Open Mic: Is The Prophet 12 The Best Polyphonic Synth Of All Time?


One fo the biggest surprises of the 2013 NAMM Show, was the new Prophet 12, which Dave Smith calls “my best synth yet.”

Some of the key features:

  • Twelve voice polyphony – the greatest polyphony of any instrument Dave Smith has designed.
  • Powerful voice architecture features four oscillators, capable of generating classic and complex waveforms, a sub-oscillator, resonant analog low- and high-pass filters, and analog VCAs.
  • ‘Character’ section adds a variety of wave shaping and sound sculpting options, like Drive, Hack, Decimation, Girth, and Air.
  • Additional features include a tuned feedback path, a four-tap stereo delay per voice, expanded arpeggiator functionality, deep modulation capabilities, and bi-timbral operation.
  • The LFOs, delay, and arpeggiator can all be synced, either to the internal clock or an external MIDI clock.
  • Two programmable position- and pressure-sensitive touch sliders take the performance controls beyond the standard pitch and mod wheels (also included).
  • Knobs for everything

There’s currently no polysynth that’s comparable to the Prophet 12.

And the Prophet 12 also stands out among the great polyphonic synths of the past. It’s got much more sophisticated capabilities than synths like a Prophet V or a Yamaha CS-80, plus the benefits of 35 years of advances in technology.

Is the Prophet 12 the best polyphonic synth of all time? Let us know what you think!

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139 thoughts on “Open Mic: Is The Prophet 12 The Best Polyphonic Synth Of All Time?

  1. As synthhead freudian-slipped, perhaps it is in fact closer to the Prophet V than the Prophet 5, since it has digital oscillators. ;-p

    That being said, it might be like the rebirth of the ESQ-1 (or Prophet VS without the joystick?) although it lacks the polyphonic aftertouch of the SQ-80.

    I have to say that a Prophet ’08 + a Tetra is rather awesome and gives you 12 analog oscillators…

    Still waiting for the rebirth of the Andromeda, though….

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  2. I own a p ’08 for year, and during the time I was suffered form some of the ‘unique’ function which differ from any other synths I’ve ever experienced. particularly apreggiator function. I searched for an solution for this but found out many users of p ’08 like do think it’s a problem. However, seeing the release of mopho x4, and now the prophet 12, or their drum machine tempest, I doubt that Dave would take care of his old products anymore.

    compare with DSI, Nord is far more better experience, keep on firmware upgrade, bugs fix, new sound on sample library, ..

    I’m not hate my p ’08, I’m a chord player, I’d like to play pad on it, and I think it sounds great, but I will never buy from DSI again due to their customer care.

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    1. You have got to be kidding?!
      Dave Smith offers excellent service to customers, regardless which one of their instruments you own 😀
      That’s all there is to say about that.

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  3. The timbrality is a drawback. Although until this morning I thought it was monotimbral, bi-timbral is hugely better than nothing. And plenty of knobs is good.

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  4. I just never liked the sound of the prophets. I find them “cold and distant”. korg and Moog (some not all) are the ones I seem to respond to. but maybe that’s to do with my favourite bands using those instruments the most.

    I swear I’m not trolling. to me it’s an interesting aspect of the argument whether this is the best synth ever. and because I don’t know what you guys mean by after touch and Timbrality. I can only discuss it from the point of view of my ear

    I know that basically you can make these machines sound like whatever you want so maybe “by ear” is pure sophistry.

    I do however like the design and advances of this machine as the article points out. it makes me hope the big boys like Korg and Roland are listening.

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  5. “The Best Polyphonic Synth Of All Time” is the synth that serves the artist most intuitively as an instrument of sonic expression and sonic exploration. Which I feel The Prophet 12 will be.

    The Prophet 12, from what I have seen and heard, is a synthesizer that seems to have been designed with a mature thought process of a passionate artist. It is a synthesizer with character, which is a product of the specific selection of sound shaping functions and control. it is sophistication, refined and presented, to simplicity.

