Sequential Circuits Prophet-5

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SCI Prophet 5.jpg
Manufacturer 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 24 dB/octave resonant low-pass
Attenuator 2 x ADSR; one for VCF, one for VCA
Aftertouch No
Velocity sensitive No
Memory 40 patches (120 patches on later units)
Effects None
Keyboard 61 keys
Left-hand control Pitch & modulation wheels
External control CV/Gate
Optional factory MIDI kit for later Rev 3 units

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 that 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 that 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. The second VCO was not limited to operating an LFO, allowing 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 Revision 1 and Revision 2, respectively) using chips manufactured by SSM (Solid State Micro Technology for Music), 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]


Early Prophet-5s, known as Revisions 1 and 2, used oscillator, filter and amplifier chips manufactured by SSM. Revision 3 instruments used Curtis CEM chips. Some owners maintain that SSM oscillators produced a richer timbre.[citation needed] However, the SSM oscillators rendered the instruments unstable and prone to detuning over time. The most common—and stable—of the three revisions was the third. Later Revision 3s were available with MIDI in and out ports, which were not available in the earlier revisions.[2]

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

The Prophet-5 is noted for rich sound textures and 5-voice polyphony. It is also capable of generating brass sounds, as well as bell 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] Sequential Circuits also manufactured a larger version of the Prophet-5, known as the Prophet 10, which featured two keyboards and 10-voice polyphony. Early products occasionally overheated and went out of tune.[4]

Clones and emulators[edit]


Bristol Prophet-52
Creamware Pro-12 ASB

Arturia developed a softsynth version of the Prophet 5 called the Prophet V. Prophet V also includes a recreation of the Prophet VS, a synthesizer manufactured by Sequential Circuits in 1986. Elements of the two synthesizers can be combined in a "hybrid" mode. The softsynth closely recreates the layout of the original analog synthesizer, though there were some differences in programming, notably through some restrictions on the envelope generator.[5]

Other software emulations of the Prophet-5 include Pro-53, a Virtual Studio Technology and Audio Unit by Native Instruments (discontinued in 2009), Prophecizer 5 by Analog Synth Lab, and the Pro-12 by Creamware. The Pro-12 emulates the early revisions' SSM filter. Creamware has also developed and manufactures a hardware version of the Pro-12 called the Pro-12 ASB.


Clavia Nord Lead has Prophet-5 patches due to similarity of signal-flow.
DSI Prophet '08 (2007)
DSI Prophet 12 (2014)
Sequential Prophet-6 (2015)

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 purchased by Yamaha and later sold to Korg. Smith was a consultant for Yamaha and Korg for a number of years following the acquisition. He was largely responsible for Korg’s successful Wavestation series of vector-synthesis-based instruments.

With access to the technology used to create the Prophet-5, Yamaha developed the 1997 virtual analog synthesizer keyboard, the AN1x. Many of its features were modelled upon the Prophet-5. The AN1x surpassed capabilities of the Prophet-5, with a doubled 10 notes of polyphony and various other features either modelled on other popular analog synthesizers or representing new additions made feasibly only by the underlying digital technology.

In January 2015, Smith announced that Yamaha's president, Takuya Nakata, had granted him rights to the Sequential brand, which he had been unable to use following the company's acquisition. The release of the name coincided with Smith's debut of the Prophet-6, a new analog polyphonic synthesizer based on the Prophet-5 with additional features. Of the Prophet-6, Smith said "I wanted to celebrate the return of Sequential in the best way I could—by building the most awesome-sounding, modern analog poly synth possible. The Prophet-6 is a tribute to Sequential’s most famous instrument, the Prophet-5. I think of it as vintage with a modern twist."[6]

Artists who have used the Prophet-5 or Prophet-10[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reid, Gordon (March 1999). "Sequential Circuits – Prophet Synthesizers 5 & 10 (Retro)". Sound On Sound. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  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. ^ "Sequential Circuits Prophet 10". Vintage Synth Explorer. Retrieved 2015-01-23. 
  5. ^ Reid, Gordon (September 2006). "Arturia Prophet V". Sound on Sound. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Sequential is Back!". Dave Smith Instruments. January 22, 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  7. ^ Peter Forrest, The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers Part Two, Short Run Press Ltd, 1996, p. 113
  8. ^ "Artist: Icehouse". Warner Music Australia. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  9. ^ "Icehouse review". Electronics and Music Maker (E&MM) magazine. June 1986. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Andi Harriman (2014). Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s. p. 78. ISBN 1783203528.