I’ve had the UNO Synth Pro (Desktop) for several months now. I bought it after the recent price drop, having felt that it was originally overpriced for what it offers. Now I’ve had time to use it I am really impressed.
What attracted me most to the desktop version of the UNO Synth Pro was that it is really small, light and portable. I don’t have much space in my home studio (if you can even call it that, it’s actually just a small area in the corner of the kitchen) so small and either battery or USB-powered is important to me. But this doesn’t mean it’s not fully featured. The synth engine goes deep, really deep! It has three analog oscillators with continuous waveforms (plus one noise source) and ring mod, FM & sync, dual analog multimode filters (LP, BP & HP) with lots of routing options (including parallel and serial) and four onboard digital effects – drive, modulation/chorus, delay and reverb. It also has a 16-slot modulation matrix with a long list of source and destinations – really useful for creating more complicated patches and interesting evolving pads and drones. As well as the mono mode, the UNO Synth Pro has a paraphonic mode to use with the three oscillators. I’ve not had much experience with paraphonic synths before, but this seems to work much better than the Novation Bass Station 2 – which I always found frustrating. Overall, I’m really impressed by the sonic abilities of the UNO Synth Pro – it sounds great!
Having owned a Dave Smith Instruments Desktop Evolver in the past, I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with the matrix-style interface. Generally, I prefer a bit more hands on control with my gear. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised on how well I got on with the UNO Synth Pro. The UI is really well laid out and seems to work well. There are also shortcuts for everything not directly available in the matrix, so once you develop some muscle memory, there’s really not too much menu diving. I also really like the way all the buttons are backlit. This makes it really easy to use it in low light, unlike some of my other synths.
You get an excellent 64-step sequencer with motion recording of up to 4 parameters, and I was pleasantly surprised that you can also parameter lock each step Elektron-style. Worth mentioning is that your patterns can be chained up using the Song Mode, something that is missing in so many synths! There’s also an excellent programmable arpeggiator onboard which, I was pleased to see, syncs perfectly to the sequencer clock/beat (unlike the arpeggio on Rolands recent offerings such as the MC-101, MC-707, SH-4d etc.). In fact, I’ve been using the UNO Synth Pro as a midi controller for the Roland SH-4d for this very reason!
On the back of the synth you’ll find MIDI IN/OUT and CV/GATE In/Out. There’s plenty of MIDI CC control available and it responds well to Program Change Messages (PCMs) from other gear – changing patterns in perfect sync.
I use my synths standalone (dawless) so don’t usually download companion software, but IK Multimedia provide additional patches on their website, and you need the UNO Synth Pro Software editor in order to install them using the included patch librarian, so I downloaded it to give it a go. It seemed to work very well, with both a standalone application and VST/AU plugins available. Even if though I tend to use the hardware to create patches, I actually found the editor to be really useful for visually seeing all of the parameters on one screen – especially when using the dual filters.
Now for the Cons…
The UNO Synth Pro has a really long start up time while it performs its calibration. Sometimes this seems to go on forever! Be careful not to touch the capacitive keyboard during this operation as it often causes issues with the tuning of the synth. Talking of the keyboard, this general works well for a small mini synth (if only for inputting notes from your chosen scale into the sequencer), however, the pitch and mod wheel can be a little unresponsive and glitchy at times.
The UNO Synth Pro also suffers from several noise issues. Firstly, there is a strange noise when using the headphone output. You can still faintly hear the sound droning on for some time, even after the note has completed its release stage. It’s very strange, but luckily it doesn’t seem to be an issue using the main stereo outs. Secondly, the UNO Synth Pro is powered by USB Micro Cable and when connected to a PC you will experience USB ground noise,. I’ve noticed that IK Multimedia have provided two USB sockets – one for power and one for data – which may help to eliminate this problem although I’ve not tested this.
Talking of the USB connection – why they didn’t use USB-C ports is beyond me (maybe due to cost). Instead they opted for the older USB Micro ports which are particularly difficult to plug a cable into and I have already scratched the plastic around the USB ports while making multiple attempts to make the connection.
While light and USB powered (useful for portability), the plastic housing doesn’t feel very robust. I’ve already found that some dust has made its way underneath the small display screen. You can’t really see this in operation, but it is annoying nethertheless. The black glossy front panel is also a real finger print magnet (if that bothers you).
The UNO Synth Pro firmware v1.02 does seem to have a few bugs which IK Multimedia don’t seem to be in any hurry to fix. Firstly, the LFO Retrigger setting isn’t aways saved with the patch. This can be quite annoying when a patch or pattern requires this as you will need to reset this parameter each and every time you load the patch. Secondly, when clearing motion recorded parameters from the sequencer, clearing the recorded parameters works fine (cutoff, resonance etc.). However, when you clear the very last parameter in the list the entire note is also deleted (including pitch, velocity and gate values). This can be quite frustrating after spending time entering all of those notes!
I reported these issues when I first received the UNO Synth Pro and IK Multimedia support responded immediately to confirm the issues and let me know that their development team were working on a fix. However, while they are quick to respond to tickets, the support staff seem to make lots of promises that they fail to deliver. It’s now been almost four months since I reported these problems with no firmware update in sight.
Overall, however, I’m really pleased with the UNO Synth Pro. It’s not perfect, but you get a lot of features for the money and it sounds great! I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for their first analog synth or those with limited space.