From the Propellerhead Software website (www.propellerheads.se):
It's a well-known fact that the sounds of the TB-303, the TR-808 and the TR-909 - once combined - form the backbone in every techno musician's arsenal of sonic weaponry. Unfortunately, owning any of these machines still remains a dream for most of us. They stopped manufacturing those awkward, beautiful, great sounding boxes over fifteen years ago. The handful of these artifacts still in existence are collector's items and would cost you an arm and a leg.
ReBirth emulates two of the classic TB-303 monophonic bassline synths, and the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines. Each machines has its own 16-step, 64-pattern sequencer, and the output from any of the machines can be routed through compressor, distortion, delay and pattern controlled filter effects.
Reason is not a sampler. Each synth uses a mathematical model of the components of its real-world equivalent. Of course, the tuning instabilities that plagued the analog oscillators of the TB-303 have been eliminated, but all the eccentricities that came from its unusual design have been retained.
Like its big brother Reason, ReBirth is designed to look like the real-world synths it's emulating. Fire it up and you're confronted by a host of realistic-looking buttons, knobs, sliders and flashing LEDs.
Programming the synths is reasonably easy, using only a mouse and keyboard. The 303s use a step sequencer (select pitch and attributes for one note, hit the Step button, select pitch and attributes for the next note and so on) while both the drum machines feature a grid of sixteen buttons, one for each sixteenth note.
Hit the Record button, and ReBirth will kick into automation-recording mode. Every change that you make to any control is recorded and will be duplicated every time the song is played back.
ReBirth features the ReWire inter-application audio transfer system, which allows it to be integrated into Reason to complement Reason's already impressive array of sound modules. ReWire can also be used to integrate ReBirth into any multitrack recording software that supports it, for instance Cakewalk's Sonar or Steinberg Nuendo.
My main gripe with ReBirth is that the interface is very small (about 650x500 pixels) and cramped. It's sometimes hard to read the button labels without moving closer to the monitor. Using the 303's point-and-click step sequencer is incredibly tedious when using a mouse (especially as the controls are quite small and easy to miss) but luckily there are keyboard shortcuts available to make your life easier. Unfortunately they're not covered in the online help. If you have a MIDI control surface or keyboard with lots of knobs and sliders on it, you're in luck - ReBirth allows you to map almost any MIDI controller number to any ReBirth control, for the ultimate in real-time tweakability.
Apart from that, it's great software that should be a part of any electronic musician's kit - although if you do use it, use it discreetly: the 303/808/909 sound has been so widely used that it can approach cliche status at times.
Keyboard shortcuts for 303 programming:
- The bottom row of keys (from C to /) controls the note
- White notes - the bottom row of keys (from C to /)
- Black notes - the middle row of keys (F,G,J,K,L)
- Down - ;
- Up - # (on a UK keyboard; on a US keyboard this would be the right-most key on same row as the ;
- Accent - P
- Slide - [
- Note/Rest toggle - =
- Step - Return
- Back - Backspace
I do not condone the use of pirated software, but a note to anyone who is tempted to download ReBirth for free: although you can download an almost-fully-functional version of the software, only the full retail version has mod and ReWire support.