Golden Camel-7A [Mutant Camel]     monophonic analogue transistor tablehooter

"toot... toooot... What the beep is that?"

We now proudly present you - the likely worst keyboard of all times!... ???

This thing was initially rather a fraudulent prop than a serious keyboard instrument, and the mechanical construction with its cable mess looks very much like assembled in a Chinese concentration camp, therefore don't buy a new one of these unless you really know what you are doing and that you still want it. If any instrument really deserves the term "tablehooter", then this loudly tooting plastic mock-up.

These drumpads are fake and only beep.. Here you can see the extremely wacky keys of this thing. The box shows a different variant with black case.
Although this looks like a modern digital stereo keyboard, its tone generator is only a monophonic tooting transistor circuit with vibrato in the technical standard of a 1970th toy organ. Its sound can be compared best with a Stylophone. The only modern part is a monophonic melody IC (COB module) that sounds worse than most melody greeting cards. But the analogue hardware is well suited for circuit bending; with some modifications you can get a lot of bizarre buzzy analogue electro noises out of it.

On the package box of this instrument is a picture of a black case version with the model name "SUNNY". A black case variant of this instrument was also released as MS-7A and MS-8A by Yongmei (brand label was too blurred, but seen on the Yongmei site).

main features:


These are the knobs I added.


In the (once widespread) class of monophonic transistor toy organs with vibrato this thing is unique because with 44 keys it is one with the longest keyboard. The modified instrument can make lots of very buzzy and thin low tones (well suitable for "Flat Beat" style electro musics) and especially when an unregulated AC adapter is set below the necessary voltage of my voltage regulator, the instrument modulates all tones with mains hum which adds to them an even more rough and buzzy appeal. This tablehooter sounds very unique and its creaky bass sounds have little similarity with nowadays average synthesizers (nor with TB303). The most similar sounding professional instrument I found is the historical monophonic tube keyboard Jörgensen Clavioline (although the latter can do many other timbres due to its filters and suboscillator).

Unfortunately the keys of my "Mutant Camel" are very flimsy (and might easily crack off when accidentally bent upwards), their leaf contacts often bend or tangle with cables and also the control panel switches may fail by oxidation because they scratch around on bare copper PCB traces (see Golden Camel-11AB photos), though I would not describe it as anything remotely "stage proof".

Here you see how transparent the flimsy plastic is.

circuit bending details

These are some crude hand drawn schematics of the Golden Camel-7A and my modification:

These may be inaccurate or partly even wrong, but this is all I have about it. The red components were added by me.

A direct successor of the Golden Camel-7A was released as Miles - Golden Camel-11AB, which looks very similar but contains crude digital sound hardware instead. Another 7A variant with rhythm chip (but likely still transistor tooter main voice) was released as EGroovz Composer 1 (silver metallic case, 4 red drumpads, 5 slide switches, made by K-Group Industries, sold by Toys 'R ' Us for 19.95$), which on got the worst destructive mocking critics thanks to its earbleeding loud tone and fragile construction. Other variants of the Golden Camel-7A (usually with less keys) were sold under many different brand names; e.g. a 24 keys variant has the name "Panashiba PS-100" and a 37 keys one "Jia Yin JY-3712A" and there are many others. Keyboards of this analogue tooting transistor hardware class can be recognized without hearing them by their lots of buttons labelled with alphabet letters and especially a "play/ store" slide switch; often there are also other slide switches labelled with alphabet letters. Also 3.5 mm microphone/ AC- adapter jacks with a strange (usually yellow) plastic rim are a typical feature.

The genuine manufacturer of all these wacky tablehooters seems to be the obscure Chinese company Yongmei (see here for their internet site); according to their proudly boasting "about us" page, their keyboard factory subsidiary is Meisheng, which uses only imported ICs and makes no own ones. The model names of their instruments often begin with "YM-" (=Yongmei), "MS-" (= Miles, MeiKe, MeiSheng) or "JY-" (=Jia Yin), but there are also others.  A more complete list is here.

