JAMMIN’
With the KORG DS-10 Plus

By Shaun Hatton - June 11th, 2010

KORG DS-10 Plus

Former Editor-in-Chief Shaun Hatton shares his thoughts on a game that’s been occupying much of his time…[ed]

I received a review copy of XSEED’s Korg DS-10 Plus application near its release and have been tooling around with it since. Due to both the depth of the title and the fact that I was transitioning over to my new job at The Electric Playground, I haven’t been able to share my thoughts on it. Now that I’ve spent a lot of time with it, and am completely happy with how great a program it is, I feel I can at least give a testimonial regarding how I use it and why I like it.

For those not familiar with the Korg DS-10 Plus, it’s the successor to the Korg DS-10 title, which was essentially an emulation of Korg’s classic synth, the MS-10. As synthesizers go, it’s an impressive if not ambitious feat to take such a tactile instrument and digitize it. The touchscreen serves as the primary interface option, with the buttons duplicating functions such as starting and stopping the song loop or navigating through the synth’s various interface screens.

It should be noted that the Korg DS-10 Plus is not a game – though this should be obvious. It does, however, effectively transform your Nintendo DS into an instrument. Because of this, it should also be noted that you will need some sort of musical skill to enjoy it. If you’re not the creative type, and you’re not interested in making synthesizer music, please do your significant other a favour and stay away from this. While you can get some amazing beats and songs out of the Korg DS-10 Plus, you can also get some very bad tunes out of it, too. Of course, this goes for all instruments.

When played on a Nintendo DS, the Korg DS-10 Plus provides two simultaneous synthesizer loops and one drum machine. The Plus kicks in when you play with a DSi, which effectively doubles the synth loops and drum machine parts, in turn allowing for a greater musical depth in your compositions. In addition to this, though, musicians wanting to delve deeper into the settings can discover a detailed ability to mute specific notes of each instrument for programmed playback purposes. On the other hand, the mixer still allows control of this on the fly, with the only drawback being that due to the DS touchscreen limitation only one slider or pan can be controlled at a time.

Another great thing about the Korg DS-10 Plus is that it is compatible with its predecessor via wireless play, allowing you to jam out on two separate machines by yourself or with a friend. A downside to this is that I couldn’t figure out how to keep the dual synth mode of the title while sharing a connection with another unit.

The preset synth sounds can be edited and saved as new sounds, but I can understand how messing with the various knobs, switches, and patch settings can be intimidating. It’s very easy to create a non-musical sound that couldn’t conceivably be of any use in a composition. Thankfully, the presets cover a range of synth leads, bass, and special effects options.

It’s entirely possible to create stunning, funky, bad-ass, and sick tunes with the Korg DS-10 Plus. But I found the title worked best when used in conjunction with other instruments and applications, mainly because the loops created are very short. To counter this, there is an interface which allows you to copy, paste, and edit loops and then sequence them together into longer songs (and this is very versatile) but for live play such as jamming, this isn’t the easiest option. My typical set-up includes two DSi systems running Korg applications, a PSP running Beaterator, a Stylophone, and a Korg Kaossilator. Each application in this so-called gadget orchestra allows the BPM to be set, and with each device functioning as its own instrument some incredibly cool and virtually limitless musical possibilities emerge.

If you’ve got even an ounce of musical ability, or if you love tinkering with synths, be sure to check out the Korg DS-10 Plus. It’s one of the most affordable synthesizers available, assuming you already own some sort of Nintendo DS device (and who doesn’t these days? I have FOUR!).

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