Sequential Circuits Prophet-5

Sequential Circuits Prophet 5

Arguably amongst one of the most important synths ever produced, the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 is a 5 voice polyphonic analog synthesizer and is one of the first polyphonic analog synthesizers with patch memory. Designed and manufactured between 1978 and 1984, about 6,000 units were produced in three revisions by Dave Smith and John Bowen. Originally called the “Model 1000”, the instrument was renamed “Prophet” after keyboard legend Rick Wakeman paid a visit and enthusiastically proclaimed that it had to become 'the biggest synth on the market' but said 'whatever you do, PLEASE give it a name, not a model number'. Wakeman also had a hand in the design of the front panel and the overall look of the Prophet-5 with its wooden casing, pitch & mod wheels and clear signal flow, give it a classic synth look with echoes of Wakeman’s favoured Minimoog.

The Prohet-5 features five voice polyphony.  Each voice is an individual synthesizer with two VCOs (voltage controlled oscillators) osc A and osc B, a mixer, a 24dB per octave four pole resonant low-pass VCF (voltage controlled filter) controlled by an ADSR EG (envelope generator) and a final VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) controlled by another ADSR EG. It also has a single LFO (low frequency oscillator) and pink noise source. The Prophet-5 has patch memory storage which scans and memorises every knob setting for storing and recalling sounds (40 memories eventually upgraded to 120 in Rev 3.3. The Prophet-5 doesn’t have MIDI  or keyboard dynamics like velocity sensitivity or after touch, although MIDI retrofit kits are available for Revisions 2 & 3.

The Prophet-5 went through a number of revisions during its production:

  • Revision 1 is the rarest with only 182 produced, originally being hand-assembled by Smith and Bowen in Sequential Circuits “garage stage”. To generate desperately needed cash flow Rev 1’s were pushed out without the serious bench testing for quality that later models received, and as such were pretty unstable compared to later revisions.
  • Revision 2 saw a substantially redesigned to help improve its reliability and was mass-produced in quantities over 1,000. Although still not as reliable as later models, this version is perhaps the most coveted as with the use of SSM chips it’s generally considered to be the best sounding out of all the revisions.
  • Revision 3 is the most common version and introduced new circuitry replacing the SSM chips with Curtis (CEM) chips which increased the stability but at the expense the warmth and “bite” of the earlier versions.By Revision 3.3, the memory storage had expanded to 120 patches, a standard Cassette interface was added for patch memory back up, and 'Live editing' was introduced (on a Rev 2 the player had to push the 'edit' button in order to start editing a sound. On the Rev 3, just turning a knob puts you in edit mode).

Notable users of the Prophet-5 include: Kraftwerk, Duran Duran, No Doubt, Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby, New Order, Prodigy, INXS, The Cars, Phil Collins, Richard Barbieri (Japan & Porcupine Tree), Hall & Oates, Jean-Michel Jarre, Sneaker Pimps, Steely Dan, Kitaro, Level 42, Pink Floyd, the Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, Vangelis, George Duke, filmmaker/composer John Carpenter… and lots more!

Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 specifications: 

Synthesis type: Subtractive
Polyphony - 5 Voices
Oscillators - 2 OSC. per voice - square / pulse / tri / saw
LFO - modulates pulse width or pitch
Filter - 24db Lowpass filter with resonance
VCA - ADSR
Keyboard - 61 keys
Memory - 40 to 120 patches
Control - CV / Gate
Date Produced - 1978-84

 

 

Notable users of the Prophet-5 include: Kraftwerk, Duran Duran, No Doubt, Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby, New Order, Prodigy, INXS, The Cars, Phil Collins, Richard Barbieri (Japan & Porcupine Tree), Hall & Oates, Jean-Michel Jarre, Sneaker Pimps, Steely Dan, Kitaro, Level 42, Pink Floyd, the Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, Vangelis, George Duke, filmmaker/composer John Carpenter… and lots more!

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Posted in 1970's Synth, 1980s Synths, polyphonic, Subtractive Synth, Synthesizers.