Review: KORG DS-10 Plus

KorgDS10Plus.jpg 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 KORG DS-10 Plus.

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.

DS-10 Plus is the follow-up to 2008′s DS-10 (Matt reviewed it here). As Matt mentioned, 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 loads of fun and offers a ton of music creation capabilities and hours of battery-draining potential!

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Many new features over original DS-10
+ Fully utilizes the DSi hardware

Cons:
- A faithful recreation of a bland looking instrument is … well, bland looking!

Game Info:
Platform: DS and DSi
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: AQ Interactive
Release Date: 2/16/2010
Genre: Music
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-8
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!