Sequential Prophet REV-2 | 175 custom sounds
(patches compatible with rack / desktop & keyboard)
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How many patches?:
You will receive all the sounds from my Youtube & Soundcloud demos plus extra sounds. This is one full bank of 128 patches (or “programs” if you want to use Sequential’s terminology). In reality you will get even more sounds, because some of the programs come as layers / splits, which means that there are two sounds in a program (or “two sounds in a sound” so to speak). You can rearrange and use them independently, which means you will have 175 sounds to play with. 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 a soundbank saved as a sysex file exported directly from my Rev-2. You will have the option to choose the destination bank (you will be able to load my presets into bank U1, U2, U3 or U4). Any individual patch relocation from one slot to another is only possible manually on the synth itself after full import procedure of a bank file.
What genre / style?:
There is no one style, because it is you who decides 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 patches are ready-to-use in music or can serve as starting points; you can find the textures or the dynamics that you like and tweak them to suit your exact taste or purpose. I tried not to include patches that would overlap with any other soundsets out there, so 90% of my patches should be original-sounding to you.
Any external stuff?:
I did not use any external FX in the demo; all the delays, reverbs and other effects are part of the REV-2 engine & mod matrix. I recorded my demo straight through an audio card. The patches work with 8 & 16 voice versions (I was using an 8-voice Prophet in my demo).
Notes on grades lower than 3/3:
modern: a lot of tools to go in the “modern” direction, but the tone stays “brassy”
vintage: nice, but there are better choices (Prophet-6, OB-6, Take-5 or Korg Prologue)
engine: impressive, but missing some final touches like real highpass filter
timbre plasticity: often too tight / stiff, not enough tools to bend the sound out of recognition
versatility: above average, but somewhat limited filter section & waveshaping
ui & ease of use: top-notch, but you may find the wobbly knobs or small screen bothersome
A SHORT HISTORY OF PROPHETS:
1978: Sequential produces a new synth called the “Prophet-5”. It’s a breakthrough for the company as well as music. The instrument proves to be universally loved and used in all genres.
2002: After getting back to business, Sequential produces one of the coolest and most creative new synths on the market – the Evolver. It’s an extremely cool synth, however, people don’t love hybrids that much and it’s becoming more and more clear that they’d rather revive / re-live the good old past.
2008: Sequential releases the Prophet 08. It’s a wink-wink to all the nerds: “folks, it’s a Prophet“. But this is a new Prophet, an improved an evolved Prophet, because this is what we – the society – seem to believe in: progress & change. Even though the more observant of us feel there’s just something wrong with this cult. Everything changes yet stays numbingly the same. Take cars for example: each year the companies change the design. If an element was square before, it will now be rounded. However, by some weird magical force all cars look the same. In 2021 the hot new thing is the fucking “lunar buggy” look (e.g. Hyundai Kona, Nissan Juke, Citroen Cactus to name a few).
2015 comes and Dave Smith announces the Prophet-6, which is described as “a spiritual successor to the Prophet-5”. OK, now we’re talking. We’re all getting closer to the gist of things and the true nature of our desires. Not only is it a Prophet, but a Prophet-Six. In other words, it’s a Prophet-5, but just one level better, one bit different. It’s basically the same synth folks, we’ve only changed a couple of small things, but other than that, you can really look at it as the Prophet Five.
Anno Domini 2020 – finally the mirros crack and the smoke dissolves. The horseplay makes full circle. We can all say it loud and clear: to hell with the marketing bullshit. To hell with the religion of progress and change for change’s sake. Stop the charade. If something works and fulfills its purpose, don’t change it. 42 years after the initial release the company makes the exact same instrument, the real Prophet-5 this time, and everybody gets engulfed in a wave of joy-induced hysteria, a frenzy of pure happiness.
REV-2: FIRST APPROACH
Back in the day (2010) I had the Prophet 600. I played it together with my other vintage synths like the Polysix, the Juno-60, or the Kawai SX-240. The P-600 had a nice sparkling vibe to it, but at the end of the day I was convinced it was the worst sounding synth of that bunch. It had a certain tightness / stiffness or harshness of its tone, or what I call the uncooperative tone. The other synths sounded more gooey & frothy and I like them better.
