Pro 52 and Pro 53 Review + Tips & Tricks
I have always wanted a Prophet 5 because it was one of the first 2 must have, coolest, most popular synths of all time along with the MiniMoog.
When I first started getting into synths around 1989 the Prophet 5 was going for around $2,000.00 (it originally it sold for around $4,500.00 in 1978...you could probably get a new car for that much back then) and all my favorite bands or artists were using it so I just had to have one. In the past few years, they have come down in price to about $1,400.00 but for one reason or another I never got around to getting one. What was so great about it was that it was the first polyphonic synth that was programmable, so you could make and recall presets instantly and it sounded amazing for basses, pads and even drums.
Native Instruments have recreated the Prophet 5 in the Pro 52 and Pro 53 modeled in software as a VST instrument. Yes, believe it or not all those hardware oscillators, pots, filters and circuit boards can be recreated or modelled in software and used on your Mac or PC inside Cubase VST. There are also a few new features that were not on the original keyboard, but best of all, you now have the advantages of not having to plug in power, MIDI or even audio cables which are susceptible to noise and take up more channels in your mixer.
Pro 52 Pro 53 What's the difference?
I really like the Pro 52 and have been perfectly happy with it for the past few years. The Pro 53 is exactly the same plus, it has some improvements and a few new features...it's not like there was anything wrong with the Pro 52 in the first place.
First, the oscillators were re-modeled to sound more like the original Prophet 5. They have also added 2 new features that the original Prophet 5 never had, like a Hipass filter and the ability to invert the envelopes. The Pro 53 also has a new bank of sounds, so if you already used the Pro 52 in some older songs, you might as well leave it in your plug-ins folder and just install the Pro 53 as if it were a new instrument. There is no problem using both at the same time. Native Instruments has also included a Pro 52 sound bank that you can load into the Pro 53 just in case you want to use the original sounds back in your song if you want to use the Pro 53 instead.
Once you have loaded up the Pro 53 you will hear the new sounds...and it really sounds like a new instrument with those hipass filters and some great new presets. It's really funny when people think a synth sounds more virtual when you use hipass filters, which have been around for a while now, but not so commonly used. So, for a lot of people, the Pro 53 will sound more like those other virtual synths like a Waldorf Q or Access Virus.
Cool Tip #1 Load it up and play the keyboard
The first time you load up the P5 into your VST Instruments Rack be sure to turn it on and hit edit so you will see the Prophet 5 front panel, just like the original with all the knobs and buttons. To see the virtual keyboard, click on the 'pro-five' logo on the lower right hand side of the screen
and the keyboard will now pop up. You can play the keys with your mouse, so start clicking.
To play the instrument from your MIDI keyboard, go back to the main arrange page and make a new MIDI track or choose an existing one that is unused. Next click on the output column and choose 'Pro-Five (1)'.
You might see another number in the parentheses like (2) or (3), which refers to the instrumentâs position number in the instrument rack if you have more than one instrument loaded at one time. Now you can play the P5 from your MIDI keyboard...but where it the audio coming from or going to? Look in your VST channel mixer and scroll over to the right, just before the groups. Ta da! You will see a new greenish/gray channel strip that says Pro-5. This means that you can play the instrument and run it through all the VST EQ, FX and Plug-ins.
Cool Tip #2 Playing the knobs
Now that you have loaded up the P5, you should start tweaking the sounds with the knobs. You will notice that you have to move the mouse up and down to play it. If you hold down shift and click on the NI logo on the lower left side of the panel and then play a knob, you will notice that now you can play it in a circular motion, like the VST EQ. This way feels more natural, plus the further away you move the mouse from the knob the more it slows down.
Cool Tip #3 Recording the knob movements
All those knobs are on there for a reason. Tweak them! It will make your synth parts come alive and it is fun. As you know, when you click on 'Write' in the VST mixer, you can record all the movements in the mixer, eq, fx sends, plug-ins (actually the first 16 parameters) etc... With the virtual instruments it is different probably because there are more than 16 knobs on the P5 panel and mostly because the knobs send sysex through MIDI. The Virtual Instruments are just like any other MIDI instruments you have as a keyboard or a rack mount module, so you must record knob and button movements on to a MIDI track.
To record the movements with your mouse, first be sure to go to your Options MIDI Setup Filtering and uncheck Sysex.
Cubase defaults to filtering Sysex (checked means on so it is filtering Sysex. Uncheck it so that you do not filter Sysex since you want to record it). Next make a new MIDI track and choose the same Pro 5 as your output. Now hit record in Cubase (the transport bar) to record your knob movement performance onto this new track. It is best to keep this automation performance on a separate track other than the MIDI performance track since it will be easier to undo, edit or move around the knob performance parts separately.
Cool Tip #4 Recording the knob movements with an external MIDI fader box.
It would be much better to use an external MIDI fader box to tweak the knobs because you can do 2 or more things at once. Unlike using a mouse, you can play cutoff and resonance simultaneously and as many other parameters as your control surface has or as many fingers you have. To do this you will need to use an external MIDI fader box or anything else that is programmable to send MIDI controller numbers. A lot of modern keyboards have 4 or more sliders that are programmable to send standard MIDI controller numbers as well. I have a JL Cooper Fadermaster and it took me about 1 minute to program the faders to play the parameters I use most often: Filter cutoff, resonance, envelope amount, attack and Amplifier attack, decay, sustain and release. If you look in the manual on page 10 you will see the table which tells you which controller number each parameter responds to. In my case they were numbers 70, 71, 72, 74, 81, 82, 83 and 84 for cutoff, resonance, etc... You could also use Keyfax Phat Boy or Native Instruments 4 Control which have rotary knobs, just like the original keyboard.
Cool Tip #5 Loading and Saving Banks
Whenever you load up the Pro 52 it will load the def.p5a file located in your original Native Instruments folder. It contains the original bank from the Prophet 5 created by John Bowen. As mentioned earlier, the Pro 53 has a new bank of sounds that uses the hipass filters. You could also download more banks from http://www.kvr-vst.com and then load them up for new sounds. To do this like the Steinberg VST Instruments, you would think that you would load it from the Instrument rack, file, load bank, but no,
Native Instruments synths have dedicated buttons on the synth's front panel where you click on to load and save banks. You can save your preset, bank or all. The type of bank is associated with the suffix and it is easy to remember...
a is for all
b is for
p is for preset
Cool Tip #6 Using Oscillator B as a Modulation source
One of my favorite effects and something that is missing from most modern synths and samplers is the ability to use an Oscillator like a LFO for modulation. Sending an LFO (low frequency oscillator) to a filter is pretty cool, but using an Oscillator instead is fantastic. It has a much higher frequency than a LFO which will give you a bright, wobbly, spiky FM like characteristic that is just amazing. To do this, simply click on the 'Filt' button in the 'Poly-Mod' section in the upper left -and corner of the front panel and then turn up the 'OSC B' knob and enjoy.
Hear the P5 in action!
I did a song with the Pro 52 playing the main melody synth part with lots of cutoff, resonance and envelope amount tweaking. You can hear it in action in the song 'Visions of a Perfect World' mp3 on my website: http://www.entropyofchaos.com. Start tweaking!
About the writer:
Costa Kotselas worked for Steinberg for many years as a product specialist and content producer for cubase.net. Costa has also been working as a consultant to some of the world's top film composers and is now offering intensive weekend "learn cubase" seminars.
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