This year’s flagship control center synthesizer winner
Dave Smith, in case you are not familiar with him, is the original founder of Sequential Circuits, and designer of the Prophet 5 synthesizer, the world’s first microprocessor-based musical instrument and also the first programmable polyphonic synth. He was also a co-creator of MIDI.
The Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2, introduced in 2014, is a descendant of the Sequential Circuits Pro-One, their first and only monophonic synth, a classic built in 1981. The Pro 2 is DSI’s flagship monophonic synthesizer, and Dave Smith says it is his “most powerful mono synth ever”. I believe him.
The first thing you notice about the made in the USA Pro 2 is, wow, this thing is really built. It is solid. My general perception of DSI is they don’t constantly discontinue models and release new ones. Their products seem to be very advanced at time of release and stay relevant for some time to come. With 4 years so far on the market, the Pro 2 software appears very stable and debugged. Mine came with the newest OS v1.3.0 installed.
I haven’t spent a great deal of time playing this synth yet but I did say to myself on day one, I really like this machine. It completely revamped how I thought a group of synths should be configured and what the pieces should be.
Gear acquisition syndrome, I’m sure it affects all of us. Previous to getting the Pro 2, I could easily envision have 10+ synths working together. Now I’m thinking fewer full scale synths but higher quality ones, and definitely with CV in/outs. Modular, an area I’m very interested in, different issue. That I am sure will be where gear acquisition syndrome finally kills me, but oh well…
A better master clock than the BeatStep Pro or a DAW
First of all having 3 MIDI ports (in, out, out/thru) is a real bonus. The way I use my hardware/software, I do not like to have all of it on constantly. Mostly I use the Pro 2 by itself, in which it is a good thing to be master clock, because if it is not the master and there is no clock signal because that hardware is not turned on, in slave modes the arpeggiator and sequencer do not work.
Currently I have MIDI Out going to hardware like my Roland TR-8 and Korg Minilogue. MIDI Out 2 goes to the BeatStep Pro which is sequencing a DAW (Tracktion or Ableton) with soft synth VST plugins. This seems to work out real well and is very stable.
I’m not an analog purist, however…
Generally I lean to analog, but DSI sold me on hybrid, that is to say it has digital oscillators and an analog signal path. It’s easy to make the Pro 2’s digital oscillators sound analog. To have near instant on status is a joy, and the additional wave-forms that digital oscillators add really rocks in my opinion. I’m going to do a cut & paste from the DSI Specs so you see what I am talking about:
- Four DSP-based oscillators plus one sine wave sub oscillator
- Four classic wave shapes (saw, square, triangle, sine) per oscillator
- Twelve selectable complex shapes per oscillator
- Thirteen Superwaves
- Three noise types per oscillator: white, pink, violet
- Shape modulation/pulse width/superwave detune amount
- Oscillator cross modulation: frequency modulation (FM) and amplitude modulation (AM)
- Hard sync, individual Glide, Oscillator Slop
The paraphonic capabilities really are unique, not only allowing 4 oscillator/note polyphony but each oscillator/note has its own envelope, unlike every other monophonic/paraphonic synthesizer I know of, which share one envelope. The dual filters which can be run in series or parallel can also be split, oscillator 1 & 2 on 1 filter, oscillator 3 & 4 on the other.
There are 792 presets, half factory set and non-writable, and the other half user-writable (containing the same programs/sequences, you can modify, replace or delete as you wish).
The sequencer looks like a real gem
I’m going to post more about the sequencer later, but I will say this is an important part of why I decided to make the Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 the control center of my setup. I have never been that impressed with lower cost synths’ sequencers, which is why I added the BeatStep Pro, which while a big jump from many sequencers, still doesn’t super impress me. Well OK I’ll give the BeatStep Pro a medium impress.
Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 sequencer impresses me. We’ll see if I can get it to do what I am thinking… More later when I finish fleshing it out.
The biggest ‘problem’ I have with the Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 is that in researching it I discovered Dave Smith’s Sequential Prophet X. $4k, maybe not this year, ha! But I am seeing the value in it, more later.
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