Dave Smith Introduces The Prophet 12 Synthesizer

At the 2013 NAMM Show, Dave Smith introduces the new Prophet 12 synthesizer, which he describes as his ‘best synth yet’. 

The beast offers the greatest polyphony of any instrument Dave Smith has designed, four oscillators plus a sub oscillator per voice, resonant anlog low and high pass filters, a new Character section, tuned feedback, stereo delay and tons more.

This video, via sonicstate, captures Dave Smith himself giving an overview of the new Prophet 12.

51 thoughts on “Dave Smith Introduces The Prophet 12 Synthesizer

    1. Hopefully by then the midi section of the tempest will be complete . Coming from the Grandfather of midi the Tempest should have been shipped ready to deliver but sadly the unit is lacking in the midi sequencing department . I really don’t know how that happened . I wish I was at namm would have asked him

  1. I have said for years, yet there is a certain degree of ignorance amongst the masses about analogue synths, that they believe is somehow superior to digital or analogue emulation. Thank you Dave Smith for setting the record straight. There are inherent limitations in analogue circuitry. They are commonly referred to as laws of physics. I would take this over anything MOOG is creating these days.

    Dr. Bob Moog was a pioneer, yet I honestly do not think they are properly honouring his memory nor advancing the science of acoustics and analogue technology by rehashing old designs and older yet design aesthetics.

    1. That’s best comment this year! You can only do so much with fully analogue circuits. I admit analog is cool, but being purist about it is just silly. You can get so much more out of hybrid creations like this.

      1. Thank you for your comment ‘TheVille’ and I absolutely agree. First and foremost the electronic music genre was and remains about the future. Now whether that is what people use synths for or not, the reality we all benefit when we advance. Should we start building the Apple IIc? Or should I want a dentist to give me concussion for an extraction?

        Clearly it is about the science behind the art. And you are absolutely right, this strange ‘purist’ vantage does a disservice to what might be around the corner. I was dismayed that Korg is going to reissue the MS-20.

        Line up next for the Model T I suppose.

      2. Yes, I agree! Both are great, and I don’t understand the mentality that because the oscs are digitial, it should be cheaper than a mopho X4.

      3. Hear, hear. I look sideways at all the arguments. Even on a modest budget with a scowling wife looking over your shoulder, you can have multi-tracking; hardware that covers analog, PCM, sampling, modeling and FM; and an even larger world in software that can more than cover any imagined gaps. A lot of us started with a workstation and I stick to that model today. Writing music is a very focused activity, so having a central powerhouse with a few things fanning out from the center is just the natural flow. True of the piano, true of synth types, true of DJs. I can easily see the P-12 becoming that central instrument, because it already has a LOT of reach within itself. Its as if a radioactive AI bit a Prophet-600 and then *Shazam!*….

      4. Both you guys got er right . Moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting . There will always be a place for analogue.Digital is just a catalyst which opens up sooo many doors to an infinite number of sound possibilities

    2. I wonder what kind of screaming we would hear if Moog suddenly released a new “MemoryMoog” with modeled oscillators, their analog filter downstream and an analog delay tacked on the end? Would people embrace it at $3k or shun it as an upstart that “dishonors” Bob’s “legacy?” People holler for a poly analog synth a lot, but the real deal with the Schmidt has a $20k price tag. Just a couple of things to consider.

  2. sick as hell, but its a $3000 keyboard – and possibly the only modern one id say is actually worth that much money, IMO

    this is some next level shit, my man…. fucking apocalyptic

  3. Dave said digital oscillators and no one complains??? I think he meant truly digital, not DCO. Can anyone confirm this, or better not? The OSC’s are DSP designed????? Hell for Dave on that. 😉

    1. who cares if it’s actually digital or analog, as long as it’s expensive and clunky the old baby boomers who buy these things will love it anyway.

      1. Yup, Digital. With good quality DAC’s this is a reasonable compromise. They’ll keep making the analog prophet ’08 I’m sure, this isn’t meant to replace that, but there’s no FM on the ’08.

