Review: KORG DS-10 Synthesizer

Nathan Meunier | 23 Jan 2009 21:00
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Once you create the synth tones you're going for, it's very easy to craft melodies by poking around the virtual touch keyboard or inputting them individually into a sequencer. You can also tap a record button on the fly to have the program loop any cool improvised riffs you've thrown together. Switching back and forth between the two separate synth channels lets you program a foundation melody on one and then jump back to the other to jam along to it. Add in some rhythm and things start to shape up nicely.

The drums sounds are pretty basic (think '80s drum machines), but you can individually adjust each of the four channels to create new beats. Programming the actual rhythms is as simple as tapping the grid where you want to the beat to go. Tapping a note once will fill it, while tapping it again will erase it. This, coupled with four touch pads for manual drum fills, makes rhythm programming effortless. You can adjust the tempo to suit your needs as well. Playing around and manipulating a single loop is fun, but you can also save numerous patterns and input them into a larger grid to create an entire song from the ground up.

The DS-10 eschews a bright and colorful design for one that very closely resembles the physical KORG hardware it's based on. It's comprised of dark, gloomy grays and menus filled with industrial looking knobs, grids, switches, input jacks and wires. The interface makes the most of the DS's two screens - you can swap all of the menus between the top and bottom screens with a quick tap. As a result, you can navigate the menus with the stylus very quickly, which makes it less cumbersome to switch between the different elements while you're playing a song.

Other functions afforded by the DS's technology substantially extend the synth program's usability. The ability to save almost two dozen complete songs is simply glorious, and you can wirelessly exchange saved data from one DS to another. Also, you can sync up to eight DS systems together wirelessly to greatly expand the performance possibilities. Check out this guy here for a taste of how it works.

For all its greatness, the program does have its limitations. The DS-10 can perform a meager level of sequencing and song creation, but it's definitely not as expansive as full-blown software. It primarily excels as a pocket instrument. Like any musical tool, the more time and effort you put into it, the more rewarding the experience becomes.

Bottom Line: The KORG DS-10 is an amazingly fun musical program with a great amount of depth. Musically inclined users will be able to squeeze a lot from this package, and casual dabblers should have no problem coming up with some cool tunes (after reading the manual).

Recommendation: Buy it if you can find it. This item is a rare treat.

Nathan Meunier can't shake the sudden urge form an '80s pop supergroup.

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