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For those who don't know, "Saisho" was an own-brand of the Dixons
electronics/photography shops, once a common sight on high streets all
over the UK, but now relegated to the Web and some small outlets at
airports and similar locations. The brand was usually used on budget,
low-quality consumer electronics gear, such as radio/cassette players,
VCRs, TVs and stereo systems.
The Music Maker MK 500 is one of only three keyboards I know of that
sold under the Saisho brand - the others being the MK
and the "PRO.SYNTH
". Outside the
UK, these keyboards were sold under the "Video Technology" brand (now
better known as VTech
) as the
Rhythmic 6, Rhythmic 8
and Rhythmic 10
respectively (thanks to
Johanes Emmanuelli for this information). This range also apparently
included Rhythmic 2
and Rhythmic 12
models for which I know
of no "Saisho" equivalent.
This is actually one of my favourite sounding keyboards, and feels
surprisingly solidly-constructed for a budget brand item. The built-in
speakers go quite loud, but sound rather thin and tinny with nasty
resonances. Fortunately, there is both a headphone output and an
auxiliary output on the back panel.
A choice of 10 voices is available, together with 10 selectable
rhythms, each with auto bass chords and a switchable auto arpeggio
effect by way of accompaniment. A single fill-in pattern (rhythm only)
is available for each rhythm. Rhythm and Chord volumes are
independently adjustable using analogue sliders, and the Master Volume
control is also an analogue slider. The Tempo adjustment, however, is
operated by a pair of up/down buttons, and adjustment is extremely
coarse. There is also a Transposer function (only available when auto
accompaniment is enabled), and user-selectable Sustain and Vibrato
When switched to Mono mode, the voices sound almost identical to those
of the Yamaha PSS-160
, suggesting that this
keyboard is based around Yamaha sound generation hardware. However, the
rhythm and accompaniment sounds very different from any Yamaha keyboard
I know of, and give a lovely rich, deep bass.
Chords are selected using the left-hand part of the keyboard as normal,
and single-finger and fingered modes are available. In single-finger
mode, seventh and minor chords are selected using the opposite method
to Yamaha keyboards, i.e. white key above for seventh, and black key
above for minor. One slightly unfortunate drawback is that, when a
minor chord is selected, the auto arpeggio function continues to play
the notes of the major chord, so it sounds dischordant. You can hear
several examples of this in the Demo, below.
In Mono mode, polyphony is 8-note, dropping to 5-note when the auto
accompaniment is enabled. But it's when switched to Stereo mode that
this keyboard really becomes interesting.
Stereo mode invokes a very powerful stereo effect, and makes the voices
sound really rich and full. Rhythm sounds have a defined stereo
"position", while the auto accompaniment sounds appear to be skewed
towards the left channel (right channel on headphones
- see below)
, for some reason.
Exactly how the stereo effect is achieved I do not know, but in Stereo
mode, the polyphony drops to just 4-note, and when the auto
accompaniment is enabled, the keyboard becomes monophonic. Also, the
Vibrato effect cannot be enabled when in Stereo mode.
Bizarrely, the headphone output reverses the stereo effect with respect
to the built-in speakers, but the auxiliary output does not. This seems
to be the only difference between the output sockets.
This is a very nice sounding instrument, and seems to be quite unique,
albeit apparently based around Yamaha sound generation hardware.
Music Maker MK 500 Demo
(medley of classical pieces, played in
Stereo mode, of course!)
I do not have an instruction manual for the Saisho Music Maker MK 500,
but I would be very interested to see one! Can