In January 2019, I was contacted by a gentleman who happened to be the original owner of an early serial of a Revision 1 Prophet 5. This was of course very exciting to me, as he was considering letting it go for a fair price.
There’s nothing I love more than a fair deal for good gear. The transaction and “negotiation” couldn’t have been more friendly and above board. We settled on a number and a meeting place, and I then drove 4 hours north of Los Angeles to give the gentleman cash in exchange for Prophet 5 #14.
The idea of getting not just a Rev 1 Prophet 5, but #14 was surely frightening. I’ve worked on a small handful of Rev 1’s in my time, but never one this early. The others, ranging in serials from 110-180, all had nice PCB’s and were built like a production product. They were like working on kludgy Rev 2’s. Matter of fact, the other few Rev 1’s I’ve restored were modified to basically be Rev 2’s by other techs, with cassette storage and all.
The Prophet had a pretty cool story to go along with it too. You have to remember that in order to get a serial this early, you had to have either pre ordered or have waited for the store to open on release day. The former was true for this. He put a down payment on it before it was released with Don Weir’s music store in San Francisco. The Prophet almost ended up being ripped away from him, as apparently Carlos Santana was eager to get a Prophet 5 as soon as possible following release. The music store had tried to make an excuse as to why this Prophet 5 wasn’t ready for it’s rightful owner, and only after getting a bit nasty with them did the gentleman discover why; they had written Santana’s name on the box in big black letters, probably because he called in for it and they figured they could make the guy wait for another one. He did win the argument, and went home with his Prophet 5.
The guy was also in what must have been a pretty successful cover band as well (a Prophet was a very pretty penny in those days). Part of their thing was all of their instruments being blacked out. This was sort of unfortunate, as the badges had to be removed for the guy to properly black out the Prophet, but he did it in a way I now appreciate. He covered the unit in black contact paper. Then, when he stopped using it, he put it in an anvil case that ended up rotting out. The contact paper basically caused the beautiful Koa wood to be kept in time capsule condition. When I got it back to my shop, i carefully peeled back all the contact paper to find fresh, gorgeous Koa Wood.
Since I run an incredibly busy shop, I rarely have time to work on my own gear unless its something we can expect to be rented our frequently. This means a lot of my own projects sit on a shelf until “one day”.
In the time it waited for it’s day to shine on the bench, we brought it to the Synthplex convention near our shop along with a trove of other vintage goodness. Sequential happened to be right across the hall from us. Their employees got a kick out of seeing our Prophet 10, and of course the early Prophet 5. Dave Smith is not known for being keen to discuss his vintage gear, rather wanting to talk about his new Prophet 6, which is a fantastic piece of new gear of course. Dave was actually seemingly interested in seeing this Prophet, as he knew this was not only an early one, but early enough that he assembled it inside his garage.
We happened to have some Prophet 5 replacement badges at our shop. We got one and rubbed off the Prophet 5 logo with some acetone. We brought it to the convention the next day and were honored that Dave Smith agreed to sign it to adorn the Prophet 5 he built with his hands. That signature is now affixed to the front. The other usual badges will be affixed to their respective location as the restoration unfolds. Thanks Tony K for making that happen!
Finally in October 2019 I had a free day to finally start work on my Rev 1. The guy who sold it to me told me that he’d never ever had it serviced, so I was expecting it to be unaltered inside, which it was… luckily.
Due to the old tantalum capacitors in these, it’s not a good idea to power them until they’ve been replaced. I was a bit disheartened to know that the gentleman who sold it to me did try and power it before contacting me to see if it worked. I was happy to find that the fuse holder was broken, though, so most likely this hasn’t been powered since the days it was in use!
I started of course by replacing the fuse with a new fuse cap and fuse, then opened her up. Boy was it dusty in there!
The PSU as it was originally. The 2200uF cap on the supply is so obviously kludged in there. There are some small labels on the larger capacitors which look like they could be to specify which components the capacitor is filtering for.
This is an unfinished blog entry that will be updated as time allows for the restoration to continue.