Pro-Five

For most of the 1980s, the Prophet 5 synthesizer was my dream instrument - but always just out of reach financially. Now I have one which features MIDI automation of all the parameters, plugs in to Cubase VST, and has all the original pre-set sounds, plus a bunch of great new sounds - all on my Mac. The Native Instruments Pro-Five software synthesizer is a full-blown emulation of the classic Prophet 5 synthesizer, right down to the colour of the wooden casing. And, unlike the original, it's not restricted to just five notes of polyphony - you can play as many notes at the same time as your CPU will allow. On a Power Mac 9500 with a G3/300MHz upgrade card installed, I could play 12 notes at once with no problems. The voices display let me set the number of playable notes up to the maximum of 32, but when I tried a glissando on any more than 12 notes, they started glitching. Still, this is more notes than you could get out of a pair of original Prophet 5s. Designed by Native Instruments, known for their Reaktor and Generator software synthesizers, the Pro-Five has eight files, each containing eight banks, with every bank containing eight pre-sets to provide a total of 512 programs. Unlike the original, the Pro-Five also responds to MIDI Velocity messages, which you can use to control the filter and output levels according to how fast the keys are struck. What I missed, badly, was the intimate control of the knobs and buttons on the real thing. The default way the knobs work is by pointing at the them and dragging the mouse vertically. I prefer the way the knobs work in Cubase - where you drag them to the right or left, which feels more like a real machine. Fortunately, by shift-clicking on the NI logo changes the action to this mode. This is a thoughtful touch.

OUR VERDICT

So what could be better than a Pro-Five? A bunch of them. And, that's no problem. Simply launch multiple instances of the Pro-Five instrument - each with its own stereo output feeding into Cubase's mixer channels. Or, try Steinberg's Model E virtual analogue synth for VST, which is more or less a simulation of the classic Mini-Moog. Although you won't get the 'wirier' clavinets and 'lusher' string sounds to be found on the Pro-Five, it's a bargain.

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