Blog Review: Dave Smith Prophet '08 Pot Edition

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet '08 Pot Edition Upgrade By Francis Preve  Prophet '08 PE Keyboard MSRP $2,099.00

Dave Smith Instruments

Prophet '08 Pot Edition / Upgrade

By Francis Preve

Prophet '08 PE Keyboard MSRP: $2,099.00

Prophet '08 PE Conversion Kit (DIY) MSRP: $249.00

Prophet '08 PE Factory Conversion MSRP: $299.00

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 neighborhood.

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’ mindsets.

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.