In 2020 I met a jazz musician / composer. He said he had a Moog One for sale. I said I’d rather have his Prophet-6, but he said he used it on a daily basis and he could not imagine his studio without a prophet. I said that maybe I could arrange a Prophet REV-2 for him. Again, the response was negative; in his words the REV-2 sounded like crap compared to the Prophet-6.
This year, when I had a chat with my friend, he advised me to never buy the REV-2, as it was “the same crap as the Prophet 08, only in a new box”. I thought “dang, is it really that crappy?” I had to see for myself. Now you’re probably asking yourself: were they right in saying the REV-2 was “crap”?
Yes and no. When I took my freshly-acquired REV-2 out of the box and started to tweak it, I wanted to throw it out of the window and get my P-600 back. I thought: damn, they were right! This is so frustrating. Why does the REV-2 sound like a Waldorf? What has been lost? What kind of stupid microprocessor has been used in place of some other microprocessor? What piece of modern technology has gnawed at and eaten away the ancient soul? This so-called Prophet is a masquerader!
The Prophet 600 had its numerous downsides, but at least it had some kind of motion in its sound, some instability, some amount of magic. REV-2 in comparison seemed as flat as a Kansas plain. There was something strange going on with the dynamics of the REV-2 sound (or rather there was not much going on). I had the impression the sound was trapped behind a glass wall and it was impossible to bend it in any direction. I often felt like I was missing a knob that would give me the final touch. A real highpass filter? A curver of the envelopes? A flattener of the waveshapes, an amp tamer? I had no idea. I wanted to kill this characteristic, move around it & move closer to the softer sound of my P-600, but there was just no satisfactory tool to do that. This resulted in a feeling of extreme frustration. It’s the kind of feeling I also had with my 1984 – 1988 DCO synths: the JX-8p, the Juno-106, (all the analogs that are too stable).
REV-2: SECOND APPROACH
Then, after a couple of days, I started to like the sound, or at least some part of it, and I’m not sure why. Was it because I managed to find some sweet spots and the initial timbre changed? Or was I just getting accustomed to the unique tonal quality of the newcomer? I’m not sure.
I think I started to look at this synth from different perspectives. At first the REV-2 became to me a bit like an acoustic instrument – say, a harpsichord. Clunky and coarse, but having its appeal & charm in some scope. Very cool in the basic or “unsynthy” areas of sound design: organs, flutes and other basic / classic tones. I’m not saying it can do perfect emulations of trumpets or cellos and I’m not saying it’s the best synth for those kind of patches – Korg Prologue seems to be better suited for this purpose. I rather mean that the inherent timbre seems “natural” or “fizzy” in a way that is attracive, especially when you use just one oscillator out of the three (2 + sub) available to get a more delicate sound.
Then I continued my explorations and the collection of sounds grew, and at one point I noticed that half of my soundbank turned out to consist of relatively (or “structurally”) simple patches, and I asked myself – hey man, why are you making those unsophisticated sounds?
It turns out that this rawness of the tone, this depth of the triangle wave, this spaciousness of the unison, this squelch of the Curtis filter are things of tangible value – they all have some magic in them. That’s when I realized that I feel inspired in many different areas: 60’s blues, 70’s funk, 80’s synthpop, 90’s techno, 00’s progressive house, 10’s Drive’y synthwave or 20’s industrial. There’s no point enumerating all those genres as I’m sure the Prophet sound will find its niche in any circumstances. Even in a no-production circumstances – jamming for fun is enough to bring joy, and to me it became a form of relaxation / recreation.
