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SCI's Prophet T8 Special Report

John Bowen

At the Ivanhoe Hotel, we spoke to John Bowen, product specialist for Sequential Circuits, who was over here to demonstrate the new Prophet T-8, about his career with Moog and SCI.

John Bowen (right).

"I was invited to work for Moog by David Luce shortly after he joined to develop the polyphonic instrument (which ended up as the Polymoog). David was very good to me when I was getting started in this business, and he works so quickly. I told him the sort of thing I would like to see on a polyphonic synthesiser and in three months he had come up with a complete system.

The working name for the system was the Constellation. There was a keyboard called the Apollo (the Space Race was everyday headlines) which had a pressure and velocity keyboard (remember this was back in '73!). This eventually appeared as the Polymoog, but it took 3 years to get out and by the time it was available to the public, it had lost not only its fancy name but also the touch sensitivity on the keyboard. The system's bass pedals fared better however and emerged virtually unchanged even in name as the original Taurus pedals.

I was a clinician for Moog for 4 or 5 years, as well as a musical consultant on the new products. When Norlin took over, our department was phased out, but they took me back on later. It was through my Moog clinics that I met Dave Smith (head of Sequential Circuits). I was using quite a few MiniMoogs in my clinics and I really needed some sort of programmer/controller to take the hard work out of sound changes. While I was in California someone suggested that Dave could help with this. I rang his wife asking to see the 'factory', but at the time it was only their apartment. He showed me a rather neat sequencer while I was there. I managed to convince him that as I worked for Moog I could get them to buy the design if he gave me one. So I left with one under my arm.

As it happened, Moog weren't interested in the sequencer, but I kept in contact with him and our friendship grew. A couple of years later he wanted to do 5 programmable MiniMoogs configuration in one box and he asked me to come and join him in California. I told him what to put on it (the layout of the panel and so on) and he built it. That's how the Prophet 5 was born. When it came out the SCI workforce was only 6 people.

It seems incredible, but the 5 has lasted over 5 years which is a long time for a synthesiser. But now the market is ready for the features the Apollo originally had, the touch sensitivity. Yamaha are doing it with the DX range, Rhodes with the Chroma and SCI are up there with them with the T-8.

The Prophet T-8.

We spent a lot of time getting both the velocity and the second touch right. We abandoned our original contact system in favour of light beams. As you hit the key, it breaks one light beam and then another when it reaches the end of its travel. We time how long it is between these two events and this to control the parameters in the velocity section (all the envelope parameters). Even the release time can be controlled by the speed of key release. We took particular care with the 'second touch' (that's the pressure sensitivity). We didn't want it to be triggered on the first touch, but we also wanted to make it easy to bring in at will. We're very pleased with the result and of course both effects are individually triggered by the keys. The 'second touch' can be used to control the frequency or pulse width of Oscillator A or B, the filter, the amplifier the LFO amount or frequency or all of these."

It is this comprehensive modulation potential which has always set SCI products apart and the T-8 is no exception. Besides these two new features which give some very impressive sounds (including the most realistic electronically-created piano sound I have ever heard), there are still the excellent Poly-Mod and LFO-Mod Sections. Another new aspect is in the new envelope flexibility. Both envelopes allow a second release characteristic to be set up, which can be brought in either using the switch or foot-pedal (similar to a piano sustain pedal).

Velocity and Sequencer Controls.

There is also an ADSR/ADR option. In ADR the sustain time is reduced to zero, which forces the decay straight into release at a point which can be set by the sustain level, good for percussive envelopes.

Another addition to the T-8 is a realtime sequencer, with eight separate sequences and over 600 note storage, and it actually remembers velocity information and loop length can be programmed.

The keyboard is 6 octaves (E to E) with weighted wooden keys and is a delight to play. The look is vintage Prophet, the panel layout will be familiar to all Sequential Circuits users (only the 'touch' controls to become acquainted with) and the sound is better than ever. Place your orders now!

For prices and information please contact Sequential Circuits, (Contact Details)

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British Music Fair Report

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Sep 1983


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