App review: Propellerheads ReBirth 1.1 for iPhone

Joseph L. Flatley
J. Flatley|05.31.10

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App review: Propellerheads ReBirth 1.1 for iPhone
As you're no doubt well aware, music geekdom and gadget geekdom go hand in hand. When they combine in a single device or app, however, the results can be magical. That's why we usually end up trying every music making app out there at some point or another. Indeed, we just received word that Rebirth for iPhone version 1.1 has just been released, and decided to take it for a spin. Promising new mods and some bug fixes, it's compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad (iPhone OS 3.1 or later). But how does it fare as a music-making tool? And is it worth the whopping $6.99? Read on after the break to find out.
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  • Retains look and feel of the original Sounds greatPropellerheads forums for uploads


  • Desktop version for Windows and Mac are freeInformation overloadMust upload the files to the forum to share

When ReBirth was released in 1997, there really was nothing quite like it. An application that emulates a rack full of classic Roland analog hardware (including two TB-303s, a TR-808, and a TR-909), this software put sounds that were once nearly impossible to find into the hands of an entire generation of musicians -- and put Propellerhead Software on the map in the process. Although official company support ceased in 2005, there is an active community of modders who make and trade songs and custom soundbanks, and the software is now freely available for Mac and PC users at Propellerhead's Rebirth Museum website.

The genius of the original ReBirth was that it not only emulated the sound of actual devices, it also reproduced the interface of the physical hardware it emulated. This accomplished two things: not only did it make it easy for users who were already accustomed to step sequencers on their drum machines and synths, but it put all of the controls right out there, somewhat simplifying things for people with no experience whatsoever. While this approach was pretty revelatory to folks on a standard Mac or PC, the "all out front" approach is somewhat intimidating on an iPhone!

Navigation on the app should be pretty intuitive for anyone who is used to multitouch gestures. While at the main screen you can double-tap on a device to zoom in, pinch to zoom in even further, or drag the screen around using two fingers. A task bar at the bottom of the screen (which can be toggled on or off by clicking on the Propellerheads logo) lets you: open, close, save, and delete song files; browse soundbanks (called mods); edit patterns; and upload your song to the ReBirth forums for sharing with others. To manipulate a sound or effect, just use your finger to punch a button or twist a knob.

While programming ReBirth devices can be complicated by all the zooming and scrolling you'll find yourself doing (hell, the desktop version was no picnic either), we think that you'll find that the sound of the software itself is every bit as good as that of the desktop version. Is it worth $6.99? Probably not for most people -- especially when you can get the original for free. Your best bet is probably to check out the ReBirth Museum, take the software for a spin, and then decide if you absolutely must have the mobile version. And when you do get rocking, drop us a line. We'd love to hear what you come up with!
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