A Prophet-10 Rev 4, a 10-voice version of the Prophet-5
Dates1978–84, 2020– (Prophet-5)
1977,[1] 1981–84, 2020– (Prophet-10)
PriceUS$3,995 (Rev 1, 2)
US$4,595 (Rev 3)
US$3,499 (Rev 4, 5-voice, 2020)[2]
US$4,299 (Rev 4, 10-voice, 2020)[2]
Technical specifications
Polyphony5 voices (Prophet-5)
10 voices (Prophet-10)
TimbralityMonotimbral (Prophet-5)
Multitimbral (Prophet-10)
Oscillator2 VCOs per voice
Synthesis typeAnalog subtractive
Analog FM (Poly-Mod)
Filter4-pole resonant low-pass
AttenuatorADSR envelope (2)
Aftertouch expressionNo on Rev1 to Rev3, Yes on Rev4
Velocity expressionNo on Rev1 to Rev3, Yes on Rev4
Storage memory40 patches (120 patches on later units, 200 patches on the Rev4 iteration)
Keyboard61 keys (Prophet-5 (all versions), Prophet-10 (1977, Rev 4))
Double 61 key manuals (Prophet-10 (1981-84))
Left-hand controlPitch and modulation wheels
External controlCV/Gate
Proprietary serial interface
MIDI (Rev 4 only)

The Prophet-5 is an analog synthesizer manufactured by the American company Sequential. It was designed by Dave Smith and John Bowen in 1977. It was the first polyphonic synthesizer with fully programmable memory.

Before the Prophet-5, synthesizers required users to adjust controls to change sounds, with no guarantee of exactly recreating a sound. Sequential used microprocessors to allow users to recall sounds instantly rather than having to recreate them manually. The Prophet-5 facilitated a move from synthesizers creating unpredictable sounds to producing "a standard package of familiar sounds".[3]: 385 

The Prophet-5 became a market leader and was widely used in popular music and film soundtracks. Between 1978 and 1984, about 6,000 units were produced across three revisions. In 1981, Sequential released a 10-voice, double-keyboard version, the Prophet-10. Sequential introduced new versions in 2020, and it has been emulated in software synthesizers and hardware. Sequential also released several further Prophet synthesizers, such as the Prophet '08.


The Prophet-5 was created in 1977 by the American engineers Dave Smith and John Bowen at Sequential Circuits.[1] At the time, Smith had a full-time job working with microprocessors, a new technology. Smith conceived the idea of combining them with synthesizer chips to create a programmable synthesizer; this would allow users to save sounds to memory, rather than having to recreate them manually.[4] He did not pursue the idea, assuming Moog or ARP would design the instrument first.[4] When no instrument emerged, in early 1977, Smith quit his job to work full-time on the idea.[4]

Initially, Smith and Bowen developed the Prophet-10, a synthesizer with ten voices of polyphony. However, it was unstable and quickly overheated, creating tuning problems. Smith and Bowen removed half the electronics, reducing the voices to five and creating the Prophet-5.[1] Smith demonstrated the Prophet-5 at the NAMM Convention in January 1978 and shipped the first models later that year.[5]


Three versions were built between 1978 and 1984. The first, Revision 1, was hand-assembled and produced quickly to generate initial revenue; only 182 were made. Revision 2 was mass-produced in quantities over 1,000; this model was more robust, added cassette patch storage, and replaced the koa wood casing with walnut.[1] Revision 3 replaced the Solid State Music (SSM) chipset with Curtis (CEM) chips, necessitating a major redesign. According to Sound on Sound, Revision 3 "remained impressive and pleasant to play, but was slightly cold and featureless by comparison to earlier models".[1] In all, approximately 6,000 Prophet-5 synthesizers were produced.[1]

In the Prophet-10, a pair of Prophet-5 sound boards provide ten voices

In 1981, Sequential Circuits released the Prophet-10, featuring 10 voices, 20 oscillators, and a double manual keyboard. Like the Prophet-5 Revision 3, it uses CEM chips.[1] The first Prophet-10s used an Exatron Stringy Floppy drive for saving patches and storing sequencer data. Sequential later moved to a Braemar tape drive, which was more reliable and could store about four times as many sequencer events.[1]

