DSI_Prophet_12 module_angled

Strictly speaking, the Prophet 12 isn’t news. It’s just a module version of the Prophet 12 keyboard introduced earlier this year. (You can add ears and rack-mount it.)

And yet, it’s getting lots of buzz online. I was thinking for a bit about why that was, and eventually arrived at this solution: for synth lovers, the Prophet 12 module is about the most perfect way imaginable right now to spend two grand.

Watch legendary pioneer and hardware namesake Dave Smith himself demonstrate the results:

It’s also a triumph of making a module that works without the maker feeling obligated to stick a keyboard on. And the module seems sensibly laid out. I’m generally a fan of having as many dedicated knobs onboard as possible, particularly when shelling out for hardware. But the P12 seems to be a smart compromise. Encoders do require some push-button switching, yes, but the switches are laid out in a smart, logical way. The connection between the buttons and the encoders is intuitive, and they’re grouped in a way that means you should be able to adjust sound parameters quickly. Signal flow is smack-you-in-the-face clear. And most importantly (cough, Slim Phatty), you get dedicated filter knobs, so switching modes of the encoders doesn’t mean you have to lose access to filter cutoff.

The features, as before, remain impressive:

  • Four oscillators with a variety of waveforms
  • Hybrid digital/analog design (which, frankly, I think yields the greatest versatility)
  • Sub oscillator
  • Resonant low-pass an dhigh pass filters
  • Analog VCA
  • Tuned feedback path
  • Four-tap stereo delay per voice (yes, this can get insanely huge)
  • Arpeggiator
  • Modulation
  • Bi-timbral operation
  • Wave shaping, sound sculpting, “Girth”, “Air”, “Hack” and “Decimation” (bit depth and sample rate of the mixed oscillators, smart), Drive…
  • Robust I/O: headphones, A and B outputs, MIDI in/out/thru, two pedals plus sustain, USB

In fact, if I had two grand to spend on an outboard synth, it’s hard to imagine anything right now competing with this.

Actually… scratch that. I’d save the extra cash and get the keyboard. It’s a complete instrument, and having dedicated knobs is still better – so much better that the backpack compatibility of this still can’t make it compete. But this is the second-best polyphonic analog gear out there right now. And it’s a beautiful second place, well worth the silver medal and a spot on the podium and some tears. So, maybe that’s the news.

MAP: $2,199.00 USD

All images courtesy DSI. Click either to embiggen.

All images courtesy DSI. Click either to embiggen.

Dave Smith Instruments: Prophet 12 Module

  • Zangief

    I think the interface is a fine for patch creation, add your midi controller of choice for performance. A decent compromise, another future classic from the house of DSI.

  • misho

    One pet peeve about the layout is that the multifunction encoders are placed above the display, so your hand would obscure the displayed values as you’re adjusting (Push also suffers from a similar design flaw). They should’ve put the encoders below the display and the 4 switches underneath the encoders.

    • dot

      It is dependent on how you place device when using it and on way how you twist the knobs. IMO: If device is put at keyboard level and not heavily tilt – sitting or standing I prefer display to be placed beneath knobs. If device is doced in vertical rackmount then ‘this kind display placement’ is (would be) problem.

  • Nagasaki Nightrider

    A triumph? Perfect? Is the Prophet 08 module not a more-than-viable alternative to this for 75% of the price and all-analog to boot? I’m sure this sounds great, and it is certainly compact for what it is, but if I were going to drop that kind of coin on a Dave Smith synth, I’d still get the 08 or the Tempest over this. The Tempest is a different beast, of course, but it can be used as a 6 voice polyphonic synth and it throws a wicked sequencer and pads into the bargain. The 12 seems like a great option for those who need a module to take their sounds on the road rather than an instrument that invites tweaking. Personally, I’d trade 4 or 6 voices for something with a more robust front panel and an all analog signal path. The 12 really only offers 8 knobs for editing at any given time, considering that two are dedicated to patch selection and two more go to volume and distortion level. Even Elektron’s Analog Four offers more than that. I can definitely see this thing winding up in the racks of touring acts, but it doesn’t look particularly fun to program, despite the touted logic and simplicity of the UI design.

    • eXode

      I agree, the Prophet 08 is their best designed product to date, esp from an user interface perspective. It’s closest to one knob per function of all their products afaik.

    • Zangief

      hard to take you seriously when you use Analog Four as a yardstick.

    • Nagasaki Nightrider

      Not using it as a yardstick. Just pointing out that one product has more knobs than another (and a sequencer and about fifty more buttons, but I digress). They are very different beasts by design, in any case.

      Bit hard to take the phrase “another future classic from the house of DSI” seriously. Shill much? My point is that for more than two grand, I wouldn’t be keen on adding much of anything in the way of basic panel controls.

      It doesn’t matter much, we’ve established that the 12 is mainly a rugged, portable, powerful patch box.

  • Expdog

    Way too expensive. You could buy a new Mac Pro for that. I’m still looking at the Tetra as a way to go for decent poly analogue tabletop.

    • Expdog

      Maybe not a Mac Pro, but a couple or few other analogue poly’s for sure.

  • Robert Dorschel

    I love the canter of whiskey (or bourbon) on the shelf in the back. Classy!

    • Robert Dorschel

      …right next to the Grammy

    • Robert Dorschel

      …right next to the Grammy, of course

  • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

    It has been mentioned elsewhere already, but it doesn’t hurt repeating it: That P12 logo is ridiculously large. And what are those twelve LEDs all about? Oh yeah, they indicate how many voices are playing. Oh, give me a break. And use that space for some ADSR knobs or sliders instead. Or at least add those two touch strip controllers from the P12 keyboard or the Tempest. Such rather small addition would be worth uncountable miles when performing.

    • stoersignal

      exactly what i thought at first sight

  • bames

    Prepare yourselves for a bug-infested unfinished product. The bug fixes will come slower than anything you’ve previously experienced- if at all- and will introduce new bugs along the way. DSI is undeniably understaffed. Expect to be a beta tester in perpetuity. Don’t bother looking for the latest beta OS on DSI’s homepage, but rather on the closed “unofficial” DSI forum dsiforum.org. But don’t take my word for it- have a look for yourself. Maybe the bugs won’t affect you depending on how you use the gear.

    • Zangief

      what experience(s) are you basing this on ? they don’t exactly have a huge product line, you’ve owned them all and the experience has been like this ?
      I only use the evolver and don’t share your experience…

    • Yermom

      The Tempest has had a few of these issues, but I think bames is overstating it a bit. It has hardly been an unusable product. They’ve still put out a handful of updates over the past couple of years of owning one.

    • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

      “Overstating a bit”? Well, Dave Smith and/or Roger Linn admitted a while ago that they should not have released the Tempest in the state it was, when they put it out. But having owned a Tempest back then and now owning one again – and having followed the development of the Tempest operating system with tons of features constantly being added and bugs being fixed, I can only say that this is a mature and inspiring instrument that can pretty much do everything it was designed for. And no, it was never designed to be a new sampling device with a massive multi track sequencer to replace your MPC.
      Even the Prophet 08 just received an OS update recently with tons of fixes under the bonnet. So, no, bames is not “overstating it a bit”, but rather exaggerating massively.
      But on one thing he is certainly right: DSI are understaffed. The same developer (Chris Hector) seems to be responsible for pretty much *all* design and programming on all DSI devices. He is at least the one, who answers *everything* in the DSI forum… It would certainly have been nice, if DSI had more resources to support their products. But dismissing all their synths just like that is not right.

  • Filch

    So what is the best polyphonic analog gear out there right now in your opinion?