Korg Prophecy

Interested to learn about the attractions of this instrument, if anyone has time to write a few lines about it. It was the big news when I first got into synths etc. but I never quite found out why.

The Prophecy was much hyped when launched in the early days of virtual analogue synths, and had a high retail price.

The context for it now is very different.

I had a second-hand unit for a few years. I often used it as a compact controller keyboard because the size was good for me and the additional controls (wheels, log wheel, ribbon) were fun to use.

The VA synth engine is OK for its time; I imagine that every Korg VA since then (MicroKorg, Radias, Electribes etc) runs on the same basis, with a reduced number of parameters for the lower end models. The synth engine provides copious modulation sources. I enjoyed the Physical Modelling oscillators a lot.

As a high-end monosynth, it has nice features like a full set of hardware controllers and ports, and user-defined tunings.

I only sold mine because of lack of space when moving to a new place.


Multi Oscillator Synthesis System developed for the much vaunted Oasys, a workstation that even today is magnificent on a number of levels, and yet it cost ten grand back in the day so not many sold.

Oasys was one of Korg’s greatest victories as regards sound and technological achievements in modelling and so forth.

The Prophecy directly benefited from all that research and years of work on Oasys.

The Z1 came after the Prophecy and is inferior in sound, due to the fact that the same amount of processing power is dedicated to 16 separate voices, whereas the Prophecy is a monosynth (although sometimes it doesn’t sound like a monosynth).

Pulse Width Modulation is also employed to digitally map out analog impulses and model circuitry behaviour or physical characteristics.

The Machinedrum does a lot of virtual modelling, i think. One obvious example is the PI Kit, literally meaning “Physically Informed” drum parameters/modelling.


I wish I still had a Prophecy. It was a beautiful instrument to play. The left hand controllers were fantastic and it had extremely responsive aftertouch. The acoustic modeling engine was capable of some fantastic sounds, though they fell short of those that could be produced on Yamaha’s contemporary VL-1. Mind you, I never tried using breath controllers with the Prophecy, so it may have been capable of much more than I got out of it.

The plastic housing tends to get a bit shabby looking over time and the output jacks are a bit flimsy (but relatively easily repaired).

Easy to patch, especially with a software editor (back then I was using Sounddiver). A good synth and a risky move by Korg at the time. The Z1 will get you more models but will take up more space and lose the coolest controllers (the “log wheel” Peter mentioned), Korg’s MOSS board could be added to many of their workstations to give you the modeled stuff, but again, without the Prophecy’s awesome performance controls.

The Prophecy is well worth a look. If I found one in good condition and for a good price, I’d not hesitate to grab it.


I wouldn’t say that the Z1 is inferior in sound. It’s slightly different, but not necessarily worse imo. I had 2 Prophecys and currently still own a Z1. Z1 has more models, but misses out on the Prophecy’s wave-shaping.

Prophecy always had very quiet outputs too. I had to put noise gates on the back of both units I had.

I’m also not sure that the Z1 has the same amount of processing power as the Prophecy. Prophecy used TMS57002s (one for effects and 1 or 2 for the voice), but if you check the Z1’s 6 voice expansion, you’ll see how many DSPs were required for 6 voices:


totally love the Prophecy.

fascinating interview.

prices may be going up, although i was lucky and bought one cheap from a cool synth grrl in Tokyo.

the idea is to perform with Machinedrum, record/play machines, and the Prophecy.

Perhaps a qy70 sequencer.

portable and compact (kind of) enough to set up in the dj booth for a set.

Prophecy was the first synth I ever owned. It is a terrible, terrible beginner’s synth. Non-intuitive interface, and easy to get lost Menu-diving, particularly when you’re just trying to learn subtractive synthesis. 15 years later, and i’d love to get my hands on another one. I remember it sounded really cool and that it had depth that i was never able to properly explore. I’d say get one if you can get a good price, and know your way around a modern synth.


Bought a prophecy when they were new, it was a perfect size and a great MIDI controller.

It has some awesome synthesis potential (perhaps too much), it is not quick to program or easy to reach its sweet spot, even using the parameter buttons and rotaries beneath screen.

It excels at producing sounds that cut through a mix. It does benefit from external FX to really shine (or to sit back in the mix) as the onboard FX tend to sound a bit plastic.

