Synthesist Chris Stack has had his hands on a lot of gear – and a lot of it with the Moog Music moniker on it. But every chance he gets, he’s bugging me about how in love he is with the Dave Smith Pro 2, the richly-appointed, nicely-overpowered monosynth on steroids as we described it earlier this summer.

And he’s having a lot of fun, transforming it into a hybrid digital/audio “hub” – a sound source, but also a central brain for exceptional soundscapes.

And in Chris’ hands, I’m certainly convinced, as this beast sequences beautiful frontiers of noise and melody. Just like Chris, making us lust after a synth over the weekend. But, as this often comes up in comments, my interest is never in whether you have to have some particular bit of kit. To me, the fusion of musicianship and instrument building is always inspiring – it’s something we can take back to our own work, whatever we’re using. Here’s Chris on his summer fling with this synth:

The Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2 is the most useful synth I’ve ever played. I got to borrow one for a short while and it quickly became the central control and performance hub of my analog and digital gear. In addition to its great internal sounds, with four assignable CV Outputs (and four inputs!), it (much like the Moog Multi-Pedal) is able to lend new functionality to your older existing gear.

For example, a Moog Voyager sounds great but it has (for all practical purposes) no MIDI clock synced features. Pair it with a Pro 2, though, and you can control things like the Voyager’s filter cutoff, volume, pan, wave shape and more with the Pro 2’s clock-synced LFOs, step sequencer tracks, envelopes and a variety of other elements.

I had a lot of fun connecting to multiple synths, starting the sequencer, and tweaking knobs. This video does not go into minute detail on showing how I did all this. It is meant as a quick look at some amazing possibilities. Think of it more as an “inspirational” than a “tutorial”. I wish I had more time to explore applications of the the Pro 2 while I had it.

And more videos:

  • Cool Demo – I really like how he’s integrating “All the THINGS”. Heck I’m in the middle of Re organizing my “studio” so everything is accessible from everything (no CV so that makes things easier) but I’m constantly finding something old in a pile of crap to play with. Consequently all the fiddling about leads to no actual songwriting, but the bills are paid I am having fun.

    • Chris Stack

      After I had to let it go, I would wake up at night with thoughts like “I should have connected it to…”, “I should have routed the LFO to…”, “I should have used it as the carrier for my vintage Electro-Harmonix vocoder”. The list goes on.

  • Cool Demo – I really like how he’s integrating “All the THINGS”. Heck I’m in the middle of Re organizing my “studio” so everything is accessible from everything (no CV so that makes things easier) but I’m constantly finding something old in a pile of crap to play with. Consequently all the fiddling about leads to no actual songwriting, but the bills are paid I am having fun.

    • Chris Stack

      After I had to let it go, I would wake up at night with thoughts like “I should have connected it to…”, “I should have routed the LFO to…”, “I should have used it as the carrier for my vintage Electro-Harmonix vocoder”. The list goes on.

  • mercury

    What’s being run on the ipad? Also where did you get those stands/rack stands, etc?

    • Chris Stack

      Running Koushion on the iPad. The A-frame racks I bought used at a 2nd hand clothing store here in Asheville. I think I paid $40 for them. I just got another one that I traded some bamboo flutes for.

  • mercury

    What’s being run on the ipad? Also where did you get those stands/rack stands, etc?

    • Chris Stack

      Running Koushion on the iPad. The A-frame racks I bought used at a 2nd hand clothing store here in Asheville. I think I paid $40 for them. I just got another one that I traded some bamboo flutes for.

  • Florian Krause

    It’s interesting. In the 90s synths made polyphonic melodies. Now they seem to mainly do monophonic blips and bleeps.

    • Chris Stack

      You’re thinking of the 80’s. I don’t think there were any synths in the 90’s. Most melodies I can think of are monophonic 😉 Just kidding though, but I have a lot of things that can do polyphony. I have very little that can create a tempo synced CV step sequence and add it to a tempo-synced ramp wave LFO and send it to my other synths. This thing does some interesting polyphony (actually paraphony) though. Check out the last video.

  • Florian Krause

    It’s interesting. In the 90s synths made polyphonic melodies. Now they seem to mainly do monophonic blips and bleeps.

