IK Multimedia UNO Synth Pro X: the compact, analogue UNO Synth finds its perfect form at last
IK’s powerhouse analogue system gets a total physical redesign, putting the full might of its sound engine at your fingertips
IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro X. Image: Simon Vinall
⊕ Fun, creative and inspiring to play br>
⊕ Powerful sequencer and arpeggiator br>
⊕ Plenty of I/O for connecting gear br>
⊖ USB connection can’t handle audio br>
IK’s third UNO Synth is, as we discovered from its developers and fans in our interview, the version ‘that the synth community deserved from the start’. In fact, its announcement came as something of a surprise. The first version was affordable and beloved for its approachability, while the subsequent Pro model expanded as a desktop version with a virtual keyboard, alongside a larger model with a physical keyboard.
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There remained a feeling among some users, however, that much of the Pro’s power was being hidden behind a lacklustre physical interface. Users wanted to really get hands-on.
With product manager Enrico Dell’Aversana taking over, again in collaboration with Italian synth hardware specialists Soundmachines, the Pro X was redesigned and the user experience was made a priority. He even told us that the ‘X’ stands for ‘experience’. Alongside the physical revamp, the internals have been tweaked, too, though to a much lesser degree – it was already a powerful system, after all. The changes are significant enough, though, that patches from the Pro and the Pro X are incompatible with each other.
IK bills the synth as ultra-portable. That’s more than justified; weighing just 800g, it’s well-built but even more compact in reality than photos let on. Alongside the bundled power supply unit, the synth can also draw power from a USB-C device that provides at least 7.5W – pretty much all recent laptops or computers. The USB port also sends MIDI data back and forth and can be used with the companion software librarian and editor, which also works as a DAW plugin.
Unfortunately, the USB connection can’t send audio out directly to your DAW. This would have been the icing on the cake for portability.
Despite its compact size, you get a wealth of I/O on the rear panel, starting with two full-size MIDI plugs for connecting to external gear as well as two CV/gate ins and outs for incorporating modular equipment into your system. There are two full-sized jack outputs for connecting to a mixer or interface, as well as a 3.5mm headphone output. There’s also an audio input that lets you send a mono signal into the synth, where you can apply the UNO’s filters and effects, or just pass it through for incorporation into the main output.
Moving to the front panel, you’ll see that there’s way more going on than in the older Pro. The bulk is taken up by the sound editing area, then to the right is the Global section. Along the base are the sequencer and arpeggiator. And in the top right is a small but serviceable screen, which provides visual feedback and combined with the animated backlighting, keeps you apprised of what’s going on.
The heart of the synth is its three-wave-morphing oscillator paraphonic sound engine and its dual filters. (A paraphonic synth is one in which multiple oscillators can be used to play different notes, but all the oscillators route through the same signal path – as opposed to a truly polyphonic synth where each oscillator has its own signal path). While its predecessor relies on menu-diving, the focus here has been placed firmly on putting control at your fingertips. There is still some sub-function stuff going on of course – there simply isn’t room to have one button for every single feature – and these are mostly accessed by using the shift button, with secondary functions generally indicated using text on the body.
IK’s focus on the hands-on controls really makes the Pro feel more… well, pro. Being able to grab and change pretty much anything by sight rather than taking several steps lends it an air of greater seriousness. Plus, it’s also more fun and encourages your creativity.
The layout guides you from the oscillators through the fat filters – which sound amazing, incidentally; a button lets you switch between two and four poles and low-pass and high-pass options – and on to the envelope section. Here, the ADSR knob can be switched between tweaking the filter, amp and also a new Envelope 3 option that can be used in the modulation matrix.
The modulation matrix has also been redesigned, with three buttons: Source, Destination and Amount. Here you can choose from 16 slots and 38 sources and then, using the screen and dial or the sequencer buttons, assign a destination, including external gear via the CV in/outs.
There’s a decent selection of effects too, with 12 stereo effects in three slots plus an analogue drive effect with a dedicated knob on the front panel; this is ace for live tweaking and performance. The flanger and phaser have been ditched in favour of a new Uni-Vibe effect, boasting a slightly more psychedelic feel.
Then there’s the sequencer, paraphonic with 64 steps, a 10-mode arpeggiator with pattern designer and even a Bassline mode that’s designed to give you the sequencing feel of a Roland TR-303.
One nice new touch is the ability to load both the patch and sequence when loading presets. You can also load either individually, should you be sending a sequence out to trigger external gear, for example. The sequencer also includes a new Random mode which many people will find useful for generating a bit of low-effort inspiration. MusicRadar noted the general usefulness of the pre-created sequences that ship with the synth, and we’d concur, offering a strong launchpad for new ideas.
Sonically, the Pro X still sounds rich – as mentioned, the sound engine hasn’t changed radically, as Gearnews noted in their review. So it’s still capable of everything from warm and lush pads to huge basses, vicious filter sweeps, pulsating leads and much more. Everything routed through the fat filters and the dirty drive section sounds awesome, especially when you throw in some of the other excellent onboard effects.
The main point, though, is that you’re just much more likely to feel creative with this model because of the immediacy with which you’re able to create and change things. The software editor still works perfectly fine and is a bonus, but most users will find it less essential for accessing the whole sound engine, thanks to the new physical layout of the synth.
The UNO Synth Pro X isn’t necessarily an instrument for beginners. But, as its developers told us, it’s a machine that you can grow with. Less experienced users might need to invest some time in synthesis basics – at least if they want to take control of what they’re doing – but the rewards are huge.
For the price, the Pro X is an impressively powerful and cool-sounding synth that perfects the UNO Synth as a product, unlocking the potential of its versatile sound engine. If this is where IK and Soundmachines’ collaborations have led, we can’t wait to see where they go next.
- 3 wave-morphing oscillators
- 3 super-fast envelopes with loop and retrigger options
- Dual-filter design, OTA and SSI-chip based
- 12 studio-quality effects in 3 slots + analogue drive
- Paraphonic, 64-step sequencer, 10-mode arpeggiator
- New bassline mode; audio input to effects
- 16-slot modulation matrix
- USB / MIDI / CV / gate in/out
- Software editor / librarian
- USB or PSU power (supplied)
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