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2021-09-27 14:00:08| Engadget

The original Uno Synth was IK Multimedias surprise entry into the world of budget-minded hardware instruments. It wasnt just a surprise that the company, best known for its iPhone-friendly MIDI controllers and plug-ins, decided to make a synthesizer, but that it also went full analog an area where it didnt have much pedigree. The results were mixed, but the general consensus was that the Unos core sound was impressive. Now IK is trying to move up a weight class with the Uno Synth Pro a three-voice paraphonic synth with its crosshairs squarely aimed at the likes of the Korg Minilogue.Of course, as with most musical instruments, there is no apples-to-apples comparison. So whether youre better off spending your synth dollar on an Uno Pro or on something else will depend on your priorities.The Uno Synth Pro comes in two different flavors: the standard Pro with a 37-key Fatar keybed and a partially metal chassis; and a smaller Desktop model with a set of touch keys and an all-plastic body. The Pro version costs $650, while the Desktop is just $400. I tested the Desktop model, so I cant tell you much about the feel of the more expensive one, but if you already own a decent MIDI controller and dont plan on gigging with the Uno Synth, save yourself the cash; theyre otherwise exactly the same instrument.Under the hood are three oscillators with continuous wave shaping from triangle to saw to square (with pulse width modulation). There are options for hard sync, ring modulation and FM, plus two envelopes, two LFOs, two filters, analog overdrive and a selection of 12 digital effects. In short, there are plenty of options for sound design, especially when you consider the 16-slot modulation matrix.Engadget IK Multimedia Uno Synth Pro reviewPhysically, the Uno Synth Pro Desktop is a bit of a mixed bag. The overall construction is plastic, and certainly feels it, but its solid enough. The knobs offer a good amount of resistance and the buttons are decent. The same is true of the screen: Its small but gives you all the info you need. The gray, black and red color scheme can make quickly spotting the controls youre looking for a bit difficult, especially the secondary and shift functions. (On a dark stage theyd be impossible to find.)The four knobs at the top are used to change almost all the parameters by navigating a grid beneath it. Ill admit that the interface isnt my favorite. But in order to keep costs down while preserving as much flexibility as possible IK Multimedia went with a light-up grid instead of a knob per-function design. Its a decision I could quibble with, but one that I can accept. Also, its worth noting that if you want to get real specific with a parameter its better to use the endless encoder to the right of the screen after selecting your target with the four pots to the left.Terrence O'Brien / Engadget TerrecnThe biggest problem, however, is with the touch keys and strips. Now, to be clear, this criticism does not apply to the full-sized version with a proper keybed, only the desktop model. But, to be blunt: The capacitive keys and touch strips are not good. They can feel unresponsive. Occasionally, the Uno Synth would straight up fail to detect my touches. And putting the synth in three-voice paraphonic mode seemed to make things worse. The same is true of the pitch and mod strips; sometimes theyd fail to register my touch or react slowly to it. The mod strip in particular is easy to trip up if you move your finger too fast and it has a tendency to jump between values rather than smoothly glide between them. If you plan to actually play your Uno Synth Pro (rather than use an external sequencer or controller) I highly recommend you spring for the full-sized version with the keybed and pitch and mod wheels.The Uno Synth Pro does have a pretty solid arpeggiator and sequencer, though, so theres a chance you can get by without having to ever touch the keys on the desktop version. There is also a scale mode in the settings that disables the black keys and maps the white ones to the scale of your choice. Which, at the very least, makes it less likely that youll sound out of key if your finger lands three millimeters to the right of where you intended.Terrence O'Brien / EngadgetAnd look, I get that touch keys are hard to do right. They were bad on the original Uno Synth. Theyre bad on Modals Skulpt and Craft synths. The Volcas are slightly better, but still quite cramped. Honestly, the only synth I can think of where the touch keys arent a liability is the MicroFreak. (And there are probably people who would disagree with me even on that.)Many of the frustrations I have with the interface and physical controls are immediately forgotten once the Uno Synth Pro starts making noise, though. In short, it sounds glorious. Especially with all three of its oscillators stacked in mono mode. While the Pro is a three-voice paraphonic instrument, I think its at its best when treated as an extremely beefy mono synth. The oscillators have a lot of body and grit to them. The triangle is glassy but dusty and the saw wave just plain rips. Add a bit more dirt from the analog drive circuit and youve got a truly gnarly sounding machine for leads and basses.The oscillators can also be hard synced, theres pulse width modulation (though no dedicated knob for it), ring modulation and FM for more metallic sounds. The FM function, though, is slightly hidden in the menus, which is a shame. Its a valuable sound design tool thats just not as accessible as it should be thanks to some questionable interface de

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