Korg has released a synthesizer for the Nintendo DS, the Korg DS-10, that straddles the divide between game and pro app, though by doing so suffers from the typical sort of limitations found in other pro-sumer electronics product lines. The amazing feat is that Korg has managed to put an honest-to-god functioning synth in your pocket for pennies compared to a professional synth. The limitations of the Korg DS-10 synthesizer for pro users, however, are found in the limitations of mono-tracks that can only deliver one note at a time for a total of one measure. Oh, and there’s no midi output, so that while you can save and even link up with other Nintendo DS units to play together, you can’t export to your computer and play with it there.
In essence, this little Korg is still an instrument, not really a game, though I guess you could think of it as an infinitely variable musical toy. The Korg DS-10 design is all business in shades of black and white and gray. Keyboards, knobs, patch panel and mixer are rendered in a no-nonsense style. If you already know your way around a recording studio, the design makes it intuitive to use. If you’re a newbie to music-making, your learning curve will be very high. And someone wanting instant songs success will be frustrated. But if you want to learn about audio and have the patience to master the tools,then the things you learn using the DS-10 synthesizer will be teaching you the real deal.
There are a variety of input options: a mini piano keyboard lets you select notes, a step sequencer were you tap your notes into a 16 x 16 grid, and then the freewheeling results from doodling the stylus on the Korg signature KAOSS pad. There are two sequencers that let you work in stereo. And there’s a 4-track drum machine to lay your rhythm.
Once you record a sequence, you can tweak it on the edit screen by turning the various knobs that control things like attack, decay, pitch, etc. You can save presents for the color of the sound and load those as well. You have further control using the patch panel screen that has been designed to look like a real panel where you use wires to connect the source and target.
The drum sequencer has four tracks where you input your beats with a stylus. You can use the default drum kit or edit the sound of each on the drums edit screen. There you can create or color the sound of the percussion elements you then select in the drum sequencer.
You have an FX screen that lets you overlay one of three effects onto the sound you have created: Delay, Flanger and Chorus. Delay adds echo, Flanger adds a metallic edge, and Chorus adds overlapping sounds.
Finally, the Korg DS-10 has a mixer to let you adjust things like pan and volume for each track. Each sequence can be saved to a pattern list, which you can then string together or play in real time composing a series of one-measure patterns that hold the rhythm as they flip around.
As you can see, the Korg DS-10 offers a stunning set of synthesizer controls to a device that can fit in your pocket. There are limitations that come with the compact nature of this platform. The only on I cannot understand is the lack of midi output. This keeps it not only from being a really useful professional tool but limits the casual player who would be more inclined to stick with it if there were a way to get the resulting creations onto a computer or MP3 player. Still, the Korg DS-10 makes for a handy sketchpad for musicians and a fun toy to play with sounds and beats. As such it is great gift for a technically savvy kid who dreams of working in the music business.
Korg DS-10 website
Platform: Nintendo DS