DS App Review: Korg DS-10 Plus

For a while I thought I would never see my Nintendo DSi again …

I mean, my younger son already permanently took over my original copy of Korg DS-10, and when we were playing around with the new Korg DS-10 Plus on my DSi and he realized that I could add a second bank … well, he took the whole deal! Fortunately I managed to get it back and now he just borrows the DSi when he wants to use the Korg DS-10 Plus.

The Hype:
KORG DS-10 Plus is an enhanced version of the revolutionary KORG DS-10 synthesizer software that was released to critical and retail acclaim for Nintendo DS in late 2008. In this new release the original KORG DS-10 music-creation software, which combined the superior interface of the Nintendo DS with the functionality of the famous MS-10 synthesizer, has been optimized to essentially double the power of the original when used with the Nintendo DSi.

The Reality:

Back in the days before the Yamaha DX-7 digital FM synthesizer stormed the world and crowded the market with tons of cold and thin-sounding synth-pop songs, analog synthesizers such as the Korg MS-10 ruled the world with their fat and warm tones … and finicky tuning issues. I remember simultaneously studying the electronics of waveform filtering and taking an electronic music class using analog synthesizers (since that was all that was available) … it was a great real-world case study. In the decades since then, those analog oscillators have gained digital tuning to address their main shortcoming but have maintained their warmth and character.

The DS-10 Plus is the follow-on to 2008’s DS-10. As my title of ‘App Review’ indicates this is not a game, but rather a full synthesizer replicated in software. There is no score, no ‘winning’, no tutorial in the software, just a musical instrument with loads of functionality.

So what do you get in the ‘Plus’ version? In short, it is like getting two DS-10’s in one. You get up to 12 notes of polyphony – that refers to how many notes the hardware can play simultaneously. The built-in sequencer has four synth tracks and two drum tracks, as well as a couple of effects layers to ‘juice up’ the sound even more. The DSi doubles your number of banks, so you get even more sequencing and storage capabilities.

Analog synthesis can be daunting to newcomers, but it is actually quite ‘pure’ in terms of having direct meaning. Normally periodic waveforms can have different frequencies – which give different pitch – and shape – which gives a different tone. Once you have the basic tone, you have options to filter it using low-pass, high-pass, voltage-controlled, or time-variant filters with some elaborate LC resonant filtering options to really mess around with the electronic characteristics of your notes. You can also alter the drum sounds, reassign patching of effects using a virtual patch cord system, and so on.

When I got the original DS-10 my wife looked over and asked – what sort of game is that? It isn’t a game but a musical instrument I said, and since then she has enjoyed when our younger son has shared his creations. His complaint is that without some sort of external hook-up it is hard to control for a pianist such as him. Personally I’m a keyboard hack, so I tend to step-record my compositions even when I have a full keyboard. That makes this ideal for me – it is a load of fun, tons of capabilities, and just hours and hours of battery-draining potential!

Here is a trailer showing off some of the features:

Review: Korg DS-10 Plus

Where to Buy: Amazon.com

Price: $29.99 (currently on sale for $13.78)

What I Like: Many new features; Fully utilizes the DSi hardware

What Needs Improvement: A faithful recreation of a bland looking instrument is … well, bland looking!

Source: Review copy provided by publisher

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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