Synth legend Dave Smith, designer of the Prophet-5, dies aged 72

Dave Smith
(Image credit: Sequential)

Synth designer Dave Smith, founder of Sequential Circuits and designer of the groundbreaking Prophet-5 synth, has died at the age of 72.

A short statement on the Sequential website says: “It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Dave Smith has died.

“We’re heartbroken, but take some small solace in knowing he was on the road doing what he loved best in the company of family, friends, and artists.”

Sequential was due to exhibit at the 2022 NAMM Show, which runs from 3 to 5 June. The company says that it will now decline to participate out of respect for Dave Smith’s memory.

Smith founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, releasing the Prophet-5 - the world’s first fully-programmable polyphonic synth - in 1977. Many other influential synths and drum machines followed, and he was also a key player in the development of the original MIDI spec, announced in 1981. Indeed, it is said to be Smith who coined the MIDI acronym.

After Sequential Circuits folded in 1985, Smith had spells at Yamaha and Korg, where he worked on the classic Wavestation.

Smith returned to the hardware synth market with his own company in 2002, starting Dave Smith Instruments. Over the past two decades, his products have played a crucial part in the analogue revival.

Dave Smith Instruments was rebranded as Sequential in 2018, with Yamaha having returned the name to Smith in 2015. A rebooted Prophet-5 was released in 2020.

Sequential was acquired by British audio company Focusrite in 2021. Most recently, Smith was involved in the development of the OB-X8, the first new synth from the rebooted Oberheim, with Tom Oberheim back at the helm.

Paying tribute to Smith, Focusrite CEO Tim Carroll said: “Dave’s passing is a great loss to not only the music community and music technology, but to the world itself. To say that he changed music is no exaggeration. Dave’s legacy is one of creative passion and a deep and lifelong love for music, music technology, and the musicians that continue to enrich our world by using his instruments.

“At 72 he was still actively designing his next generation of synths. At the same time, he had the foresight to mentor and build Sequential into a team that will continue his work and legacy without pause. Dave will be greatly missed, but his contributions to music will never be forgotten.”

Sequential is inviting people to share their own memories of Smith by emailing

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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