IK Multimedia’s new UNO Synth Pro X is a statement of intent.
The last iterations of IK Multimedia’s UNO Synth series saw the Italian company’s paraphonic UNO Synth Pro and UNO Synth Pro Desktop commit to the trajectory set in motion by the first UNO Synth, throwing down the gauntlet as serious contenders in the analogue synth game. In my review of those instruments back in late 2021, I noted that they were surprisingly powerful, that their onboard effects were surprisingly good, and maybe the takeaway from this is that we just shouldn’t be surprised anymore. In any case, I was therefore not surprised, upon unboxing the UNO Synth Pro X, to see that IK have demonstratively sought to up their synth game and extend the appeal of the series ‘upwards’; in other words, this time around it feels like the company have, you might say, more ‘serious’ synthesists in their sights. Make no mistake: these are quality electronic instruments by any standard, even if their names do sound like a jumble of all the marketable terms IK could think of. Including the word ‘synth’.
I say ‘more serious’ carefully, because that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’ — Teenage Engineering for one blew that notion out of the water long ago with the gloriously dumb yet generation‑definingly good OP‑1. It’s by no means esoteric, but nonetheless a sense of accessibility doesn’t seem to be at the top of the UNO Synth Pro X’s agenda, at least in the way it was with the UNO Synth Pro. For one thing, the Synth Pro came in two iterations: a Desktop version (with a form factor exactly the same size as the Pro X), and a keyboarded version that I should point out boasted a very nice‑feeling Fatar keybed. With the Pro X, IK Multimedia have forgone the keyboard and committed to one desktop version, presumably on the assumption that anyone wanting that dimension of playability will have their own MIDI keyboard. No hand‑holding on that front, then.
Far from its predecessor’s panel’s minimal interface, ostensibly consisting of four assignable knobs and grid of parameters, the Pro X’s matte‑finish panel is replete with controls. It’s bold and upfront with its functions, many of which are carried over from before, though there are a raft of additions and improvements to speak of as well. It’s not far off a knob‑per‑function layout, and those used to conventional subtractive synth architecture will find themselves on ostensibly familiar ground.
Logic Pro X users may raise eyebrows at the name — as we’ve come to expect from IK Multimedia the Pro X is set to pair famously with your computer, with USB‑C connectivity and a brand new deep‑diving digital editor that can also assume software plug‑in form (side note: you can’t transfer presets from the Synth Pro to the Pro X). But as far as I can tell there’s no particular persuasion toward Apple’s DAW. In fact, in one interview IK product manager Enrico Dell’Aversana lightheartedly referred to the ‘X’ as standing for ‘experimentation’, and in fairness it’s easy to see why. The Pro X’s interface invites sonic exploration in a manner we’ve not seen from the Synth Pro series up to now, and it’s streamlined many features to make the whole process that bit more fluid and enjoyable as well. It’s also worth noting that the Synth Pro X’s price is the same as that of the keyboarded Synth Pro, and significantly higher than the Synth Pro Desktop. The message is clear: IK Multimedia mean business.
Users of the Synth Pro Desktop will notice that the Pro X has changed things around a little — or a lot — when it comes to panel priority. Where the Synth Pro had a two‑and‑a‑half octave capacitance‑sensing keyboard taking up at least a third of the overall panel space, with a miniature sequencer squeezed above it, the Pro X prioritises its sequencer with generously‑sized buttons and pops a miniature single‑octave keyboard just above. This is a good move — not least because I don’t think anyone will miss that keyboard (I’m yet to see a single person ever actually play a capacitive keyboard musically), but also because it emphasises the value of the Pro X’s sequencer as central to its character and playability. In many ways it serves to render the Pro X more a bona fide sequencing instrument in the tradition of Elektron or Roland (more on that anon) than a keyboard‑controlled synth that happens to have a sequencer included. The little keyboard is still useful for programming sequences and auditioning sounds, of course, but I’m of the view that on an instrument this size you really don’t need any more than that. I also feel the Pro X’s look and layout brings it into a more Korg‑ish territory, perhaps because of its faint aesthetic shades of the Electribe or Drumlogue.
Sequences of up to 64 steps can be punched in step by step, recorded in real time with the keyboard (the Synth Pro’s recording metronome is carried over to the Pro X) or even imported from the 10‑mode arpeggiator. Usefully, when loading up a preset the Pro X offers the choice of loading the sound, the...