Medeli MC-32 (wavetable keyboard with grainy lo-fi timbres, accompaniment and nice demo melodies)

"One, two, three, four..." - Hey, who's talking here?! ;-)

This strange "MC" keyboard is neither squarewave nor FM, but constitutes the missing link between MC series and My Music Center toy keyboard hardware, because it is basically nothing else than the most advanced variant of the classical 4 channel My Music Center sound generator CPU and shares many of its great low-fi samples and the grainy envelope zipper noise. But unlike its bogus ancestor, this specimen has less aliasing distortion, a perfectly working and much more responsive keyboard input and permits up to 4 note polyphonic play, thus basically it feels much like a My Music Center with much more CPU power under the hood; unfortunately it lacks the 3 greatest preset sounds of the latter.

An unusual feature of thing is that it talks and sings, i.e. it counts in English from 1 to 6 and can sing the 8 note names of the tone scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do). It has even single finger accompaniment, a simple "custom drummer" (programmable drum pattern), 5 user definable drumpads and 18 wonderful orchestrated demo melodies with lesson function. In unmodified state volume is too loud and can not be turned really low despite volume control. On my instrument stands no brand name, but in 1999 it was listed on the site Asian Sources with the manufacturer name Medeli.

(Note: This keyboard has nice digital synth timbres, but don't buy one of these so far your only intention is to get a keyboard with faithfully imitated natural instrument sounds. This is a grainy lo-fi instrument and many of its sounds don't sound at all like what their name suggests, thus bought with wrong expectation it may disappoint you.)

main features:


The MC-32 sounds much like My Music Center (see there), but has less intermodulation distortion which makes the timbres cleaner (rather like a Casio SA-1) but also more boring. Like with My Music Center, the bass range of most main voice sounds is very noisy and contains high pitch overtones by the low sample resolution of the waveforms. This is particularly audible with enabled chorus, which turns the bass range of some sounds (e.g. e.organ) into a cold and sinister, disharmonic buzzing roar. When keys are held, decaying percussive sounds on the MC-32 start with about a second of constant volume before decay begins, which sounds unrealistic. Unfortunately the MC-32 misses the great "trumpet", "guitar" and "music box" timbres of My Music Center. But at least the buzzy metallic "e. organ" resembles that special resonant "guitar" timbre a bit. The "piano" resembles My Music Center (with chorus honky- tonk- like). The "string" sounds a little brassy and has (especially without chorus) some similarities with certain harsh analogue synthesizer brass sounds. The "flute" starts with a very scratchy and beepy (sampled wind?) noise that turns short notes into a rather atonal noise. The "clarinet" has a similar but less extreme character and has something of a street organ. The "celesta" is a bright and rough metallic sound with long decay envelope and no sustain (i.e. tone stops by releasing the key). The "e. guitar" is similar, but with organ- like timbre, and "e. bass" the same with saxophone- like timbre. (The timbres sound different when chorus enabled, but this doesn't make them more realistic.) The "brass ens" resembles a sawtooth tone. The "e. piano" resembles a Rhodes piano but also has beepy bass overtones. The "bell" and "harmonica" resemble "bell" and "organ" on My Music Center. The resonant bass range of "harmonica" is quite interesting and gets harsh and buzzy with chorus enabled. Unlike with My Music Center, here also sounds without long release phase exist (especially "flute", "celesta", "harmonica") and the keyboard of the MC-32 is very responsive (similar like a Hammond organ?) which permits to play even really short blipping notes. With the OBS "one octave" button the main voice can be switched 1 octave higher.

Unlike My Music Center, the MC-32 is stereo, i.e. the sounds have 3 different panning positions {left, middle, right}, which is particularly used by the rhythms. .The volume control buttons make a popping noise of constant volume by each press and even the quietest of their 8 settings is still way too loud. It is louder than the maximum volume setting of various small toy keyboards and may easily disturb neighbours when played tonight in a room with thin walls. (The pop noise seems to uses none of the sound generator channels and may be an electrical switching noise from some volume control resistors deeply buried somewhere inside the CPU.) It is very recommended to add a potentiometer or voltage divider resistors to reduce the volume to a reasonable value.

Quite unique is the way how non- OBS functions are selected on this instrument. First you can press the "voice", "rhythm" or "song" button to choose what you want to select. Then you can press one of the group buttons "A", "B", or "C" multiple times to step with each of them through a group of 6 different selections (e.g. sounds). The very unusual thing is here that to indicate the currently selected number, the instrument does not simply display it or play the selected sound, but instead it says in English that number, i.e. by pressing one of these buttons multiple times it counts: "one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two,..." and so on. Pressing a different group button always starts with "one" again. The group "C" exists only with songs because since there are only 12 sounds and rhythms available the "C" button does nothing there.