    • Chris Stack

      You’re thinking of the 80’s. I don’t think there were any synths in the 90’s. Most melodies I can think of are monophonic 😉 Just kidding though, but I have a lot of things that can do polyphony. I have very little that can create a tempo synced CV step sequence and add it to a tempo-synced ramp wave LFO and send it to my other synths. This thing does some interesting polyphony (actually paraphony) though. Check out the last video.

  • J.Zamudio

    Hello Chris! sorry in advance for my question,but where do you bought that “keyboard stand” ???

    • J.Zamudio

      hahaha i just read, someone ask the same question…

  • J.Zamudio

    Hello Chris! sorry in advance for my question,but where do you bought that “keyboard stand” ???

    • J.Zamudio

      hahaha i just read, someone ask the same question…

  • Stefan

    Nice demo, Chris! I do have one question: have you experienced any stuck notes when adding ties to note sequences that are triggering external synths via Midi out? Whenever I add ties, I get stuck notes.

    • Chris Stack

      I don’t think that I ever used it to trigger external synths. I’d sync it to MIDI clock via USB and pump CV’s into and out of it. In the 3rd video I was using Koushion on an iDock, routed through Ableton to sequence the Slim Phatty in sync with the Pro 2 (just because I already had it hooked up).

      If the external synth you’re sequencing is poly, try switching it to a mono mode and see if that affects things.

  • Stefan

    Nice demo, Chris! I do have one question: have you experienced any stuck notes when adding ties to note sequences that are triggering external synths via Midi out? Whenever I add ties, I get stuck notes.

    • Chris Stack

      I don’t think that I ever used it to trigger external synths. I’d sync it to MIDI clock via USB and pump CV’s into and out of it. In the 3rd video I was using Koushion on an iDock, routed through Ableton to sequence the Slim Phatty in sync with the Pro 2 (just because I already had it hooked up).

      If the external synth you’re sequencing is poly, try switching it to a mono mode and see if that affects things.

  • LLCoolJeans

    We got one of these at my school over the summer, it rules!

  • LLCoolJeans

    We got one of these at my school over the summer, it rules!

  • Bob

    This is just so incredibly expensive for what it is. For that kind of money I’d rather invest in a modular, which can be tailored to my specific needs/taste – for sound design or studio use, though, for live use the Pro-2 would make more sense, obviously – but my god – the price! Just not worth it, sorry.

    • Vohs Naäryd

      I have a large Euro rack modular set up. Just bought a pro 2…. The pro 2s mod matrix rivals the modulation possibilities of the modular. Just my 2 cents. The pro 2 is fantastic for creating sounds quickly. On a modular the ease of creating sounds is not as straight forward. If you would rather spend your time messing around with patches instead of making music… Pro 2 definitely has a place and is actually a bargain for what you get. The sound quality is stunning

  • Bob

    This is just so incredibly expensive for what it is. For that kind of money I’d rather invest in a modular, which can be tailored to my specific needs/taste – for sound design or studio use, though, for live use the Pro-2 would make more sense, obviously – but my god – the price! Just not worth it, sorry.

    • Vohs Naäryd

      I have a large Euro rack modular set up. Just bought a pro 2…. The pro 2s mod matrix rivals the modulation possibilities of the modular. Just my 2 cents. The pro 2 is fantastic for creating sounds quickly. On a modular the ease of creating sounds is not as straight forward. If you would rather spend your time messing around with patches instead of making music… Pro 2 definitely has a place and is actually a bargain for what you get. The sound quality is stunning

  • Jamie Smith

    Hi Chris

    i just purchased the Pro2 loving it so far but i was wounding how it was configured in Ableton can you automate via the DAW? its very easy to set up the midi routing via USB but am unable to move say the cutoff filter and see the automation? is this even possible? You can see I’ve mainly been using my Virus which is easy to set that type of automation up any help would be greatly appreciated

  • Jamie Smith

    Hi Chris

    i just purchased the Pro2 loving it so far but i was wounding how it was configured in Ableton can you automate via the DAW? its very easy to set up the midi routing via USB but am unable to move say the cutoff filter and see the automation? is this even possible? You can see I’ve mainly been using my Virus which is easy to set that type of automation up any help would be greatly appreciated