|Price||US$3,995 (Rev 1, 2)|
US$4,595 (Rev 3)
|Oscillator||2 VCOs per voice|
|Synthesis type||Analog subtractive|
Analog FM (Poly-Mod)
|Filter||4-pole resonant low-pass|
|Attenuator||ADSR envelope (2)|
|Storage memory||40 patches (120 patches on later units)|
|Left-hand control||Pitch and modulation wheels|
The Prophet-5 is an analog synthesizer manufactured by Sequential Circuits between 1978 and 1984. It was designed by Dave Smith and John Bowen. The Prophet-5 was the first fully programmable polyphonic synthesizer and the first musical instrument with an embedded microprocessor. About 6,000 units were produced across three revisions. The Prophet-5 is known for its use by progressive rock bands and film composers. It has been emulated in software synthesizers and analog hardware.
The Prophet-5 was created in 1977 by Dave Smith and John Bowen at Sequential Circuits, who aimed to create the first polyphonic synthesizer with the ability to store and recall patches. Initially, they developed the Prophet-10, a synthesizer with ten voices of polyphony; however, it was unstable and quickly overheated, creating tuning problems. Smith and Bowen removed half the electronics, reducing the voices to five and creating the Prophet-5.
Smith demonstrated it at NAMM in January 1978 and shipped the first models later that year. Unlike its nearest competitor, the Yamaha CS-80, the Prophet-5 had patch memory, allowing users to store sounds rather than having to reprogram them manually.
Three versions were built between 1978 and 1984. The first, Revision 1, was hand-assembled and produced quickly to generate initial revenue; only 182 were made. Revision 2 was mass-produced in quantities over 1,000; this model was more robust, added cassette patch storage, and replaced the koa wood casing with walnut.
Revision 3 replaced the Solid State Music (SSM) chipset with Curtis (CEM) chips, necessitating a major redesign. According to Sound on Sound, Revision 3 "remained impressive and pleasant to play, but was slightly cold and featureless by comparison to earlier models". In all, approximately 6,000 Prophet-5 synthesizers were produced.
The Prophet-5 became a market leader and industry standard. It was used by musicians such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Patrick Cowley, Dr Dre,Too Short, Radiohead,John Carpenter, Alan Howarth, and John Harrison.
Early Prophet-5s used voltage-controlled oscillator, filter and amplifier chips designed by E-mu Systems and manufactured by Solid State Music (SSM). Revision 3 Prophet-5s used Curtis CEM chips manufactured by Curtis Electromusic Specialties. Some owners maintain that SSM oscillators produced a richer timbre. However, the SSM oscillators rendered the instruments unstable and prone to detuning over time. CEM chips have remained more stable.
The Prophet-5 uses five voices of polyphony. Each voice is assigned two VCOs. Both oscillators can generate sawtooth waves and square waves (with variable pulse width), and the second oscillator can also generate a triangle. The oscillators can be played in sync, or in "Poly-Mod", with oscillator B and the filter ADSR envelope modulating the frequency, pulse width, and filter of oscillator A. A dedicated low-frequency oscillator (saw, square, or triangle) is also present to modulate the pulse width and/or pitch of oscillators A and B and filter cutoff frequency.
The Prophet-5 uses a 4-pole resonant low-pass filter. The filter has a dedicated ADSR envelope and keyboard tracking.
Arturia developed a softsynth version of the Prophet 5 called the Prophet V. Prophet V also includes a recreation of the Prophet VS, a synthesizer manufactured by Sequential Circuits in 1986. Elements of the two synthesizers can be combined in a "hybrid" mode. The softsynth closely recreates the layout of the original analog synthesizer, though there were some differences in programming, notably through some restrictions on the envelope generator.
Other software emulations of the Prophet-5 include Pro-53, a Virtual Studio Technology and Audio Unit by Native Instruments (discontinued in 2009), Prophecizer 5 by Analog Synth Lab, and the Pro-12 by Creamware. The Pro-12 emulates the early revisions' SSM filter. Creamware also developed and manufactured a clone of the Pro-12, the Pro-12 ASB. Steinberg's Cubase has the stock plugin Retrologue.
German developer u-He released the Retro-5, a VST instrument that not only emulated the Prophet-5, but their monophonic Pro-One synth as well.
Dave Smith Instruments celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Prophet by developing the Prophet '08, an 8-voice analog synthesizer. Smith was the owner of Sequential Circuits until it went out of business in the late 1980s when the rights were purchased by Yamaha and later sold to Korg. Smith was a consultant for Yamaha and Korg for a number of years following the acquisition. He was largely responsible for Korg's successful Wavestation series of vector-synthesis-based instruments.
With access to the technology used to create the Prophet-5, Yamaha developed the 1997 virtual analog synthesizer keyboard, the AN1x. Many of its features were modelled upon the Prophet-5. The AN1x surpassed capabilities of the Prophet-5, with a doubled 10 notes of polyphony and various other features either modelled on other popular analog synthesizers or representing new additions made feasibly only by the underlying digital technology.
In January 2015, Smith announced that Yamaha's president, Takuya Nakata, had granted him rights to the Sequential brand, which he had been unable to use following the company's acquisition. The release of the name coincided with Smith's debut of the Prophet-6, a new analog polyphonic synthesizer based on the Prophet-5 with additional features. Of the Prophet-6, Smith said "I wanted to celebrate the return of Sequential in the best way I could--by building the most awesome-sounding, modern analog poly synth possible. The Prophet-6 is a tribute to Sequential's most famous instrument, the Prophet-5. I think of it as vintage with a modern twist."