Sequential (company)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Sequential Circuits
  • Dave Smith Instruments
Founded1974; 49 years ago (1974)
Headquarters1527 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Key people
Dave Smith (founder)

Sequential is an American synthesizer company founded in 1974 as Sequential Circuits by Dave Smith. In 1978, Sequential released the Prophet-5, the first programmable polyphonic synthesizer; it became a market leader and industry standard, used by artists including Michael Jackson, Madonna, and John Carpenter. In the 1980s, Sequential was pivotal in the development of MIDI, a technical standard for synchronizing electronic instruments.

In 1987, Sequential went out of business and was purchased by Yamaha. Smith continued to develop instruments through a new company, Dave Smith Instruments. In 2015, Yamaha returned the Sequential Circuits trademark to Dave Smith Instruments, which rebranded as Sequential in 2018. In 2021, Sequential was acquired by the British audio technology company Focusrite.


Sequential founder Dave Smith in 2015

1974–1980: Founding, first products and Prophet-5[edit]

The engineer Dave Smith founded Sequential Circuits in San Francisco in 1974.[1] The first Sequential Circuits product was an analog sequencer for use with Moog and ARP synthesizers, followed by a digital sequencer and the Model 700 Programmer, which allowed users to program Minimoog and ARP 2600 synthesizers.[2] The Model 800, launched in 1975, was controlled and programmed with a microprocessor.[3]

The Prophet-5 (1978), the first Sequential synthesizer

At the time, Smith had a full-time job working with microprocessors, then a new technology. He conceived the idea of combining them with synthesizer chips to create a programmable synthesizer, but did not pursue the idea, assuming Moog or ARP would design the instrument first.[2] When no instrument emerged, in early 1977, he quit his job to work full-time on a design for the Prophet-5, the first fully programmable polyphonic synthesizer. He demonstrated it at NAMM in January 1978 and shipped the first models later that year.[2]

Whereas previous synthesizers required users to adjust cables and knobs to change sounds, with no guarantee of exactly recreating a sound,[4] the Prophet-5 used microprocessors to store sounds in patch memory.[5] This facilitated a move from synthesizers creating unpredictable sounds to producing "a standard package of familiar sounds".[4]: 385  The Prophet-5 became a market leader and industry standard,[6] used by musicians such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Dr Dre, and by film composers such as John Carpenter.[6] It was followed by the larger Prophet-10, which was less successful as it was notorious for unreliability.[7] The smaller Pro-One, essentially a monophonic Prophet-5,[8] saw more success.[6]

1981–1982: MIDI[edit]

Prophet 600 (1982), the first Sequential Circuits synthesizer with MIDI functionality

In 1981, Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of the Japanese synthesizer company Roland, contacted Smith about creating a standardized means of synchronizing electronic instruments manufactured by different companies.[9] Smith and Sequential engineer Chet Wood designed an interface using Roland's Digital Control Bus (DCB) as a basis.[10] This standard was discussed and modified by representatives of Roland, Yamaha, Korg, and Kawai.[11][12]: 20  The protocol was named Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)[13]: 4  and unveiled by Kakehashi and Smith, who received Technical Grammy Awards in 2013 for their work.[14][15][16] In 1982, Sequential released the Prophet 600, one of the first MIDI-equipped synthesizers.[17]

Various Sequential products from the late 1970s to the early 1980s

1987: Closure[edit]

In 1987, Sequential Circuits went out of business. Smith blamed the decision to move to computer audio in 1985: "We were too small and under-capitalized, and we were a few years too early in the market ... It drained our resources, so by the time we pulled back to professional instruments, it was too late."[2] Sequential Circuits was purchased by the Japanese corporation Yamaha; Yamaha shut it down in 1989,[2] and released no products under its name.[18] Smith moved to Korg, where he worked mainly on the Wavestation synthesizer.[2]

2002–2014: Dave Smith Instruments[edit]

In 2002, after several years working on software synthesis, Smith opened a new company, Dave Smith Instruments, to build new hardware. Its first product was the Evolver synthesizer in 2002.[2] In 2008, Dave Smith Instruments launched the Prophet '08, conceived as an affordable eight-voice analog synthesizer.[2]

2015–present: Return to Sequential and Focusrite acquisition[edit]

In January 2015, Yamaha returned the Sequential Circuits brands to Smith in a goodwill gesture. This was at the encouragement of Kakehashi, who had worked with Smith to create MIDI. Kakehashi said: "I feel that it’s important to get rid of unnecessary conflict among electronic musical instrument companies. That is exactly the spirit of MIDI. For this reason, I personally recommended that the President of Yamaha, Mr. Nakata, return the rights to the Sequential name to Dave Smith."[19]

