Dave Smith returns under his original "Sequential Circuits" brand, evolving on one of the most legendary analog synthesizers of all time: the Prophet 5! What was then one of the first polyphonic synthesizers, helping to revolutionize on what had been over a decade of nearly-exclusive Monophonic synths. As Dave Smith himself puts it: "It's not a reissue, it's vintage with a modern twist." Here presented as the new "Prophet 6": a 2 oscillator, 6 voice, fully analog synthesizer with absolutely everything you'd need to program it straight on the panel. No menus, no nada! This is full-on hands on synthesis.
As mentioned, the signal path is fully analog, starting with what the company calls 2 "discrete" VCO's, and a Sub-oscillator per-voice, which is quite a treat to say the least. Each oscillator offers continuously variable waveshapes in the form of Triangle, Sawtooth, and variable width Pulse (Square) waves. Oscillator 1 allows for syncing to oscillator 2, while the 2nd can be triggered by the keyboard, or act as a sort of Low Frequency Oscillator. Both feature frequency knobs to increase wave intensity, and the 2nd VCO offers the fairly standard "Fine" tuning knob to get everything just right. Everything is then fed into the mixer, which allows for the use of white noise to enhance your signal, while giving you not just control of both VCO's of course, but also the pitch of the Sub Oscillator.
2 "discrete" VCF's are offered per voice, here available as a 4-pole resonant Lowpass, and a 2-pole resonant Highpass filter. Both have envelope intensity knobs, which can both be switched to affect velocity, not to mention a clever way of achieving a sort of keyboard tracking, here allowing you to choose whether the filter will affect the whole keyboard, or just half. Not quite as "surgical" as the standard tracking, but still a worthwhile feature for any synth. Add to that Voltage Controlled Amplifiers, and you have yourself a nice fully-analog signal path.
The effects section here is a lot like on the previously discussed "Prophet 12", also digital, though it does feature a bypass switch that will allow the signal to stay 100% analog. At a resolution of 24 bit 48 khz, these effects are high-quality studio grade, and feature reverb, delays (also inc. Bucket Brigade style), Chorus, and Phase Shifter. A stereo distortion unit is also included, which is independent to the rest of the collection, and is 100% analog.
Now let's get into the fun! Here provided by a very cool 64-step sequencer (6 notes per step), and an Arpeggiator; which runs in the standard modes including "Assign", can be clocked to external MIDI, and also features selectable note values. The "Poly Mod" feature from the old Prophet 5 has also been revived, with "enhancements" as the company puts it, and allows for the routing of the Filter Envelope, and Oscillator 2 as modulation sources (w/ Bi-Polar control), to the destinations of Oscillator 1 Frequency, including Shape and Pulse Width, as well as the Low-Pass Filter, and High-Pass Filter. Unison Mode has also been brought back, which allows for you to select how many voices can sound at the same time; meaning how many notes can be triggered at once. Something very useful in a great synth like this which features 6 voices total!
Aside from all that jazz, the synth features a total of 100 programs stored in 10 banks, 500 which are preset, and the other 500 which can be written on. The machine features a neat toggle switch that while in the middle of a preset, can turn the synth to "live mode", reverting the signal to be exactly where each knob on the function panel is. As the company puts it: "what you see is what you hear". Take all that, wrap it up in a beautiful half walnut wood, half metal case, throw in some MIDI (I/O, AND Thru!) which the old Prophet did not have, along with a semi-weighted keybed with aftertouch (channel) and velocity sensitivity, and you have yourself what will be just about the best synthesizer you could ask for! It's a great size for portability, and with 4-octaves laid down across 49 keys, its decent enough in playability as well.
For a synth that has been played by everyone from Kraftwerk, to Pink Floyd, there is a lot you can say, but perhaps we should just let the machine speak for itself. While pre-orders have begun, the synthesizer is not expected to begin shipping until Summer 2015, so get on the list quick if you would like to have this in your studio space sometime soon. This machine will satisfy any professional down to the last bit, and wildly inspire and challenge any newcomer wanting to dip their toes in these waters.
Written by: Santino Fernandez