animal train sound toy (yellow)

This yellow, train- shaped sound toy made in Singapore plays very unique animal voices and steam locomotive sounds using a Texas Instruments CPU that contains a very gritty sounding LPC (speech synthesis) synthesizer (based on wavetables?). The instrument has a row of 10 blue note key buttons to play own melodies or to select built-in melodies.

main features:

The sounds are selected by inserting these animal- shaped blocks.




The hardware contains half a dozen of small PCBs (for the switches) connected by flimsy ribbon cables.

The gritty animal voices have a very unique, well recognizable timbre and can be played on the key buttons. Due to the quite long train sounds can be shorted by pressing a key and vice versa, this instrument is very interesting for experimental music. Particularly the cat sounds really great and somewhat eerie. Unfortunately notes can not be shorted by the reset button, because the toy always plays its lengthy start-up tunes when re-powered on.

The shitshot potentiometer makes the sounds crash in very strange ways when the CPU supply voltage line is turned down; e.g. sounds with randomly changing timbres appear, or the program crashes into loops of very weird tekkno noises or random note sequences. Some sounds resemble quickly turning a shortwave radio's tuning knob, others sound similar like lion roar or bizarre alien burp voices. Although the kind of sounds roughly corresponds to the actual shitshot knob position, they behave quite randomly and often end in a total lockup that can only be exited by the reset button, therefore this feature is not well suited for life musics. But used as a sampling source the shitshot can enrich musics with many unusual granular sounds. Shitshot effects can be achieved also by shortly bouncing the reset button. The pot bypass switch serves mainly the purpose of quickly switching the instrument between normal and shitshot mode without necessarity to change the knob position, because after a lockup the reset button often needs to be pressed in normal mode to restart the instrument again, but the switch can be used for shitshooting too.

I guess that the reduced supply current from the shitshot pot causes the CPU to mis- address its internal ROM and this way select wrong ROM sounds and sometimes even fill the registers of the synthesizer with random values and though cause completely different timbres. (Like an FM soundchip this thing can do a giant variety of timbres, despite the instrument regularly uses only few of them. The timbres resemble somewhat physical modelling of acoustical noises - e.g. it can make rough and ringing  metallic bell sounds, bottle blow noises, hollow drum sounds or things those sound like slurping and/ or burping into a lemonade can. Unfortunately everything is single- chip, thus there are no regular ways to access its synthesizer part from outside. But the timbres resemble also very much the grainy speech and noise effects of older toy laptops. (Hacking one of the latter would be certainly possible because they support external ROMs. LPC speech chip simulations are also included in the MAME arcade emulator, though such sounds can likely be produced simply in software on PC by using parts of the MAME source code. I am sure that these old LPC soundchips have a lot of musical potential and can also produce a great variety of much different sounds and not just replay the usual grainy speech they were invented for.)

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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