The single finger accompaniment knows only 3(?) chords and the styles are partly quite over- orchestrated and thus less versatile. Despite the boring drums, the accompaniments sound greatly impulsive because all its sounds start and end with quiet rhythmical clicks, which is useful for brain wave synchronization in meditative musics. In single finger (organ) chord mode without rhythm the main voice can still use full polyphony when no chord are played, but by the lack of priority chord changes delete main voice notes when more than 1 note is held. During accompaniment, rhythm or demo tunes the chorus effect is always disabled.

Like the Letron MC-3 (see there) and many similar instruments, also the MC-32 has a programmable drum pattern, but this one is much more restricted than the custom drummer of the MC-3, because it can neither be used together with accompaniments nor can drumpads be played simultaneously to it, and not even the synchro and fill-in buttons work. You can only start and stop the user pattern with the "play/ space" button, but quitting the programming mode (the only way to enable normal rhythms and accompaniment again) always deletes the user pattern. All percussion are all quite thin low- res samples, but they sound at least a little cleaner than the My Music Center percussion despite 4 of them seem to be recorded from the same sounds. A great feature is that you can assign any of the 25 "effect" preset samples to the 5 drumpads (and thus also use them in the custom drummer) by entering the "effect" mode and pressing the key with the desired sample together with the drumpad it shall be assigned to. The "effect" mode basically works like the drum kit mode of many General MIDI keyboards, in that every key plays a different percussion sound. Unique is that the white keys of the 2nd octave here sing  with a child voice the English (or rather Japanese?) names of the tone scale notes "do", "re, "mi", "fa", "sol", "la", "si", do". (Unfortunately the singing does neither include sharps (black keys) nor other octaves. This feature was likely inspired by the "DO. RE. MI. Guide" feature of the Casio CT-840.) Also the English numbers {1..6} and the 4 famous animal sounds of My Music Center are available here.

The instrument has a song bank of 18 wonderful orchestrated polyphonic demo melodies:

  1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star*
  2. Oh! Susanna*
  3. "Pathetic" Sonata (Beethoven)
  4. Picnic
  5. My Bonnie
  6. Green Sleeves
  7. Happy Birthday to You
  8. Silent Night
  9. Joy to the World
  10. Auld Lang Syne
  11. When the Saints Go Marching In*
  12. Little Brown Jug*
  13. Home, Sweet Home*
  14. Jingle Bells*
  15. The Skaters Waltz*
  16. Mintuit (J. S. Bach)* [misspelled: "Minuet (J. S. Bach)"]
  17. Lullaby* [nice music box style]
  18. Long Long Ago
The arrangements of the songs marked with an asterisk ("*") were blatantly imitated from Casio SA-35, although sounds and speed is partly different. (In spite of this they still have their own style and sound nice.) Also the accompaniment styles "rock" and "country" were copied there. The tune "Long Long Ago" is sung by the tone scale names ("do", "re", "mi" etc.) and accompanied by rhythm and a simple, rhythmically tooting bass tone - the entire arrangement is a bit disharmonic and reminds nicely to those ancient Atari XL homecomputer POKEY musics although it is not made from squarewave.

Before a melody starts, the instrument always counts in English; strange is that the number it counts to (between 2 and 4) depends on the selected song . There are also the lesson functions "review", "lesson", "melody off". The "melody off" starts the song without main voice to permit to play to it. The "lesson" function seems to repeat a pattern of a song in turns without and with the main voice melody to train playing that pattern, but most times this button does nothing.  Also the "review" button doesn't work. I still haven't figured out why; when I hold both down while I play notes, it makes tone mess (additional notes), which is likely caused by the lack of key matrix diodes there, which proves that the buttons are electrically ok. (Possibly they need to be pressed in a special way while the thing is counting, but I didn't find a scheme yet. It may also be a program bug or just a strange defect.)

This instrument was also released as Austria MC-32 (told by phone) and a silver version as First MC-32 and/ or First Austria MC-32 (seen on eBay). A 37 midsize keys variant of it was apparently released as MC-7600 by Medeli (seen on their site); its black case had a unique Art Nouveau style with oval speakers and handle (which vaguely resembles a handbag). A silver metallic version of it was also released as McCrypt MC-7600. Regarding the CPU type label, also a variant called "MC-28" may exist, which appears to be the genuine name of this hardware class. Possibly a direct predecessor of the MC-32 was the Steepletone SEK-929. Another interesting non- toy My Music Center successor is the bizarre Jin Xin Toys JX-20165.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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