elta KE-10 FM keyboard with realtime programmable rhythm

This fullsize FM keyboard has very plain 2 operator FM sound with realtime programmable rhythm, which in a limited way can be also abused as a tekkno drum computer.

The percussion is made from 6 typical electronic sounding FM drums. Annoying is that the drumpads work only during rhythm pattern programming. The accompaniments are quite standard, but at least they accept also disharmonic key combinations and not only those few ones considered "chords" by the establishment, and there are each 4 selectable bass and chord preset sounds for them. The sounds are 2 operator FM timbres those sound nicely warm, smooth and noble, although not really realistic. This way the sound generally reminds more to classic expensive home organ or e-piano timbres than to the rough and noisy sample stuff found on cheap modern tablehooters. This instrument was also released as WSB 719, Superb Sound EK-680 Nightingale and AudioTon EO-6 (seen on eBay).

Apparently a direct successor of this keyboard was still named Elta KE-10, but contains the more advanced Letron MC-103 hardware (only slightly changed control panel layout, type label "Elta West Germany  KE-10", claimed by an eBay vendor).

main features:

elta KE-10
On the panel PCB is an empty section with omitted components. 



The speakers of this instrument can play fairly loud. A bit unusual is that the Elta KE-10 has an MC- series CPU but no demo melody; I quickly tested the keyboard matrix and found no hidden one as an easteregg. (I haven't examined the hardware closer yet.)

The preset sounds of this instrument have the typical 2 operator FM timbres and most are not programmed really realistic but resemble more classic home organ or e-piano timbres since most have very simple envelopes. But they don't sound unpleasant but have quite warm and noble sounding timbres (less rough than my Yamaha PortaSound FM keyboards) with nice bass range. Unfortunately it features no really freaky tekkno noises but mainly acoustic instrument imitations. The "funksynth" is a typical FM synth brass that slowly fades quieter; "cosmic" is a similar but more saxophone- like timbre. The "piano" is a typical FM timbre with hollow bass range. The "banjo" sounds a little thin. Great is also that (like most FM keyboards) the timbres are time- dynamically playable, i.e. the timbre of notes changes depends on how long a key is pressed, which provides a relatively expressive playability despite the keyboard is not velocity sensitive. The presets contain no vibrato and beside "music box" all timbres decay quite fast with sustain off. Like with Letron MC-3, the OBS preset sound buttons can be also used as a realtime sound control, since they also change the timbre of held notes and re- trigger their envelope. Due to its separate FM sound chip, also this instrument can be likely easily modified into a simple FM synthesizer, like I did with the Fujitone 6A (and thanks to the programmable rhythm it may be even more interesting to change the percussion this way).

The percussion has the typical electronic FM timbre known from the OPL3 "MIDI synth" of early PC soundcards, which is different from the MC-3 percussion. Great is that this instrument has a realtime programmable drum pattern ("custom drummer"), which functions much like with Elta KE-6, but here fortunately has an additional "cancel" button to clear  individual percussion instruments from the pattern when pressed together with its drumpad button. Fist you have to select one of the preset rhythms as a template and press the "program" button, which starts the LED chain walking light in the tempo of the rhythm. Then (similar like a Yamaha PortaSound's "custom drummer") you can now add percussion in realtime with the drumpads to the selected rhythm. You can also clear the entire user pattern (which initially contains the template rhythm) by pressing "clear". This automatically adds a closed hihat as metronome to each bar of the pattern, but you can delete it by pressing "cancel" together with the "hi-hatclosed" drumpad; the metronome also disappears as soon closed hihats are manually added. You can finish the pattern by pressing "stop" or "play"; the latter seamlessly continues the new rhythm in normal play mode. Unfortunately you can not exchange the accompaniment later without manually re-entering the pattern. If you want to modify the user pattern later, simply press "program" again while the pattern is running (when off, it is replaced by the current preset rhythm). The programming mode can be also abused as a realtime tekkno drum computer, and unlike Elta KE-6 you can even play keyboard it in this mode. The pattern resolution seems to be 32 steps (24 with waltz); with the MC-3 and all my other similar instruments the user pattern is 16 steps long. There is also a ">" button in the "custom drummer" section, which purpose I haven't figured out yet. (It seems to do nothing.)

The accompaniments sound brave and fairly establishment and contain nothing really unusual. But there are each 4 preset sound variations for bass and chord. Nice is that the fingered accompaniment accepts also disharmonic key combinations and not only a few establishment chords. There is also a manual bass mode, and with rhythm off the usual manual chord mode.

Regarding the CPU type label, also a variant called "MC-8" may exist, which appears to be the genuine name of this hardware class (e.g. MC-3 keyboards (like Letron MC-3) also have "MC-3" in their CPU name).

Likely a successor of the Elta KE-10 was the Superb Sound EK-380 (49 fullsize keys with speakers next to them, 20 OBS preset sounds and 12 rhythms (many similar names), drums on rightmost keys instead of drumpads, FM synth sliders (like Yamaha PSS-390 or even closer the Yamaha PSS-470), simple sequencer, 1 demo melody | seen on eBay). A closer successor was the Letron MC-103 (same case style and FM sound). Another successor may have been the Majestic EK-660. A somewhat similar instrument like the Elta KE-10 is also the VTech Rhythmic 10 (but with squarewave sound) and the midsize GPM MC-5000.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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