Bontempi - Disney Band Electronic Super Keyboard (monophonic squarewave keyboard with great POKEY tekkno noises)

Do you remember those "Mini Attacker" keychain sound toys from the mid of 1980th those played by a button press all kinds of grainy historical videogame sound effects? This toy tablehooter contains the same sound engine in combination with a simple monophonic squarewave piano that has a quite strange howling timbre and makes interesting analogue sound glitches.

(picture taken from eBay)

Unfortunately the sharp keys are fake, thus only the white keys work which limits the usability of the main voice quite a lot. The keyboard also isn't really responsive and sometimes ignores fast played notes, but it has a lot of great POKEY tekkno noises and also the quite percussive main voice sounds unusual. This keyboard was also released as Bontempi - Playback Electronic Superkeyboard (with green handle and different sticker).

main features:



The main voice of this instrument is a monophonic plain squarewave "piano" sound with decay envelope. This sound is quite percussive and turns the louder, the faster a single key trill is played (likely by the increasing envelope capacitor charge). The piano sound ignores key press duration, but the note can be truncated (with a quiet click) by abusing the "stop/ clear memory" button of the sequencer. Especially with empty batteries the sound starts to howl; it gets an additional pitch envelope, in that the pitch goes higher with falling volume. At the begin of a note the pitch rapidly ramps down a bit, which gives this instrument a characteristic timbre. When the instrument is switched off while a note is sounding, the tone fades quiet and simultaneously the pitch howls down in a weird way within 4s until it turns into a motor- like low squarewave buzz. Thus also the power switch can be regarded as a realtime sound control.

The OBS effect sounds seem to use an independent CPU and are made from shift register noise and monophonic squarewave with a coarse stepping digital pitch envelope. They are mainly electronic laser zap, siren and explosion noises and all of them sound much like historical videogame sounds of an Atari VCS2600 or like programmed on the Atari POKEY synthesizer chip. When the buttons are held, these sounds repeat in a loop. The sound "top gun" goes quickly "zap boom". The "ufo" is a short hissing explosion and "dual tone" is a typical electronic telephone ring. The "tv game" sound is a short laser zap, "cosmic" sounds like a falling bomb with long explosion, "robot" is a sort of high fast siren, "space 1" resembles a machine gun and "space 2" is another short laser zap.

Beside these presets, you can produce a great variety of additional sounds by pressing multiple effect buttons simultaneously or by a different button while an effect sound is still playing. These additional noises are envelope speed variations of the original sounds. My conclusion is that apparently when no effect sound is playing, a button press always first sets the speed for an internal envelope sequencer and then repeats with that speed a tone sequence (envelope) corresponding to that button in a loop until effect buttons are released. But when another button is pressed while the sequence is still playing, then the envelope sequencer only switches at the loop point to the new selected sequence but keeps the speed of the currently running one. And because speeds vary by magnitudes among the presets, sounds can change quite extreme and can turn e.g. from a short trilling zap into a slow siren. Thus to modify a sound more systematically, press first the button with the desired speed and then switch without a pause to the one with the desired sound sequence and hold this button. (You can also switch then directly to other sounds keeping the same speed setting; the speed only changes after a pause.)

When effect sounds are played simultaneously with the main voice, both interact in a strange analogue way. Especially the piano envelope doesn't fade completely silent anymore but slowly grows a bit louder again while it keeps sounding through the playing effect sound for additional 4 seconds.

The simple sequencer is always recording all played notes (but no effect noises) until the memory is full. By pressing "play back" the note sequence can be played. You can even repeatedly switch the instrument off and on again to make the sequence howl down without loosing the sequencer contents. Strange is that the notes played by the sequencer are slightly louder than normal notes and have a strange attack phase (almost like a fast ringing mandolin sound) while the (also automatically played) demo melodies sound normal.

The 15 demo tunes include various Disney stuff but they use only the monophonic standard sound and many of them are very short. They are:

I haven't examined the hardware yet, but its analogue behaviour can be likely modified easily. Also adding a volume control and sound output would make sense.

Bontempi released this keyboard also in a guitar- shaped case as Electronic Super Keyguitar and a variant without effect sounds (different demos, blue/ white, no sharp keys) as Disney Band Mickey's Magical Music Machine (all seen on eBay). A similar strange toy keyboard was the Euro-Play - Fix und Foxi Musik Band.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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