Sequential Prophet-12 Desktop Synthesizer
Overview by GAK
The fact that Dave Smith himself once proudly proclaimed the Prophet 12 to be his favourite synth speaks for itself. This incredible instrument harnesses the power of both digital and analogue synthesis, which gives it a unique voice amongst Sequential’s outstanding synth lineup that’s distinctly “Prophet” in nature. If you’re looking for a synth that’s easy & fun to coax sounds from while also being extraordinarily deep, you won’t be disappointed with the Prophet 12 Desktop.
Two Synths In One
At the core of the Sequential Prophet 12 Desktop’s sound is its hybrid voice architecture, which melds a high-definition digital front-end with a true analogue signal path output. The Prophet 12 features - surprisingly - 12-voices of polyphony, which can be used as two independent 6-voice synths when used in Split mode (two separate Layers divided across the keyboard) and Layer mode (two Layers stacked on top of each other) Each layer can also have its own Arpeggiator, which can create exciting polyrhythmic patterns. All this, combined with the individual stereo outputs for each Layer (the Layers are summed to one output when only one is used) makes the Prophet 12 a proper bi-timbral synth - two complete synths in a module that can fit into a backpack!
Every Prophet 12 voice features four high-resolution digital oscillators & a sine wave Sub oscillator, which provide an astounding level of sonic potential. In addition to the fat “analogue” waveforms, the Prophet 12 Desktop features 12 complex digital waveshapes (with interesting names such as “Meh”, “Buzzzz” & “Boing”) and 3 varieties of noise (red, white & violet). Each classic waveform’s shape can be altered with the Shape Mod control and when a complex digital wave is selected, you can blend & morph between three different types for rich wavetable textures.
Powerful Cross Mod
The Prophet 12’s oscillators also feature Sync, AM (Amplitude Modulation), Exponential FM and 4-operator DX-style Linear FM too. While the original DX synths were restricted to pure sine waves, the Prophet 12 can utilise its wide selection of waveforms to create truly unique timbres. If there’s a sound in your head that you’ve been searching for, the Prophet 12 Desktop can bring it to life.
Because the Prophet 12 Desktop’s digital oscillators are powered by SHARC chips, their tuning is rock-solid - which lends itself well to AM/FM and makes the Prophet 12 a reliable instrument for live use. If you want to introduce some vintage wonkiness and VCO-style tuning drift, you can reach for the Slop knob. Slop works on a per oscillator basis, you can mix a drifting Sawtooth wave with a pristine wavetable.
Unique Character Effects
The oscillators then run into a Sequential’s unique Character effects section, which can radically or subtly affect the Prophet 12’s sonic flavour. There’s Girth (boosts lows), Air (boosts highs), Hack, (bit reduction), Decimation (sample rate reduction) and Drive (tape-style saturation). Whether you want to add some body & crunch to a Unison bass patch or transform the Prophet 12 into a glitchy & old-school digital synth, the Character section is at your disposal.
Juicy Analogue Filters
Providing the analog punch and warmth is the classic Curtis analog low-pass filter, which features both a self-oscillating 4-pole (for that quintessential Prophet sound) and 2-pole (more of a vintage Oberheim flavour) modes. To shave off the low-end to help the P-12 fit in a mix or for those Elka Synthex-style sweeps, you can invoke the 2-pole resonant high-pass filter.
Towards the end of the P 12’s impressive signal chain is the analog VCA (voltage-controlled amplifier) section. Here you can engage the Pan Spread, which gradually distributes the P 12’s voices across the stereo field. With this one parameter, you can dial in lush stereo width in an instant. Finally, we have a tuned Feedback circuit (perfect for introducing some sonic excitement), a stereo analogue distortion circuit (which go from subtle warmth to all-out grunge) and a 4-tap digital delay line. The per voice stereo delays can pull off the classic rhythmic pulses & ambient washes that you’d expect as well as expansive faux reverbs & modulation such as chorus/flanging when modulated.
The P12 Desktop is certainly no slouch when it comes to modulation, with 4 versatile LFOs per voice (with 7 waveforms to choose from, slew, phase offset & BPM sync) and 4 five-stage bi-polar envelopes (with looping and velocity sensitivity). The P12 Desktop’s sound really comes to life when you make the most of its nigh-on modular levels of flexibility. Not only are there 8 fixed-source mod routings, there’s also a totally customisable 16 slot mod matrix where you can patch 27 sources to 98 destinations. Practically everything on the P12 Desktop can be modulated and making assignments couldn’t be easier thanks to the dedicated Source & Destination buttons on the panel.
