IK Multimedia's UNO packs a surprisingly capable analogue monosynth into an attractively priced and eminently portable box.
The UNO is the first hardware synth from IK Multimedia, best known for their iOS friendly controllers, interfaces and plug-ins. It's a super-portable analogue monosynth with patch memory, app control and a tempting price tag.
I was immediately intrigued by the UNO: small, self-contained synthy things with batteries are a personal weakness. But I had the same initial scepticism I had with the Pioneer/DSI Toraiz AS-1, with which the UNO has quite a lot in common. Can people warm to an analogue synth with a limited set of panel controls and a touch keyboard? And IK Multimedia can't boast the synth track record of Dave Smith. On this count, IK were not starting from scratch: for the UNO they employed the talents of synth designer Erik Norlander, and worked with fellow Italians Soundmachines on the hardware engineering. Among other things Soundmachines make the Modulör114, a self-contained Eurorack workstation with USB that's been high on my gearlust list for the last year.
The UNO is certainly one of the most backpackable synths I've encountered. It's small and light, and apart from seven knobs, there's little in the way of parts you could break. Besides the knobs, all user controls are flat zones on the surface. While this is reminiscent of the membrane-covered buttons found on the Moog Source or Yamaha DX7, these are not buttons at all. The panel is a flat piece of matte Lexan-type material, and the 'buttons' are touch-sensitive zones that respond to a light touch or tap.
The panel has a nicely raked angle thanks to the riser block at the back, which houses the mercifully accessible battery compartment (you'll be swapping out your rechargeables every two to three hours). The stepped design is also handy for hooking the unit onto other surfaces, such as the blank space on a controller keyboard. The plastic chassis and knobs have the feel of a budget MIDI controller, but the UNO seems tough enough and the touch UI should make it unusually resistant to dirt and liquid.
One thing I've criticised in past IK hardware is the use of proprietary adaptor cables, in particular the mini-DIN port they've used instead of USB. Happily, the UNO uses a standard micro-USB port...
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