Steepletone SEK-929 - Human Voice.... Electronic Keyboard   My Music Center variant with speech, accompaniment and many demos

This seems to be a predecessor of the great MC-32. Like the latter it says ciphers while entering numbers and there is also a mode that can sing the 8 note names of the tone scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do). But the voice and operation is different and most of the 16 preset sounds resemble more My Music Center, but there are also 2 strange coarse instrument samples "yanchin" and "pipa".

Unfortunately the Steepletone SEK-929 is way inferior to the MC-32, since it is only 2 note polyphonic and a nasty software bug prevents reliable polyphonic play, because a held note is always truncated as soon new notes are played on 2 other keys. There are 12 rhythms with optional single finger accompaniment. The percussion is made from 10 medium resolution samples and can be also played through 5 drumpad buttons. There are also 20 demo melodies.

main features:



The Steepletone SEK-929 sounds similar like the MC-32, but has less features and more flaws. Unlike the latter, the SEK-929 selects its preset sounds, rhythms and demos the usual way by entering 2 digit numbers through cipher buttons, but also here the ciphers are spoken while typing. Thus I am not sure if the SEK-929 was really released before the MC-32 as a predecessor, since the spoken ciphers make technically only sense with the MC-32 user interface because cipher buttons anyway show what numbers they enter. (Entering numbers out of range select the same functions like certain existing numbers.)

The preset sounds resemble more My Music Center (see there) than MC-32; they all contain a dose of sustain which prevents to play very short notes. The "piano", "organ", "violin", "bell", "music box", "guitar" and "mandolin" correspond to My Music Center and only sound a bit cleaner and less grainy and with most the sustain is even longer. The "banjo" is a harsher "mandolin" variant, "harpsichord" is the "organ" (accordion) timbre with piano envelope. "string" is a slightly brighter "piano" variant with shorter sustain. The "vibraphone" is rather a banjo sound that doesn't fade silent but holds the note like an organ. Also "synth" is a non- decaying variant of the "bell" timbre. "yanchin" is a very noisy low-fi sample of a picked string (like a dull e-bass) without external envelope, thus it ignores key press duration and plays low notes much longer that high notes. "pipa" is a similar behaving sonorous e-bass or banjo sample (due to formants the character changes much with the note pitch).

In the percussion some drum kit samples sound like with My Music Center (thin and dull), but a bit more impulsive and there are also a few additional sounds. The 5 drumpads can be switched between 2 sets to play them. The buzzy "agogo" (bell) and the long "cymbal" sound quite nice. The button with the clap (or rimshot?) sound wrongly shows a closed cymbal icon. Also the rhythms partly resemble My Music Center, but others are nice tribal patterns; especially "new new" here plays a nicely driving agogo. The tempo can be adjusted between very slow and fairly fast. The "auto bass" accompaniment is made from a 2 note polyphonic dull e-bass(?) sound and most patterns sound quite harmless and establishment. Fortunately it is not fixed- key but at least can be played in the left keyboard section like usual single finger accompaniment and can be disabled (no matter of course with such tablehooters).

With the "effect" button the keyboard is switched into a sort- of drum kit mode, but instead of percussion the white keys of the right keyboard half play now English human voice samples of 5 ciphers and sung note names (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do). Unlike the MC-32, the sung notes here use a sort of soft female or child voice with much vibrato. The sung lo-fi samples sound quite noisy but nicely special. Unfortunately they cover only the white keys of 1 octave. Unlike with MC-32 there is a key split, thus the left 16 keys still play the selected main voice in this mode. Also the rhythm can be activated and unlike the main voice section, the human voice still stays 2 note polyphonic. Only when you start the accompaniment during this, also the human voice turns monophonic, but between accompaniment section and human voice there are 2 "forgotten" keys those still play the normal main voice sound. A bit confusing is that the "effect" mode is always switched off by selecting a preset sound or starting rhythm.

Like with MC-32, also this keyboard has a useless tiny sequencer that erases its contents as soon anything but "replay" or "one key play" is pressed.

The 20 polyphonic demos are partly quite long, but they are no really great arrangements like with MC-32, but rather resemble My Song Maker. The "chord only" button mutes the main voice to permit manual play to it. Annoying is that the accompaniments of the demos play always too loud in relation to the main voice. When you enter a song number during demo, it instead changes the main voice preset sound to that number. Strange is that the 2 sample sounds "yanchin" and "pipa" can not be selected here.

The 20 demo musics are:

  1. Happy Birthday to You
  2. Silent Night
  3. Jingle Bells (My Music Center version)
  4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (almost My Music Center version)
  5. Johann Sebastian Bach
  6. Little Girl [= "Oh My Darling Clementine"]
  7. Old Macdonald had a Farm
  8. Two Tiger [= "Are You Sleeping"/ "Brother John"]
  9. Mary had a Little Lamb
  10. A Song of Joy
  11. Turkey in the Stram
  12. Butterfly [= "Little Bee"/ "Hänschen Klein"]
  13. Dona Dona (Russian melody?)
  14. Oh Susanna
  15. Spring Song
  16. The Four Seasons Spring
  17. Romance de Amor [= "Pour Adeline"?, theme of "Phoenix" arcade game]
  18. Wedding March (plays quite long)
  19. Do Re Me
  20. London Bridge (sings the note names)
Based on the same hardware class like Steepletone SEK-929 is likely the Elta KE-380 (seen on eBay), which has the same function names but a noble and very different case design (with chrome rims etc.). Don't confuse the latter with the Superb Sound EK-380 (seen on eBay), which was a 49 fullsize keys FM instrument with 20 preset sounds, simple sequencer and FM synth sliders (similar like Yamaha PSS-390 or even closer the Yamaha PSS-470). Other members of this hardware class were the Superb Sound EK-350 (black case, shape resembling Casio SA-35, bluish mode knob with 3 menus in red, blue, yellow) and likely the Superb Sound EK-370 (black case with wing- like spreaded slanted speakers, seen on eBay).
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