        The catch is not quite, as Dave says, that if you want FM you have to go with digital oscillators. FM with true analog oscillators is actually super simple, you just sum the output of one VCO with the voltage control of the other. However, you get extremely unstable tuning with the types of circuits that allow you to do this. Most modern synth makers have therefore foregone FM for VCO’s with a stable tuning mechanism that prevents that kind of FM input.

        The million dollar synth design challenge is figuring out how to FM VCO’s and keep them stable, too. And TBH, any workable design is probably going to have just as many digital parts as a DAC anyway. Digital means they can add cool stuff like wavetables, and even new waveforms with OS updates! Sounds like great synth design to me, and a great addition to their product line.

  4. Digital front end? I will reserve judgment until I go try it out, but I can’t see how this is better than a Jupiter 80 which also has a digital front end and has about a million sounds inside and a touchscreen editor.

  5. I have to say now that we know the oscillators are digital most likely of the VA sort I’m not so excited. I can hear it in the sound too. Being the owner of a P08 Mopho and Tetra the idea of the all analog signal path from Dsi at least for the Prophet line has been the bright side but now I don’t thinks it is as relevant in terms of uniqueness in the synth market. Also being the owner of an Andromeda and other analogs and VAs like the Nords and such this synth based on what we know already doesn’t seem to offer much that I can say is noteworthy. I too will reserve my final opinion once I’ve heard it myself, then I may reconsider.

    1. What are you guys, dolphins? Its as if you’re splitting hairs over the sample-trimming points of single-cycle waves. A good sound is a good sound. If Dave Smith finds a design decision to be musically acceptable, several decades of success at it generally means he’s right. He offers very good real analog gear, so his decision here was clearly for the sake of making the synth fly well, not to arbitrarily ruffle purist feathers. REMEMBER, you can now buy gear that uses every means of sound production. You can have pure analog if you like and digital oscillators don’t make the P-12 an automatic albatross. Sheesh, let me take that pea out from under your mattress, Princess. 😛 No, its a great step forward and a lot of people will embrace it.

  6. why need 6 dsp sharc or something like that instead simples dco ?
    in fact it is a VA who emulate analog circuitry !
    perhaps it is good but , dont cost $3000 !!!
    oO seriously !!!

  7. I was disapointed with the digital osc too, but after seeing it in action I think this is a great product! I’d still buy this and if I missed the analog osc I’d buy a 08 module.

    This thing is a beauty! I really liked it!!

  8. It is hard for me to ignore this thing I want it a lot but Im going to have to do some saving – the possibilities are amazing 😀

    I wish the Schmidt Analog was this price!!!!

    What I dont get is he says it has a digital front end at the beginning but it has analog voices at the end of his video – it kind of confused me

      1. I was thinking the same thing. But this does look (and sound) like a great synth. Probably doesn’t have the grungy 12 bit sound of the ESQ1!

  9. So Dave have to put a very detailed statement on the oscillators as there are many people who expected a pure analog signal path. For me it is NOT A ANALOG POLYSYNTH. Anyone dislikes my comment? I don’t mind. There are already VA’s with supreme sounding oscillators like the Radikal Technologies Accelerator with up to 32 voices an 8 times multitimbrality. Now we know why “Girth” and “Air” was never written on a Jupiter 8. It only creates some kind of analog mimikry like Korg is doing with their tubes.
    There is no point why not to have analog oscillators plus some digital, as there were in the Poly Evolver.

    1. I would have to agree here.
      It however is quite interesting but I must also add that being part VA with just analog filters is quite cool however there are VAs out there with many more exotic filters too. Hopefully it sound better in real life I look forward to hearing for myself.

    2. h0wd13

      Not sure if your rambling comment is a complaint or what – but when Dave Smith introduces a HYBRID synth like this – you’d be wise to look at where he’s using analog and where he’s using digital and try to learn from it.

      1. So what if it’s not 100% analog? Neither are the PPG or the Prophet VS, and I don’t see anyone complaining about how crappy they are. There’s plenty of analog and strict VA on the market already, and some of us may want some other colors on our palette, ya know…

  10. What is beautiful about this synthesizer is its design, which resulted in a synthesizer with character. All of you complaining that it is not completely analog, you need to listen more closely to daves design approach, if you wish to understand THIS instrument.
    Look at how this synthesizers design can serve your process of sound design, and how playable it is as an instrument.