The delay and arpeggiator combo is a strong point and it is capable of some quite edgy 303-ish leads and odd-ball noises.

Prophecy is not particularly digital or analog sounding or even an authentic acoustic-modelled synth. It works best when providing texture alongside other synths (that other synths cannot produce).

If Korg released it now, it would be more stripped back parameter wise but have a cool onboard step-sequencer (and mini-keys).

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Interesting. Thanks for the responses. Have seen them in the 150-200 euro range recently so could be worth testing out.

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check the ribbon and the aftertouch and the audio outputs :slight_smile:

later serial numbers are better as the earliest models had the os eproms soldered to the chassis (not impossible to deal with though).

you may enjoy this page of cool info:

visual editors that connect via midi are mentioned here and there around the place as a great way to edit and save the patches on a Prophecy.

soundquest pc/mac http://www.polynominal.com/site/studio/gear/synth/korg_prophecy/#prettyphoto/6/

progenie pc

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i agree with every you say except for the concluding remark :smiley: … i present to you, the faithful reproduction of the ms-20 by Korg. They did a simply fantastic job from all reports.

if only Roland would do exactly the same with the 303 :frowning: … like, as in … make a faithful exact reproduction of it. analog, not digital.

but i digress.

how about this for a cool idea: put a MOSS expansion board in a lush-sounding Triton Rack, and then use a Prophecy as a controller keyboard omg winzor <3

yes, i have borrowed a Casio ctk-3200 that does limited sampling and in fact has some decent 8" style organ sounds, rock organ, heaps of cool usable sounds. plays nice alongside the Korg. but when it comes to Shaku Hachi time, comparison of the two, the Prophecy is worlds away.

way ahead of its time.

what external effects would you recommend for the Prophecy if playing a set in a limited space, as in a dj booth? i guess the effects on the Octatrack would be fairly decent place to start.

Yes Octatrack would be my go to option today. Back when I still had a Prophecy it went inline to EH Deluxe Memoryman and Small Stone Phaser, then digital FX from mixer to Art Multiverb Alpha 2 and Alesis Quadraverb Plus.

The MS20m did have reduced size keys!

I’d rather see Korg reproduce the Mono/Poly which is what I eventually replaced the Prophecy with… way better synth!


in '98 it was a choice between a Mono/Poly and a Nord Lead II. I chose the Nord. Although in retrospect, i would have enjoyed the Mono/Poly more so.

i wouldn’t personally compare the Mono/Poly with the Prophecy tho :slight_smile:
in that they are different types of instruments, really.

what do you think of the MOSS expansion board into a Triton Rack with a Prophecy playing only the role of controller keyboard? all that processing power of the Triton, with the nuanced MOSS system essentially direct from Oasys, with the sheer delight of the Prophecy’s left side controls…

Owned both a prophecy and the z1…

Proph had a great keyboard, but crappy knobs/interface and outputs. Quite a few of the presets were all over some of my fave records from the late 90’s, so it definitely has nostalgia in its workings.

Sold and kept the z1… Much better interface, more Osc models and preferred the xy pad over the (still pretty good) log controller.

Either way they are both classics and if your into huge modulation options, dual filters, loads of Lfos and envelopes, interesting Osc models and the vintage virtual analog sounds of that time, then either are great value.

Some of the best distorted guitar sounds i have Created, deep basses, and evolving pads With more than just filter and pw mod progressions.

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very cool. okay i should check out the z1.

how about the Triton Rack with exb MOSS processing option, with a z1 as a controller synth?

cool, they have more rotaries than the Prophecy, and the xy pad looks the business

Triton rack might offer better fx than z1, but definitely reduce the interface power. Maybe the korg z1 knobs would automatically default to correct cc’s in the triton, but if not, they are all editable to different control change numbers.

Gotta say the z1 arp is bloody good too, not sure the triton has that.

External fx probably the way to go in modern times. The reverb is pretty sucky but has its uses, distortion and modulation fx were fine though.

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I think the Triton’s Z1 is 6 voices…?

Luckily, I have an 18 voice Z1! :smiley:

You could consider a guitar multi-effects unit, which work well on mono-synths imo.

I have an old Boss GT6, which I sometimes use with my Moog Voyager on-stage. The stack of modulation effects, as well as delays and reverbs etc. can give very interesting results.

I also sometimes use my Line6 HD500x for synths, since it has a stereo input.