Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 Article Page

From SynthTrax


Date: 1978

Type: Analogue / 5 note polyphonic / Subtractive

illustration of Sequential Circuits Prophet 5
Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 (1978)

The Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 was a breakthrough analogue synthesizer of the late 1970s designed by Dave Smith. It was the first to bring affordable polyphony to the market, and was also the first to feature (40) digitally recallable patches. It came in three main versions:

  • Rev 1: Limited number of hand-assembled units (SSM Chips - the filters use SSM 2040 chips designed by E-Mu's Doug Rossum)
  • Rev 2: Factory produced (SSM Chips)
  • Rev 3: Replaced SSM with Curtis chips

In 1981, the Prophet 10 was released - a dual manual version of the Prophet 5 with 10 note polyphony.

The Prophet 5 is generally considered to be one of the all time classic synths and is still highly regarded for the quality of its sounds over 45 years later.

Archetypal Track

The Cars, 'Let's Go' (1979)

Great song and great riffs (right from the start). And synth riffs which feature the classic Prophet oscillator sync sound - patch 'Sync ii' -beautiful!

Classic clip

Soft Cell, 'Bedsitter' (1981\)

There are many clips of Dave Ball playing Prophet 5 on early 80s music shows, with Marc Almond.

Associated Artists

Wally Baderou (Level 42)

"Listen, for example, to his impersonation of African slide guitars with a Prophet 5 on the track 'Hi-Life', or the many synthesised percussion sounds."

Sound On Sound, Dec 1990

Tony Banks (Genesis)

"With the old Prophet V, you just fiddled with the [cut off] frequency control until it slipped into the track — you didn't really have to think about it. With the latest stuff you really have to work it all out in advance.”

Sound On Sound, Jul 1991

Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins)

"I take the OBXa, Prophet 5, Roland RS09 strings and a Micro Moog on tour.”

E&MM, Nov 1982

Richard Barbieri (Japan, Rain Tree Crow)

"I've got a Prophet Five, Prophet Ten and Oberheim OBXa, all of which sometimes provide tomtom or African drum sounds which make the rhythms more interesting I prefer to get the sound by programming the synth rather than by using effects. The ring modulator effects on the Prophet are my favourites"

Electronics & Music Maker, 1983

Dave Ball (Soft Cell, The Grid)

"We also use quite a lot of old stuff, because I've still got things like a PPG 2.2, and we've used a Prophet 5, Juno 106 and Jupiter 8 because there's a lot of arpeggiated stuff."

Music Technology, Arp 1990

Bill Bruford

"For Bill, this wider definition [of drumming] includes delving into keyboards, mainly through the good offices of Sequential Circuits' omnipresent Prophet-5."

Music UK, Sep 1982

Vince Clarke

"We still use the Fairlight as a master clock — because it can drive the MC4 we can link in our older analogue equipment such as the Prophet 5 [which has an analogue input for Voice 1] and the Roland 100M Modular System [of which there are ten modules].

Electronic Soundmaker, Nov 1984

George Duke

"Sequential Circuits have made me essentially a remote Prophet, the ideas coming from my Clavitar that Wayne Yentis put together — they changed the guts so I could have a programmable Prophet from anywhere on stage George Duke"

E&MM, Jun 1982

Force Majeure

"A lot of what we're about is distorting the technology that's available. Nobody knows how to work the Prophet - we just plug it in and twist it until it sounds good.”

Music Technology, May 1989

Philip Glass

"The best string sound is a composite one. We'll use a sound from the OBX, then combine it with the Prophet 5 and the DX7. No one company makes a perfect programme. I prefer real people, but the synthesisers can definitely do things that real people can't. We can smooth out a string section. We'll take a string section with 12 strings, and put our MIDI'd-together string sound and we can pump that out to sound like 28 strings. The Mishima soundtrack is a good example. That's a small section, maybe 18 strings, but you listen to it, it's gorgeous." Making Music, July 1986

"In 1968 he formed an ensemble which played his pieces using wind instruments and keyboards such as piano, clavinet and Farfisa organ, the sound of which persists in his music — though nowadays reproduced by a Prophet 5!" Electronic Soundmaker, Mar 1984

Paul Hardcastle

"Paul describes himself as a Prophet 5 man, and therefore, it is fitting that virtually all of the synth parts on 19 were played on Prophet 5, with just a few odds and ends played on DX7 and Mini Moog."

"I 'ad a Rev 1 Prophet 5 which was great though it was dead unreliable. The memory didn't work at all so I really learnt well how to get my sounds back! The bass on 19 is Prophet, because to me you can't beat the bass sound on the Prophet for nastiness. Everyone says the Mini Moog is the best, but the Mini Moog is a warmer sort of sound. For real guts Prophet is great.” 19 is a true electro record. All the sound effects were done using Prophet 5 with the exception of one acoustic effect, a bell recorded backwards which accompanies the words, "You're 18 and you're wearing somebody's brains…".

Electronic Soundmaker, Aug 1985

Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads)

"I bought the T8 because I was in Wisconsin, working on my own album, and was pissed off at my Prophet 5 having fallen apart." One Two Testing, 1985

"When I was looking for a synthesizer I was directed towards the Prophet 5, which was new then. I had my first Prophet 5 through England because I just couldn't get one in the United States. Now the trouble with the rev2 Prophet is that no-one makes a good MIDI retrofit.” Music Technology, Dec 1986

Mark Isham

"The upshot of all this was that Isham started to incorporate the atmospheric ideas of Eno into Van Morrison's music by utilising synthesizers with flute and voice. The lush sound of Beautiful Vision (1982) and Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983) are indicative of "this common interest in Ambient music." Isham remembers the one-week recording sessions for the latter album, which took place at the Townhouse in London, as being nothing short of "superb". "The keyboards I played on that were a Prophet 5 and an old Oberheim 4-voice. I think that was it. In fact, I've never amassed a lot of keyboards. I still use my Prophet 5

Sound On Sound, Nov 1988


"... the Prophet 5 and the Roland VP330 Vocoder Plus are favourites as well."

