BUILDER PROFILE: Dave Smith Instruments

New Analog for a Digital World

Dave Smith is your greatest influence whose name you don’t know. Since 1977, his work has opened up new frontiers in music technology and created entire industries based around his designs. He is known as the “Father of MIDI,” released the first polyphonic and programmable synthesizer (the Prophet-5) as well as the first multi-timbral synthesizer, and developed the first software synthesizer in 1994. After years of working in the new frontiers of software synthesis, Smith returned to the world of hardware and founded DSI, quickly becoming known for incredible sounding instruments with innovative interfaces. His instruments reflect his history, combining the physicality and sound of analog with digital’s flexibility and memory. “I didn’t like looking at a computer monitor, typing, then hitting a note on a controller keyboard to get sound,” Smith says about his return to hardware, “I prefer a knob that changes sound directly and always does the same thing.” DSI instruments feature analog signal paths combined with dedicated hardware interfaces and digital control systems, making them easy to understand and incredibly versatile. Upon release, the Prophet ’08 and its smaller sibling the Mopho quickly showed up in pro studios and on tour with major artists, but their affordability ($300-$1999) has made them the choice of many independent artists and studios. All DSI instruments are built in San Francisco.

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REVIEW: The Tempest – $1999.00

Technically it’s a drum machine, but calling the Tempest a drum machine is like calling Abbey Road a home studio. The Tempest is a performance-oriented machine that uses six analog synthesis voices fed through layers of effects and sound-shaping tools to make personalized drum patches. Created by Dave Smith and legendary LinnDrum inventor Robert Linn, the Tempest combines the feel of an analog drum machine with the functionality of software production. With the Tempest, a performer can create and edit their sounds while playing or sequencing a beat with automated FX modulation, all in real time, then save their settings for the next show. The pads are velocity sensitive and incredibly responsive, and the Tempest is easy to understand, with physical controllers flowing in the same order as the signal path. Choose your waveform and begin to shape it with filters, compressors, distortion, and other FX you can set or map to two touch controllers. The Tempest doesn’t just deal with drums, though; its synth voices can easily create unique tonal instruments playable using the pads as a keyboard. Far and beyond anything else being made, the Tempest is the cutting edge of music production.

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