As a lot of the Prophet 12 Desktop’s modulation occurs on a per voice basis, it pairs beautifully with a polyphonic aftertouch-enabled controller such as the ASM Hydrasynth Keyboard/Desktop, the Ableton Push 2 and the Novation Launchpad Pro MK3.
The way Sequential have designed the Prophet-12 module’s interface is a feat of engineering brilliance, as they’ve managed to make this synth’s sound engine immediately accessible within an ultra-compact form factor that’s also rackmount ready. All of the Prophet-12 module’s sound-sculpting sections are available with just the press of a button and all the parameters can be viewed via the crystal-clear OLED display.
Sequential’s Prophet 12 Desktop boasts a wealth of full-size connections within its rugged steel enclosure, including 5-pin MIDI (In, Out & Thru), stereo outputs for each layer, USB MIDI, 2 expression pedal inputs and a sustain pedal input. This means you can easily connect your controller of choice as well as sequence & automate the Prophet 12 from your DAW software.
The sheer amount of synth power and features that Sequential have packed into the portable Prophet 12 Desktop is astonishing. Like many have said before, the Prophet 12 is a sound designer’s dream synth and thanks to its intuitively designed interface, you don’t have to be Jean-Michel Jarre to create inspiring sounds.
- Five DSP-based oscillators per voice (including one sine wave sub oscillator)
- Four classic wave shapes (saw, square, triangle, sine) per oscillator
- Twelve selectable complex shapes per oscillator
- Three noise types per oscillator: white, pink, violet
- Analog VCAs
- Shape modulation
- Oscillator cross modulation: frequency modulation (FM) and amplitude modulation (AM)
- Hard sync on each of the four oscillators
- Five high-quality digital effects. Thicken the signal and add harmonics or completely destroy the signal pre-filter.
- Girth and Air are high and low shelf equalizers with harmonic excitement. Useful for thickening and/or adding air to the signal.
- Hack and Decimate are sample and bit rate reduction algorithms which can add subtle grit or completely destroy the signal. It’s harsh yet musical!
- Drive is a soft saturator for adding soft distortion and harmonic content to the signal
- Famed Curtis 2- or 4-pole resonant analog low-pass filter (self oscillates in 4-pole mode) per voice
- 2-pole resonant analog high-pass filter per voice
- Tuned feedback
- Four-tap syncable multi delay with feedback and amount per delay per voice
- Four Delay + ADSR envelopes (LPF, VCA , and two Auxiliary envelopes)
- Auxiliary envelopes 3 and 4 freely assignable to multiple modulation destinations
- All envelopes can repeat/loop
- Four syncable LFO’s with phase offset and slew per LFO
- 16 x 2 modulation matrix with 26 mod sources and 97 mod destinations
- Modulation assignment buttons enable quick and easy modulation routing
- Sophisticated programmable arpeggiator with up, down, up+down, random, assign modes
- Re-latching arpeggiator
- Independent programmable stereo analog distortion per layer.
- 12 knobs and 34 buttons enable deep and comprehensive editing with little to no menu diving.
- Crisp OLED display is easily visible in low light situations and from many angles.
- 396 user and 396 factory programs
- Direct program access using numeric keypad and dedicated User, Factory, and Bank buttons
- 1 MIDI In, 1 MIDI out, and 1 MIDI Thru port
- USB port for bidirectional MIDI communication
- 1 Sustain/footswitch input
- 2 expression pedal inputs
- Main stereo output (2 x 1/4″ phone jack)
- Layer B stereo output (2 x 1/4″ phone jack)
- Headphone out (stereo 1/4″ phone jack)
- External Power supply
- Operates worldwide on voltages between 100-240v, 50-60Hz
- Oiled walnut wood end panels
- 16.5″ L x 6.8″ W x 2.85″ H (41.9 cm L x 17.3 cm W x 7.2 cm H)
- 4 lbs. 14 oz. (2.21 kg)
- Rack-mountable with the optional rack mount kit