Sound On Sound, May 1989

Kraftwerk (live set-up)

EMM 81 09 kraftwerk re 5 large.jpg

See image (right)

"F Florian's keyboard console containing a Prophet polyphonic synthesizer and trigger pad for starting his master clock."

E&MM, Sep 1981

Daniel Lanois

"We used the CS-80 on So, although the Prophet 5 was the main synth there. Peter Gabriel has one of the best sounding ones I've ever come across."

Music Technology, Oct 1987

Mike Lindup (Level 42)

'The PPG is great. It has a sound all its own although I don't think it's as flexible as the Prophet - that's just personal taste"

Electronics & Music Maker, 1985

The Mad Professor

"I've also used Prophet 5 as a bass synth, but that's mainly on more funk type recordings."

Electronic Soundmaker, May 1985

Francis Monkman (Curved Air, Sky)

"I had all the keys linked to the Prophet so that I could play the Prophet from the harpsichord. The great thing about this was the way you got the attack from the harpsichord and the sustaining quality from the synthesizer"

E&MM, Mar 1983

New Order

"At the time of Blue Monday, we were using a hideously complex and very unreliable set up using the DMX to clock a Prophet polysequencer, and the attached Prophet 5's."

International Musician, Mar 1986

Roger O'Donnell

"The first thing I saw was the Prophet 5, which everybody wanted at the time. I wanted one desperately, but I just didn't have the money. I remember thinking then that it was the ideal progression from the Mini-Moog which was the only synth I had at the time. I got to use the 5 on sessions and then a friend of mine got one, so I used to go round and play his all the time"

Electronics & Music Maker, Mar 1984

Alan Parsons and Richard Cottle

"I'm a great lover of Prophet 5's - I've got two of them, retro-fitted with MIDI But surprisingly, Richard Cottle's (Alan Parsons' keyboard player) favourite keyboard is still the Prophet 5, despite its lack of modern facilities. The reason is simple - familiarity: in the pre-DX7 days, he used Prophets a great deal. "In real terms," he says, "I suppose it's a pretty awful keyboard. But I've pretty much got used to it, and it's light and fast to play"

Sound on Sound, May 1986

Terry Riley

"No, I just used the Prophets. I ended up with two of them and used them like a double manual organ, linked together. Again, it was the organ mentality at work - using two Prophets as a single instrument. I played organs all during the '70s and got my first synthesizer in 1980. I couldn't re-tune a synthesizer until the (Sequential) Prophet 5 came along, and that was the first synth I had. Chester Wood, who was my technical engineer during the '70s, designed that end of the Prophet so that I could use it."

Ryuchi Sakamoto (Yellow Magic Orchestra)

"I still use Prophets, because no other synthesizer sounds like that."

Sound On Sound, Sep 1990

Kevin Saunderson

"On the beginning of 'United', one of the tracks from the new album, there's a lovely string sound which, Saunderson reveals, was created by layering sounds from the JD800 and the TG77.

"The Prophet 5 is a good unit for bass, too, 'cos it's real thick. The bass on 'Faith' is from the TX81Z, 'Till We Meet Again' came from the TX and the Prophet 5.”

Music Technology, Jun 1992

Bill Sharpe (Shakatak)

"I just use the DX7, Prophet and Linn and they sound great, although the EQ on the desk is very basic."

Electronic Soundmaker, Mar 1985

David Sylvian (Japan)

'I've lived with the Prophet since the days of Quiet Life. I still use it because it has a more organic sound than something like a Kurzweil or Fairlight. But I did become very frustrated with it when I first started recording Gone to Earth. I'd just sit in the studio for ages staring at it thinking: "why can't I get a different sound out of this thing?”. 'I don't think that the quality of the DX7 is the same as something like the Prophet. The percussive sound of the Prophet is much softer, much warmer, — there's a depth to it.

E&MM, Sep 1986

Tangerine Dream

'We're using all kinds of synths these days - a Roland Jupiter 8, an Oberheim, a PPG with a Waveterm, a Yamaha DX7, a Prophet 5 and a Prophet 600. That's pretty much a bit of everybody."

E&MM Dec 1984

Tears For Fears

"Even when we went on to do the first album, we used only two synths - a Prophet 5 and a Jupiter 8." E&MM, Jan 1985

‘Mothers Talk’ - "What we did on the final version was to put on the great big bass drum — the original's beat was so incessant that it was promising to be a dance track but never quite getting there. We put on far more guitars on the released one and a nice solid motor riff, a blend between a Prophet and a DX7. A bit more basic.” One Two Testing - Oct 1984

On 'The Hurting' we used just one JP8 and one Prophet for keyboards, that was it. We couldn't afford anything else at the time. I've only just learnt how to use them! I know it sounds stupid, but I think they're both incredible instruments. “Change” - that was done on a Prophet, but it's quite easy to play on real marimbas, believe me..” http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/tracks-of-our-tears/8538

Thrash (The Orb)

"Look at this stuff here. The Prophet 5, awesome. The Matrix 12, awesome. I've got a MiniMoog somewhere outside."

Sound On Sound, May 1993

Hans Zimmer

"I also had the Yamaha GS-1 with a Fairlight keyboard on top of it and my Prophet 5, the original one with the SSM chips in it. "The strings for instance, were all Prophet 5 string sounds sampled on the Fairlight.""

E&MM, Jul 1983

Table of Songs featuring Sequential Circuits Prophet 5

Tablet of Songs