Sequential PRO-3 ► 220+ custom sounds

Presets compatible with both PRO 3 & PRO 3 SE.


FAQ / read before you buy

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What’s in the bundle?:
You will receive all the sounds from all my demos plus extra (220 unique presets + their variations = 235 presets in total). Of course all the drums & sequences are also stored as patch data, so you will have those too, and you can adjust them or bypass the sequencer and play the sounds by hand.

What format / import method?:
My patches come under the name “WCOG” in 2 soundbanks (A and B) saved as sysex files exported directly from my PRO-3. You can put any of my bank into any of your User Banks (U1, U2, U3, U4) on your PRO-3. In other words, you have full freedom as to the memory locations / import destinations. Note: the patches will be quieter than factory patches.

What genre / style?:
There is no one style, because YOU decide what style these patches will be played in. It’s a wide variety of sounds that are meant to inspire, make you look at the synth in a different light and give you a great choice of directions. Some patches are bread & butter, some offbeat; they’re the result of me trying to find the limits of the instrument. The sounds are ready-to-use in music or can serve as starting points; just pick the textures or dynamics that you like and easily fine-tune them to suit your exact taste or purpose.

Any external stuff?:
I did not use any external FX in the demo; all the delays, reverbs, noises and other effects are part of the PRO-3 engine & mod matrix. Also, you don’t need any custom wavetables for my patches to work – just a standard Pro-3 unit.

Notes on grades lower than 3/3:

[modern]: it has tons of features, but it’s not a Hydrasynth/ Opsix type of potential
[organic]: has all the grungy gadgets and slops, but often it’s a stable / hybrid sound
[ui]: some menu-diving, stiff knobs, strong LED lights
[soft / mgmt]: patch editor / librarian only third-party & paid



FIRST DAY

When I got it out of the box and placed it on my stand and looked at it in all its glory… I came to the conclusion this must be the ugliest contemporary synth (I have the standard version, not SE). All these shades of gloomy gray and the radioshack knobs must feel like an abomination to anyone who’s ever seen or touched a Korg Prologue or a Moog SUB-37. Arturia also painted their Matrixbrute pavement-gray, but at least they furnished it with some wood to warm it up. Sequential gives us gray panel, gray knobs, and gray plastic cheeks with a huge, cheesy logo engraved in them. Why oh why??? The painter / architect in me craves more colors and more elegant materials, but the skinflint in me does not want to pay the 20% premium for the Special Edition;)


PLAY ME? NOT REALLY…

If you judge this book by its cover, or the front layer, you will instantly get the impression there’s a lot to have fun with. You will think it’s an instant-gratification synth with tons of potential for easy patch-making. Someone commented under my facebook post that Pro-3 screams “play me!”. But you must not be not complacent and you must not fall into this trap. Using just the front panel will quickly get you many sounds which raise eyebrows and draw attention, but which I personally judge to be cliche, boring and ugly. All the gadgets, distortions, feedbacks and filter morphs won’t get you beyond the initial impressions the majority of people had about this synth when it came out – that it’s too harsh and metallic sounding (maybe let’s just cut all the nerdy words and simply say “unpleasant”).


THE DEAL

So here’s the deal. Somewhere behind the horizon there is a different, hidden reality, and only after I entered it did I find top quality, variety and inspiration in my PRO-3. I am of course speaking about the mod matrix and other features hidden in menus (filter compensation, slews, slops, sequencer lanes with ratchets & durations, etc). This is the second layer where all the subtle changes take place. I’m disclosing the highlight of the show at the very beginning, but frankly this is the most important piece of information I can give you, as I think no other synth benefits as much from those subtle changes and / or modulations as the PRO-3.

Prior to entering this new realm, there was just something wrong with this synth each time I played it. The envelopes had an ugly slope, the VCA / mixer would kill the dynamics, and the overall sound explorations simply did not satisfy me. The PRO-3 sounded either too characterless & generic, or it went into the other extreme, which means there was so much going on with the sound that it became almost grotesque & unusable in any musical context.

However, manipulating the second layer allowed me to take better control over the process, introduce some nuance, bring some organicness into the picture and finally dial in many new & interesting timbres. Once again the old truth about the newer / cheaper Sequential synths comes back to mind: that they need some additional modulations because they don’t shine out of the box. The REV-2 also needed a couple of additional modulations to make it sound more organic, whereas the Korg Prologue / Arturia Polybrute don’t need that – their oscillators sound “agreeable” / “cooperative” by default.

