| KORG DS-10

Like some kind of electro transformer (thanks to my sidelines as a musician and DJ), I dig a good glitch, adore bleeps 'n' bloops and am frequently in the mood for a bit of Moog. Hence there was an unprecedented amount of excitement when I heard that KORG's DS-10 Synthesizer - the DS emulation of its MS-10 synth - would be arriving in the UK.

But, before we dig in to the DS-10's intricacies, there's a large, anxious-looking elephant in the room that we need to discuss. You may have come here looking for a game review but, the thing is, the KORG DS-10 isn't a game. Not at all. There's not one gamey thing about it. No goal, no scores, no levels, no tutorial mode... zilch.

Simply put, the DS-10 is a series of complex interlocking electronic music gadgets and you shouldn't buy it unless you know a bit about electronica or are prepared to learn. A toy, this ain't.

In terms of set-up, it's arranged into several modules, plus some sub-modules. There are two synthesisers, a drum machine, a mixer and an effects unit. The synths and drum machine feature dedicated sequencers and are hooked into the mixer, which means with a bit of musical inspiration, combined with some knob-twiddling, you can be creating fairly complex electronic compositions in no time; think Goldfrapp's Ride A White Horse, New Order's Blue Monday, Fischerspooner's Reveal or just about anything by Kraftwerk.

But despite the fact that it's not really a game, with a bit of effort the DS-10 can be a whole heap of fun. Don't start worrying if you don't yet know your patch bay from your piano roll: here are the basics and what to expect.

Let's start with the synthesizers, which are designed to emulate traditional KORG analogue synths. Synths can cover everything from squelchy bass-lines and gritty grinding leads to weird sound effects that add spice to your compositions. The synths are broken down into five modules each: sequencer, keyboard, Kaoss pad, editor and patch bay.

The sequencer and keyboard are essentially virtual keyboards allowing you to write and record music. The other three modules enable you to manipulate various synth settings. The editor and patch bay are fairly intimidating for first-time visitors, so the addition of the Kaoss pad - a touch-based controller minus all the buttons and faders - is incredibly welcome.

Moving on, the drum machine provides the rhythmic foundation to your tracks. The module itself is laid out as a 'step-sequencer' - a grid where you fill in the boxes to trigger different drum sounds. With a few minutes' experimentation, even the most musically-illiterate DS-10 player should be able to create authentic-sounding four-to-the-floor House beats, a la Guy Called Gerald's classic Voodoo Ray.

The final two modules, the mixer and effects unit, handle the production of your entire track. All of the sound generated by the two synths and drum machine is routed through the mixer, enabling you to set volume levels and stereo panning for individual instruments.

The effects unit - linked in to the mixer - brings an additional layer of production polish, with three different effects: delay, which sounds like an echo; flanger, a wibbly-wobbly sort of effect; and chorus, which makes everything sound like it's coming from multiple instruments.

When you put all of the above together, the result is a fairly complex music-making machine. What's more, there's a wealth of deeper configuration options for every single module. With all these features, plus the 30-odd save slots, and eight-way wireless jamming options, the KORG DS-10 Synthesizer could be used as a proper live performance tool by electronic musicians. It really is that powerful.

For the average DS owner though, KORG's DS-10 just isn't user-friendly. The interface is incredibly intricate, and every module features an array of sub-menus and configuration options. There's no tutorial mode, so before diving in to the squelchy synths, you'll have to read through the instruction manual. It's not a game, it's an electronic musical instrument.

Sure you can fool around and make a few impressive bleeps but composing a proper track takes time, focus and an awful lot of effort. And that's perhaps the problem with KORG's DS-10: too few people will have the patience or the wherewithal to make the most of it. As a piece of studio gear for the electronic composer though, this is an interesting tool and one that represents immense value for money.

[For more detail, on how it works, check out Olly's video How To use the DS-1) YouTube video]


If you're interested in making music, the KORG DS-10 is a robust and powerful tool. But those looking for a more accessible DS sonic experience may struggle to make the most of it