Sequential Circuits Prophet-5

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Manufactured by Sequential Circuits
Dates 1978-1984
Price US$4495 (Rev 1, Rev 2); US$3995 (Rev 3)
Technical specifications
Polyphony 5 voices
Timbrality Monotimbral
Oscillator 2 VCOs per voice
Synthesis type Analog Subtractive
Analog Frequency modulation via Poly-Mod
Filter 1 lowpass
Keyboard 61 keys
Left-hand control Pitch & modulation wheels
External control CV/Gate
Optional factory MIDI kit

The Prophet-5 is an analog synthesizer that was manufactured by Sequential Circuits in San Jose, California between 1978 and 1984. Introduced at the Winter NAMM show in January 1978, the Prophet-5 was groundbreaking in that it was one of the first analog synthesizers to implement patch memory, a feature which stored user settings of every parameter on the synthesizer into internal memory. It is also one of the first polyphonic synthesizers, with a maximum polyphony of 5 voices, meaning that up to 5 notes can sound at the same time. Like the Minimoog, the pitch wheel was not spring-loaded, but had a detented mechanism which clicked every time it was centered.

The Prophet-5 was also known for its modulation capabilities. The "Poly-Mod" feature routed the output of the filter envelope generator and the second oscillator in each voice through two mixer knobs, which could then be connected to the pulse width and pitch controls on the first oscillator, to the filter cutoff frequency control, or all three at the same time. Since the second VCO was not limited to being an LFO, this allowed the Prophet-5 to generate 2-operator FM synthesis and ring modulator-style effects, as well as complex sweeping sounds.

Three revisions were produced, the first two (commonly referred to as Rev 1 and Rev 2) using oscillators manufactured by Solid State Music (SSM), and the last one (Revision 3) using Curtis CEM chips from Curtis Electromusic Specialties. The total number of production including all revisions was nearly 6,000 units.[1]

SSM vs. Curtis[edit]

The Revision 1 and 2 Prophet-5s used SSM oscillator and filter chips while the Revision 3 instruments used the CEM chips. There is still much debate about whether the earlier SSM oscillators produced a richer, more musical timbre.[citation needed] The instability of the early SSM-based Prophets, however, renders this debate moot for all but owners who are either technical enough to tweak or maintain their own Revision 1 or 2 instruments, or wealthy enough to pay a dwindling breed of analog synth technicians to do it for them. The most common and stable of the three revisions was the Revision 3. The last of the rev 3.3s were available with MIDI-IN and MIDI-OUT ports.[2]


Inside Prophet-10 (1980) - a pair of Prophet-5 sound boards provide ten voices

The Prophet-5 is prized by amateurs and professional musicians alike for its lush washes, textural sounds, as well as the classic polyphonic sweep. It is also capable of generating brass sounds, as well as bell-like and atonal sound effects. The characteristics of Sequential Circuits' signature sound quality were a result of the interplay of oscillators and filters in Sequential's poly-mod section.[3]

Other versions[edit]

Sequential Circuits also manufactured a double version of the Prophet-5 called the Prophet-10, which featured 10 voice polyphony and two keyboards, stacked on top of each other. However, early versions were dogged by frequent overheating and tuning stability issues. [1]

Clones and emulators[edit]


Clavia Nord Lead's signal-flow resembles Prophet-5, and has Prophet-5 patches.
Bristol Prophet-52
Creamware Pro-12 ASB

Arturia developed and markets a "virtual" version of the Prophet 5 called the Prophet V which also includes the Prophet VS. In this version, characteristics from both synthesizers can be used simultaneously in a "hybrid" mode.

Native Instruments developed Virtual Studio Technology (VST) and Audio Unit (AU) version of the Prophet 5 called "Pro-53" (previously released as "Pro-52"). This software simulated the look and sound of the Prophet 5, and was programmed similarly. It was discontinued in 2009.

Analog Synth Lab have released the Prophecizer 5, a Prophet 5 emulator for PC.

Creamware developed and manufactures a "virtual" version of the Prophet 5 called the "Pro-12". This version has an SSM filter emulation. Creamware has also developed and manufactures a hardware version of the Pro-12 called the Pro-12 ASB.


Dave Smith Instruments celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Prophet by developing the Prophet '08, an 8-voice analog synthesizer. Dave Smith was the original developer of the Prophet 5 and the owner of Sequential Circuits until it went out of business in the late 1980s when the rights were bought by Yamaha and later sold to Korg. Dave Smith now manufactures his new instruments under his own name, as the Japanese manufacturers will not release his original Sequential Circuits Brand back to him.

As noted above, Yamaha purchased Sequential Circuits in the late 1980s. Their 1997 virtual analog synthesizer keyboard, the AN1x, modelled many of its features upon the Prophet-5, thanks to Yamaha now having access to its technology.[4][5] The AN1x went beyond the capabilities of the Prophet-5 with a doubled 10 notes of polyphony and various other features either modelled on other popular analog synths or representing new additions made feasibly only by the underlying digital technology.

Artists who have used the Prophet-5[edit]

(alphabetically ordered)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sequential Circuits – Prophet Synthesizers 5 & 10 (Retro)", Sound On Sound (March 1999) 
  2. ^ Peter Forrest, The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers Part Two, Short Run Press Ltd, 1996, p. 114
  3. ^ Julian Colbeck, Keyfax Omnibus Edition, MixBooks, 1996, p. 123
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Peter Forrest, The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers Part Two, Short Run Press Ltd, 1996, p. 113
  7. ^ "Artist: Icehouse". Warner Music Australia. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  8. ^ "Icehouse review". Electronics and Music Maker (E&MM) magazine. June 1986. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  9. ^