Unlike many Sequential artists who ply their trade in the studio or on stage, Andrei Kudryavtsev labors largely behind the scenes as a technologist. With a Computer Science degree and a background as a classically trained pianist, he’s combined his two passions into a lifestyle as an Intel engineer and a synth tech/home studio maven. As Andrei puts it: “Everything that I’m working on falls into one of those categories and when it’s somewhere in the middle that makes me the happiest. The world of music and technology opened up for me when I got my first synthesizer 20 years ago. Fast forward to the present and I’m a Solutions Architect for Intel, working on Solid State Drives that power the leading edge of that technology. But by night I’m in my studio, immersed in the world of synthesizers. I enjoy repairing vintage instruments, especially early digital ones, as they are computers on their own. There are generally no standards, different architectures, and in every case there is a real catch to overcome hardware limitations. I’m known for my work on sampler restoration — instruments such as the Fairlight Series II/III, EMU Emulator I/II/III, Kurzweil 250, the original SCI Prophet 2000, the Synclavier, and many more. Each of them are unique in many ways including their sound. All of this was sort of the groundworks for my involvement with Sequential and the Prophet-X.”
We chatted with Andrei about the SSD used in the Prophet X:
Tell us about your work with Sequential.
“I was introduced to the Prophet X project half a year prior to its release. At that time, Dave Smith was finalizing the components to be used. Intel had already worked closely on the CPU architecture. You’d be surprised to know how powerful the Prophet-X is internally. It’s PC based architecture is married to an analog path in the most elegant, creative, and technically advanced way. But the Sequential team developers did everything possible to insulate the user from experiencing it as a PC. Since it’s a sampler by design, it needs storage. Speed and reliability are equally important. It also had to be able to withstand touring and a lot of associated shock and vibration. That’s there my storage experience came in.”
What makes Prophet-X special?
“The clean, clear design of Prophet-X that you see from the outside has to be supported by the responsiveness and reliability of its hardware architecture on the inside. The way I see it, the instrument should be like an embedded ‘Space Shuttle computer’ which has no right to fail. Many users realize the advantage of SSDs over traditional hard drives in that there are no moving parts and faster speeds. But how then would you select the right SSD product which fits the needs of product like the Prophet X? What tests you need to run in order to qualify it for that? That’s the question Dave Smith and his engineering team were asking when we met for the first time.”
How did you select storage for Prophet-X architecture?
“Basically, unlike a Space Shuttle computer, you’re not sure about all of the various conditions under which music instruments will be used. You may play today in a studio, have a gig tomorrow at Burning Man, and next week play at Anjunadeep Open Air in San Francisco. You might experience unexpected power loss, physical vibrations, or extended temperature ranges. At any given moment you expect it to be working the same as before — fast and reliable. That’s how we decided to consider SSDs, which are designed for Data Centers rather than typical consumer products.The Intel® SSD DC S4500 Series was nominated for that. To simulate scenarios above, we needed to re-create them in the lab test experiment. Imagine Prophet-X in a temperature controlled lab set up with additional heating plates all around it. Then it powers on automatically, boots, simulates user activity including writing of data — with unexpected shutdowns in the middle of them. Now, set it on a loop and run it for weeks. That was the qualification test we ran, fully scripted, logged to make the Prophet X ready. Intel SSDs passed. Other didn’t. I don’t know of any other synth designs that have run under such complicated conditions just to test their capabilities.
Think about how many sounds are packed into this machine. How big and complex its key maps are. But you turn it on and immediately forget about that. You scroll through sounds and they play instantly. How come? Well, no matter how fast is your storage you should have some serving time. Dave and his team did a tremendous work to optimize data flow for how samples are loaded in stages while being playing in real-time. Efficient software development meets advanced SSD capabilities! That’s what truly amazes me about this synth.”
Any interesting Prophet X tricks or techniques you’d like to share?
“The Prophet X great for sound design. You may think that samplers were designed to recreate realistic instruments. Definitely Prophet X can do that, but it’s not just designed for that. Its hardware performance allows advance sample manipulation that can completely change the nature of a sound. In tight connection with an analog synth engine this opens up many possibilities. I use a lot of different modulation routings. I can modulate a lot of things that people may not have thought about before — modulating sample start by key velocity. So on a basic piano sample with higher velocity, it plays the sample at an earlier point, catching the attack. While for lower velocities playback starts later in the sample, so the attack portion is skipped. Also, modulating sample length and offset at the same time is a nice trick to emulate granular synthesis, especially at higher modulation rates.”
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