    I am eager to say, to me, it is “The Best Synth Of All Time”. But I wait to evaluate the integrity of the execution.

    Nevertheless I congratulate Dave on such a beautiful design.

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  6. The short answer is NO. The best polyphonic ANALOG synth of all time? Maybe. I just don’t get why so many people are so in love with analog synthesis. I think it is a tool, but it should be one of many tools. There is so much more out there in addition to analog, that I could never limit myself to just one synthesis technology. That’s why synthesizers that offer multiple synth technologies are much more interesting, like the Korg Kronos.

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    1. Prophet 12 is a hybrid synth. It has complex digital oscillators / analog filters, amplifier and distortion effects. It’s the best of both worlds. The best synth IMO would be a exotic hybrid modular like a Buchla…but that costs like a car, so, more “common” hybrid synths like Waldorf Q+ and Prophet 12 are the best deal indeed. The only affordable analog synths are usually quite limited, so, it’s better to have hybrids… Korg Kronos is a joke…

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  7. It does not matter what’s the best. It is subjective.
    What it matters it’s the music that you make with them.

    Congratulations to the companies that bring new stuff and remakes old favourites.
    Lets give credit to Moog, DSI ang Korg.

    I wish they have a lot of success, specially korg that had the balls to remake the ms 20.
    I think they are the only big company that listens to the clients.
    I will buy one.
    Let’s wait that yamaha makes (it could be a hybrid, i accept that) a cs 800 (or cs 80 XXI) and roland the Jupiter 8 (analog), both with the same vintage look, buttons etc I also accept midi, usb, digial out.

    For what i heard in records cs 80 is my favourite.

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  8. I doubt that Alesis will ever make another synth after what happened with the A6 and the Fusion. In the first case they listened to people on sites just like this who said they wanted a real analog polysynth with all the whistles and bells. They made one. Whistles and bells cost money so the thing was pricey and they didn’t sell very well.

    The Fusion was an attempt at doing something really innovative that suffered some early OS problems (which they quickly fixed), but by then the flame wars were lit across the Internet and you could not Google the Fusion without finding negative comments, rants and raves. It was sad really because it had 4 synth engines and an 8 track digital recorder than could sync with internal midi tracks. It was a really good instrument.

    This is one of the reasons I dislike negative comments being made about a new product that no one has even played. It can make companies very hesitant to try something new and different and leads us in to a land of “me too” workstations.

    And for the record I have always found DSI to be very responsive to questions about their products and helpful with solutions to problems. When I had questions about my MEK they were prompt with the help I needed.

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  9. Best Polyphonic synth I got to say its probably the KRONOS. Different engines, superb sequencer, KARMA, top of the line sounds and programability.

    Now, if we are talking Analog and feature wise, then yes. This is probably one of the best Polyphonic Analogue Synths EVER. Best analog in terms of sound: NO. And I say such thing because that’s entirely subjective. I’ve played a vintage Prophet 5, a Korg Trident and a Memory Moog and I found the Trident the best sounding. some people will instead say its the Prophet 5, some will say the Memory Moog.

    Still, if you ask me which is the best sounding polyphonic analogue synth, its probably the Oberheim Matrix 12 or the OB-8.

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    1. Talking about Kronos, don’t forget about its competitor: the Kurzweil PC3k. This gear is a real sound quality-oriented powerhouse: it has a legendary Kurzweil rompler (and a flash sampler, by the way), fat and gritty VA engine, realistic Hammond physical modelling, acoustic articulation system and the best of all: the VAST engine. That system allows you to change the architecture of synthesis as you wish, even to the point you start creating new syntheses, for example the faithful recreation of DX7’s FM. This synth doesn’t have a big, color touchscreen nor powerful system CPU, but in terms of pure sound capabilities I would say it’s more refined than Kronos.

