What do the Bee Gees, Dr. Dre, Herbie Hancock, and the movie The Terminator have in common? Liberal use of the almighty Prophet 5 from Dave Smith / Sequential Circuits! After helping to invent MIDI and then creating one of the first analog synthesizers to implement patch memory, you'd think Dave Smith would be able to take a well-deserved rest. Lucky for us, Dave Smith Instruments is not a company to rest on their laurels. The Prophet 6 is an amazing analog synthesizer that is worthy of the Dave Smith Instruments name.
What’s it All About?
The Prophet 6 is a 6-voice polyphonic analog synthesizer. There are 2 oscillators per voice, and 6 voices, giving you a whopping total of 12 oscillators to stack up in a variety of ways. The oscillators themselves are continually variable from triangle wave to pulse, giving you a smooth transition of all the possibilities in between those two extremes. Combining these oscillators with an extremely user-friendly filter section can give you a truly authentic and vintage analog tone. I was particularly impressed with the implementation of the oscillator ‘slop’ knob which re-creates the instability of vintage circuitry and both detunes and destabilizes the oscillators in relationship to one another. When creating unison leads stacked with multiple voices on the same note, this can make some wonderfully fat synth sounds.
If I had to summarize my month-long experience with the Prophet 6, I would say that this is a synth that just begs to be tweaked.
I was wonderfully impressed by the step sequencer on the Prophet. It’s actually a perfect metaphor for how Dave Smith has designed this entire instrument. With no huge LED screen to speak of, elements such as the step-sequencer, arpeggiator, and modulation section have been meticulously thought out and given simple hardware controls. Everything in this keyboard is laid out to find quickly live, and I found that the placement of controls just ‘made sense’.
Tinker With Me!
If I had to summarize my month-long experience with the Prophet 6, I would say that this is a synth that just begs to be tweaked. The logical placement of the controls in relation to signal flow helps to facilitate creating new sounds as soon as you turn the power on. Every time I went to tweak a parameter, I found myself going deeper down the rabbit hole of ‘let me just add one more modulator’ and wound up creating another entirely new sound. I quickly filled up my user bank.
I appreciated the inclusion of a ‘live mode’ button which lets you completely step out of the digital world and remain in the analog domain. In other words, with live mode engaged, every knob, button, and control on the Prophet 6 is live. No presets are involved, and wherever you happen to have left a knob, that’s where the Prophet ‘sees’ it. I found this mode extremely gratifying when designing sounds from the ground up as well as for sparking my inspiration and pushing the Prophet to its sonic limit.
I truly loved working with the Prophet 6. Considering I’ve paid more than this for monophonic analog synths that do less, I felt the Prophet 6 was a home run. It looks boutique, it sounds vintage, and it feels professional. You can’t ask for more than that.
Watch this video on programming oscillator 1 from the Prophet 6 video course at Ask.Audio Academy:
Pros: Lots of oscillators to work with, wonderfully simple design, doesn’t feel ‘intimidating’—much more ‘inviting’ than similar analog synths, fat vintage tone, digital control of analog oscillators allows for saving of presets, robust FX library.
Cons: Some may find the price tag a barrier.