Author Topic: "Player" Elepian  (Read 139 times)

Offline RedDawgEsq

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"Player" Elepian
« on: June 10, 2018, 12:44:51 PM »
Hi Folks,

New user here. 'Way back in the dark ages (1980s), the QRS company of Buffalo, NY, famous for making perforated music rolls for use on player pianos, marketed a lash-up of an electronic keyboard in a console cabinet, topped with a pneumatically (vacuum) operated music roll player system similar to the acoustic player pianos of the 'teens - 60s or so). Since I have been restoring vintage player pianos since probably before most members here were born, this instrument naturally interests me, and I now have two. The decal they applied reads "Elepian", although from reading this forum, that designation applies to many versions of ELEctronic PIANos. Not surprisingly, neither of my Elepians are presently functional. The first has some mechanical problems, chiefly from the metal fatigue suffered at the sharp bend in the key lever that actually pushes the note actuating button on the circuit board(s). I solved this problem with a 3D printed shim that snaps into the space underneath the lever and gives it some structural rigidity. (See photo.) I note from other pictures on this forum that this mechanical design may be present on other EPs of similar vintage which probably suffer from the same malady.
My second machine works fine mechanically and pneumatically (although I'm installing the shims as a precaution against future failure), however, it is electronically silent and I'm hoping I can find some troubleshooting tips and/or electronic documentation on this resource. The circuit boards have many numbers printed on them which I can relate later or privately. Anybody feel like helping me with this challenge? Thanks in advance.
(Photos may be spread over sequential postings.)


Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2018, 12:46:44 PM »
Additional photos.

Offline OZDOC

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2018, 10:24:11 PM »
Great post. I've not seen one of these before. I have a "normal" one.

The normal one has a conventional piano action (cheap) with hammers striking tines and Rhodes style magnetic pickups.

Did your piano start life with this mechanism and have it removed by the people that did the piano roll adaptation?

Your piano obviously makes all its notes electronically? So the problem for anyone on this forum providing help is that your electronic structure is miles different than the simple audio amplifier in most of these instruments.

Nevertheless, the conventional approach is to first ensure that the power supply is providing clean voltage at the required voltages to the rest of these boards. Once that is certain, check that the audio amplifier is capable of amplifying a signal and sending it to the speakers. If you still have a problem it is in that nightmare section that deals with the keying that no one without the circuits and a similar instrument will be able to help with by remote control.

David

Offline Dzdpgtehu

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 02:59:23 PM »
Woah, that's a beast, so much stuffs in!
I also got a ''Normal'' Elepian, the cabinet looks like yours, but brown.
I really dig this piano, love the sound and the flexibility, the keys are all plastic tho.

Rhodes Mark I Suitcase 88 1977
Wurlitzer 200a 1979 Electric piano
Hohner Clavinet D6 Electric Harpsichord
Columbia Elepian Electric Piano
Yamaha CP60m Electric Piano
Yamaha YC20 Combo Organ
Roland VK9 1977 Clonewheel
Korg Polysix Analog Synth
Nord Electro 2 61

Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 05:01:27 PM »
Yes the sounds are "synthesized", not amplified. The angled tab in the last photo above (that's supported by the 3D printed shim) pushes on a conductive elastomeric "button" that shorts various traces on the circuit boards. Since NONE of them work, I'm inclined to agree that the problem is "further up the line" with the power supply, etc. If I turn up the volume fully, I can hear a low-level background semi-white noise "roar". Problem is, without some knowledge of what voltage(s) should be present at what point(s), what do I do? My electronics skill set does not allow me to just guess. I'm prepared for the possibility of replacing the numerous electrolytics, but unless one of those has failed catastrophically (maybe visibly?) in the power supply section, I would think there should be SOME functionality, maybe static or distortion,  but not total silence. I can't find any fuses on any of the boards, so it's not something that simple.

I'm including some photos showing numbers on some individual circuit boards in hopes there is a master cross-reference for Nippon Columbia out there somewhere. They don't just throw all those docs out once a design goes obsolete, do they? Seems kind of shorted-sighted if they do.

<Edit>

The first picture below was sent to me by a friend who owns one of these. I have not yet disassembled mine to this point, but the gray ovals are the conductive elastomer buttons that are oriented horizontally above the key tabs. These are pushed against the 8 segments inside the circles on the boards. Pretty sure those are gold plated but can still suffer from a build-up of "crud" in the local atmosphere (cigarette tar, etc.) and may require burnishing. He tells me the keys are velocity sensitive, but I would like to know how that works. I can't see the geometry (yet) of the button surface (on the opposite side) that contacts the pads, but I imagine the order and speed with which the various traces are shorted figures somehow into loudness.

« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 09:21:14 AM by RedDawgEsq »

Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 05:04:08 PM »
More Photos

Offline OZDOC

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2018, 06:59:04 PM »
I'm wondering whether the electronics and roll player mechanism was designed and installed by Columbia or QRS?
It may be that all the internals were designed by QRS and the Elepian was chosen as a cheap housing for them.

It would be worth contacting QRS or chasing down some of their former employees to see whether they can supply any schematics or information.

David

Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2018, 12:20:19 AM »
Been there, done that. QRS is a mere shadow of its former self and no one there was around during the eighties, besides which they would NEVER have had the electronic design expertise to produce such a complicated instrument. Their ability was limited to pneumatic design, and the vacuum powered actuators very simply push up on the rear of the existing keys, which has the same effect as pushing down on the front. At that point, the tabs on the keys, which are behind the fulcrum point, push the elastomeric buttons as designed and as if the player system wasn't even there. It was really a pretty ingenious interface, but it depends on the electronics being functional. The documentation will have to come through Nippon Columbia, if it exists. If not, I guess I need an electronics tech familiar enough with synthesizer circuitry of that vintage to figure it out.

Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2018, 09:44:05 AM »
Good news! I dug out the other unit I have and found out it isn't in as bad shape as I remembered. Its NC serial number is 3296 which gives us a spread of at least 39 units. The NC EP-08 tag is missing from my friend's unit, but his QRS assigned serial number (2077) is six more than my newly acquired unit (2071). My unit #1 has a QRS S/N of 2161, so there's at least 90 units. There's no guarantee, of course, that the QRS S/Ns would track numerically with the NC EP-08 S/Ns. I'm trying to make contact with the owner of a known unit in the Northeast to see if I can learn the metrics of his unit.

Anyway, my Unit #1 actually works to a degree! There are some dead notes and some that don't seem to have linear velocity sensitivity. I have one broken key lever that I think I can replicate via 3D printing and several bent or broken key tabs that should be remedied by my 3D printed shims. Since the circuitry works, I plan to make a "map" of what voltages are present at cardinal points and then compare with silent Unit #2. I'll post a short video of #1 later.

<Edit>

This is the only YouTube "hit" I could find for these gadgets. The roll being played is a perfectly dreadful medley arrangement of songs from "The Fantasticks", but at least it gives you an Idea of what it will do.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgRUF5mtHug
 
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 11:49:22 AM by RedDawgEsq »

Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2018, 03:54:45 PM »
Here's the DropBox link to a video taken today. https://www.dropbox.com/s/k911p7gxqx0db3j/Elepian%202161%20Graceful%20Ghost%20Rag.mp4?dl=0 There are a few dead notes and a few more that are noticeably softer than the others, so work to be done. But at least it's basically functional which will help troubleshooting Unit #2, which would still be easier if I can locate ANY documentation, circuit diagrams, etc. Hoping someone can help with that.

Offline OZDOC

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2018, 08:17:49 PM »
What is the function of those 4 little crank bellows to the right of the roll feeder?

Offline RedDawgEsq

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2018, 10:41:24 PM »
Ah, that's the most ingenious and mesmerizing component in fully pneumatic player piano mechanisms, also the most difficult to explain the design and functioning of. Actually, there are five bellows (and sliders that control them) in this design, which is typical. Manufacturers used anywhere from three to ten "cylinders" in these gadgets. It is commonly called the "air motor" and it simply takes a vacuum source (generated by the impeller vacuum motor mounted in the bottom of the piano on the treble side) and converts it into a rotary output that through a series of ladder chains and cog sprockets, moves the paper forward or backward over the "tracker bar" where the individual note sensing occurs. The tempo "slider" in the spool box varies the strength of the supply vacuum to the air motor; the stronger the vacuum, the faster the motor turns and the faster the paper moves, resulting in a faster tempo of the music.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 10:46:00 PM by RedDawgEsq »

Offline Dzdpgtehu

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Re: "Player" Elepian
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2018, 11:02:57 AM »
I didn't realize that this was an analog piano instead of an actual Electric Piano with reed and pickups! That's weird, the case, the keys and mecanism seems to be the same, just without hammers and reeds.
Thanks for the video, pretty interesting to see that kind of oddity!
Rhodes Mark I Suitcase 88 1977
Wurlitzer 200a 1979 Electric piano
Hohner Clavinet D6 Electric Harpsichord
Columbia Elepian Electric Piano
Yamaha CP60m Electric Piano
Yamaha YC20 Combo Organ
Roland VK9 1977 Clonewheel
Korg Polysix Analog Synth
Nord Electro 2 61