Vintage 1980s synthesizer rebuild key to former NAIT student receiving provincial honour
05, Sep, 2023
EDMONTON, Sept. 5, 2023 – Remember the synthesizer sounds that made 1980s music stand apart from that of other decades? One synthesizer in particular, the Prophet 5, was a market leader and industry standard and was instrumental in albums like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Madonna’s Like a Virgin and Peter Gabriel’s So, as well as in memorable movie soundtracks. Daniel Sayfullin, a former electronics engineering technology student from NAIT, has received a provincial honour for artfully recreating that vintage sound in a Prophet 5 replica he built from scratch.
Sayfullin has been nominated for the 2023 Capstone Project of the Year Award, which is presented annually by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET).
Currently, the only alternatives available for musicians to produce the classic sound of a Prophet 5 synthesizer is to use a virtual plug-in on a computer or purchase an original or modern version of the synthesizer.
According to Sayfullin, the problem with the first option is that it’s tantamount to asking a devotee of the look and feel of books to read from a tablet.
“While the synthesizer output is technically the same, it’s a completely different experience adjusting knobs on a physical device compared to staring at a digital image,” said Sayfullin.
The challenge with the second option is that most people cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for a modern version of these synthesizers or tens of thousands of dollars for original synthesizers from the 1980s.
Sayfullin’s project goal was to bring back the Prophet 5 in both a physical and affordable form, filling a niche in the market for a low-cost, high-quality polyphonic synthesizer that also includes modern features, such as an OLED screen, USB MIDI input, and USB C power.
He had a special interest in this project because he’s a fan of synthwave music (an electronic music microgenre that is based predominantly on the music associated with action, science fiction, and horror film soundtracks of the 1980s), which makes heavy use of analogue synthesizer sounds.
Owing to the inspiration drawn from 1980s synthesizers, he focused significant attention on the physical appearance of the synthesizer. The enclosures were made of stained red oak, the front and rear panels powder-coated aluminum.
“As the only one-person former team nominated for this year’s Capstone Project of the Year Award, Daniel Sayfullin has developed a technically sound, cosmetically appealing, practical solution to filling a market need,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “Not only that, its function brings to mind a remarkable time in music history that resonates with many music buffs.”
Sayfullin’s project is one of nine finalists for the 2023 ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award. The winning project will be announced at the end of October.
The Capstone Project of the Year Award was established by ASET in 2017 in response to overwhelming member interest in stories about Capstone Projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students from NAIT, SAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic, and Lethbridge College as part of their end-of-program requirements.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 17,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET