U-he’s latest synth plugin is an emulation of an early 80s classic. Jonny Strinati puts it to the test.
There are so many hardware emulations available at this point that any newcomers need to be truly outstanding for people to take note. So what better company to take on such a challenge than U-he, who boast some serious pedigree when it comes to this market? Diva is arguably one of the most analogue-sounding soft synths going, and was very original in its approach, taking different components inspired by some of the classics, allowing users to mix and match different oscillator, feedback and filter setups.
The company’s latest offering, Repro-1 is an emulation of Sequential Circuits’ classic and much revered Pro-One analogue synth. U-he instantly have a unique angle with the Repro-1 – despite the many emulations we already have of well-known Moog and Roland synths, how many do we have of the Pro-One? And furthermore, although faithful to the original in the large part, U-he have added quite a few new features to the Repro-1, attempting to take that classic analogue sound and bring it into the modern production world, offering deeper control and sound sculpting capabilities.
True to the original, we have two oscillators, both offering saw, pulse and pulse width options. Oscillator A boasts a sync function, while oscillator B also features a triangle wave. Modulation can be set up to the left of the synth: using either an envelope, oscillator B or an LFO as a source, we can modulate pitch, pulse width or the cutoff frequency, either directly or via the mod wheel. Oscillator B also has a low-frequency setting, allowing you to use it as a modulator, which gets particularly interesting when you direct it to the pulse width of oscillator A.
Optional feedback or noise are included in the mixer section. Both are great for dialling in a little bit of extra grit or warmth, though it’s a shame we have to choose between them; it would be nice to have the option of both. The glide and mode sections carry over from the hardware, and are definitely worth exploring: as well as the rate control we also have a switch that enables legato playback, and to the right of this there are three modes for customising how the envelopes behave.
There is a fairly basic arpeggiator included on the main synth page, and this is great for very quickly activating an arp sequence, however the sequencer page offers much more in-depth pattern creation, and is no doubt going provide a lot of fun programming hours for many sound designers, featuring two 32-step pattern editors which can either be triggered independently or chained together for sequences of anything up to 64 steps. Sequences can be easily edited, allowing you to control the step length and pitch, velocity and type per step. When step record is activated, complex sequences can be written in an instant direct from your MIDI keyboard, which is great for creating all sorts of melodic and percussive lines. Check out the ‘CK Sung Bach’ or ‘HS Labtron Beat 1’ presets, which demonstrate some of the creative potential on offer here.
Not faithful to the original is the inclusion of a stompbox-style effects section, and this is a welcome addition. There’s a waveshaper, delay, resonator/EQ, reverb and transient shaper. All are really simple to dial in and sound great. The waveshaper effect (aptly named Jaws) is my personal favourite, capable of everything from subtle crunch to all-out destruction, and featuring some nice modulation controls to add movement to the waveshaping.
The Tweaks page offers some deeper control over the behaviour of various aspects of the synth. You can invert the LFO wave, change note priority settings and even select from five different envelope types. There are three different oscillator types – P1 (Pro-One) and P5 (Prophet-5) model original Sequential Circuits hardware synths, while the Ideal setting is U-he’s offering of a more accessible oscillator that’ll no doubt see the most use. There are also three filter types – crispy, rounded and driven. When the beta of Repro-1 was made available for free last April, it featured five different filter types and users could vote for their favourite. The assumption here is that the most popular three made the final cut. I definitely found some quite different behaviour when experimenting with the filters, especially at high resonance values.
An HQ (high quality) button can be turned off to save on processing power, or the ‘zzz’ button activates sleep mode, which is a CPU-friendly setting. Activating sleep mode really does help to reduce CPU usage when using multiple instances, but I actually found the synth relatively light on the CPU, especially compared to Diva and Bazille. It seems with Repro-1 we have the best of both worlds.
It’s very quick to design a big bass or lead sound from the init patch, simply stacking up the oscillators with a bit of noise and you have instant analogue dirt. The ‘TU Phat Bit’ bass preset is particularly naughty, while the ‘CK Donky’ bass demonstrates Repro-1’s ability to do FM-style house and garage tones. The filter sounds incredibly sweet, even when the resonance is cranked very high – this is an area where many other soft synths tend to falter. High resonance sweeps are enhanced when you start waveshaping using the Jaws effect, opening up Repro-1 to all sorts of squelchy, acidic, 303-style sounds.
Talking of presets, some of the sections are a bit on the light side, but there is an abundance where you want it most – with the bass patches and leads. Repro-1 is no slouch when it comes to drum sounds, either – it’s great for snares and toms and weird spacey percussive hits. Check out the ‘Seq – Percussive’ presets for a taster. There are no sequencer presets to get you going, but you can save your own easily enough, so you could build up a bank of unique sequences and arpeggios in no time. Programming arpeggios using the step record feature is intuitive and a lot of fun.
Repro-1 should go down well with all synth heads who are after raw analogue-style power in the box. It has the potential to be particularly popular with synthwave, electronica and progressive house fans thanks to its ability to recreate so many classic 80s synth sounds – I actually found it difficult to make anything but fat, warm, juicy, analogue sounds with it! Comparing to the current crop of adept analogue-modelled numbers on the market, it’s undoubtably up there with favourites like the Arturia V Collection, Native Instruments’ Monark, Synapse Audio’s The Legend and TAL’s U-NO. Repro-1 just oozes funk.
Purchase: U-he Repro-1
The Final Word
Repro-1 just oozes funk.