Sequential Prophet X – The Perfect Instrument?

In this video, synthesist and developer Tim Shoebridge shares his thoughts on the Sequential Prophet X, the synthesizer he describes as ‘the perfect instrument’.

The Prophet X is a bi-timbral, 8-voice-stereo (16-voice mono) synthesizer that combines samples and synthesis. At the heart of its sound is a new engine that powers two simultaneous 16-bit, 48kHz sample-based instruments, plus two high-resolution digital oscillators with waveshape modulation — all processed through analog filters.

Is it ‘the perfect instrument’? Check out the video and then share your thoughts in the comments!

Topics covered:

00:00:00 Introduction
00:03:22 Synth Architecture
00:08:55 Filter Demonstration
00:13:35 Modulation
00:16:25 Sample Playback
00:22:10 Sample Manipulation
00:29:33 Sample Oscillator Playback Limitations
00:32:50 Importing Samples & Software Demos
00:59:25 Conclusions
01:04:30 Demo Track #7 in full
01:07:35 Demo Track #1 in full

46 thoughts on “Sequential Prophet X – The Perfect Instrument?

      1. Mike

        Comments with URLs are just more likely to get flagged for manual moderation, because of the greater likelihood that the comment may be spam.

        1. Google is your friend:

          “A rompler is an electronic music instrument that plays pre-fabricated sounds based on audio samples. In contrast to samplers, romplers do not record audio and have limited or no capability for generating original sounds.”

          As AnalOG noted, that’s the complete opposite of the architecture of the Prophet X. If that’s not obvious to you, educate yourself about what the Prophet X can do so you’re not contributing noise to the discussion.

          1. In other words, unless you are recording your own audio samples and are relying on what is provided, you essentially have a ROMpler with panel controls.

            1. No, it means that, unless you take the time to actually learn about what you’re talking about, you’re going to continue to make ignorant comments.

              If you want to make dismissive remarks about Prophet X and not sound completely ignorant, at least compare it to old sample + synthesis keyboards, not ROMplers.

            1. Are you arguing that this is a ROMpler also?

              If you want to make an ignorant argument, it’s on you to at least make the case that this is somehow like a ROMpler.

              It’s like the people that get their panties in a wad arguing that computers make anything digital on synths obsolete. You can’t argue with stupid.

              1. Baby Bear needs a nap.

                I’m trying to understand this. So, if the Prophet X is not a ROMpler, then it’s a sampler with panel knobs. And if you don’t load your own samples and are “…playing pre-fabricated sounds based on audio samples (the definition of a ROMpler as quoted above),” then you’re still playing a sampler with panel knobs. Is that it?

                The Google definition of a ROMpler (which is actually the Wikipedia definition) is : “A rompler is an electronic music instrument that plays pre-fabricated sounds based on audio samples.”

                How is that the opposite of what the Prophet X does? Aren’t pre-fabricated sounds based on audio samples how the Prophet X generates sounds when you take it out of the box and and turn it on?

                1. TimS

                  With a ROMpler, you don’t have much control over the sound – you hit a key and a piano sound (for example) comes out.

                  With the Prophet X/XL, you can do that, but you can also manipulate the samples like musique concrete, you can use them as oscillators within synth patches, you can use them as wavetables within an oscillator, you can combine them with other samples, you can skip using samples completely and use basic oscillators and you can do all of the above at the same time.

                  So the Prophet X/XL, in one keyboard, can cover the territory that a ROMpler covers, but also the subtractive synthesis territory of analog synths, plus the Wavetable synthesis territory that the Prophet VS covered, plus sample manipulation, user samples, user wavetables, etc – and you can mix these options together however you like in a single patch.

                  The Prophet X/XL is deep – which is why your comparison is making people assume you either don’t understand what a ROMpler is or that you don’t understand what the Prophet X/XL can do.

                  The Prophet X/XL has one of the most capable synth architectures available, which as AnalOG suggested, is the opposite of what most people think of when it comes to ROMplers.