Then came the experimental phase resulting in embarrassment on my part – I realized that throwing this synth out of the window would have been a big, big mistake. Because once I learned the REV-2 inside out, the experiments were bringing in a continuous stream of interesting textures that I just didn’t suspect were possible. Back in the day I had an Electrix Warp Factory which was a vocoder in its design, but I used it (as the name would suggest) to warp various sounds out of their original shapes & forms. And I swear to God the REV-2 is the only synth in which I’m hearing textures reminiscent of the Warp Factory. Well, there’s just no way the squelchy Curtis filter plus all the LFOs, the loopable aux envelope, the 8-slot-mod-matrix plus delay, reverb, ring modulator & audiomod (all interconnected) will not produce a variety of interesting sounds. Put it all into the sequencer and off you go with all things experimental (or “generative” if you want to use the recently fashionable word).
Now I think I understand why for some people it’s a crappy synth, while for others it’s an inspirational instrument that’s been deservedly sitting on the bestseller list for the last 3 years; I too got myself fooled by this annoying & misleading terminology. Roland watered down the Juno name when they decided to put it on every new synth they released around 2006, while Sequential plays the Prophet name-game like an old, stuck record. REV-2 is not a recreation of a vintage analog like the P-600 or the P-5. It’s not a digital hybrid “monster” like the P-12. Also, it’s not a P-X type of sampler-synth either. Why the hell are all those synths called Prophets then??? It’s almost as if the company itself was called “Sequential Prophet” and sold synths called “5”, “6”, “12”, “REV”, “X”, and so on. Had my REV-2 been christened something else, like “Noah” or “Moses” for example, it would have spared me several confusion-infused days.
REV-2: BUILD QUALITY & UI
I have to point out that finding all those sweet spots and performing all the experiments would not have been possible without the REV-2’s user interface, which really shows respect toward the user, unlike other synths that seem to have been built to feed the ego or some “clever vision” of the designer / creator. What I mean by that is the fact that REV-2 treats you like an adult – you have the freedom (and the responsibility) to create something meaningful and effective. Other synths and their designers treat you like a child and give you hard-wired, ready-made solutions, which seem like a convenience at the beginning, but which prove a hindrance later along the way. I really appreciate Sequential’s approach, the neutral / logical layout and the multi-directionality of the modulations, value knobs & stuff.
Just like in the case of the OB-6, there’s hardly anything you can blame the REV-2 for. Solid chassis, wood panels, great keybed. But wait, there is one thing – the knobs. They’re a bit wobbly. I thought that my unit was faulty, or used (even though I bought it as brand-new), but it turns out they make them this way and all REVs have slightly wobbly knobs. It’s not an issue for the player because the wobble is very small, however, it might be an issue for an unobservant sound designer. When you tweak a knob, or when you nudge it using the show button / mod matrix assignment association and then you release your finger, sometimes there’s still a micro-wobble going on and your value may change by itself (ghost editing). Some people may also criticize the small screen, but in my opinion even though it’s relatively small, it is enough. There are so many knobs and the screen font is so large that it’s not a problem. I’ve seen worse (e.g. Novation Summit – bad placement, poor font). The only thing that I dislike on the REV-2 are the wheels. The finger notch / cavity on those wheels is too shallow and it’s quite hard to get a strong grip on these wheels during a performance.
REV-2: THE DEAL
So the REV-2 is extremely far from being a crappy synth – that’s what I’ve found out for myself. There are not many crappy synths on the market anyway. At worst it may only be a misunderstood synth. I definitely did not understand it at the beginning and was pulling my hair out to try to turn it into something that it wasn’t. I think other people may fall into this trap too – if you take a look around the Internet, it seems that a lot of folks tend to use their REVs in a “vintage” context, and with mixed results. You will also come across some “workarounds” to make the synth more “vintage” or more “dynamic” sounding; for example by using the gated sequencer to introduce slight variations. But to tell you the truth, I’m not a fan of the Alesis A6 Andromeda type of synths – synths that are seemingly great but only after you employ nerd tricks to “make them shine”. I personally don’t like this kind of horseplay, all the more so if I’m paying 2 thousand bucks. Besides, it sound kinda silly saying “this synth is great / wonderful / spectacular, but to make it really so, here’s a secret trick that you have to employ on every one of your patches”. Isn’t it easier to buy the Take-5 (or the Prophet-5 / Prophet-6, if you have more money?).
