage to MPN, I have kept the subtitles in English - but this time, I have added Italian subtitles, embedded in the YouTube video. Enjoy! 5 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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