In 2020, Sequential released a new version, the Prophet-5 Rev4, with additional memory and features. They also released a new version of the Prophet-10, with the same external design as the Prophet-5.[2][6][7]


Unlike its nearest competitor in the 1970s, the Yamaha CS-80, the Prophet-5 has patch memory, allowing users to store sounds rather than having to reprogram them manually.[8] It has a proprietary serial interface that allows the user to play using the Prophet Remote, a sling-style keytar controller; the interface cannot connect the Prophet-5 to other devices. Sequential produced a MIDI interface that could be retrofitted to later Prophet-5 models. Third-party MIDI interfaces have also been offered.[1]


Before the Prophet-5, synthesizers required users to adjust cables and knobs to change sounds, with no guarantee of exactly recreating a sound.[3] The Prophet-5, with its ability to save sounds to patch memory, facilitated a move from synthesizers creating unpredictable sounds to producing "a standard package of familiar sounds".[3]: 385  The Prophet-5 became a market leader and industry standard.[9] According to MusicRadar, the Prophet-5 "changed the world – simple as that".[10]

The Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes used the Prophet-5 for the hits "Let's Go" (1979) and "Shake It Up" (1981).[11] Kraftwerk used it on their 1981 "Computer World" Tour,[12] and Phil Collins used it on his 1981 single "In the Air Tonight".[13] Japan used it frequently, such as on their 1982 hit single "Ghosts".[14] Michael Jackson used it extensively on Thriller (1982), and Madonna used it on Like a Virgin (1984).[9] Peter Gabriel considered the Prophet-5 his "old warhorse", using it for many sounds on his 1986 album So.[15] Brad Fiedel used a Prophet-10 to record the soundtrack for The Terminator (1984),[16] and the filmmaker John Carpenter used both the Prophet-5 and Prophet-10 extensively for his soundtracks.[17] The Greek composer Vangelis used the Prophet-5 and the Prophet-10, such as in the soundtrack of Blade Runner (1982).[18][19]

The Prophet-5 was widely used by 1980s synth pop acts such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins, Thomas Dolby, Devo, Eurythmics, Soft Cell, Vince Clarke and Pet Shop Boys.[20] Radiohead used it on their 2000 album Kid A, on songs including "Everything In Its Right Place".[21] Other users include Giorgio Moroder,[20] Tony Banks,[22] Tangerine Dream,[20] Jean-Michel Jarre,[20] Dr. Dre,[9] Richard Wright of Pink Floyd,[23] Rick Wakeman,[24] Pendulum,[25] BT[26] and John Harrison.[9][5]

Successors and emulations

Sequential Prophet-6 (2015)

Smith released several synthesizers with the Prophet name, including the Pro-One,[27] the Prophet VS,[28] the Prophet '08[29] and the Prophet-6.[30] They also released samplers, such as the Prophet 2000 and the Prophet 3000.[31][32] In 2020, Sequential announced a new version of the Prophet-5, the Rev 4. It adds features including USB and MIDI connectivity, velocity and aftertouch sensitivity, polyphonic glide, and two sets of filters.[6] Sequential also announced a new Prophet-10, initially released as a ten-voice single manual monotimbral version of the Rev 4.[7]