So if somebody tells you that REV-2 sounds like an old analog if you “just do this trick” – no, it does not. It’s a fantastic sound by itself, but the owners of Prophet-6 and OB-6 do have a point when they say it’s “something noticeably different” or that it’s “not analog sounding”. For me personally the REV-2 does deliver some great vintage timbres / patches, but I’d say it’s only 33% of its potential or appeal and the “vintage-ness” quality of the sound needs to be understood in a specific way. I’d say it’s great for “clean & stable” vintage tones. The other meaning of “vintage” would be “dirty & wonky”, so if you’re after this kind of vintage-ness, you’ll have to do a lot of tricks (not just one) to achieve a really wonky vintage feeling – all the gated sequencers and LFOs get used up pretty quickly when you start routing them to filter, waveshapes, envelopes and VCA. Genuine vintage analog synths of the yesteryear have this wonkiness going on by default because of their physicality, “modern vintage” synths (OB-6, P-6, Korg Prologue) have the “vintage” knob or different chips.
Moreover, the OB-6 / Prophet-6 / Take-5 sound is more lucid and “on-the-surface”, while the REV-2 sound might seem too dark or too dense in comparison. It’s very “strong” and “deep”, but at the same time there is an aspect of it that “keeps it back”. To my ears the starting REV-2 tone sounds more like a wavetable Waldorf than a 1980’s VCO synth and in my view it belongs to neither modern nor vintage category. I’d say the ratio is 33% vintage analog, 33% digital / wavetable-ish, and 33% somewhere-in-between. I know it might seem absurd because the synth is a classic triangle + sawtooth + square design, but the sum of all its parts turns it into something else / something more. And all those complex parts need a little bit more time and attention to dial the good in / dial the the bad away. It is not enough to push up the “slop” knob, it’s just a pitch randomizer. Life’s not that easy;) There is some learning to be done with some elements of this synth, but if you do learn it, you’ll be getting many more sounds than any OB-6 or P-6 could ever give you.
So instead of asking the question which Prophet is better, for me the final question is always about the outcome of the pros and cons of any given synth. Is it fun or not? Does it sound good and do the sounds inspire you? Are you excited when you sit down in front of it and start tweaking a new patch from scratch? It it easy? Does it have personality? Does it give you goosebumps each time you audition your favorite patches? For me, “YES” comes as the only answer to all these REV-2 questions. The engine interconnectivity gives you a great amount of freedom of operation. The UI is fantastic and the workflow is comfortable. The time that you spend with it brings reward. Just make sure that the impenetrable depth of the sound and the often-surfacing digital flavor isn’t something that will fatigue your delicate analogue ears too quickly. The REV-2 tone is rich like a fresh juicy peach. But many times it can also sound too “big” or “heavy” (or “brassy / ugly”, as some people call it) and you will have to sacrifice a couple of minutes to fight it away;) If you don’t want to engage in that fight, and if you don’t have enough money to go into P-5 / P-6, then try the Korg Prologue instead. It can also sound ugly or bad, but when it does not, it sounds fantastically nuanced and emotive.
REV-2: BUGS / QUIRKS
I think I should also mention some bugs / quirks that might be annoying, for example:
– the engine does not cope well with sudden audio changes: the envelopes and some extreme modulations / unison are “clicky”;
– the triangle LFO has a specific shape and leans more towards a square-sounding LFO than sine-wave sounding LFO;
– the triangle waveshape starts to sound like a square wave when adjusted upwards;
– the sequence cannot be overdubbed after recording it;
– we can choose the way to modulate a parameter: either via the LFO amount knob, or via the mod matrix assignment, but there is a catch; when I modulate a parameter directly from the LFO, I can hear the maximum effect as a genuine-100%-effect, but when I do the same connection in the mod matrix, the maximum modulation reaches only 20-30% of the effect, and I wonder why that is.
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