Review: Repro-1 Firebird by The Unfinished

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Half man, half preset machine The Unfinished shies away from no synth and brings us his first soundset for the mighty Repro-1 by u-he. Drawing a direct line between classic 80’s analogue synths and modern scoring needs, Firebird is a hugely inspiring and original collection.

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Jump to the Demos of Repro-1 Firebird by The Unfinished

 

Review: Repro-1 Firebird by The Unfinished

For those not familiar with the amazing work of Matt Bowdler (aka The Unfinished), his specialty is creating presets for a range of analogue modelling soft synths that are firmly geared towards modern composers. Being a big fan of his work for Zebra 2 and Diva I was eager to see what his take on Repro-1 would be. This soft synth is an amazing homage to the classic Sequential Circuit Pro One, which is much sought after for its unique mono synth power and onboard sequencer.

Firebird takes inspiration from the work of Harry Gregson-Williams, Junkie XL and other modern Hollywood composers who are expertly blending retro analogue synths with more traditional scoring elements. For this collection The Unfinished has focussed on bass sounds and sequences that work so well in dramatic contexts and both of which the Repro-1 does especially well.

Repro-1 Firebird sells for £19.99 from The Unfinished

Thoughts

Firebird is big on basslines and takes full advantage of the excellent sequencer in Repro-1. Most of them stay on one note, but a few play a basic melody. There is a wide variety of sounds to suit a number of uses – distorted nastiness, gentle atmospheric, disturbing weirdness and pulsing tension. The delay is used really well in a number of these patches to add the extra notes that keep the basslines flowing so well. You can see that in the preset below – it is only playing three times in the bar, but the delay is on dark 1/16 repeats, which gives a better feel to the pulse than if it was all programmed via the sequencer.

Chemistry Preset

This sound also makes copious use of the superb onboard effects in Repro-1, as most of the presets in Firebird do. The Chemistry Preset uses all five FX slots with the Jaws waveshaper adding loads of growl and the Drench reverb keeping it mysterious. My favourite bassline is Near Death Experiences which is a driving retro melodic line reminiscent of classic 80’s arcade games.

The bass presets sit in a round and warm place with those super phat oscillators and smooth filters combining with slight detuning for full and playable patches. Gemini is a standout and does what I love about The Unfinished – that is his sounds inspire you to play and lead you into otherwise unknown directions. It has a really long filter attack that opens out gently into the delay and reverb.

Gemini Preset

Some of the later bass presets, however, start to get pretty menacing and use the modwheel to great effect, even enabling me to get an acid bass type sound going on the Prologue patch!

Although they are not the main focus of the pack there are a few good drum sounds and a small but beautifully formed collection of leads taking us into 80’s ambient territory. I really love these lead sounds and they are a hidden gem in this bass and sequencer dominated collection. Likewise, I was not expecting much in terms of percussive sounds, but there are over 20 very useful loops. Koma is pretty typical of them, being a simple but characterful low thump, though there are some more complex snare and high frequency based loops too.

Koma Preset

Pads are hard to do with monosynths, but Matt knows what he is doing and has conjured up a few one note wonders here. The long attacks and release coupled with lots of reverb means you can hold them down drone style using the modwheel for movement. I was pleasantly surprised to discover they also work well playing quicker melodies like a lead would normally do. The soundscapes are the polar opposite of the dreamy pads and we descend into a disturbed world of detuned, noisy and distorted madness. They are so characterful they will be hard to blend into an existing piece for some general atmosphere and are more likely to be something you start with and become inspired by.

The sequences continue this dark and experimental feel. The Motorcade patch exemplifies this as it lurches on like some robot death march, pulsing into and out of harder distortion.

Motorcade Preset

Some of this category are a bit more normal, but even then don’t expect any of your typical EDM arps. Instead the faster and more plucky sequences have a foot set firmly in the early 80’s. Silver Eye is a particular standout and would sit perfectly on the Stranger Things score. The set is rounded off by three rather chaotic synth patches that I think must have been created when in a particularly bad mood!

Firebird is a most welcome Repro-1 debut by The Unfinished and provides exactly what we have come to expect from the talented sound designer – world class sounds firmly tailored for scoring and more leftfield electronic artists. It is dominated by the huge basslines that make intelligent use of the advanced sequencing that other u-he synths do not offer. My only minor criticism might be that most of the patches rely on the effects to do a fair bit of the heavy lifting, so should you want a more raw version by the time you bypass the effects chain the sound can be very different. That said, the combination of expert synth and effects programming does create a pretty stellar end result, so if you want to get tweaky the best results can be had by keeping everything on and just dialling down the various mix amounts to taste.

For adding some retro crustiness and analogue atmosphere to your productions this really is a standout collection. Firebird presents the sound of a classic 1980’s mono synth, but in a thoroughly modern cinematic way. There is a free trial version, some great demo tracks and an extensive walkthrough, so I strongly recommend checking all three of those out to see if this is a good fit for your musical style. If, on the other hand. you are already a fan of The Unfinished then this is a bit of a no brainer purchase and if you don’t have Repro-1 this collection may well convince you to go ahead and bag it!

Facts

Firebird is a preset pack for u-he Repro-1 consisting of 150 patches. You will need a full copy of Repro-1 to use this product.

Repro-1 Firebird sells for £19.99 from The Unfinished

 

Demos of Repro-1 Firebird by The Unfinished

Videos of Repro-1 Firebird by The Unfinished

Contributor Sam Burt reviews Repro-1 Firebird by The Unfinished
“Half man, half preset machine The Unfinished shies away from no synth and brings us his first soundset for the mighty Repro-1 by u-he. Drawing a direct line between classic 80s analogue synths and modern scoring needs, Firebird is a hugely inspiring and original collection.”