                  1. I completely agree.

                    Would anyone refer to Kurzweil’s PC3, PC4, and Forte as ROMplers– even though some of them can load user samples, because they lack direct sampling capability? I have never heard anyone refer to them as ROMplers. That’s because they have extensive synthesis capabilities.

                    The short definition doesn’t make the nuanced distinction that there were these synths, like the Sound Canvas, and some other PCM based General MIDI synths that might have rudimentary synthesis, but mostly they just playback ROM.

                    The Prophet X/XL is the opposite of a ROMpler in the sense that ROMplers are often considered to be not very full featured or having strong synthesis capabilities. However, in the sense of how some ROMplers have filters and envelopes and other synth functions, it IS a ROMpler, but better.

              2. Dear GerryA,
                there is no reason to be offensive, when people are asking for your definition and understand of this complex topic. Please behave, thank you.

                To my understanding, we are in some kind of rompler hybrid territorium area and I don’t understand why the word “Rompler” is a taboo 🙂

        1. The answer to your original question is ‘No’.

          ROMplers are unloved these days because they’re not flexible as synthesizers. They were basically designed to give you a lot of good-sounding sample-based presets.

          The Prophet XL gives you a lot of flexibility in the way you can work with samples, it lets you process them with analog tools, and it lets you use your own samples. None of these are things ROMplers do.

          In addition, it has a full-fledged synthesizer engine, which can use standard oscillators or wavetables, so it can cover all your classic subtractive and wavetable sound design tasks.

          Your classic ROMplers did none of these things and didn’t have a lot of hands-on control, either.

          So – as others have noted above – the similiarity to ROMplers is pretty superficial.

          1. “Your classic ROMplers did none of these things and didn’t have a lot of hands-on control” < Could you please explain what Roland PG-10 was for? [just as an example]

            “it lets you use your own samples. None of these are things ROMplers do.” < Are you saying that none of those Rompler wavecards from Roland and Korg had their own samples on them?

  1. “Perfect” is subjective (Tim *gets* to say that!). Its one OF such synths, but also more labor-intensive because of it. 8Dio is a major house to use for the base samples, but its waaaay not a synth you’d only use for its presets. The benefits rise when you sweat over it as the slab-modular it is. Why drop $4K if you’re not going to milk *that*?

    This one isn’t about instant-gratification. Its a superior slice of very elastic ROMpler built on a modular framework, a bit like a Kurzweil. (IMO, its a waste to use it to model 40-year old analogs!) The Nord Wave is a fine synth, but its angle of approach is different. Solution: buy both.

    Being tapped out, I’m going to buy Obsession for $99 and STFU for Christmas. 😛

  2. The adjective “perfect” is subjective in the world of music, but it can be safely said that the Prophet X is an excellent tool for those who need to work with multi-samples treated with classic analog filters and amplifiers.

  3. a

    > Perfect Instrument

    has to be MULTItimbral! at least 8-part. not just

    > bi-timbral

    so therefore: no, the prophet x is not the perfect Instrument.
    the modx has way more to offer imo tbh, including price-wise.

    1. In the 21st century, we all have computer-based DAW setups. I rarely record more than a single sound at a time (usually monitored with FX and recorded dry). I’m not sure why you need 8 different sequenced parts playing via MIDI from one instrument. You have two hands, therefore the ability to play two different patches at once is ideal for live performance.

    1. Ah, perhaps you prefer this headline:

      “Here is a video where a guy named Tim Shoebridge expresses his opinion that the Sequential Prophet X is ‘the perfect instrument’; but that is just his opinion.”

      You’re right. That does have more of a ring to it.

      1. It actually would be better to frame it as one guy’s opinion in the headline, at the very least to avoid looking like a clickbaity paid advertisement :/

        1. Tim said he really likes it, and he would like Sequential to come out with yet another update…
          So, yeah, it’s perfect for right now. Until the next version.

          One of the things Tim Shoebridge mentioned is that any digital synth needs to have its software packages constantly maintained, and that’s not something he’s seen. He makes a point that 10 years in the future, you may need an old Windows 10 PC from 2020 to load samples on the X or XL.