      If we’re about to talk about analog polysynths, then yes, Prophet 12 is one of potential candidates to take the throne. Talking about today-selling machines, it IS the king already. Maybe CS80, OB12/Matrix12/8Voice or the Andromeda could compete and complement in the studio, but now only the huge. hellishly expensive modular sets of separate boxes would exceed that fairly compact keyboard synth.

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  10. Love it. Just wish it had actual wavetables, as opposed to just single-cycle digital waveforms, like the Evolvers and Tempest have.

    THAT would’ve made it perfect.

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  11. Despite the fact that the actual question is ridiculous, I must say that this is truly the first synthesizer I’ve played in 20 years that I walked away thinking “how can I get my hands on $3K!!!!”. Truth is, I don’t really need another keyboard, & I’ve got tons of other sound sources & iOS devices – but I want this one because of its immediategratificationplayability. That reaction came after just flipping through presets at NAMM and tweaking for only about 3 minutes – I’ve done this synth thing long enough & you can just tell – the DX7 ,the Korg M-50, the Nord Lead all just had “it” –this one is definitely on that list!

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    1. Sort of like Dave’s answer to the Solaris, isn’t it? Relative to their big sounds and musical usefulness, they’re like twins with different-colored hair. Sure, they each have strong areas unique to themselves, but they cross over where you lay hands to them and you’re immediately transported to a giant Star Wars set. Looking back at CS-80s and Jupiter-8s is fine, but on balance, the Prophet-12 *IS* a new CS-80. There are several ways to reach Huge and Creamy; this is clearly one of ’em. I’ll bet it has a module in the editor’s sub-menu that’s a time machine. If you can suss it, you get to go back to 1974 and watch Keith Emerson pull his hair out when you show it to him.

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      1. assuming Keith Emerson doesn’t try to stab a knife through the front panel before you even turn the thing on…

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  12. Loaded question!
    “Synth”, not workstation, so no Motif, Fantom, M3/Kronos (although Kronos has some nice synthesis engines).
    Also, not specifically “Analog Synth” (obviously, the P12 ins’t fully analog, with its digital oscillators), but the classics T8, Jupiter-8, MemoryMoog, CS-80, Matrix-12, as well as the more recent Andromeda and the new Schmidt (not the same price range, though) would be up there.
    Now, in the modern / digital synths, I would consider V-Synth, Virus TI, Solaris, Origin, or even the late Neuron for the top spots.
    IMHO, in the current crop of available poly-synths, the Origin Keyboard is the most flexible with its modular design, many choices of oscillator and filter modules, and performance controls (ribbon, joystick, duo-aftertouch). I don’t know if it’s “the best”, but it does sound really good (all the synths above do).

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  13. I believe Wendy Carlos herself said, “Good analog is good, but good digital is better.”

    Best polyphonic ANALOG synth of all time maybe. Looks pretty fun, cant wait to try one in person.

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  14. I think it is a very exciting prospect, but the lack of polyphonic aftertouch is a real bummer, especially for a synth with so many nice features. The bi-timbrality also kind of sucks as well, but this synth is made more for playing and big chords rather than sequencing 12 monphonic parts. I’ve only heard one demo of it and I can’t say that I was overly impressed with the sound, though. The demo I heard sounded very “glassy” if that makes any sense. Looks good on paper though.

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  15. Can’t tell yet, but just wanted to reply with my experience regarding DSI customer care–it’s outstanding, especially given that it’s a tiny company. They’re responsive on their user forums and write back directly to individual bug reports. I’m a happy Tempest owner that reported a bug (which ended up not being a true bug). DSI staff helped me isolate the issue and arrive at a conclusion after 4-5 back-and-forths over the course of a couple days. Thumbs up.

    Can’t wait to try out the Prophet 12. Saving up the bucks till then.

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  16. it’s fantastic but, synths are made great by the music they create, and the music they create is created by musicians who play them!

