A compact poly-synth from one of the most respected names in analog synthesizers
Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.
The Sequential Take 5 represents the most compact, portable and affordable entry into the Sequential universe of sounds. Its five-voice architecture is beautifully analog, coupled with a full complement of digitally controlled modulation and effects.
Dave Smith (1950–2022)
Instrument designer Dave Smith sadly passed away earlier this year on May 31. After founding Sequential Circuits (1974–1989), Dave was at the forefront of synthesizer, sequencer and drum machine technology for almost five decades. Notable accomplishments include the Prophet-5, the development of MIDI and the world’s first soft-synth. In 2002 he launched Dave Smith Instruments (DSI) before regaining the Sequential name in 2018. Last year Sequential was acquired by the Focusrite group, and the first release under this partnership is the Take 5.
Past Featured Reviews
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Let’s Take 5
The Take 5 measures 25.5″ x 12.75″ x 3.75″. It features an all-metal chassis with plastic molded end caps. The 3.5-octave keybed is made by Fatar and features 44 full-size keys. On top are 36 pots, 10 rotary encoders, a large filter knob, 50 backlit push buttons, a small alphanumeric display screen, and top located pitch and mod wheels.
On the back, you will find 1/4” jacks for headphones, stereo output, sustain pedal and a footswitch. You also get traditional MIDI I/O and USB. Power is supplied with a conventional IEC main connector.
Zen and the Art of the Take 5
The Take 5 five-voice architecture sports two analog VCOs. The VCF is an analog four-pole, resonant low-pass filter based upon Dave’s classic Prophet-5 Rev 4 filter. From there, it’s all digital. The Take 5 is a Zen-like balance of features and economy. Most controls are single function with minimal menu diving or internal features. What you get is well chosen and smartly implemented.
The analog oscillators are continuously variable from sine and sawtooth to various pulse width options. You also get hard sync, a sub-oscillator (on Osc. 1), independent keyboard tracking for each oscillator and Frequency Modulation (FM) options.
While very similar to past Sequential offerings, the analog filter is a tad more rounded and less biting in the extreme high-end than most of the Prophet family. I may actually like its smoothness and warmth better. To my ears, smooth, warm and rich define the overall sound of the Take 5.
I also like the large, super smooth filter knob, which makes it a joy to play and tweak with musical precision.
Diving into the digital side, you get two LFOs, two envelopes, two effects processors, a mixer with pink and white noise, an arpeggiator, 64-step sequencer, overdrive, glide, vintage mode, unison and clock/tempo control. There is also well-implemented aftertouch and velocity sensitivity.
LFOs and Envelopes
LFO 1 is global, and LFO 2 can be used per voice. While traditionally Envelope 1 controls the filter and Envelope 2 is the amp, you can set Envelope 2 to control both. This frees up Envelope 1 as an auxiliary modulation source. Also, both offer a delay option to the onset of the envelope.
ARPs, Sequences and Unison
The arpeggiator offers multiple classic modes, a cool note repeat option and a three-octave range.
The sequencer is fantastically simple. Each step/note is solely played from the keyboard, with the option of rests and ties. There is no control of velocity or level, nor muting and tweaking as it plays.
Unison mode is quite lovely on the Take 5 with the option to add up to five voices with seven detune options, as well as a single-finger chord mode.
There are two digital effects sections, three if you count the standalone overdrive knob—great for roughing this synth up. The first section can be set to chorus, flanger, phaser, digital high-pass filter, ring mod, a choice of four delays [digital, tape (x2) and bucket brigade] or rotary speaker.
The second section is reverb offering a single signature reverb with real-time control of mix, damping, pre-delay, decay and tone. While both sections may not replace your favorite outboard effects, each effect is highly usable.
I especially liked the BBD and tape delays, and the reverb. Rather than being mediocre at covering multiple styles, the reverb has a signature tonality that I found quite useful and charming.
Glides, Slop, Hold and Splits
The Take 5 offers polyphonic glide, a vintage control that introduces old-school oscillator slop, hold control and possibly my favorite feature on this synth, low-split mode.
In addition to the usual keyboard-octave transpose feature, low split mode divides the keyboard at the center C and drops the bass side one or two octaves allowing you to hold down the low end while still playing higher notes on the right-hand side. I wish every small-scale keyboard had this feature.
Finally, there is a patch memory of 128 user and 128 factory user slots and a preset button that, when off, sets the keyboard instantly to match the settings of each front panel control.
Unlike reviewing and recommending for what a microphone or compressor is best suited, reviewing a synthesizer is more a case of for whom it is best suited.
First up, the Take 5 sounds fantastic. It’s full and lush with a great smoothness and touch of warmth to its tone. It can get aggressive, but it never gets piercing and irritating like many modern analog (and digital) synths. If you are looking for a glitch box, this is not it.
Similarly, the modulation matrix is relatively simple compared to many modern synths, so this is not a make-it-weird, self-evolving patch machine. Also, the Take 5 will not be the center of your voltage-controlled external modular synth universe.
While much of that sounds like an indictment of the Take 5, it helps outline why I like this synth and to whom it is best suited.\
Many current synths are a deep tweaker’s paradise that allow you to spend weeks designing impressive patches. By contrast, like classic synths of old, the Take 5 is a player’s machine, and I’m not talking about just ripping killer lead lines. Instead, this is a synth for those who like to sculpt sounds on the fly as they play, and then play and compose with the sounds they sculpt. This is precisely what appeals to my sound design tastes. This workflow makes the Take 5 perfect for sonic adventure in the studio and on stage.
I was instantly drawn into the sound and feel of the Sequential Take 5 and its stellar-sounding, organic approach to sound creation; and I am only scratching the surface. Despite its compact size, focused feature set and price, this beauty is infused with classic Sequential DNA through and through.
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