Potex - Cyber Keyboard (noble designed Chinese toy keyboard with great digital sounds & effects)

This is another great sounding 4 note polyphonic My Music Center successor. Regarding the pretty designed case with transparent parts, characteristic sound and well responding midsize keys it may sometime become a real "cult" thing in future. This instrument made in China doesn't look really toy- like but rather futuristic and noble (despite the circles may remind to Lego building blocks) and (after upgrading with sound output jacks and gentle illumination) would certainly also do great in a band.

The sound set is a combination of My Music Center and Play 'n' Jam keyboard sounds; also the percussion resembles the latter. But fortunately this one has no polyphony flaws and is very well playable. The 16 preset sounds can be modified by echo, a slow square vibrato or a very detuned chorus effect; all sound quite unique. Unfortunately it has no OBS controls but selects preset sounds and rhythms by multiple presses of group buttons (similar like Medeli MC-32, but doesn't talk). The instrument has 10 tiny drumpad buttons with lo-fi samples (5 percussion, scratching, a beep, 4 voices) those are nice for tekkno. Also the rhythms sound nice and have accompaniment, which is unfortunately only fixed- key, but can be disabled. There are also various small sound glitches those make this instrument sound unique, although it has less aliasing distortion then the original My Music Center.

There is no brand name on this instrument (only the text: "HK REGISTERED  DESIGN NO. 9910121.6, PRC REGISTERED  DESIGN NO.99302109.3" at case bottom), but on eBay someone told me there that the German mailorder shop Quelle sold it under the fantasyless trade name "Cyber Keyboard" (product no. "944.183 3"). The Master (Norbert Wiener, founder of Cybernetics on planet Earth) would certainly revolve in his grave regarding how many things were mindlessly named "cyber..." while nobody respects the true philosophical meaning of the Master's doctrine Cybernetics anymore. I later saw on eBay the original box with manufacturers name Potex on it. A version with clear violet control panel and the blue parts in clear green was released by Kawasaki. The Cyber Keyboard was likely a direct successor of the inferior Kawasaki Pro 37.

(Note: This keyboard has nice digital synth timbres, but don't buy one of these so far your only intention is to get a keyboard with faithfully imitated natural instrument sounds. This is a grainy lo-fi instrument and many of its sounds don't sound at all like what their name suggests, thus bought with wrong expectation it may disappoint you.)

main features:



The noble case design reminds much to classical Chinese furniture (and details like the grid patterns possibly remind to samurai amours or the like). The back of the PCB is visible through the transparent red control panel. The case is a bit oversized since the blue acryl sections left and right from the keyboard serve no technical purpose (the designer better should have installed bigger drumpads there); there are no lamps underneath. At he bottom is hidden under a black sticker an unused empty hole for a switch labelled "demo/ play". (My Kawasaki Pro 37 and SongMax HMP-138 keyboards have a real switch there.) The plastic buttons are unpleasant to operate because they have spiky plastic nipples on them, which especially disturbs with the 10 way too tiny drumpad buttons. A funny glitch is that the volume +/- buttons make the pitch howl up ("down" button) or down ("up" button) when rapidly pressed (noticeable in its own beep). On the technically similar Chicco - Sing 'n' Dance Orchestra the pitch changes proportional with the digital volume setting, thus possibly the Cyber Keyboard compensates this hardware phenomenon by software. The preset sounds are selected by group buttons in a sequence; like with e.g. Casio SA-35 they always play the currently selected sound, which is intuitive but disturbs live performance. Unlike most instruments of this hardware family, the Cyber Keyboard has no start- up jingle. (I haven't analyzed the hardware further yet.)

