SOUNDTOWER Sequential Prophet 6 Sound Editing Software

by Mark Vail

Music journalist, historian, teacher, and performer Mark Vail is the author of The Synthesizer: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument Published in 2014 by Oxford University Press:

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Copyright © 2016 SOUNDTOWER  INC.

SEQUENTIAL, Dave Smith Instruments, PROPHET 6 and their respective logos are trademarks of Dave Smith Instruments

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DSI - Prophet 6 SoundEditor

Many of the synthesizers available from Dave Smith Instruments provide dedicated knobs, switches, buttons, and more for controlling what the instrument is doing in real time. However, there’s considerably more power inside DSI synths — including the Prophet-6 — that you may not be able to easily access unless you use a well designed editor/librarian. While writing this review, I used Soundtower’s US $69.99 Prophet-6 SoundEditor cross-platform (Mac and Windows) editor/librarian and I highly recommend it so that you can get the most possible out of your P6.

On SoundEditor’s Bank Manager page, you can drag individual or multiple patches from a list of them in computer memory to what actually resides in the P6. If you enable Auto Dump, a single patch will get loaded into the P6’s patch buffer so you can audition it without actually replacing another patch in the synth’s memory. There’s a bit of potential confusion concerning patch numbering because those in the synth begin at 000 and those in the computer start at 001. Likewise when transferring banks from the P6 into your computer, SoundEditor might ask if you want to download user bank 01 when it’s actually referring to bank 00.

Perhaps one of the SoundEditor’s simplest capabilities is allowing you to name P6 patches; the synth doesn’t have an alphanumeric display that shows patch names, so this capability helps to an extent. Knob positions and parameter setting also graphically appear on the computer screen when you select a new patch, information you can’t tell from merely looking at knobs on the P6’s front panel.

One place you’ll find outstanding SoundEditor magic is within its Sound Generators menu. Using the Program Genetics page, you can create an entire bank of patches using genetic algorithms to Mix, Morph, Mutate, or Randomly produce variations based on Mommy and Daddy patches. While the first three choices have a better chance of generating musically useful sounds — provided their parents started out that way — random may give you outlandish and cacophonic results, but those certainly might be useful in making electronic music as well.

Within the Morpher window, you’ll find a virtual X/Y pad for which you can assign the horizontal and vertical coordinates to adjust specific parameters such as VCO1 frequency and highpass filter resonance, depending on where you click on the two-dimensional pad. Using a slider, you can determine the percentage of depth the chosen parameters will vary.

SoundEditor’s Patch Maker window allows you to start with an existing patch, select specific parameter groups — including oscillators, effects, filters, LFO, envelopes, Poly Mod, arpeggiator, and sequencer — from up to 18 other patches, and then combine them all to make a new patch in the P6. It’s crazy stuff, and I’m not making it up.

Open the Sequencer page and you’ll have real-time access to all of the P6’s 64-step sequencer parameters in a totally graphic form — or as a six-track, alphanumeric note-and-velocity list. Select the note played and its velocity for all 64 steps and for each of the six voices, insert rests, vary the sequence length … hey, this is really fun and potentially addicting. If only there were some onscreen indication as to which step is playing as the sequencer is running.

Although there’s no random function for creating a new sequence, SoundEditor’s sequence template window allows you to load a sequence from any patch in P6 memory and apply it to another patch. Using SoundEditor’s sequencer functions allows you to get much more from the P6’s built-in sequencer than you could otherwise get by playing note and chord patterns in from the keyboard.

Soundtower’s Mark Lanoszka spent lots of time preparing the Prophet-6 SoundEditor, and it certainly multiplies the synth’s power by an impressive factor. He’s also happy to realize that those who work with it alongside the P6 may spend hours creating new sounds and sequences and will never run out of memory space. Mark tells me a VST/AU plug-in version of the Prophet-6 SoundEditor should be available by November 2016. In the meantime, I’ll admit that this combination was so much fun that I feared this review might never get written. I give a thumbs up in endorsing this unique, creative, and potent editor/librarian alongside the Prophet-6.

Although the Prophet-6’s front panel isn’t laid out exactly as shown within Soundtower’s Prophet 6 SoundEditor Voice window, the rearrangement allows all of the parameters to appear within one window and individual sections are clearly designated so that any user should soon be able to find the correct parameters. When you select a different patch on a Prophet-6 connected via USB, the editor/librarian quickly illustrates all of the parameter settings in the Voice window on the computer screen. Changes you make on the synth or with the software are mirrored by the opposite platform.

click on images to enlarge them

01 Voice.png

Voice window

Prophet-6 user and factory memory banks appear on SoundEditor’s Banks page. Note that patches with activated arpeggiators are indicated with a red “(A)” symbol. As of version 1.2.0 of the Prophet 6 SoundEditor, the factory patches are categorized in 25 categories, including Strings, Bright Lead, Sub Bass, Brass, Evolution, Bells, Sequence, Sound FX, and Arpeggiator. You’ll be able to assign your own patches to the categories of your choice.

Program Banks window

02 Banks.png

With SoundEditor’s Bank Manager, you can drag single or multiple patches from computer memory, shown in the column to the right, into the left column, which indicates P6 patches last downloaded as a bank. Selecting Transmit will send the selected bank to the P6. Enable Auto Dump and the patch you drag from the right column to the left will automatically appear in the P6’s edit buffer, ready to play. If you click on a patch in the left column, the P6 will jump to that patch in its memory.

Librarian / Bank Manager window

To change the note played by a step in SoundEditor’s Sequencer page, using the arrow tool you click and drag the box vertically to a new position or enable the pencil tool and click anywhere you please in the column. The exact note is designated by text inside the box as well as horizontally within the virtual piano keyboard on the left. After you’ve selected one note, you can add up to five more in the same column and the color of each note’s box will indicate which of the P6’s voices will sound that note according to colors in the six Note buttons beneath the keyboard. You can alter the velocity from zero to 127 for each voice independently by selecting its Note button. While the row of rectangles between the note and velocity lanes allows you to toggle a step to rest or be silent, the bottom row allows you to reset the step at which the sequencer jumps back to step one.

Sequencer window

Select Mommy and Daddy patches on the Program Genetics page, then Mix, Morph, Mutate, or Random their parameters to create a bank of unique patches. You can selectively exclude parameters by group or individually on the right side of the page.

Program Genetics window

Assign parameters to the X and Y coordinates of the two-dimensional pad on the Morpher page and you’ll vary the settings of those parameters by clicking in different places on the pad. As with the Program Genetics page, you can exclude selected groups or individual parameters from getting modified. With the slider, you can select the percentage of depth modifications that will be made, with the colorful graph above it visually indicating what parameters will be modified and by how much.

Program Morpher window

In the Patch Maker window, you can alter an existing Prophet-6 patch by combining its group settings with those from other patches of your choice.

Patch Maker window

03 Librarian Bank Manager.png 04 Sequencer.png 05 Program Genetics.png 06 Morpher.png 07 Patch Maker.png