Dave Smith Instruments

New product from synthesizer manufacturer Dave Smith Instruments

Posted Under: Expert Intermediate

Company founder and renowned designer Dave Smith is no stranger to analog synthesizers, being responsible for the pre- eminent Prophet-5, the world’s first programmable polyphonic synthesizer back in 1978, and a raft of innovative instruments thereafter — both for Sequential Circuits, his first commercial company, and beyond. By 2002, he had started afresh with Dave Smith Instruments- branded designs, debuting with the diminutive desktop Evolver, a compact monophonic analog/digital synthesizer module that’s still making musical waves worldwide to this day.

Today rich-sounding analog warmth beats at the very heart of Dave Smith Instruments, with the appropriately-named Prophet ’08 — an eight-voice synthesizer keyboard with a 100% analog signal path, including illustrious Curtis analog low-pass filters — signaling Smith’s call to analog arms in 2007. “It’s been nice to rescue the Prophet name from all the simulations that have multiplied over the years,” Smith stated at the time. The award-winning Prophet ’08 has subsequently stood the test of time, and remains a bestseller today for DSI in its current keyboard and module guises.

Having so successfully married the prestigious Prophet name to a thoroughly modern feature set, by introducing the compact and affordable monophonic Mopho desktop synthesizer analog module in 2009, Dave Smith Instruments brought that powerful Prophet ’08 sound within easy reach of the musical masses. Mopho’s voice architecture is identical to a single voice of the Prophet ’08, but with a couple of unique twists that distinguish it from its award-winning big brother. “I wanted to give it a character of its own,” said Smith. “Each of the oscillators has its own sub-octave generator. Mopho also features an external audio input that allows processing of external audio sources as well as the ability to mix the output back in pre-filter for feedback effects. It’s been popular, because everybody likes having a low-cost, high-quality, real analog synth.”

While Prophet ’08 owners can control most Mopho parameters directly from their keyboard or module’s front panel via MIDI, various keyboard-based versions of the Mopho are also available, starting with the Mopho Keyboard synthesizer. Said Smith: “It’s a keyboard version of our little Mopho module, so we took the same basic voice and added a keyboard with weighted keys, velocity, and aftertouch, which we think is really important for an analog synth like this. It’s got a bunch of knobs and switches — all live, realtime controllers for tweaking as much as you want. It’s got polychain, so you can hook up to a Tetra to give you five voices in total in a very small footprint.”

Back in the world of polyphony, the Tetra polyphonic desktop analog synthesizer module is an affordable, fully-programmable polysynth with a 100% analog signal path, boasting four-part multitimbral capability with four separate outputs — proof positive that Dave Smith Instruments responds to its users. According to its designer, “Tetra means four, and that’s basically what this is. It’s four Mophos in a box. Or you can think of it as half of a Prophet ’08. It’s got the small size of the Mopho, because that’s what people tell us they like — small, but powerful. You can do a lot of damage from the front panel or you can play it from a keyboard or a computer. It’s got a polychain feature for chaining multiple Tetras together or with a Prophet ’08. And it has USB, which makes it easier when you’re using it with the editor that comes with it that runs on either a Mac or PC.”

Next out of the DSI analog starting gate, the Mopho X4 keyboard synthesizer: “Basically, we started with the Mopho Keyboard, stretched it out to 44 keys, and added three voices. And it’s the same all-analog signal path. Beyond that, it’s got lots of knobs and switches, so you have full control over the sound — it’s a lot more fun to play with that way also, and it comes with four banks of factory presets, plus another four user banks. It’s got a velocity- and pressure-sensitive, full-size, weighted keyboard. If you want to add more voices, it’s easy to expand — for example, with a Tetra.”

Coming full circle, Mopho SE is the newest addition to DSI’s revered line of analog subtractive synthesizers. Building upon the same award- winning voice architecture of the Mopho and Mopho Keyboard, the four-octave Mopho SE delivers a huge sound in an ideally-sized, portable, and elegantly-designed package with every parameter being fully programmable and editable from the front panel. Polychaining up to three Tetras with a Mopho SE creates a 13-voice analog super-synth surpassed only in size and scope by an awesome 16-voice Prophet ’08 keyboard and module pairing!

Dave Smith Instruments’ evolving family of analog synthesizers will have been demoed at the 2014 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California.

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