Hing Hon EK-002,
Societé Europro 31646
bizarre sounding monophonic squarewave toy keyboard with rhythm

Hing Hon EK-002

This small obscure toy tablehooter has only 3 simple squarewave sounds and horrible cryptic control panel abbreviations features 8 sample rhythms, 15 demo melodies and weird analogue distortions. The German manual sheet calls this thing "EK-002 (G)" and on the PCB is printed the number "EK-002D" and the manufacturing date(?) "10-94". I am not sure if my specimen has a chip defect because mine makes a lot of bizarre glitch sounds. On the instrument stands no manufacturer, but in 1999 it was listed on the site Asian Sources with the manufacturer name Hing Hon and the model name "EK-002".
(picture taken from eBay, showing my specimen)

main features:



The control panel writing is very cryptic and certainly quite a horror to figure out without manual. Remember - this damned thing is not part of computer assembler programming lessons but was intended as a children toy! :[  Here is a button translation:
MSS = main sound select
TPS = tempo select
OKON = "one key one note" (steps through a demo tune by any key presses)
DEMO = demo select mode
D1..D15 = select demo songs after pressing "DEMO" (same like white keys)
RE = rhythm start/ stop
RHS = rhythm select
RST = reset
PLAY = normal mode (returns from demo play modes)

Silly is also that the leftmost white keys are labelled {F, G, A, B, C, C#} although this thing has no accompaniment and at least the "C#" above a white key is absolute nonsense.

The 3 preset sounds are selected in a sequence by pressing the same button multiple times. Rhythms are selected the same way on a different button The sound select button works only between notes, i.e. you have to wait until the note has decayed completely, which at the beginning can be very confusing. Especially when the instrument is cold, this button often fails to work unless a rhythm is playing. The main voice tones are made from squarewave with different pulse widths. The piano sound ignores key press duration and employs a (capacitor??) decay envelope that ends a bit sudden with a bizarre buzzy component (digital zipper noise?, or analogue distortion?). The other 2 sounds simply toot without any envelope, but they seem to be somewhat filtered by capacitors because their timbre sounds a bit more analogue than normal squarewave tones and the "trumpet" timbre is slightly more realistic than e.g. on the digital Letron MC-3. When the select button is held down in "piano" mode, the piano turns into an organ tone with sustain that contains a muffled, unusual grinding distortion noise that may be a digital aliasing artefact because its timbre changes with the note.

Of the 4 tempo settings all but the default one are way too slow. The rhythms initially consist of only base and snare samples, but after letting it run for a while without key presses, an additional quiet noise appears which sounds like a very low pitched squarewave buzz with decay envelope (or a wannabe drum?). This may be a relic made from dead code of a disabled battery saving feature that attempts to turn the thing off once every 16 rhythm steps and then notices that the rhythm is still running. Especially with low batteries all sounds distort and with really empty batteries the piano envelope starts to interact (or intermodulate?) with the rhythm in weird analogue ways which makes them fade quieter and louder again while the tone howls. At the end of battery the rhythm fades completely away and only the main voice envelope persists and fades quieter during the now inaudible beats.

The electronics consists of 2 interconnected PCB halves (one green, one brown) with likely a COB chip on the back. The amplifier consists of 4 transistors. (I haven't examined this hardware closer yet. The slide switches of this instrument don't move well and appear rather fragile, but this is the only feature it has common with the wonderful Hing Hon EK-001.

The 15 demo songs have each a rhythm but otherwise belong to the simplest monophonic squarewave category; they not even contain pauses between the notes. The demo songs  are: (note all these Engrish misspellings)

Societé Europro 31646

Also this French language rectangular mini keyboard contains Hing Hon EK-002 hardware, but the analogue section is different; it sounds clearer and makes different distortion and analogue glitches; the amount of distortion even can be well controlled with the analogue volume control. At high volume the main voice howls and changes timbre in a unique way during each drum beat, which can be nice for tekkno.

Under the case is the brand name "3 SUISSES, le Chouchen" or the like (the latter 2 words in a badly readable handwriting font) and another label says: "SOCIETE EUROPRO, REF: 31646".

different main features:


The plastic case is not entirely black, but contains some stray metallic sparkling particles. I am not sure if this was intended or if it is rather a residue from cheap recycled plastic material, since e.g. at the button hole rims there are also a kind of fine cracks visible, those hint to a poor manufacturing process. Unlike the original Hing Hon EK-002 this one has the CPU on a separate small COB module, which may ease circuit bending a lot.

Great is that the Societé Europro 31646 has a genuine analogue volume slider. Like the distortion control of a circuit- bent single transistor amp it steplessly adds distortion and shortens the envelope when turned lower. With low batteries the percussion sounds of the rhythm cause a voltage drop that makes the main voice howl down during each beat. At high volume setting this effect is always slightly present, but with low batteries it turns so extreme that the pitch steps down about 1 whole note during drums, which sounds like an extreme square vibrato. At low volume the timbres turn brighter and the percussion here modulates them duller during drums.

A similar strange sounding and behaving toy keyboard is the great Simba - Music World. Another toy keyboard with bizarre fading analogue rhythm glitches is the Euro-Play - Fix und Foxi Musik Band.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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