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The Prophet 5

Weapon of Choice: Prophet 5

The Prophet 5 was an analog synthesizer manufactured by Sequential Circuits in San Jose, California between 1978 and 1984. The Prophet 5 was groundbreaking in that it was one of the first analog synthesizers to implement patch memory, a feature which scanned the settings of every parameter on the synthesizer and stored it 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.

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 (OSC B) through two mixer knobs, which could then be connected to the pulse width and pitch controls on the the first oscillator (OSC A), to the filter cutoff frequency control, or all three at the same time. Since OSC B 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 using oscillators manufactured by Solid State Music, and the last one (Revision 3) using chips from Curtis Electronics.

SSM vs. Curtis
The Revision 1 and 2 Prophet 5's used SSM oscillator and filter chips while the Revision 3 instruments used the CEM chips. There is great and ongoing debate about whether the earlier SSM oscillators produced a richer, more musical timbre. The instability of the early SSM-based Prophets, however, renders this debate moot for all but owners who are either technical enough to tweak/maintain their own Rev.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 3 revisions was the Revision 3. For an example of the Curtis-based Prophet 5, see; i) Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ, ii) Peter Gabriel's Shock the Monkey album (where it is paired to mesmerizing effect with an early Fairlight CMI), or iii) Pink Floyd The Wall Concert in Berlin DVD where a Rev 1 P-5 can be seen in several shots and where its unmistakably wonderful drone/pad sounds can be heard quite clearly.

The Prophet 5 is prized by amateurs and professional musicians alike for its excellent bass sounds and sound effects, as well as its uniquely warm sound that is characteristic of all synthesizers Sequential Circuits manufactured during its short lifetime. The Prophet 5 has been used by many famous artists including Kraftwerk, Duran Duran, No Doubt, Vince Clarke, the Talking Heads, Gary Numan on his solo albums and his work with Tubeway Army, Thomas Dolby, New Order, Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers on the album Minute by Minute specifically for string pads on the song "What a Fool Believes", Annie Lenox on Medusa, the Prodigy, INXS, the Cars, Phil Collins, Richard Barbieri, David Bowie, Icehouse (e.g. the pads on "Great Southern Land"), Hall & Oates, Philip Glass, Jean-Michel Jarre, the Sneaker Pimps, Steely Dan, Tony Banks extensively on various albums by Genesis, Rick Wright, Kitaro, Level 42, Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, filmmaker/composer John Carpenter, and even Men Without Hats in almost all of their albums. One of its best remembered appearances is probably in "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes. The Prophet 5 was also used by Yellow Magic Orchestra and Cosmic Groove Transmission (Legendary underground house artists).

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.
-- courtesy of wikipedia

The Prophet 5 in Action

Listen Further/Buy
The Cars "Let's Go" -- classic Prophet 5 Lead sound
Bernie Worrell with The Talking Heads "Girlfriend is Better"
I own a rev 2 Prophet 5, and I have to say it is one of my favorite vintage synths. However, keeping it in working order is expensive. Sort of like owning a classic automobile. In this track from Alien Chatter I am using it for pads.
Jody Watley's "Timeless" from her Saturday Night Experience CD. I'm tweaking the cut-off filter in real time because this keyboard is pre-midi.
Prophet 5 Emulations

Here are the most popular software emulations.
Product Name Manufacture Comments
Prophet V Arturia I have not used this so I can not comment. However, I do own hte Moog Modular V by this company and it is great.
Pro-53 Native Instruments I use this emulation quite a bit, and I am impressed with the sound. It doesn't quite have the warmth of my keyboard, but I'm not mad at it.
Links to Prophet 5 Parts, Maintenance and more

Here are a few links to some great Prophet 5 Sites
Prophet 5 Tribute Site The best site on the net for all things Prophet 5! Start here. THE place on the web for Prophet 5 parts and repairs. The founder of Sequential Circuits, Dave Smith, is back with a new synth.
bluesynths great over all synth site analog synth repair guy in arizona provides lots of links to Prophet 5 resources ( manuals and repair )

Current Releases

Rodney Lee -- The Satellite Orchestra

Innocent Bystander

Alien Chatter
Satnam Ramgotra &
Rodney Lee

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