With 100 preset patterns, 100 different kits and five samples for each of the 12 voices there’s a lot to explore. You’ve got anywhere up to 64 steps in a sequence and 4 different rhythmic divisions to choose from – 3/4, 6/8, 16 and 32. Hook it up to your DAW via USB or MIDI; alternatively you can chain it into your live hardware setup with the audio in. The UNO Drum’s samples are top quality for a drum machine in its price range. There’s lovely low-end on all the kicks as well as a wide range of snares, claps, toms and percussive hits backed up by solid, crisp hi hats. However, you can’t chop and change the samples between kits. It’s really nice having two tracks dedicated to different kick drums though, it’ll let you delve deeper into off beat bouncing rhythms or add them together to create big beef.
The best thing about these drum machines are the analogue/PCM functions. It gives you the ability to tweak the level, tune, snap and decay of any sample – resulting in a lot of freedom on the fly. This is excellent for pitching toms or kicks to match bass lines or simply adjusting the sample to exactly how you want it to sound. You have the added bonus of it being USB or battery powered for use anywhere, anytime, with the ability to quickly save the sequence, including all the parameters you tweak.
Tap tempo, stutter, roll and song mode all lend the UNO Drum towards being a live tool. Song mode effectively makes each step its own pattern, which allows you to chain full length, intricate songs together. It’s really useful being able to either manually key in the steps or record a sequence by touching the sample pads. However, these aren’t particularly touch sensitive and are almost like pressing a screen so they do take a little getting used to and don’t always respond exactly how you want them to.
The onboard global effects are neat and handy to have, using the compression and drive you can really tighten up your sequence – although if you’re looking for drastic effects you’re going to have to invest in pedals or record to your DAW and do it in post. The humanize feature is a really nice idea, but it seems to only result in a subtle difference I can only describe as disjointed. I’m unsure how the algorithm works but it sounds like random quantizing and small fluctuations in velocity, which makes it difficult to create an overall “feel” – accentuating particular beats – which you would get from a human drummer. You can program this sort of thing in manually but it’s a lot of work and is a downside to most drum machines, not just the UNO Drum. That being said, the swing setting easily makes up for this. It adds a very high quality touch, especially to hi hat lines.
Also while I’m nitpicking, if you were to actually build and record sequences live, when you’re selecting samples to key in manually it will play the sample as you select it. This means you’d have to select them exactly in time and in the spot you’re going to key it in the sequence so you don’t get a weird offbeat hit – this doesn’t happen if you are using the record feature though. Finally, you’re able to download an additional ten PCM sample libraries for an even greater range of sound sets, as well as integrating with the UNO Drum Editor, which comes as a stand-alone app or software plug-in. This lets you adjust and build sequences on your software device and then transfer them to the hardware – if that’s your cup of tea.