Here are some eBay photos of other keyboards in the Yongmei transistor tooter hardware class. (I don't own these.) As usual, colours and "brand" names of all these case variants vary a lot. (I guess in this case the manufacturers know well why to change their name regularly - there must be an awful lot of angry customers around now those certainly never want to buy such a tablehooter again nor will recommend anybody else again to buy them...) Also the demo melody chips seem to vary. 
This little squeaker is sold in many toy stores and there is also an even shorter variant. The button layout can vary but the case shape stays the same. 

A fraud on eBay sold me a "Shining Star - Little Angel HD-2908" (layout like above) with false claims it had rhythm etc. In truth it beeps only with 1 timbre and the rightmost 4 switches are even dummies and do nothing at all.


This is called SK-3713E...

This thing is labelled Kamichi; I believe to remember that the Panashiba PS-100 looked similar.
This is the most widespread transistor tooter version. It was released e.g. as Yongmei YM-322B, Miles XH-322B (e.g. sold by Ostoy), Jia Yin JY-322B and Super-TS-3000, and there are still zillions of them new on eBay - some even badly overpriced.
The Miles - 370D tooter looks almost like a "real" keyboard.

...and this is a JY-2100; at eBay someone tried to sell this noble looking silver plastic hoax for the insane moon price of 69€.


This one is the definitely most bizarre and top of the line model of the Yongmei transistor tooter hardware class (see above), because this huge monophonic tablehooter has indeed 54 fullsize keys, a flashing light bulb, 4 OBS rhythms and even a real rhythm tempo slider (controls simply the rhythm chip clock rate) despite its main voice can only produce a very loud monophonic beep with vibrato. Additionally it contains a chip with 4 sample based preset rhythms. The instrument was released by Kamichi (not "Kamico" as I thought first) and another one was named XH-210 (both seen on eBay), but my specimen is missing the box and has no brand label at all.

I guess that this loudly tooting plastic monster will likely become rare in sooner future, because I really don't want to imagine how many annoyed owners, parents or listeners will finally smash them - considering them a mock-up or nasty novelty hoax. Also for a professional stage keyboarder it must be a strange "Candid Camera" experience to get spontaneously confronted on stage only with this "ersatz"- instrument in an unexpected situation. Otherwise for a circuit bender the Kamichi is certainly an interesting find, because it has a long keyboard, is less fragile than the 7A, and with some mods you can get some really weird analogue timbres out of Yongmei's transistor circuit.

I saw this thing first a decade ago on a flea market in Bremen; it had the typical alphabet buttons and 5 circularly arranged red buttons with rhythm names on them, but  I didn't ask for the price at that time, since I was carrying already much other stuff and my den stands already plenty full of other keyboards and videogames. Later someone demanded 10€ (too much) for such a thing. Years later I finally bought mine on a flea market; it was in very bad condition with many scratches, one speaker loose, several key hooks and a jack broken and some cables torn off, but it costed only 1.50€. I am still not sure if I have re-soldered all cables correctly back into place, because the previous owner had connected at least the "play/ store" switch wires wrongly (which disabled the melody chip).

main features:

This is an eBay picture. My specimen has different button colours and lacks the original box and microphone.
The "computer select"  keypad is as fake as with the Golden Camel-7A.




The case shape (besides control panel) of this instrument was likely modelled after some early 1990th designs of the Casio CTK ToneBank series, and the lamp cover resembles much the one of the Animal Keyboard toy instrument. The case and keyboard of the Kamichi is a bit more robust than the fragile Golden Camel-7A (and thus with some care certainly stage usable). In spite of this the plastic hooks under 2 keys of mine were cracked off, thus I fixed them with hotglue and a piece of thick insulated copper wire. The tempo potentiometer slider made a bad contact with its metal contact trace, thus I wired a soft wick cable to it to fix this. The main PCB has a different shape than with the 7A, but the rest is technically very similar. A small, dim light bulb flashes like a music light, but only during very loud sounds. (Without my additional volume pot it always played quite loud, but possibly the lamp just responds badly by confused cables.)

