Sequential Prophet 3000
This 16-bit stereo sampler promises more than just an improvement in sound quality over the earlier Prophets. Rick Davies reckons it could set a new standard in user interfaces.
SEQUENTIAL'S LATEST IN a dynasty of Prophets, the Prophet 3000, is a perfect example of a sampler that not only sounds better than earlier models, but promises to eliminate much of the hassle that tends to make sampling a formidable ordeal.
Starting with the basics, the Prophet 3000 is a 16-bit stereo sampler with eight voices, and 2Megabytes (which translates into 1 Megaword, 16 bits wide) of sample memory built into a 2U-high rack-mountable chassis. Additional expanders for the 3000 provide eight extra voices each, for a maximum of 32 voices with three expanders. (Sequential's newsletter indicates that one expander is the maximum, but a company representative indicated otherwise.) Samples may be stored on quad-density 3.5" disks using the built-in disk drive. So far, so good.
As with some earlier Prophets, memory expansion is possible, and thanks to a SCSI port (forthcoming), sample storage will be possible on hard disks. Sequential have plans to release their own hard disk to ensure that compatibility problems do not arise between the 3000 and other SCSI hard disks.
Sampling rates of 32kHz, 44.1kHz and 48kHz provide a range of sample qualities and sample times with the usual trade-offs. At the 48kHz rate, the standard memory will hold a 49-second stereo sample. Sampling in mono doubles this time, and also allows for eight-voice polyphony, whereas stereo sample playback renders four-voice polyphony.
Voices can be panned anywhere in the stereo image, or routed to any of eight individual audio outputs and thereby removed from the stereo outputs. To obtain independent pairs of stereo outputs (if two or more of your samples require different stereo imaging), each channel of the stereo signal must be routed to a different individual output. Dynamic voice allocation allows several voices to be routed to each output, which makes voice grouping much easier.
The stereo sample line input is on the 3000's front panel, along with the "mix" output level controls (it's assumed that if you want to use the individual outputs, you'll control those levels from your mixer). The standard MIDI In/Out/Thru sockets on the back panel complete the 3000's initial connections to other equipment. That's all there is to the rack: pretty much everything you won't need to mess about with very often.
The 3000's real front panel controls are on a remote controller which connects to the rack's front panel via a telephone-style cable. The remote's front panel consists of an 8X40 LCD window, a rotary encoder, four cursor controls, and six "soft" (assignable) switches. Obviously, the 3000 is best left within reach of the musician or engineer, and with the exception of the occasional disk change, the rack can be left well alone. And if a hard disk is connected, the only part of the 3000 that's likely to need attention is the remote, anyway.
Not surprisingly, the LCD is put to good use beyond sample saving and loading; advanced sample editing is made easier by graphic displays of waveforms, and all functions are laid out in a "menu" format, along the lines of those you may have come across in software packages for the likes of the Atari ST and Macintosh.
By allowing the 3000's entire "front panel" to be controlled by software, Sequential have left the 3000 open to simple, disk-based updates. One such update that should raise a few eyebrows is the SCSI/direct-to-hard disk recording option which is planned for release around the beginning of '88. If that seems a little way off, don't worry - the first production run starts in early autumn.
On the processing side of the 3000, there are sustain and release loops, loop crossfading and compression (to reduce loop level fluctuations), hard sync (for synth-like sounds), an additive synthesis mode for waveform creation, and four-pole low-pass filters, three envelopes, and two LFOs for each voice.
These features would make the Prophet 3000 a nice enough package on their own, but in addition, there are some interesting innovations aimed at simplifying the complex business of programming. Of particular note is an auto-mapping feature that uses pitch-detection to place samples in appropriate areas of the keyboard automatically, and shuffle other samples around as necessary, thus eliminating one of the more tedious aspects of programming sampling keyboards.
Considering its impressive spec and control system, the Prophet 3000 should cost a lot more than the Prophet 2000 family members. It seems, however, that Sequential plan to offer the package at a price which, if the performance matches the expectation, could be hard to resist.
Price £3500 approximately
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Review by Rick Davies
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