Saisho Music Maker MK 800

Also known as the VTech Rhythmic 8

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Saisho Music Maker MK 800 Keyboard


For those who don't know, "Saisho" was an own-brand of the Dixons chain of 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.

This keyboard was also sold as the "VTech Rhythmic 8" outside the UK (thanks to Johanes Emmanuelli for this information).

This keyboard seems to be the big brother to the MK 500 (VTech Rhythmic 6), and the 10 main voices sound very similar, so again is probably based on Yamaha sound generation hardware. As with its smaller sibling, there are manually-selectable Sustain and Vibrato effects, and a Transposer.

There the similarities end, however. The MK 800 is a much more sophisticated instrument, even offering a rudimentary manual synthesizer. Well, it's not truly manual - you just get a choice of five pre-set waveforms, which can be combined with any of four pre-set ADSR envelopes, both selected by sliding switches. So basically the synthesizer offers a library of 20 possible sounds. These can either be used independently, or mixed with one of the 10 pre-set voices, so you can actually achieve 230 possible combinations.

The four percussion sounds consist of dull pops and clicks and can be played manually using the four drum pads, or custom drum loops can be constructed by setting the frequency with which each drum sound plays per bar. Pretty basic, and not terribly useful.

The auto accompaniment section, however, is unusually flexible for a keyboard of this type. There are 10 selectable rhythms, each of which has three selectable bass lines, and three independently selectable chord patterns. The voice with which the bass and chords are played are also both independently selectable from three possible options. So, doing the maths, you have a range of 810 possible auto accompaniment variations (I think!). Chord and Rhythm volumes are also independently adjustable using analogue sliders, giving even more options, and each rhythm has a percussion-only fill-in pattern.

The pitch bend wheel is smooth and feels high-quality. It acts on both the main voice and the accompaniment, but does not affect the tempo. The tempo itself is adjusted using up/down buttons, and is fairly coarse.

As is typical with such keyboards, and sadly unlike the MK 500, the MK 800's Stereo function is nothing more than a boring "Stereo Chorus" effect, which has three selectable speeds, or can be disabled, rendering the keyboard mono. The effect is very subtle, and it's often difficult to tell whether it is switched on or not, even on headphones.

The built-in speakers are pretty good, but curiously, the right-hand channel seems to have a very different filter profile from the left-hand channel, making it sound distinctly thinner and more muffled. Whether this is intended to be part of the stereo effect, or if my example is slightly faulty, I am not sure, but the effect is present even when the keyboard is switched to mono mode. Headphone and Auxiliary outputs are provided on the back, but unlike the MK 500, neither of these reverse the stereo effect, and the Aux output seems to be at a slightly higher level.

In summary, this is quite a nice sounding keyboard, with a highly configurable auto accompaniment section, but the Stereo effect is something of a disappointment.

Audio Samples

Saisho Music Maker MK 800 Demo (medley of classical pieces, played in Stereo 2 mode)

Instruction Manual

Sorry, I do not have an instruction manual for the Saisho Music Maker MK 800.