Sequential has released the sad news that founder and synthesizer legend Dave Smith has died at the age of 72.
Dave’s contribution to the synthesizer community is huge. He’s there with the likes of Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim and Don Buchla as the American pioneers of the electronic synthesizer of the 1970s. He founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, two years after he bought his first Minimoog. By 1977 he had built probably one of the most influential synthesizers ever conceived; the Prophet 5. It was the first synthesizer to feature a microprocessor which enabled it to become the first programmable polyphonic synth.
In 1981 he wrote a paper on a new technological protocol that in collaboration with Tom Oberheim and Ikutaro Kakehashi of Roland became MIDI. That’s incredible. Dave’s interest in digital technology is often forgotten as we marvel at Sequential’s analogue legacy. But after Sequential Circuits closed in 1987 he went on to work for Yamaha building physical modelling engines and then moved to Korg where he worked on the Wavestation. The thing that blows my mind is that he invented the software synth that would end up powering the Creative Labs AWE64 soundcards.
It was thrilling to see Dave return to synthesizer building in 2002 with Dave Smith Instruments. And then in a universe aligning moment in 2015, he received his original company name back from Yamaha and in 2018 became Sequential. As if to celebrate Sequential released the Rev4 of the Prophet 5 and Prophet 10 to a hugely grateful community.
Just three weeks ago the synth community was thrilled to have Dave at Superbooth with the Sequential team to present his own synths and the long-awaited Oberheim OB-X8 in which he had more than a hand. He was a guy who loved to collaborate and there was such chemistry in the way he and Tom Oberheim worked together.
On a personal note, the Prophet 5 has been the one constant instrument that I have always wanted to own. There was something about the sound and physicality of that synthesizer that gathered so many sweet spots to itself. Was it the wood, the front panel, the knobs, those 5 Curtis based voices or that gorgeous 4-pole filter? Somehow the combination of those parts was greater than the whole. I loved the release of the Rev4 because it means that one day I may still own one.
I met Dave at Superbooth. He was sitting in the middle of a packed Sequential room looking intently at his phone in a way that radiates do not talk to me! So, naturally, I walked up and interrupted him. He was instantly warm and friendly and delighted that I had come up to tell him that I thought he was awesome and wanted to thank him for all his wonderful work in the world of synthesizers. We fist pumped and I let him get back to what he was doing.
Dave Smith was a visionary, technological wizard and a really nice bloke. We will miss him terribly.
- Sequential website.
- Dave Smith 1978: Collectorsweekly
- Dave Smith 70th birthday: Dave Smith
- Dave Smith Superbooth: Robin Vincent