Sequential Prophet-5 Rev 4 £3,000
Future Music|October 2021
With Dave Smith back at Sequential’s helm, a new version of this ’80s icon was nigh-on obligatory, says Andy Jones
Andy Jones

THE PROS & CONS

+

All the features of the originals plus filter options for the various revisions

Amazing sounds and easy modulation – the Poly-Mod’s a classic

Velocity and aftertouch bring the sounds alive

Fantastic build quality and updated connectivity

-

Expensive compared to some similarly specced machines

You won’t really want to gig with it

The original Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 changed the world – simple as that. So the company’s new iteration – essentially the fourth revision has so much synth history and music associated with it that it’s impossible not to mention those previous versions, and some of the quite glorious music they helped create. So this isn’t just another synth release; it’s like if Back To The Future returned for a fourth instalment. Only bigger.

Only around 6,000 Prophet-5s were originally sold (between 1978 and 1984), but because it was the first polysynth you could use to store and recall sounds, most of those 6,000 buyers were either music icons, or became icons with the synth’s help. There was Kraftwerk, Jarre, Floyd, Abba, Clarke, YMO, Jackson, Dre, Genesis and Numan… the usual legends. But it was perhaps some lesser-known acts that dropped the best Prophet-5 moments. Japan’s Tin Drum album is one of the best releases from the era – mostly as it doesn’t sound like it was released in that era. And smaller synth poppers like New Musik and The Mobiles, rockier names like The Cars, Steve Winwood and The Fixx, plus soundtrack composers like Mark Isham and John Carpenter (who used it composing the music of many of the films he directed) would give the Prophet-5 an enviable reputation amongst nerds and players alike.

This was all enough to give the first three revisions of the Prophet-5 legendary status. But again, like Back To The Future, it was a status that was entwined with the ’80s. Sequential closed in ’87 and the name was bought by Japanese giants Yamaha who shut the company down two years later. However, in 2015 Yamaha returned the Sequential name to its founder, Dave Smith, who had by then been successfully producing hardware synths under his own name. It was only a matter of time before the Prophets started appearing again and here we are with a fourth version of the Prophet-5.

Prophet-5 is, as you probably know or have guessed, a five-voice polyphonic synth, each voice using two VCOs. Sequential have also released a 10-voice version in the form of the otherwise identical Prophet-10 (see the boxout for more).

It uses the Curtis 3340 VCOs found in the Rev3 Prophet-5 (a much more reliable design compared to the SSMs used in the Rev2). The two oscillators generate both square and sawtooth waves, with Oscillator B adding a triangle. They can be played in sync and B can act as an LFO, modulating the frequency, pulse width and filter of Osc A. There’s further modulation by way of a multi-waveform LFO and Wheel-Mod section that allows you to assign LFO and noise sources to five destinations, levels controlled by the mod wheel.

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