Despite the PRO-3’s abundance of knobs and buttons, the SUB-37 and the Matrixbrute seem to be more direct in terms of sound appeal, and getting satisfying results with Moog & Arturia synths is a more prompt affair. Pro-3 has a thicker force field around its sound, or “steeper learning curve” if you want to make full use of its potential, and that’s why I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a total beginner – impatient beginner, that is.


THE SOUND / SWEET SPOTS?

Then, after several weeks of playing and experimenting (or practicing patience) it turned out there is an upside to this complexity; it became obvious the PRO-3 is the most versatile mono out of all three. It delivers much more timbre variety than SUB-37 or Matrixbrute. If I had to build an an entire soundtrack using just one mono synth, PRO-3 would be that synth.

Although I have to say I don’t quite understand the idea of the PRO-3. Or should I rather say: I don’t fully like the execution of the idea. The idea is that it’s an analog-digital hybrid with 3 filters, effects, sequencer and mod matrix. But there is some element in this setup that does not want to dance to the same rhythm as all the other elements of the party. The PRO-3 feels to me like a fusion of various devices: analog filters, digital oscillators, brutal distortion, tuned feedback, modulatable effects and what not – but it’s like all these elements come from various contexts / backgrounds and oftentimes they have difficulty integrating into something coherent. For example, I like the sound of the Trigon-6 ladder filter but not so much the Pro-3 ladder filter (it’s not as soft). What’s more, oftentimes I feel like I need to bypass some module (like FX) of the PRO-3, or re-arrange it, because it’s ruining my sound. By saying “re-arrange” I mean, for example, creating a completely new envelope curve by modulating its Attack or Decay with another envelope.

Finding a sweet spot in the PRO-3 is often like playing cat and mouse. I remember that the feedback / distortion & FX on Mono Evolver were like a cherry on top – they did wonders. The PRO-3, on the other hand, often ends up sounding ugly or blunt after applying them. It’s much more tricky and my experiments with this machine are like a coin toss with a 50-50 chance that I’ll come up with something good. In other words – I have to use less experimenting and more conscious sound design with this synth, unlike the Matrixbrute.

My approach to the PRO-3 is that I try not to look at it in the traditional way of mixing any of the three oscillators in the mixer, but rather leaving just one or two oscillators active / audible, and shifting my focus to the paraphony / sequencing / modulating, and treating one of the 3 available oscillators as a mod source for something else. This yields much more interesting & creative results.

Hint: there is a section that can easily be overlooked but absolutely should not – the waveshaping. It will give you as much variety / plasticity as the filters. It doesn’t just change the wave from sine to saw to pulse. There is one hundred variations (or mix levels) of these waves hidden in each increment of the waveshape knob. These are small variations, but they should be explored nonetheless.


USER INTERFACE:

There’s a lot of knobs & buttons right in front of you, but unlike Matrixbrute, the PRO-3 is less intuitive and will demand some menu-diving. Most of the time it’s the “painless” type of menu diving. The screen and the font is easy to read in the standard view, if a little bit cluttered when in matrix view (the font changes into a very small one when you enter the mod matrix). You can use shortcuts for modulation assignments. Many times there are two ways to reach your desired parameter (soft knobs, soft buttons, value knob). The mod matrix is “intelligent” – it will find the nearest free slot and fill it up once you begin the assignment procedure.

On a side note – as always, “intelligent” machines will do something stupid from time to time; if you make a “creative mess” in your mod matrix and clear one of your sources in a slot but not its destination, the PRO-3 will think it’s a free slot and fill this slot instead of filling a new one; this will lead to the creation of something unintended.

Fun fact: the Arturia Matrixbrute has the mod matrix right on top of its panel (and it’s so huge that you cannot miss it), but it sounds so good that many times I can do with no patching whatsoever. The mod matrix is simply not necessary. A filtered oscillator plus some general knob tweaking is enough to come up with something interesting and organic. The core sound of the PRO-3 is more static, and it needs the mod-matrix like a fish needs water. Ironically, its mod matrix is hidden and harder to see.

So… is there anything else worth mentioning?…

Sometimes the value knobs skip values, but it’s not frustrating, as it takes only a fraction of a second to fix a value. Speaking of knobs: those are the most user-unfriendly knobs I’ve ever touched. It’s just unbelievable how much resistance they have and how much force is needed to twist them in a brand-new, unused unit. Maybe Sequential was fed up with people comlaining about wobbly REV-2 knobs and this time they made ultra-tight knobs? Also, those LEDs will cause a severe case of photic retinopathy in anybody who’s silly enough to stare at them while playing the PRO-3 in a dark room. Adjustable LED light intensity would be very welcome.


