Dave Smith Instruments
Prophet '08 Pot Edition / Upgrade
By Francis Preve
Prophet '08 PE Keyboard MSRP:
Prophet '08 PE Conversion Kit
(DIY) MSRP: $249.00
Prophet '08 PE Factory Conversion
Aside from having one of the
best product names in the history of synths, Dave Smith’s Pot Edition
upgrade for the now-legendary Prophet '08 is one of the coolest tweaks
to hit the market in a long time.
While I’ve loved the sound
of the Prophet '08 since its introduction two years ago, I must admit
that its rotary encoders drove me a little batty. Having cut my teeth
on analog gear, I find that there’s something extremely intuitive
about having knobs with definite start and stop points. Here’s a bit
of psychology 101 to explain the cognitive underpinnings behind this.
When you use an endless rotary
encoder, it’s necessary to glance at the LCD regularly to check on
parameter values. This forces the brain to constantly switch back and
forth between right side (creative) and left side (logical). The right side of your brain is listening for the sound you want; the left is reading numbers. That switching
interrupts the flow of musicmaking in very subtle and unpleasant ways.
When you’re working with a killer synth like the Prophet, the end
result is like driving a Ferrari over countless speedbumps in a residential
With old-school knobs in place (potentiometers is the technical term; "pots" for short) the experience becomes much more fluid. Instead of engaging your brain
to read a number and translate its value intellectually, you just turn
the knob and feel the results. If you need some sort of visual
reference, you look at the knob itself and see its setting. The end
result is that this upgrade makes programming the Prophet more like
a vintage synth, rather than a 21st century analog beastie.
Along with new knobs, the PE
upgrade includes a software update that allows you to select your preferred
behavior for the knobs when working with presets. The three modes for
the knobs are Relative, Pass-thru, and Jump.
In Relative mode, turning a
knob adds or subtracts from the programmed value until the knob reaches
the end of its travel. In Pass-thru mode, turning the knob does nothing
until the knob reaches the preset value, at which point it begins functioning
as predicted. Jump mode makes the parameter jump to the knob’s value
immediately upon turning it, regardless of its original preset value.
Having the option to select your preferred mode is a godsend, since
each approach has unique strengths that appeal to different users’
If you’re a Prophet user
who grew up on old school analog gear, you can’t afford to miss this
upgrade. If you’re in the market for a new Prophet, you should give
the PE edition some serious thought. Highly recommended.
For my review of the original Prophet '08 from November 2007, CLICK HERE.