SCI Prophet 5 bought! (and reloaded with patches!)

Today I bought an SCI Prophet 5 rev 3.0! This is cheapest one of the three editions made. That doesn’t mean it came cheap, I’ll have to sell at least 3-4 synthesizers to make up for the loss.

Rev 3.x is the last and most common main revision. 3.3 is the last sub revision and came with support for SCI’s midi kit, but it also got 120 patch memory slots. The 3.2 can easily be upgraded to 3.3, but 3.0 and 3.1 can’t without lot’s of hardware modification. Not having the capability to be upgraded to 120 memory slots or getting the official midi make 3.0 and 3.1 the cheapest ones. Kenton does however offer a midi kit, but it’s a bit expensive, so I think I’ll pass. The P5 has CV/gate for one voice if you need to sequence.

The seller said the P5 had the original patches loaded, but clearly it didn’t. On non-midi P5s patches can be saved to and loaded from cassette. Of course any audio recorder better than a tape recorder will do.  The patch data can be downloaded from analog.no as 8-bit wavs.

I downloaded bank 1 as it contains the first 40 factory patches. To be able to import it in Logic I had to convert it to 24-bit audio. I followed the instructions below taken from Prophet 5 Resources

  1. Look at the Prophet’s rear panel and set the Data Record slide switch to ENABLED.
  2. Set the tape to the position that holds your program. Listen for the announcement.
  3. Set playback level play at 0db.
  4. Hold the Prophet’s orange RECORD switch down while pressing the grey LOAD FROM TAPE switch.
  5. The Prophet front panel will go dark, except for the LOAD FROM TAPE switch indicator will be lit.
  6. The L.E.D. will go out after about 40 seconds, now Stop the tape.
  7. If the LOAD FROM TAPE light blinks, an something has gone wrong. Adjust your playback level and try again.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work. And the instruction doesn’t mention how to try again, or describes the confirmation you get if the loading was successful.

I read somewhere that some poly Oberheim from the same era needed quite a hot signal for it to work, and therefore the headphone jack was recommended instead of the ordinary outputs. Before testing the headphone jack I tried all output settings on my RME Fireface: -10 dBv, +4 dBu and Hi Gain – but it didn’t make any difference. Except on Hi Gain where I once actually got the blinking led, which means error. Maybe the signal was hot enough at least at some point?

I connected the cable to the headphone jack instead and restarted the load procedure. In the first run I had the headphone volume encoder on very low volume, and it actually gave an error – some success! I tried again by pressing the “Load from tape” button. This time I set the headphone volume encoder to point to a quarter to, and believe it or not, the patch data was loaded and it was confirmed by the P5 rebooting.

I shot a quick video of it, first showing a failure, then success:

Here are my additions to the standard instructions:

  • The LOAD FROM TAPE light will stay on until it gets something loud enough
  • The P5 will reboot after a successful load (you’ll notice the TUNE button light up for a couple of seconds)
  • I don’t know how to cancel a load, but if someone knows, please tell me
  • The P5 wants a hot signal. Start low and gradually increase the output level