Saturday, December 23, 2017

The YL-112 mini electron: Styloclone or Stylophony?

I once heard a funny variation of an old idiom: Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is true, whoever designed and marketed the Japanese-made Origin model YL-112 mini electron organ was a big fan of the official dubreq Stylophone.

The YL-112 cabinet design is very similar to the real McCoy, but slightly wider, with sharper corners. A metal mesh grille covers the speaker area. The metal tip of the stylus is more round than the conical tip of a real Stylophone.
It has a vibrato switch and a rotary off/on/volume control. A side panel holds an output jack for an earphone or external amplifier.

The box art indicates that the instrument has 6 transistors.  I guess this is supposed to be a good thing. One better than 5, anyway.
I can't make a fair analysis of this instrument's sound quality. This particular specimen in the Stylophone Museum does produce sound, but there must be some worn or defective electronic components, because the volume is weak and gets progressively worse with lower pitches. Also, the vibrato circuit isn't working.

There were several instruments around the world that featured the Stylophone's stylus and metal keyboard while dubreq's original patents were still in force. Most or all of them are certainly unauthorized copies, but some have design elements or packaging so similar to dubreq products that they could pass for licensed variants. You can see a few photos of Stylophone clones on another blog called Squeezytunes. Click on these links: 1, 2.  Also, check out these pages on 1, 2, 34.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Stylophones get amped up!

The Stylophone Museum has three vintage Stylophone mini amplifiers. They were all made in Hong Kong under the Winston brand name and sold for around $10 each when new.

All three amps are identical in size at 8.25" wide by 4.75" high by 2.5" deep, but vary quite a bit in overall design and functionality.  They aren't marked with model names or numbers, so I will call them Amp A, B & C.

Amp A is the one that seems to be the most common. It was advertised as a mail-order accessory in the documentation for Stylophones sold by the American Stylophone Company in Chicago, Illinois. The price was $9.95 plus $1 for shipping and handling, plus 50 cents sales tax for Illinois residents.

It features the familiar vintage Stylophone keyboard design on the front panel and a plastic speaker grille with a simulated wood grain pattern. It operates on nine C batteries. There are no audio input jacks because the back panel conceals a dual-plug cable.  The eighth-inch plug connects to an instrument's amplifier output jack. The smaller plug connects to certain instruments that also had an external battery input jack. On my unit, this power cable doesn't work properly with my dual-jack Stylophone pictured above, so I have to leave it unplugged.

Amp A does offer richer sound quality than a built-in Stylophone speaker, but it is not significantly louder.  It lacks volume and tone controls, so the sound you get can't be adjusted. There isn't a power switch either, so you need to unplug the audio cable from the Stylophone when not in use.

Amp B does not have any dubreq or Stylophone logos or markings, so I am not absolutely certain that it was originally marketed as a Stylophone accessory. It features an Off/On/Volume knob, which is a handy feature, considering that the earliest several Stylophone models lacked any sort of volume control.  There is also a tone control that can be used to adjust the brightness of the sound. This amp runs on four D batteries and has an eighth-inch audio input jack on a side panel.  Curiously, this amp's output is really no louder or better than a built-in Stylophone speaker, but with the volume control, it can be quieter. Sometimes a quieter Stylophone is a good thing.

Finally, I have Amp C. Unfortunately, this one does not work. I've never seen another specimen like it. The cabinet design is nearly identical to my Amp A, including the Stylophone keyboard graphic, but the audio input jack is a quarter-inch phone jack located on the lower front panel. There are no control switches, buttons or knobs and it is designed to operate with two C batteries. There are very few electronic components in the point-to-point wiring.

(A reader has suggested that Amp C could be an Amp A unit that someone has customized with new circuitry for use as a guitar amp. It seems plausible.)

All three of these amplifiers are amusing additions to the Stylophone Museum, but have no practical value to the modern Stylophone player. You are far better off plugging your vintage Stylophone into almost any modern amplifier or portable MP3 speaker for better and louder sound.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

How cute! The Stylophone mini

Somewhere around 2010, the Stylophone mini was born. The mini is a working Stylophone replica with an attached key chain.
At about one-quarter of the size of a standard Stylophone, the mini is a bit cumbersome as a key chain novelty fob, but it is probably going to make your keys difficult to lose. It runs on three AAA batteries and was available in at least two color schemes: black/chrome and white/chrome. 

I have also seen photos of a model in ivory/gold, but I have never actually seen it for sale.

The 1.5 octave keyboard is quite playable and the sound is surprising loud for such a small speaker. The mini has only one timbre and no vibrato switch, fine-tuning knob, volume control or earphone jack.

The packaging is kind of interesting. It claims the instrument is 'concert tuned." Ha! There are logos on the back for other Stylophone products including something called a Stylophone "remixxr techno sampler." To the best of my knowledge, the Stylophone remixxr was announced but never commercially released. You can still find a few pictures of it and the also unreleased Stylophone vocoder product around the web.
The Stylophone mini is a fun addition to any Stylophone collection, if you can still find one.