In 2015, Sequential released the Prophet-6,[18] followed in 2018 by the Prophet-X, which featured sample playback and digitally controlled oscillators.[20] On August 31, 2018, the 40th anniversary of the Prophet-5, Dave Smith Instruments rebranded as Sequential.[21] On September 30, 2020, Sequential announced an updated reissue of the original Prophet-5.[22] Sequential reported revenues of $18.3 million in 2020.[23] On 27, April 2021, Sequential announced that it had been acquired by the British audio technology company Focusrite.[24] Smith died on 31 May, 2022.[1]

List of products[edit]

  • Prophet-5 (1978–84, 2020–present)
  • Prophet-10 (1981–84, 2020–present)
  • Pro One (1981–84)
  • Fugue (1981–85) built by Siel
  • Prelude (1982) built by Siel
  • Prophet 600 (1982)
  • Prophet T-8 (1983)
  • Max (1984)
  • Six-Trak (1984)
  • Drumtraks (1984)
  • Multitrak (1985)
  • Split-8 (1985)
  • TOM (1985)
  • Prophet 2000 (1985–87)
  • Prophet-VS (1986–87)
  • Studio 440 (1987)

As Dave Smith Instruments:

  • Evolver (2002)
  • Poly Evolver (2005)
  • Mono Evolver (2006)
  • Prophet 08 (2007–16)
  • Mopho (2008)
  • Tetra (2009)
  • Tempest (2011) co-created with Roger Linn
  • Prophet 12 (2013)
  • Pro 2 (2014)

As Sequential Circuits:

  • Prophet-6 (2015–present)
  • OB-6 (2015–present)
  • Prophet Rev2 (2017–present)
  • Prophet X (2018–present)
  • Pro 3 (2020–present)
  • Take 5 (2021–present)
  • Trigon (2022–present)


  1. ^ a b Gentile, Dan (2022-06-05). "San Francisco musical pioneer dies at 72". SFGATE. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Dave Smith in his own words". Keyboard. 2013-06-11. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  3. ^ Dean, Roger T. (2009). "Hardware Digital Synthesizers and How They Developed". The Oxford Handbook of Computer Music. Oxford University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-19-533161-5. in 1975 the newly established company Sequential Circuits had, as one of its first products, an analog CV sequencer controlled and programmed with a microprocessor.
  4. ^ a b Pinch, Trevor; Trocco, Frank (2004). Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01617-0.
  5. ^ "The 14 most important synths in electronic music history – and the musicians who use them". Fact. 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  6. ^ a b c "The 14 most important synths in electronic music history – and the musicians who use them". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  7. ^ Reid, Gordon (March 1999). "Sequential Circuits – Prophet Synthesizers 5 & 10 (Retro)". Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  8. ^ "SCI Pro1". Sound on Sound. March 1994. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015.
  9. ^ "The life and times of Ikutaro Kakehashi, the Roland pioneer modern music owes everything to". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 2017-04-02. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  10. ^ Kirn, Peter (2011). Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-61713-446-3. Archived from the original on 1 February 2017.
  11. ^ Chadabe, Joel (1 May 2000). "Part IV: The Seeds of the Future". Electronic Musician. Vol. XVI, no. 5. Penton Media. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
  12. ^ Holmes, Thom. Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition. New York: Routledge, 2003
  13. ^ Huber, David Miles (1991). The MIDI Manual. Carmel, Indiana: SAMS. ISBN 9780672227578.
  14. ^ "Technical GRAMMY Award: Ikutaro Kakehashi And Dave Smith". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Ikutaro Kakehashi, Dave Smith: Technical GRAMMY Award Acceptance". 9 February 2013. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  16. ^ Vail, Mark (2014). The Synthesizer. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-19-539481-8.
  17. ^ Colbeck, Julian (1996). Keyfax Omnibus Edition. Emeryville, California, United States: MixBooks. p. 124. ISBN 0-918371-08-2.
  18. ^ a b "Review: Sequential Prophet-6 Analog Synth". KeyboardMag. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  19. ^ "Yamaha Returns Sequential Brand to Dave Smith". Music Trades. 163 (2): 30. March 2015.
  20. ^ "Dave Smith reveals Sequential Prophet X |". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  21. ^ "Dave Smith Instruments rebrands as Sequential". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  22. ^ Rogerson, Ben (October 2020). "Sequential announces a new Prophet-5, a faithful reboot of one of the greatest synths of all time". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  23. ^ "In tune: Synth makers Sequential snapped up by Focusrite for £18m as revenues grow". CityAM. 2021-04-27. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
  24. ^ "Focusrite acquires Dave Smith-led synth-maker, Sequential". MusicTech. 2021-04-27. Retrieved 2021-04-27.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pogan, Chuck (November–December 1981). "Instrument Review: The Pro-One". Polyphony. Vol. 7, no. 3. p. 32. ISSN 0163-4534. OCLC 1090378445.
  • "Sequential Circuits Pro One". Music Technology. Vol. 4, no. 11. October 1990. p. 22. ISSN 0957-6606. OCLC 24835173.

External links[edit]