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Dave Smith is known as the pioneer of the first polyphonic and microprocessor-controlled synthesizer, the industry-changing Prophet 5, and later the driving force behind the generation of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) specification, which has since become standard to all modern synthesizers. He coined the acronym in 1981 and presented the idea of a Universal Synthesizer Interface (USI) after meetings with Tom Oberheim and Roland's Ikutaro Kakehashi. The plan was to create a common communications protocol between electronic instruments from different manufacturers around the world. The result was MIDI. MIDI was first publicly demonstrated at the Winter NAMM Show in 1983, when a Prophet-600 was successfully connected to a Roland Jupiter-6.


Smith has Masters degrees in both Computer Science and Electronic Engineering from UC Berkeleymarker. He founded Sequential Circuits, the premier manufacturer of professional music synthesizers, in the mid-70s. In 1977, he designed the Prophet 5, the world's first microprocessor-based musical instrument. This revolutionary product was the world's first polyphonic and programmable synth, and set the standard for all synth designs that have followed. The Prophet instruments played a major part in the recordings of all popular music styles, and are still prized by musicians today.

In 1981 Smith started developing the idea of MIDI. In 1987 he was named a Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) for his continuing work in the area of music synthesis.

After Sequential, Smith was President of DSD, Inc, a Research and Development Division of Yamaha, where he worked on physical modeling synthesis and software synthesizer concepts. In May 1989 he started the Korg R&D group in California, which went on to produce the professional musician favorite Wavestation products and other technology. He then took over as President at Seer Systems and developed the world's first software based synthesizer running on a PC. This synth, commissioned by Intelmarker, was demonstrated by Andy Grove in a Comdex keynote speech in 1994. Over 10 million of his second-generation software synth have been sold, which was licensed to Creative Labs in 1996, and is responsible for 32 of the 64 voices in the AWE 64 line of Sound Cards.

The third generation is the world's first fully professional software synthesizer, Reality, released in 1997. Dave was both the lead engineer on the Reality professional software synthesizer, and wrote all the low-level optimized floating point synthesis code. Not only did the full-featured synthesizer received a 1998 Editors' Choice Award, but Reality has earned the highest rating for a synthesizer or software application in the history of Electronic Musician Magazine's five-point rating system.

Currently Dave is designing hardware instruments again with the Evolver, Poly Evolver, and recently released Prophet '08 and Mopho synthesizers from his new company, Dave Smith Instruments. He is currently collaborating with Roger Linn (the inventor of the first drum machine to use digital samples) to release a new drum machine called the LinnDrum II. Roger Linn will produce the drum machine version, and Dave Smith the LinnDrum II Analog, which includes a four-voice analog synthesizer section in addition to drum machine and sequencing features.

Sequential Circuits Products

  • Prophet 5: The Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 was Smith's first commercialized product and was first introduced by Sequential Circuits in 1978. The Prophet 5 was an analog synthesizer, and groundbreaking in that it was one of the first analog synthesizers to implement patch memory, a feature which scanned the settings of every parameter on the synthesizer and stored it into internal memory.
  • Prophet 10: Introduced in 1980, the Prophet-10 was essentially 2 Prophet-5s in one big (and heavy!) enclosure. There were two 5-octave keyboards, allowing the musician to play two different sounds at one time. It also included a polyphonic sequencer module, with its own tape backup module, and up to 10,0000 note storage. With the sequencer option, it sold for US$9,000, and less than 1,000 were made.
  • Pro One - 1980
  • Pro FX - 1982
  • Prophet 600 - 1982
  • Prophet T-8 - 1983
  • Six Trak - 1984
  • Drumtraks - 1984
  • Prophet 2000 - 1985
  • Prophet VS - 1986
  • Studio 440 - 1986
  • Prophet 3000 - 1987 (Final Sequential Circuits product)


Dave Smith
  • Induction into the TECnology Hall of Fame at the AES show by Mix Foundation in September 2005.
  • Received (AES) Fellowship Award in 1987, which is given to a member who had rendered conspicuous service or is recognized to have made a valuable contribution to the advancement in or dissemination of knowledge of audio engineering or in the promotion of its application in practice.
Prophet '08'
  • Key Buy Award (Keyboard Magazine, November 2007)
  • Muzikmesse International Press (MIPA) Award, March 2008
  • Musiciplayers WIHO Award (2008)
Evolver and Evolver Keyboard
  • Key Buy Award (Keyboard Magazine, March 2003)
  • Key Buy Award (Keyboard Magazine, August 2006)
  • Musicplayers WIHO Award (2006)
Poly Evolver Keyboard
  • Future Music 2006 Ace Award
  • TEC Award nomination (Mix Magazine, 2006) Technical Excellence & Creativity in the category of Outstanding Technical Achievement, Musical Instrument Technology.
  • Synthesizer Of The Year Award (Electronic Musician Magazine, 2006)
  • "Most psychedelic electronic instrument 2005" (, 2005)

External links


  1. Mix Foundation. TECnology Hall of Fame 2005


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