Bontempi ET 202, System 5, Music is our world   mini keyboard with nice digital synth sounds & trancey arpeggio- accompaniment

This is the likely smallest Bontempi "System 5" keyboard. It is 4 note polyphonic and has each only 15 sounds and rhythms with single finger accompaniment. This thing features some nice howling digital lo-fi synth sounds and its special feature is the "auto harmonizer", which is an arpeggio- like accompaniment voice that follows held main voice notes. The trancey accompaniment is especially nice for newage, reggae and dreamy ambient musics.

This instrument was also released as Bontempi BT 204 (with pink instead of blue writing).

main features:

pcb logo: 'CISEL' Note the DAC- & key matrix resistor arrays.
This keyboard has a really awkward and confusing user interface with only 3 buttons, those select functions through simultaneously pressed keys, but do something else when released without pressing a key. The "sound" button selects one of the 15 preset sounds though white keys, and selects the next sound number (like a "+" button) when released without key press (still quite logical). The "style" button selects a rhythms by white key and starts it, or behaves as rhythm "start/ stop" button without key press. The "function" button selects everything else {chord programmer, main & accompaniment volume, tempo, "auto harmonizer" on/ off, power off} through black keys, and without key press (this is really illogical) it starts the demo music, which annoyingly always roars with maximum volume and can not be adjusted quieter. IMO this user interface is one of the least intuitive since the computer text editor "vi". Fortunately at least the controls play no noises. The 4th (red) button is simply "power on/ reset". After power- on (or accidental "reset" button press) the instrument plays quite loud. The volume control steals bits from the main voice and thus badly reduces the sound quality when set low. It is recommended to add a real volume potentiometer here.

Attention: After dismantling this instrument, it can be only successfully re-assembled in a zero- gravity environment ;-) because always either the plastic buttons or the PCB falls out depending on its actual position. To prevent this, use a strip of adhesive film  from outside to hold the buttons in place while closing the case.

The preset sounds are relatively complex, but sound rather harsh, thin and a bit noisy. They seem to be made each from 2 layered waveform samples with complex envelopes and some contain a chorus effect. This was likely a predecessor of the Bontempi GT 509 sound hardware and has many sound similarities with Bontempi BS 2010. The "electric piano" has vibrato and resembles an FM piano sound. "honky tonk" has additionally a detuned chorus. "fantasy" sounds like a bright vibraphone layered with a wooden organ pipe; the vibrato turns very slow with low notes. The organ pipe has slow attack rate, thus with short notes only the vibraphone is audible. The "synth guitar" is a somewhat voice- like and sitar- like chorus timbre that howls with about 4Hz and fades silent. It also resembles "fantasy" on Casio SA-1. The "mandolin" rings. "jazz organ" sounds like a metal pipe organ rank chord with fast attack rate and chorus. The "accordion" has chorus and turns harsh with high notes. "clarinet" and "flute" have weak vibrato (about 5Hz); flute has a quite grainy bass range. "brass" is a nice brass ensemble that turns first brighter and then dull; only a tuba(?) with vibrato stays audible with held notes. "carillon" resembles a bright Rhodes piano (timbre like metal organ pipes). "space piano" is a dull guitar (having sustain) layer with a synth violin (or theremin timbre) that has fast howling vibrato and slowly fades silent; the violin subvoice has a slow attack rate and no sustain, thus with short notes only the guitar is audible. "ghost" is a synth sound mixed from a fast (10Hz?) and a slow (4Hz) howling timbre that slowly fades silent. (Both howl by about 1 semitone.) "oriental" sounds like a bright glockenspiel layered with a tone that has fast howling detuned vibrato and fades silent (sounds Chinese). "synth harpsi" is a harpsichord sound with vibrato (bass range resembles an accordion). Selecting a rhythm always selects a corresponding preset sound, which disturbs live play.

During rhythms the first 6 keys are used to play single finger chords. The chords can be assigned to them by pressing "function" + "rec.". The LED starts to flash and you can now play normal single finger chord (organ timbre) in the right keyboard section - press simultaneously any of the leftmost keys ("1" to "6") to assign the current chord to it. Press "rec." again or start a rhythm with "start/ stop" to end this mode. There is no manual chord mode (beside the programming mode), thus chords can be only used with the rhythm accompaniments. A strange glitch of this instrument mutes the accompaniment voice for a fraction of a second when a new chord is selected, thus you can musically chop the accompaniment by trilling notes in the accompaniment section (which sounds a bit breakbeat- like). The low- res sample percussion sounds quite thin and rhythms can not be played without accompaniment.

The accompaniments sound quite cheesy and somewhat remind to reggae music. When enabled, the "auto harmonizer" feature adds after about 0.5s a wonderful sort- of arpeggio pattern to any long held melody notes. The pattern depends on the selected rhythm and can not be played with rhythm off. Although this is a simple feature, in combination with the cheesy synth sounds you can play very nice newage or dreamy ambient musics with this thing. (A more versatile variant of this idea exists also in Kawai keyboards like Kawai MS20 or MS720.)

A possibly direct predecessor of this instrument was the Bontempi Concertino 32S. If you like the main voice sound of the ET-202, also watch out for the Bontempi BS 2010 or (better) KE 3860, those are based on the same sound engine and include a primitive synthesizer for far more sound variations. (Unfortunately these are maximum 2 note polyphonic and have annoying polyphony flaws. They also have no "auto harmonizer" and only fixed- key accompaniments.) A more versatile (but a bit differently sounding) successor of the ET 202 was the Bontempi GT 509. A GT-509 variant without drumpads and case shaped like ET-202 was released as Bontempi BT 604/N.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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