The Profree-4 is a cute-looking Prophet-5 clone that you can now invest in on Kickstarter. But that price is extraordinary!
I reported on this back in 2020 when it was spotted at the Tokyo Maker Faire. At that time, it was called the Prophet-Mini, and we weren’t entirely sure if it was real, analogue or just an emulation of some kind. A couple of years later, and after a lot of intense development, the project is looking for funding and preorders to get it into production.
The development team consists of producer Barbara Asuka and engineer Synth-senpai. They’ve been developing the Profree-4 as open-source hardware to make all their research available for free and passed on to the community. Open Source hardware is not quite the same as software because you still have to buy the parts; you don’t get that for free. But anyone will be able to build their own under the “Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International” license.
The Profree-4 is based on the same discrete components of the original Prophet-5. PikoPiko Factory has reduced it in size to have a mini-keyboard, and it can also run on batteries. It has guitar strap pegs on the side so you can sling it over your shoulder and play it as a keytar, which is nice. As the name suggests, it is 4-note polyphonic. There’s a weeny built-in speaker and MIDI In/Out.
I’d like a bit more detail and some decently recorded demos, but it doesn’t look like PikoPiko is particularly fabulous at the whole marketing game. Hopefully, they’ll lend it to someone who can make it sound fantastic. In the meantime, we have this:
The Profree-4 project isn’t complete yet, and part of the Kickstarter is the need to raise some funds to keep it going. The goal isn’t very high at £7,350, but the kits are a lot more expensive than you think. The PCB set is around £614, which seems ok, and then you’d have to source the case and components yourself. However, to get the whole kit, including the case, keyboard and all the components, you’re looking at £4,293. That’s a lot; that’s more than a Deckard’s Dream kit; in fact it’s over a grand more than a bleedin’ Sequential Prophet-5. What are they thinking?
So, make no mistake, the Profree-4 is a serious piece of gear. Unfortunately, at the moment, the impression it gives is one of being cute and adorable, fun and open source. So, suddenly having to come up with 4 grand feels crazy when you can buy the real thing for less. It’s a lovely idea, but the cost is so far off the mark that I doubt that anyone is likely to put the money down. They will have to sell a lot of T-shirts to reach their goal.
Maybe, someone, a manufacturer, will see it as an opportunity and take it on to find a more realistic price point. There’s a market for a cute Prophet-5 clone definitely, but it would need to be around the £1,000 mark to succeed.
Sequential Prophet 5
- PikoPiko Factory Profree-4: PikoPiko Factory