1978: Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 First Programmable Polyphonic Synth

Jan 1, 2011 9:00 AM

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Dave Smith brought about the Prophet-5, the first programmable polyphonic synth.

Dave Smith brought about the Prophet-5, the first programmable polyphonic synth.

An analog synth that could play five notes simultaneously and could store a whopping 40 programs (later expanded to 120) might not create headlines today, but the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 was a sensation in its time, and it’s still a classic.

Company founder/chief designer Dave Smith was excited about combining the sound-generation capabilities of the new Solid State Music ICs that reduced the major functions of analog filters and synthesis (VCO, VCA, VCF) into single chipsets, with the new Z80 microprocessor for storing/recalling synth patches. Smith worked with John Bowen (and some consulting from E-mu founder Dave Rossum), and the Prophet-5 project was completed in just six months—an amazing accomplishment. On its debut at the Winter NAMM show in January 1978, the Prophet-5 was nothing less than a hit. The Prophet-5 stayed in production until the mid-1980s with approximately 8,000 units sold. Today, Smith continues to create award-winning analog synthesizers with his company, Dave Smith Instruments.






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