Bowen provided consultation for Native Instruments during the development of the Pro 5 software synthesizer emulation, released in 1999. It was followed by the Pro 52 in 2000 and the Pro 53 in 2003.[33][34][35] Bowen also provided consultation for Creamware for their 2003 software emulations, the Prophet and Prophet Plus.[35] Arturia, U-he and Softube released emulations in 2006, 2018 and 2023.[28][36][37] Hardware clones include the upcoming Behringer Pro-16, and PikoPiko Factory's open-source Profree-4, released in 2022.[38][39]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reid, Gordon (March 1999). "Sequential Circuits – Prophet Synthesizers 5 & 10 (Retro)". Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Prophet-5 Returns!" (Press release). San Francisco, California: Sequential. 30 September 2020. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Pinch, Trevor; Trocco, Frank (2004). Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01617-0.
  4. ^ a b c "Dave Smith in his own words". Keyboard. 2013-06-11. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  5. ^ a b Preve, Francis (23 July 2012). "Dave Smith in His Own Words". Keyboard. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  6. ^ a b Rogerson, Ben (2020-10-01). "Sequential announces a new Prophet-5, a faithful reboot of one of the greatest synths of all time". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  7. ^ a b Esen, Aykan (2020-10-03). "Sequential Renews The Prophet-5 And Introduces The Prophet-10". Attack Magazine. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  8. ^ "The 14 most important synths in electronic music history – and the musicians who use them". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  9. ^ a b c d "The 14 most important synths in electronic music history – and the musicians who use them". Fact. 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  10. ^ Jones, Jones (2021-08-12). "Sequential Prophet-5 Rev 4 review". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  11. ^ Marks, Ben (October 1, 2015). "Rise of the Synthesizer: How an Electronics Whiz Kid Gave the 1980s Its Signature Sound". Collector's Weekly. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
  12. ^ "Kraftwerk – their legendary synths, sequencers and sounds". 12 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Classic Tracks: Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight"". Mixonline. 2005-05-01. Retrieved 2020-09-01.
  14. ^ Doyle, Tom (August 2021). "Classic Tracks: Japan 'Ghosts'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-01-20.
  15. ^ Hammond, Ray (January 1987). "Peter Gabriel - Behind The Mask". Sound on Sound (Jan 1987): 40–44. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  16. ^ Stevenson, Seth (2014-02-26). "3/4? 7/16? 12/8? A Slate Investigation Into the Time Signature of The Terminator's Score". Slate. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  17. ^ Paul Tingen. "John Carpenter - Film Director & Composer". Sound on Sound. No. July 2016.
  18. ^ Clewes, Richard (November 1997). "VANGELIS: Recording At Nemo Studios". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  19. ^ "Landmark Productions: Vangelis - Blade Runner Soundtrack". MusicTech. 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  20. ^ a b c d Jones, Andy (2018-09-25). "The 10 Synths That Made Synth Pop (And 2 Samplers)". MusicTech. Retrieved 2022-02-13.
  21. ^ "The 14 synthesizers that shaped modern music". The Vinyl Factory. 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  22. ^ "Tony Banks talks new album A Chord Too Far and his favourite synthesizer of all time". MusicRadar. Future Publishing Limited. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  23. ^ "The art of synth soloing: how to play like Pink Floyd's Richard Wright". MusicRadar. 2020-04-01. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  24. ^ Scott, Danny (2020-07-14). "Rick Wakeman on his top 5 synths: "I suddenly had an instrument that could give the guitar a run for its money"". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  25. ^ Inglis, Sam (June 2008). "Pendulum". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  26. ^ "BT: "Synths like the Prophet-5 were built in Dave Smith's garage over a period of weeks… now they're just banged out in China."". FutureMusic. 2020-09-29. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  27. ^ "SCI Pro1". Sound on Sound. March 1994. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015.
  28. ^ a b Reid, Gordon (September 2006). "Arturia Prophet V". Sound on Sound. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  29. ^ "Dave Smith in his own words". Keyboard. 2013-06-11. Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  30. ^ "Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet 6". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  31. ^ Wiffen, Paul (January 2004). "Sequential's Prophet 2000 Samplers". Sound on Sound. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  32. ^ Alexander, Robert (October 2000). "Sequential Prophet 3000". Sound on Sound. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  33. ^ Price, Simon (October 2006). "10 Years Of Native Instruments". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  34. ^ Inglis, Sam (August 2005). "NI Xpress Keyboards". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  35. ^ a b Wherry, Mark (June 2003). "Zarg Music Prophet & Prophet Plus 3.1". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  36. ^ Scarth, Greg (2018-03-07). "Attention to Detail: U-he Repro-5". Attack Magazine. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  37. ^ "Softube introduce Model 80 soft synth". Retrieved 2024-02-21.
  38. ^ Sheah, Daniel (2021-08-02). "Behringer completes prototype of Prophet-5 recreation, going "full force" into firmware development". MusicTech. Retrieved 2022-01-03.
  39. ^ Kraftman, Tamzin (2022-04-28). "Japan's PikoPiko Factory heads to Kickstarter with its Sequential-inspired Profree-4 mini synth". MusicTech. Retrieved 2022-05-02.

Further reading