Yesterday I trekked up to Chuck Levin’s Music Store to take a gander at the new Dave Smith Instrument’s Sequential Prophet 6. “Review” is perhaps a bit strong for this post, especially considering the troubles I ran into (see below), so consider this more my first encounter and impressions of the machine.
Just incase you haven’t heard, the Prophet 6 is a new six-voice analog synthesizer just release by Dave Smith Instruments. It isn’t a remake of the Prophet 5 but is very reminiscent of that machine. Oh, and Mr. Smith got the Sequential name back from Yamaha so this machine might actually be just the “Sequential Prophet 6″. I’m not real clear on that.
When the salesman took the plastic wrap off the unit I was surprised at how small it was. It’s very compact and even the knobs are noticeably smaller than those on my Prophet 08. Those knobs, I might add, are much nicer that the 08′s as well. They’re very solid feeling with just the right amount of resistance and come in three forms: endless encoders, potentiometers, and notched potentiometer with a “zero” in the straight up position. The keys are eminently playable with just the right amount of spring and the monophonic aftertouch is excellent – again a big improvement over the Prophet 08. Overall the build and size is excellent. From top to bottom is oozes quality and everything feels just about perfect. It’s small but not all all cramped. It would be great for gigging. Even the wall-wart is gone and replaced with a proper power cable.
The DSI Prophet 6 is an ergonomist’s dream. Everything is so cognizable and well laid out that it’s a breeze to program. It has just the right combination of choices and limits on choices. The patch buttons allow for quick program changes, the effects can be enabled/disabled with a single button, and all the subtractive synthesis controls are presented exactly as one would want. The quality of the build makes interacting with all these elements a pleasure. Each button and knob has an excellent tactile feel. I loved, loved, LOVED the interface!
Here’s where my review falls down quite a bit. When I first tried the factory presets they all sounded terrible and I soon discovered why: the main two oscillators were out of tune. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get them to align with each other pitch-wise. As this is a DCO machine, and a fresh out of the box at that, I suspect was is some sort of initial calibration that needed to happen but I didn’t have a manual to confirm this. So I made the best of it by creating a few patches using only one of the two oscillators. Doing so revealed a machine with a very smooth sound. The filters are quite different from my Prophet 08. They’re more mello and “rounded”. The Prophet 6 lacks a 12bd filter rolloff so it’s no good for those buzzy CS80 & Oberheim sounds but it’s great for hefty and rich 24db sounds similar to the Prophet 5. The onboard effects sounded quite nice with the bucket brigade delay being my personal favorite. On balance I really liked the sound but want to hear a machine that’s in proper tune before I commit to buying one.
I really liked this machine. Even hobbled to one oscillator I was able to coaxes some pretty nice timbers out of it and in full flight I imagine it’d sound excellent. It’s layout, build, and form factor are just about everything one could want. With its compact size, built-in effects, and quick patch change buttons it’d make a excellent synth for live performance. Personally, I’m going to wait for another encounter with an in-tune machine before I make a decision to buy, but on balance it was great. Go try one out!