The electronics of the Kamichi is the same horrible cable mess with unreliable 1970th toy style metal spring switches like the Golden Camel-7A; there are multiple small and tiny PCBs in it and the rhythm is generated by a tiny COB chip module. Unlike with the 7A, the punched out keyboard leaf spring component is here either gold or brass plated. I replaced the 2 step volume switch with a 100 kOhm potentiometer (open end connected through 100µF cap against GND). The original switch is bridged with a 20 kOhm resistor on the PCB, which needs to be removed for this. (At low volume the sound distorts a bit with these components. The now unused switch can be certainly re-wired to turn off vibrato).

This instrument has 4 sample based rhythms, those select buttons also work as drumpads when no rhythm is played. 1 of the 5 rhythm select buttons is fake (wired parallel with another), thus there are only 4 rhythms and they also have no similarity with the button labels. I therefore have written down the 4 real rhythm patterns here:
button label drumpad sound real rhythm pattern
disco cymbal [c] [b-sss-s-b-b-t-t-]
swing, tango snare [s] [b-b-s-b-] (rock)
chacha tom [t] [c--cc---] (swing made from cymbal only)
rumba base [b] [b---b---b---bsss] (4beat with drumroll, majestic march?)

The 4 rhythms of this instrument are identical with the ones of the "Dancing Skull" sound toy (a walking white plastic skull with green flashing LED eyes, made in China by Goldlok), but not with with the similar chip of my Golden Camel-11AB. Due to this abused toy chip has no tempo control, the manufacturer wired the tempo pot the classic circuit bender's way. The clock input of the chip is AC controlled (HF at the potentiometer) and it can be overclocked until the rhythm turns into a continuous beep (by replacing the 75 kOhm resistor in the clock line with 1 kOhm and removing the 100 kOhm resistor between wiper and "+" pot end and pulling the "-" pot end through a 220k preset trimmer against the +3Vs of the IC). But at least with my specimen the rhythm stops when underclocked too much. The rhythm CPU has 2 unused pins (possibly output for LED flash effects).
This smaller 44 midsize keys variant of the big Kamichi was also released under the Golden Camel label. Also a version with blue and yellow buttons came out as "ITEM NO. 10A". (I saw it on eBay but don't own it.)

Someone e-mailed me that another transistor tooter with the same rhythm chip was the Yongmei YM-398B (37 keys, grey case?, mains operated).

transition Yongmei keyboards

The company Yongmei (or Meisheng) apparently first built only their infamous transistor tooters (with monophonic analogue transistor tone generator, incredible cable mess and sheet metal contacts inside, see above). Nowadays they make keyboards with fairly normal looking PCBs, (kind of) silicone rubber contacts and digital single chip CPU. But in between there was a short intermediate period where Yongmei made keyboards with already a digital sound generator chip but still the case style and cable mess of their former transistor tooters; these can be recognized because they still have multiple slide switches but typically already real preset sound and rhythm names instead of alphabet letters on their button fields. These "transition Yongmeis" were produced only for a very short time and thus are the rarest of all Yongmei keyboards (including e.g. Golden Camel-11AB, Yongmei MS-110A, Yongmei MS-210B, MeiKe MK-320B, Yongmei MS-200 and Yongmei YM-378D). But also the larger transistor tooters will likely become rare soon, since by fragility and ear tormenting loud tooting they will certainly not survive parental rage attacks and end smashed in trashcans as quickly as they were assembled together (a fate that also decimated the legions of wacky late 1980th boomboxes). Nowadays Yongmei makes beside horrible yelling toy squeakboxes even professional MIDI keyboards with LCD and 61 velocity sensitive fullsize keys, but I have not heard any of these yet. (Possibly they contain Medeli hardware.) On eBay I also saw many semi- professional Yongmei sound bank keyboards with fullsize keys; by their case design they are likely made by the same manufacturer like the Sankai keyboards (see here). But at least the ones I bought are still ridiculously bad and full of flaws (see e.g. Yongmei DL-2300, YM-3300, YM-6700).
 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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