Dave Smith On The History Of Synths, From Analog To Digital And Back

This video captures a talk by electronic instrument designer Dave Smith on the history of synths, moving from analog to digital to software and now back to analog.

Smith gave the talk last night at Stanford’s CCRMA (The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics).

Official Bio: Dave Smith founded Sequential Circuits in the mid-70s. In 1977, he designed the Prophet-5, the world’s first microprocessor-based musical instrument. This product was the world’s first polyphonic and programmable synth, and set the standard for synth designs that have followed. The Prophet instruments played a major part in the recordings of all popular music styles, and are still prized by musicians today.

Dave is also generally known as the driving force behind the generation of the MIDI specification in 1981-in fact, he coined the acronym. In 2013, Dave received a Grammy in recognition of his role in the development of MIDI. After Sequential, Dave was President of DSD, Inc, an R&D division of Yamaha, where he worked on physical modeling synthesis and software synthesizer concepts. He then started the Korg R&D group in California, designing the Wavestation products and other technology. He then took over as President at Seer Systems and developed the world’s first software based synthesizers.

In 2002, Dave founded Dave Smith Instruments to develop new hardware instruments like the Evolver, Mopho, and Prophet synthesizers, as well as the Tempest drum machine, co-designed with Roger Linn. His latest instrument is the hybrid digital/analog Prophet-12 synthesizer.

10 thoughts on “Dave Smith On The History Of Synths, From Analog To Digital And Back

  1. It was a good talk to a full house. The stories were interesting and funny. Dave was very forthcoming and approachable. He was kind enough to sign my Evolver (one of my favorite pieces of gear) after the talk.

  2. Very entertaining and informative talk. Not sure I agree with him about the prophet 600 though, it sounds a lot better than his new stuff (with the exception of the 12 and evolver, which sound great), even with the slow envelopes and stepping pots! Excited to see what’s next from him.

    1. I think most people that have owned both a Sequential Circuits synth and a DSI synth understand all the improvements Dave Smith has made, in terms of patch flexibility, sound quality and features.

      Every SCI synth that I’ve owned, except the Pro One has audible stair-stepping when you turn knobs. And the Pro One has terrible build quality.

      I’m sure that the Prophet V and the T-8 are great synths, but technology has moved own and he’s building some really great synths now that are also a lot more affordable than anything he did in the past.

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