Yongmei YM-238C - 44-key multifunctional flash electronic keyboard
  lo-fi keyboard with key lighting, many nice demos & programmable rhythm

This toy tablehooter has a very similar case like the SongMax HMP-138, but additional key lighting, programmable rhythm and main voice sound based on My Music Center hardware.



The infamous Yongmei keyboards are obviously getting better; this one contains no such extreme cable mess anymore, and it fortunately now also has battery decoupling diodes (on a tiny separate PCB) to prevent the batteries from turning into handgrenades when operated through a power supply (see Golden Camel 7A and -11AB). But the sound still distorts badly during polyphonic play; apparently the amplifier is poorly designed.

There are 12 OBS sounds with the characteristic glassy My Music Center chorus timbres; the vibrato button disables the chorus effect and adds a fast square vibrato, and there is also a sustain button. Unfortunately the instrument is only 2 note polyphonic and turns monophonic when rhythm is activated. The 12 OBS rhythms have each an optional bass line accompaniment (resembling Feng Yuan 28061) with selectable timbre; unfortunately it plays in a fixed key and thus is badly suited for melody play. There are also 4 drumpads with a programmable drum pattern (without accompaniment). The white keys have dim red LEDs underneath for key lighting; during rhythm they make complex walking light patterns and also the speakers are encircled by 2 spinning red lights so long any sound plays. There are 22 nicely made demo melodies usable for key lighting, and the key lighting is more complex than with older My Music Center variants. A small keyboard flaw sometimes skips notes during fast polyphonic play (despite the pressed keys light up correctly), but it is way less severe than with other such instruments, because it only occurs with really fast notes (possibly when temporary more than 2 keys are pressed, which makes it run out of polyphony).
According to the box photo also a silver version of the Yongmei YM-238C was made. On the box a monochrome magenta sticker covered the writing "Try Me, Press Button", Try Me, Press Buttonthus likely the box was originally planned to have a punched out front opening like with SongMax HMP-138. My specimen also has a sticker of the German importer: "Müller Consult I/E Gmbh, 13156 Berlin" and stickers with a german feature list. Unlike certain older Yongmei keyboards, there are also no lies or false claims on the box anymore, only some funny Engrish misspellings. Who knows what this gibberish sentence on the stylish box wants to tell us?!?: "On the packing the color of product picture describes with function, pleasing regard real object as to allow!" - another one: "Music of Song Withstand Microphone Included".

main features:



The behaviour and sounds of this instrument have many similarities with the small Feng Yuan 28061; even the preset sound names match. Like there, all buttons beep with rhythm off, and the OBS preset buttons play their sound when pressed (even during rhythm), which disturbs live performance. The start- up jingle is a tone scale (do re mi fa so la ti do) accompanied by some low notes. The sound distorts quite harshly especially during polyphonic play, which is here not caused by a faulty speaker but seems to be an amplifier design flaw. Like with other Yongmei keyboards, the amp is on a small and messy separate PCB with an IC and many discrete components. Unfortunately it also sounds thinner like the Feng Yuan. The volume can not be set lower than medium room volume. The walking light patterns on the keys during rhythm and demos look impressive, although they are not synchronized to the music in any way. Unfortunately they cause some static hum (like mains hum) of varying intensity, which is especially noticeable when volume is set low, but at least the light can be disabled.
The preset sound set is a cross of the My Music Center and the Feng Yuan 28061 sounds. By their detuned chorus component they don't sound realistic, although most are closer than with Feng Yuan 28061. The sounds "piano", "organ", "violin", "mandolin", "bell", "guitar" are very much like with My Music Center. The "trumpet" is less harsh than there. With "musicbox" the chorus tremolo speed drastically varies with the note pitch (the higher, the faster, like with Feng Yuan 28061). This timbre is quite unique and eerie; especially when 2 close notes are played simultaneously, the distortion intermodulates their chorus in a very weird bubbling way. The resulting sound reminds to knocking on a water filled ceramic jug or the like. The "sax" timbre sounds too thin for a saxophone. Also the "oboe" is rather like the squawky "elec organ" on Casio SA-series than an oboe. The "bass" is more a banjo and decays shorter with held keys. The harp is similar (without that decay paradox) and duller. The vibrato button disables the chorus component (mutes one suboscillator) and adds a 6Hz square vibrato. The "sax", "oboe", "bass" and "harp" sound more realistic by this disabled chorus. The sustain button adds a 2s sustain.

The rhythm and accompaniment style sounds much like with Feng Yuan 28061; unfortunately it lacks the nicely grooving "samba" pattern. The OBS rhythm buttons always (re-) start their rhythm with enabled bass accompaniment and default tempo, but at least they immediately start a pattern, which can be used for life play tricks. The accompaniment is only a monophonic bass line; its sound has no chorus suboscillator; timbre and decay rate depends on the preset rhythm. During rhythm the accompaniment can be rapidly toggled on/ off with the "chord" button, and the "chordinst" button cycles through many sounds (although with some rhythms it does not return to the initial timbre). This can be done in realtime (both buttons don't beep), which despite the limited control almost feels a bit like making acid house music. Like with My Song Maker, the drumpads can be also switched into "samba" mode, where a dedicated preset rhythm starts (without accompaniment) and each pad plays a preset drum pattern.

Like  with Feng Yuan 28061, there is a programmable drum pattern (custom drummer, similar like with Letron MC-3), but this one is far more restricted, because once the user pattern is entered (press "program" button, play on drumpads or "chord" button for pause, then "play" to finish), it starts immediately and can not be stopped again without deleting the pattern. The only thing you can do with it is restarting the pattern from step 1 by pressing "play". There is no accompaniment in this mode.

For demo and key lighting there are 22 nicely orchestrated demo melodies:

  1. Feece
  2. Happy Birthday
  3. Song of Joy
  4. Go Home [= "Unterlanders Heimweh" (the Casio MT-36 tune, not the VL-Tone one]
  5. Row the Boat
  6. Joy to the World
  7. Clementine
  8. Say Hello
  9. Golden Dream
  10. Cheerful Race
  11. Cherry Flower
  12. Relative in Hometown
  13. London Dl. Ditty Minor
  14. Spring is coming
  15. Santa Lucia
  16. In the beautiful grass
  17. In the forest and grass
  18. Little Red Hat
  19. Oh Tannenbaum
  20. Swallow
  21. Dusk
  22. Two Tigers
The white keys have red LEDs for key lighting. Unlike older key lighting instruments of the My Music Center hardware family, the key lighting is more complex designed, thus the following note key flashes like with Casio keyboards. The "guide a" mode is simply a one key play mode; while key lighting shows the correct notes, the melody plays always the correct note independent from the pressed keys. Like with My Song Maker, with no pressed keys the accompaniment track repeats in a loop, which can be abused for tekkno patterns. The "guide b" mode behaves quite unique (different from Casio); the instrument first plays with key lighting a pattern of the melody, then you have to replay it manually (at any speed). When you play right, it continues with showing the next pattern, otherwise all keys flash with a hihat noise and you have to try again that pattern until you play right.

A successor of this instrument with even more spectacular light effects was released as Sound Mixer HMP-288.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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