    I Have rarely looked at a synthesizer and seen it so clearly. which brings to mind a quotation by Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

  11. Aha, well this doesn’t make the other DSI gear obsolete. I think he’s on to something there – remember synths like the ESQ-1 (and D-50) which had digital oscillators followed by analog filters?

    Now if he could just add one of those cool vacuum-fluorescent displays… 😉

    1. Yeah… I have the pet theory that the D50 actually doesn’t have any filters at all, and actually fakes them using a process close to Casio’s phase distortion synthesis. This would explain why the synth can filter square/saw waves but not the PCM waveforms, or why it can’t directly produce saw waves (if you look in the technical docs, you’ll see that the saw wave is actually a ring modulated square wave).

      This also works perfectly with digital circuit design – the goal is to generate as much sound as possible with as few circuits as possible, so you want to have only one real oscillator, and you time share it between all the voices. That’s why the dx7 had so many “oscillators” (only one real oscillator chip faking 96 oscillators). If you fake the filter that way, all of this becomes easier (since you don’t have to remember the filter “state” and do complicated multiplications).

  12. I wouldn’t say that I am complaining so much as criticizing the design a bit. The cost to do FM in a real analog with four oscillators would make the synth cost at least twice or more than it’s selling price.
    I, like many of the people commenting was expecting a a more hybrid design with respect to the oscillators. My immediate thought just by looking at the design is that this is a modern Prophet VS of sorts, it even sort of resembles it in the front panel design. Calling it an analog polly synth is not quite the correct in that one expects an all analog design.
    I expect it to sound unique and based on the demos we have seen. To me it has a 80″s hybrid synth sound like the Prophet VS but in todays terms. Already owning a Prophet 08 and other DSI gear I was just expecting like many something a little more pure analog however this will probably not deter me from getting one

  13. Well now. If you have not heard this live you are just speculating.

    I was there the day they first showed it and one of the first to paw at it. Until you hear it you will not know what what it really is. This thing sounds INCREDIBLE. It can go places that no Jupiter or P5 could ever go.
    All of the traditional waveforms are there and you have parameters like “slop” to get them all moving and unstable if that is what you want. Those types of sounds are there and they move and breathe and sound just like you would want them to. You can also find presets that sound very much like a PPG. But with all of the FM, wavetables and massive routing options this synth may be the most versatile polysynth ever built.

    It is built like a tank. No knob wobble. Plus it is beautiful to look at. An Uber polysynth that costs $3,000 that is brand new and totally reliable. A massive bargain compared to what JP8s and old P5s sell for.

    I always see comments here about companies not moving synthesis forward and doing new things. So here it is. Start saving your money.

    1. It’s amazing read your words Atomic Shadow… From a guy Who was at NAMM and tried it! Being there your words sounds as the truth and I am ever more convinced that the P12 is The next synth to buy!

  14. I’m glad to see people being kind about the digital/analog discussion, I guess hearing is believing. I’m personally a big fan of the hybrid concept. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and if there’s anybody on Earth that can exploit both to their fullest it’s Dave Smith. I just wish I could afford it 😀

  15. Kudos to Dave & his team. Personally I love wavetable /hybrid synths with analog filters. You really gotta give it to Dave… He packs in the features. 60 OSC’s, 24 Filters, 48 Delays, FM, it goes on and on. I really hope he releases a tabletop or rack unit cause there’s no way I could fit that behemoth in my studio.

    1. Yeah, I love digi-osc thourgh analog filters as well. It’s weird that this came out when it did, because a year ago I bought both a Kawai K3 and the Korg DSS-1 which are both “hybrids”. The K3 is a joke and I gave it to my 5 year old daughter. The Korg DSS-1 is cool but about half of the sounds end up going into my Kurzweil to tweak them to my liking. I hated the P08 but this looks interesting…

  16. There’s only a few relevant questions in my opinion: does it sound like you want YOUR music to sound or not? All that manicheistic debating about analogue versus digital is so sterile. I love digital such as the D-50 and the DX-7, and I also love analogue, such as the Serge Modular. It all depends on what you want your music to sound like.

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