Portability is everything these days. Phones have become part of our daily life in part because they are so small and light (and thin). I carry a laptop with me because it fits nicely in my laptop bag, and feels like I am not carrying much at all.
With a new drum machine I tested recently, one feature really stood out the most. The IK Multimedia Uno Drum weighs only about one pound, or much lighter than that laptop. It also fits in a laptop bag, and I was able to bring one along on a road trip recently.
That instant access is what made me try a few new loops and creative ideas, including the time when I recorded an entire song using the Uno Drum and a sequencer on my phone.
The drum machine doesn’t require that you know anything about drums. The way it works is that you can press a few buttons to start a repeating loop, then customize the “voices” and create unique patterns. The built-in 64-step sequencer on the drum machine itself lets you create songs that you can then feed out to your phone or a computer.
I decided to go a little low-tech and recorded the drums without a cable connection because I wanted them to sound like I was recording them live in my basement at the time. The device has a normal 3.5mm output you can use to connect to the lightning port on your phone with an adapter or to a set-top interface that connects to a computer using USB.
The “record anywhere” concept is ideal for creative types. Some drum machines are bigger and clunkier, and they won’t exactly fit in a laptop bag. I decided to create several loop tracks and experimented with the different presets for drum kits. It’s cool to adjust the tonal qualities of the drum patterns as well using the control knobs, which ended up feeling like I was using a synth as much as a drum machine at times. Of course, you are mostly creating a pattern that repeats, but for mobile recording, I preferred that over a traditional drum machine with pads.
Then there’s the fact that IK Multimedia also makes several other music gadgets, including this matching portable synth called the Uno Synth. The drum machine is white and the synth is black, but they are roughly the same size and create a nice matching pair.
I also discovered that the pads are velocity-sensitive, so if you touch softly you will generate a sound that is softer or if you press harder it will sound like a thwack on a snare or a louder cymbal crash. There are two levels to the velocity.
For power options, I found that the USB connection works best for extended periods of recording and experimenting, but you can also use AA batteries.
I’m also sold on the price. $250 sounds about right for a machine with these sequencing features, velocity control, and dozens of sampled drum sounds.