All preset sounds have a gritty synthetic lo-fi chorus with weak tremolo (4Hz) and resemble much My Music Center. Unlike the latter, they have less aliasing noise and the envelopes differ more. Although most sounds are not remotely realistic, they have their own reedy style and are nicely playable, because unlike many similar instruments the keyboard has no matrix flaws and responds fast enough. The "piano" resembles by its chorus a bit honky- tonk- like. The "trumpet" sounds by the chorus rather like a harmonica; the "oboe" sounds similar. The "music box" has sustain and resembles more a bowed glass that fades silent. The "bass" decay phase fades silent very slowly and resembles more a honky- tonk piano. The "guitar" has the same timbre with shorter envelope and sounds a bit brassy. The flute has strong zipper noise during its slow attack phase and fades a bit quieter during decay phase; by the strange tremolo it doesn't sound realistic (resembles perhaps a street organ?). The "e.piano" sounds more like a musicbox. "jazz guitar" sounds harsh and sitar- like, like the famous harsh My Music Center guitar. The "e.guitar" resembles more an e-piano or honky- tonk piano than a guitar. The "banjo" at least resembles what it is supposed to be, although the sustain is a bit too long. The "violin" is a hollow and glassy synth strings sound (not realistic). The "organ" has a slightly hollow timbre and strong zipper noise during its slow attack phase and fades a bit quieter during decay phase; it reminds to a dull accordion. The "harp" is another honky- tonk piano sound, which timbre slightly resembles a harpsichord. The "sax" has a thin and reedy timbre that resembles an accordion. The "french horn" has almost a dull strings timbre (like "violin" on  My Music Center?) with very long sustain.

With the "sound effect" button (pressed in a sequence) the preset sounds can be modified by 3 effects. The "vibrato" is a very slow square vibrato (about 2 Hz) and disables the chorus subvoice of the preset sounds. The vibrato is monophonic and restarts on the unchanged pitch after every new note, thus it stays inaudible during fast trilled notes since it finds no time to toggle. The "reverb" is a mislabelled very detuned chorus that makes all sounds even more honky- tonk- like. The "echo" effect retriggers the played notes with about 4 Hz and lower fading volume (i.e. no long continuous tones can be played in this mode). Because the retrigger oscillator is polyphonic and the phase of its switching frequency depends on the note start time, you can create chords with interesting pulsing textures by varying the note timing of long notes. (Another keyboard for such textures is the great Casio SA-35.)  The effects are switched off by the "stop" button and can not be combined with rhythm or the sequencer.

The percussion uses a different sample set than My Music Center and has nice lo-fi samples. The 5 drumpad buttons play monophonic (samples mute each other), but strange is that when trilled they play polyphonic and thus make a nice phasing effect. The 5 "special mix" sound effect pad buttons play always monophonic. The "disk mix !!!" is a record scratch sound. The word "yo !!!" is spoken by a low male voice, "woo !!!" has rising and then falling pitch and is either distorted shouted or another record scratch sound. "ha !!!" sounds like shouted during karate, while "do !!!" is no voice but only a low blip sound (like a distorted woodblock or coconut shell). Annoying is that these buttons are quite tiny and have spiky hard plastic nipples on them (at least they respond reasonable).

The percussion of the rhythms resembles the Play 'n' Jam keyboard. All preset rhythms contain a nice sounding accompaniment (bass + piano chord), that is unfortunately fixed- key and thus badly usable for melody play. But some may be usable for tekkno- like things and they can be muted and re- enabled with the "chord on/ off" button without stopping the rhythm. The rhythms unfortunately always reset the tempo to default and enable their accompaniment, thus they can be badly switched during live play (but they are anyway not OBS but can be only stepped through by a group button). Annoying is also that tempo has only 8 steps (from very slow to fairly fast).

The demo melodies are complex (over-?) orchestrated but partly sound quite detuned and the arrangements don't resemble my other keyboards. Also the chords have a gently detuned style that reminds to Atari XL POKEY musics. The 12 demo melodies are:

  1. The Beautiful Blue Danube [detuned orchestrion sound]
  2. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  3. She'll Be Coming Round
  4. Surprise Symphony
  5. Suzanna ( = "Oh! Susanna", with banjo)
  6. Jingle Bells (bizarre jazzy arrangement with too loud accompaniment)
  7. Auld Lang Syne (disharmonic jazz interpretation with bizarre placed glissandos)
  8. London Bridge
  9. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  10. 12 Days of Christmas (strangely phrased blues(?) version)
  11. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (nice funky latin/ swing interpretation with POKEY bass)
  12. O Cow Boy (= "Yakety Yatz")
A variant (predecessor?) of the Cyber Keyboard with same case style (panel acryl parts blue, sides/ speakers purple) but different and badly programmed sound hardware was released as Kawasaki Pro 37. A boring looking Cyber Keyboard version with only 32 keys, a row of round drumpad buttons and no blue "side wings" was released as Cyber Piano. Another pretty My Music Center successor with 4 note polyphony and nice effects is the Chicco - Sing 'n' Dance Orchestra. Another one with perfectly responding keys is the Medeli MC-32.
 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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