          Personal viewpoint: the only synthesizer that is future proof is the original additive synth, the pipe organ. All others are going to require fitting in electrically-but-not-physically-compatible-parts, or else they probably will become fodder for the trash heap/”recycling” center.

    2. The Surprising Truth About Clickbait Headlines!

      A headline is only clickbait if the article does not deliver what the headline promises.

  4. I’ve been playing synths for 35+ years, and the Prophet XL blows me away.

    It’s not perfect: the 8-voices polyphony is incredibly limiting for keyboard/piano sounds, and the sample manipulation tools are very limited.

    But the stereo sound via the analogue filters is truly fantastic, way better than the Jupiter X and Nord Wave, and the huge amazing built-in sample library, this is not a synth you’re going to fully explore in a life-time.

  5. Richard gets it. My first workstation was a Korg. I not only milked its presets, I fed it third-party floppies of similarly great material. It took ages and I loved it. With the growing and not unreasonably priced 8Dio library to tap, this feels similar.

    Yes, I’d love a few more voices to lessen stealing, but what synth ever meets 100% of everyone’s standards? Arguing too fiercely over the design choices suggests that you don’t grasp what a mega-synth is really about. Scrape up the $ for a while and pick one. You’ll get a better instrument and learn your ass off.

  6. A very expensive synth with very little to offer . 2020 only 8 note of polyphony . With the money you pay for this , you can buy a Computer , a Midi Keyboard and have all the “analog” you want . Two high-resolution digital oscillators with waveshape modulation , this you will have on a Pc at a fraction of cost . Sampler ? Why do you need sampling in a beast like this ? For the money you pay this synth MUST create everything from oscillators …
    Too bad that in 2020 we still try to reinvent the wheel , instead to create something new .

    My 2 Cents …

    1. It supports 8, 16 and 32 note polyphony.

      If you want more polyphony, there are many options for this released over the last 20-30 years, many for less money.

      If you want these synthesis capabilities, though, with analog filters, the Prophet XL offers a great set of features and great build, without much competition.

  7. Every commercial synth involves some compromise between cost and desire. Some tilt toward fulfilling desires at a massive cost, and most scale features to allow a more friendly price.

    Every person has different needs/tastes/priorities, so the idea of an objective perfect synth really refers to a quality of flexibility within the synth to be all things to all users.

    It is a useful question, “What qualities does your perfect synth possess?”

    Versatile? Feature-packed? Deep? Innovative? Well-built? Future proof? Integrated? Multi-Timbral? etc.

    1. Every musical instrument is a compromise. There’s just so much that fits in a given space.

      It would be nice if manufacturers made parts of their software open source, or at least published the communications specs for a given set of features, like downloading wave tables or presets or whatever. “This is our basic patch editor, source is on GitHub.” That sort of thing.

  8. User samples means it’s not a ROMpler. It also features hybrid subtractive synthesis with digital oscillators and analog filters.

  9. Perfect synth? No, of course not. Some of the more vocal critics point out that the same things can be done using software on modern computers. Well… yeah… sort of, given enough mouse clicks and menu dives and fiddly-widdly dilly-dallying. If you’re young, exceedingly patient, or cash-strapped then software is probably the way to go. But that’s not for me (except in small doses), I spent 40 years working daily with computers and writing software, and loved doing it, but *not* so much for making music.

    The Prophet X is *much* more immediate; it is logically laid out (and easily understood), is knob-per-function for many tasks, and even more complex tasks are relatively easy. This encourages experimentation, so happy accidents and discoveries abound. It’s an explorers dream, and it sounds wonderful. I’ve been particularly pleased with just how analog-sounding the synth side of the Prophet X can get, and how many ways there are to quickly combine/integrate sampled sounds with synthesis. In biology/genetics there is a concept called ‘hybrid vigor’… I’d suggest the Prophet X has that in spades. I’ve owned at least twenty h/w synths and the Prophet X is easily my overall favorite…

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