Dave Smith (engineer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dave Smith
Dave Smith at Sequential booth - 2 - 2015 NAMM Show.jpg
Smith at the 2015 NAMM Show
David J. Smith

Alma materUC Berkeley, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering
OccupationSynthesizer designer, developer of MIDI, Entrepreneur

David J. Smith is an American engineer and musician and founder of the synthesizer company Sequential. Smith was responsible for the first commercial polyphonic and microprocessor-controlled synthesizer, the Prophet-5, and later the multitimbral synthesizer.[1] He is also referred to as the "Father of MIDI" for his role in the development of MIDI, now a standard interface protocol for electronic instruments and recording/pro audio equipment.[2]


Smith has degrees in both Computer Science and Electronic Engineering from UC Berkeley. He purchased a Minimoog in 1972 and later built his own analog sequencer, founding Sequential Circuits in 1974 and advertising his product for sale in Rolling Stone.[3][4] By 1977 he was working at Sequential full-time, and later that year he designed the Prophet 5, the world's first microprocessor-based musical instrument and also the first programmable polyphonic synth,[5] an innovation that marked a crucial step forward in synthesizer design and functionality. Sequential went on to become one of the most successful music synthesizer manufacturers of the time.

In 1981 Smith set out to create a standard protocol for communication between electronic musical instruments from different manufacturers worldwide. He presented a paper outlining the idea of a Universal Synthesizer Interface (USI) to the Audio Engineering Society (AES) in 1981 after meetings with Tom Oberheim and Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi. After some enhancements and revisions, the new standard was introduced as "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" (MIDI) at the Winter NAMM Show in 1983, when a Sequential Circuits Prophet-600 was successfully connected to a Roland Jupiter-6. In 1987 he was named a Fellow of the AES for his continuing work in the area of music synthesis.[6]

After Sequential, Smith was President of DSD, Inc, a Research and Development Division of Yamaha, where he worked on physical modeling synthesis and software synthesizer concepts. In May 1989 he started the Korg R&D group in California, which went on to produce the innovative and commercially successful Wavestation synthesizer and other technology.[7]

Smith went on to serve as President at Seer Systems[8] and developed the world's first software based synthesizer running on a PC. This synth, commissioned by Intel, was demonstrated by Andy Grove in a Comdex keynote speech in 1994. The second generation of this software synthesizer sold over 10 million copies, as a result of being licensed to Creative Labs in 1996; it was responsible for 32 of the 64 voices in Creative Labs' AWE 64 line of soundcards.

The third generation of Smith's software synthesizer, renamed Reality, was released in 1997. Dave was both the lead engineer on Reality, and wrote all the low-level optimized floating point synthesis code. Reality was the recipient of a 1998 Editors' Choice Award, and earned Electronic Musician Magazine's highest possible rating.

In 2002, Smith launched Dave Smith Instruments, a manufacturer of electronic musical instruments.[9]

In 2005, Smith was inducted into the Mix Foundation TECnology (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Hall of Fame for the MIDI specification,[10] and in 2013, he and Ikutaro Kakehashi received a Technical Grammy for their contributions to the development of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) technology.[11]

In 2015, Smith regained the rights to the Sequential name from Yamaha, and released the Prophet-6 under that name. Dave Smith Instruments rebranded as Sequential in 2018.[12]


  • 2015: SEAMUS Award[13]
  • January 2013: Technical Grammy (along with Ikutaro Kakehashi) for the creation of MIDI.
  • September 2012: Keyboard Magazine Hall of Fame
  • September 2005: Induction into the TECnology (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Hall of Fame at the AES show by Mix Foundation.
  • October 1987: Received Audio Engineering Society (AES) Fellowship Award, for having made a valuable contribution to the advancement in or dissemination of knowledge of audio engineering or in the promotion of its application in practice.[14]


  1. ^ Colbeck, Julian (1996). Keyfax Omnibus Edition. MixBooks. p. 119.
  2. ^ "Dave Smith Evolver" Archived 2011-10-12 at the Wayback Machine Paul Nagle, Sound On Sound, Feb 2003
  3. ^ Chadabe, Joel (1977). Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music. Prentice Hall.
  4. ^ "St. Helena's Dave Smith Wins Grammy", Michael Nissenson, St. Helena Star, Feb 2013
  5. ^ Milan, Dominic. Vintage Synthesizers. Miller Freeman Books. p. 23.
  6. ^ "Awards".
  7. ^ Battino, David; Richards, Kelli (2005). The Art of Digital Music. Backbeat Books. p. 102. ISBN 0-87930-830-3.
  8. ^ "Reality PC", Martin Walker, Sound On Sound, Nov 1997
  9. ^ "One of Techs Most Successful Inventors Never Made a Cent". Fortune. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  10. ^ TECnology Hall of Fame 2005
  11. ^ "Technical Grammy Award for Development of MIDI Technology" Archived 2014-08-18 at the Wayback Machine, Mix Magazine, Dec 2012
  12. ^ "Dave Smith Returns to Sequential Brand to Mark 40th Anniversary of Prophet-5 Poly Synth". MMR Musical Merchandise Review. 4 September 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  13. ^ "SEAMUS Award | SEAMUS".
  14. ^ AES Awards: Past Awards Recipients

Further reading[edit]

  • David Abernethy, The Prophet from Silicon Valley: The complete story of Sequential Circuits, A Morris AM Publishing New Zealand, 2015
  • "Dave Smith". Music Technology. Vol. 5 no. 1. December 1990. p. 58. ISSN 0957-6606. OCLC 24835173.


External links[edit]