When Dave Smith announced the Prophet-6 back at last year’s NAMM show, it was notable for two obvious reasons. Firstly, it was a return to the old-school analogue approaches with which he made his name in the 70s; a spiritual successor to the much-celebrated Prophet-5, released in 1978. Secondly, it marked the return of his iconic brand, Sequential Circuits. The company name had been acquired by Yamaha when Sequential ceased trading back in 1987, but was generously passed back to Smith by Yamaha Corporation president Takuya Nakata, with encouragement from Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi.
Smith describes the Prophet-6 as “vintage with a modern twist”, employing old-school voltage-controlled oscillators, fully analogue filters and VCAs for a contemporary take on his classic 70s sound. The result is a beautiful synth, with its walnut-trimmed case just oozing vintage appeal. The knob-per-function layout of the front panel makes the synth intuitive and easy to use. The sound is just as pleasing, packed full of vintage character but with the accuracy and reliability of a modern synth. The oscillators are so stable, in fact, that Smith added his excellent ‘slop’ control, allowing you to dial in the kind of tuning inaccuracies that contributed so much to the sound of vintage analogue synths.
For a forward-thinking synth designer like Dave Smith, harking back to the past isn’t easy. The Prophet 6 works because it’s not a throwback, but a modern synth with a classic attitude.