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Review: A closer look at the budget-friendly analog/PCM UNO Drum machine

Today we are taking a closer look at one of the most affordable options on the market with the new UNO Drum machine. IK is continuing its efforts in the budget-friendly music production space with new UNO Drum, which is a perfect companion to the previously-released UNO synth. The question is whether or not the extremely affordable beat machine is too barebones to make it worth your while or not. Head below for our hands-on impressions.

Hands-on with the UNO Drum Machine:

Much like the UNO Synth before it (hands-on review right here), the UNO drum machine is designed to offer users an affordable entry into the world of dedicated analog hardware drum machines. It very much follows the same design aesthetics as its melodic sibling and in fact will sync right up with UNO Synth for live jams and the like. It is bus or battery powered and has MIDI/USB connectivity, along with all the cables you’ll need to get going.

Build Quality:

Upon unboxing the UNO Drum machine, we are greeted with a small tablet-sized machine made of hard plastic. It is an incredibly light and extremely portable housing that features a small lip on the back so you can get a solid viewing angle on flat surfaces. In that regard, it matches up perfectly with the UNO synth. Once again we are getting a sort of flat panel approach to some of the controls. While I would have preferred something with a little bit more push to it, the Uno Drum Machine has a sleek design that makes for easy portability. There’s no way those completely flush buttons are going to break off in your bag or when some drunk knocks it off the DJ table.

UNO Drum Machine Sounds & More:

The UNO drum machine is a combination of analog and PCM-based samples. There are a total of 12 sounds that can be played at once with a mix of analog and PCM/sample-based options. You get 6 analog drum sounds spread across 2 kits for the kick, snare, clap, and hi-hat, with the rest of the sounds using PCM samples. However, you get the choice of whether or not to use analog or samples on the main 4 (kick, snare, clap, and hi-hat). You can build your own kits with any combination of the aforementioned sounds and then save up to 100 of them as immediately recallable presets.

On the analog side of things, you also get some shaping controls including level, tuning, snap amount, decay time and even some sound specific options like FM (tuning and amount) and a low pass filter for the snare. It certainly would have been nice for all of the sounds to react in some way to these controls, but the options that are there are fairly impressive for a sub-$250 drum machine.

UNO Drum FX:

The UNO Drum machine also features some notable on-board effects including an instrument-wide compressor, drive circuit and a stutter effect. The first two are self explanatory but the stutter offers up unique randomization to your patterns with user control over the amount and type of stutter. It’s not easy to get your head around exactly what is happening to the beats, but there are some lovely accidents and odd fill possibilities that rival most comparable features on more expensive products.

The Sequencer:

The built-in sequencer on the UNO drum machine is your basic 16 step (x 4 pages) variant. There’s nothing overly impressive or notable about the sequencer, but it works great and I personally found it to be quite intuitive and simple to use. Tap notes/hits into the sequencer steps or play your part in real time, either will do here. It is easy to chain patterns together, manually or not (up to 64 patterns). You can also print changes on some of the settings directly into your sequences (up to 8 parameters per step). A feature sometimes referred to as parameter locks, it really isn’t something I expect to see on a basic beat maker and is very much a welcome addition here.

Conclusion:

All-in-all, I am impressed with the UNO drum machine. Considering the price tag and beginner nature of the device, I really didn’t expect it to be as feature-rich and useable as it is. The sounds are actually quite nice. (This thing really goes hard if you want it to and you will get evicted from your apartment if you let it.) I personally loved the option to be able to flip back and forth between the PCM sounds and the analog engine. The extra frequency modulation options on the kick drum were also a particularly fun and creative setting to play with.

If I had to come up with some negatives here, I would have to start with the actual drum pads. As I mentioned before the completely flush nature of the sequencer and some of the controls is both a great thing for travel, and yet slightly less desirable otherwise. Having said that, the drum pads are completely flat and quite hard against your fingertips. While it certainly would have driven the price up a bit, I personally would have liked to see a more gooey approach to the drum pads as it would have been much more comfortable when tapping beats in to the sequencer. Oh, and an instrument-wide low and/or high pass filter would have been fun, too.

At just $249.99 shipped, UNO Drum — much like its melodic counterpart — is a great gateway drug into hardware instruments, which may or may not be a good thing for you (oh, your poor wallet). If you’re on the fence about getting into music production or have a hard time getting inspired with an entirely laptop-based setup, this little UNO drum machine is certainly worth a closer look.

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