VS

We have a lot of mono synths on the market, but only a couple of them come with patch memory. Out of these, I think only three come in full size: PRO-3, Matrixbrute and SUB-37. They are pretty close in terms of technical prowess and modular interconnectivity. Only the SUB-37 stands out by its conspicuous lack of third oscillator and onboard effects. The PRO-3 also stands out with what seems to be the deepets mod matrix and the most powerful, 11-animation-lane sequencer on the market. This leaves us with only two criteria to judge against: the sound & the interface.

The Moog sound is, obviously, the Moog sound;) Solid, pure, classy, synthetic and crystalline, but somewhat cold or static. The Matrixbrute sound is soft, warm, dirty & gnarly, if hard to control or escape / subdue. The PRO-3 sound is the most varied one and the most elusive & hard to pin down. This is due to the digital oscillator, onboard FX and those Prophet + Moog + Oberheim filters that you can choose between. With PRO-3 you can go from 100% smooth & clean to 100% extreme & dirty, plus some place halfway between these two states (thanks to the state-variable filter giving you two differently-filtered sounds in one patch).

If I say that this synth wins in versatility, it will be an understatement. Arturia and Moog are not as flexible in the area of oscillator waveshaping and FX mangling (SUB-37 has no FX!), but what is more important is that the level of modulation depth in the Pro-3 takes it to a completely new level. It’s no longer just a synth – it’s also a “track generator”, meaning you can build entire, detailed short “tracks” or “structures” with it.

When it comes to the UI, I’d have to think really hard which synth is the winner. PRO-3 may actually be the loser. Not because it’s interface is bad, but because the synth’s engine is so complex that there needs to be some compromise – something must be hidden in a menu, some other thing must be small instead of full-size. The SUB-37 also has some things hidden in a menu or in the software, that’s why the Matrixbrute is a sure winner in this category.

But this issue is a tricky / subtle one. Moog SUB 37 is super easy as long as you don’t use the sequencer. Arturia seems great for someone with ADHD – “touch this, touch that, wow, I came up with something cool!” But if your mind is calm, and if you like predictability and order during a journey from place A to place B – PRO-3’s workflow & UI may prove better suited. What’s more, you don’t need software to fine-tune the sequences. And there is no irritating e-ink display like in Matrixbrute. Once you learn PRO-3’s design, there is nothing to grumble about. PRO-3 definitely wins when it comes to the keyboard – it has the nicest action of all three.


OUTRO

The only thing which makes me doubtful in expressing any definite (or definitive) opinions about the PRO-3 is the fact that I have never played the Pro-2. And, to be honest, I have the impression that the Pro-2 is a more capable synth. It has 4 oscs, 4 lfos, serial / parallel filter routability and what not. I’m not saying that 4 oscillators and 4 lfos are things one can’t live without – many times I’d really have to think hard to find a way to make use of all that additional wealth. But I feel I’m missing the point of the PRO-3. If it lacks PRO-2’s:
– oscillators and lfos,
– and the linear / exponential FM switchability,
– and the gateway buttons which show values for any chosen module,
– and the longer keyboard,

then there must be something else that it’s better at. I wonder what it is. Is it more vintage sounding? Probably. Does it sound better than SUB-37 or the Matrixbrute? No, just different. If I were to keep the PRO-3, it would definitely be for the 2-pole OTA state-variable filter, tuned feedback and paraphonic sequencer (which makes it super easy to introduce creative & interesting randomness to your music). These three features are the main sources of the synth’s originality and make it really valuable & interesting, regardless of the idea or intent behind its creation, and regardless of the fact whether I understand it or not:)


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tom Phillpotts

    Helpful to read this review thanks. I have found the Pro3 surprisingly cold and harsh, difficult to get soft, beautiful sounds from. All the demos sound gnarly or noisy or gritty. I’m looking at the Matrixbrute now. I feel like adding complexity to a sound can’t disguise it’s inherent ugliness.

  2. Steve

    This review confirms the confusing feelings I’ve had about my Pro 3. Spot on!

  3. Luis N

    I had a Pro 2, and currently have a Pro 3, and I can say the Pro 2 doesn’t sound more vintage, quite the opposite it sounds more digital than the Pro 3. Having four delays as the only effects is not very useful, and the character effects are not that great. Yes, the versatility of the filters is pretty great on the Pro 2, but I still think the Pro 3 is a more complete and versatile synth overall. Great job on the soundset Jexus!

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