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  17. Because of its restricted multitimbrality, it cannot earn that title, no matter how good it will sound. And what about a step sequencer for sound tweaking? Judging by the spec only, it probably will be a really good sounding performance synth, but is it really a really a new-ground-braking design?

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    1. And then there’s the CS-80 – limited polyphony, no workstation capabilities, no sequencing, no MIDI and still one of the greatest synths of all time.

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  18. Time will say the last word. Keyboards ees keyboardists, and I saw in my 35 years of experience truly masters with bad keyborads, and vice-versa. Analog or digital ? that’s an technical question, not an a musical one.

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  19. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

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  20. Best analog synths,ever:Moog Voyager,Jupiter 8,and Prophet 5.The P12 can’t be the best synth,ever.It’s freaking digital,and an Access Virus does a much better job.Best DSI Synth:Tempest.P12,sounds too digital,and thats getting up there with the Access Virus.Even,the P8 sounded too digital when you toyed the heck out of it.Just think when you toy with the P12.This analog vs digital thing has to go.All of this warm,boys of summer,goes away once it hits your digital daw.This is a flagship synth for live use.In a studi people would use a Virus,it’s just more versitle.Because in the daw,both the Virus and P12 are digital at this point,lmfao.

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  21. Make a bona fide P12 module,and i’ll be all ovver it.I just ran out of room in the lab.However,thats not going to happen.Only if they discontinue their P8 module.I don’t see this happening,anytime soon.The P8 sounds more warm and fatter than the P12,but the P12 is alot more versitle.This is the reason it’s pretty much a digital/analog hybrid.The heck with it,give me a Fatso and an Access Virus.

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  22. You moron.Dave smith is the best.Analog is better than anything else.The P12 isn’t digital,it’s analog.I think you don’t know your synths,and I also think you’re a bedroom dweller,

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  23. I’ve had the P12 for about a week now. It is high quality, deep, and flexible. Is it the best? There is no single best, but it is right up there for sure. I own a Matrix 12, and I’ve had a Prophet 10 and a Memory Moog. I’ll never part with the Matrix or the P12.

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    1. Congrats,but I purchased the Tempest and kept my Ti2 Virus.I can’t fathom selling my Virus and buying a P12.I thought about it and felt uneasy about it.I belive the Virus is a lot more versitle.I’m going to buy a Tetra to mate up with my Tempest.Also,I still think my Analog Four sounds better than the P12.Hey,for $3,000 could get you a TI2 virus module,evoler,and Tetra at musicans friend or pro audio star for under 3k.That would cover a hick of a lot more than a P12.But,as the saying goes:Different strokes for different folks.

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  24. Dave Smith makes great stuff.You idiots don’t deserve Dave Smith.All I hear is you yuppies whine.No,it’s not vintage,but it’s the old set with the new.You purists need help and shock therapy.I love Dave Smith,but you don’t deserve his hardware if you keep knick picking it.We sell to musicans,not moronic purists.Stick with your 70s gear and continue your Alan Parson Project,losers,hahaha.

    Gang,check out my Prophet12 demo on youtube and the rest of my videos!!!!

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    1. I’m really having a hard time believing, that you are Peter Dyer. I can’t believe he would post comments like these!
      Who ever you are, you’re not Peter Dyer!

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  25. I work side projects for DSI and made many presets for the Prophet12.My name is Peter Dyer if you haven’t heard of me before.Check out my youtube page and like.

    I still think the Nord Lead 4 is the better synth.I like the Prophet12 as well.But,the Nord is just better.

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  26. The greatness of any synth has more to do with its programmability and the ease of getting the results one is looking for. The skill of the programmer matters. A good sound designer can hear a sound on the Prophet-12 and do a good job at recreating that sound, on say, a Kronos or V-Synth. So I a more interesting question is: What **unique** features does the Prophet-12 bring to the synth world?

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1

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