Thursday, August 11, 2011
(More customer reviews)Almost as soon as I received my KORG DS-10 in the mail, I picked up a second copy and another DS Lite. Then I heard about the KORG DS-10 Plus and realized that I had been played for a chump since the new version would basically let me do the same thing as two copies, minus the awkwardness of holding two DS systems and wearing two sets of headphones when I was using them outside of my home studio. Naturally, I pre-ordered it as soon as I was able to, and I decided to hold out for the DSi XL to be released so that I could experience its full potential (it's still usable on a DS or DS Lite, you just can't use dual mode, which is pretty much the whole point of this updated version). Now that I've had time to compare the DS-10 Plus to two copies of the original DS-10, I feel like I'm ready to share my experience.
First of all, I'm assuming anyone reading this review knows what they're getting into. There aren't a whole lot of changes in this revision of the DS-10, so if you've already used that one you know what to expect. If not, I've read plenty of reviews that don't quite "get" the DS-10, finding it limited as a loop-based synthesizer lacking polyphonic sounds and a full sequencer. If you were hoping to find those kinds of features, you should probably consider just buying an actual factual piece of audio hardware or a soft synth for your computer. If you're anything like me, the so-called "limitations" of the DS-10 are what make it fun to make music on... with enough creativity and practice you can make a single synth or drum sound sound like several disparate sounds, and you can find clever ways to create transitions between the various patterns so it sounds like more than simple looping electronic music. I love the challenge of trying to get more sounds out of fewer options (even on my hardware synths). I also love that I can work on my music on my daily walk to/from my office... you'd be hard-pressed to find ANY other software or hardware synthesizer that allows you that much freedom.
That being said, what's new in the DS-10 Plus to distinguish it from owning two copies of its predecessor? The new dual mode allows you to load up a different song in each "deck", so that you now have 4 synths instead of 2, and 8 drum tracks instead of 4. You still need to remember to save each song separately if you make changes, but it's pretty easy to tell which deck is currently selected, and being able to use the R button to quickly switch between decks is incredibly convenient. Otherwise, not a lot has changed since the first DS-10 (it seems like they could have at least improved the presentation), but it turns out that the greatest strength of this new version, as well as its greatest weakness, lies in the revamped song mode.
In the original DS-10, song mode was basically worthless. You organize your patterns into a single composition and then listen to them play. You can't change things on the fly, and you can't program anything other than the order of patterns in, so you'd might as well just stick to pattern mode and do it yourself. In the DS-10 Plus, not only are you given the option to program in mutes for every sound (which at first felt like cheating to me after spending so many months practicing my songs and muting sounds manually as I switch patterns), but you're free to move around to any of the normal editing screens and change up your sounds, play along on the keyboard, alter the master effect, and mess with the mixer, all while having the song continue playing the patterns in the order you specified. This gives you a ridiculous amount of freedom in your compositions. Previously, switching back and forth between two or more patterns while simultaneously trying to fade out a single instrument was a nightmare that required fast reflexes and coordination. Now you can focus on just the one instrument fading out while song mode does the rest for you in the background. Being able to mute or unmute several tracks simultaneously is also a huge advantage over the DS-10.
So how about that greatest weakness that I mentioned? Well, for one, you can only make a song last at most 200 measures (using dual mode). But more disappointing that than is that you can't have different patterns playing on each deck. I have a song that I started on my dual DS Lite setup where on one system I continuously go back and forth between two patterns, while on the other system, the main melody of the song is carried through a progression of patterns. Think of it like this:
system 1: [A1] > [A2] > [A3] > [A4]
system 2: [B1] > [B2] > [B1] > [B2]
I was so excited to hear about dual mode on the DS-10 Plus, thinking that it would save me a LOT of work of having to carry around two DSes to achieve this. Unfortunately, it's not the case. When you select a pattern on one deck, you're limited to hearing the corresponding pattern on the other deck. So you're stuck with this:
deck 1: [A1] > [A2] > [A3] > [A4]
deck 2: [B1] > [B2] > [B3] > [B4]
Since I own more DSes than any one person really needs, I can work on two songs simultaneously in dual mode on my DS-10 Plus, and then copy one of the songs to a DS-10 so that I can perform the song using two DS systems. It's not much different than the old method I had worked out, but it is definitely nice to hear both songs playing on a single DS so I can really make sure everything sounds good together.
That disappointment is by no means enough to detract from the improvements. If you already own a DS-10 and were thinking of picking up a second copy, then there's no reason not to upgrade. Even if you don't own a DSi, the vastly improved song mode is a huge step above its predecessor (of course, if you do own a DSi, it's even more useful). If you want a KORG DS-10 but haven't tried out the original, then there's also no reason to not get the DS-10 Plus. Finally, if you don't think a loop-based monophonic synthesizer is for you then good luck finding a more powerful yet equally portable synthesizer for such a low price. I'm sure KORG could have taken the time to put some more useful features in this update, but still, for what the KORG DS-10 Plus is, it's an amazing and powerful piece of audio software that is well worth the money.
Click Here to see more reviews about: KORG DS-10 Plus
Innovative Handheld Musical Tool The sound sources in KORG DS-10 Plus come from KORG - one of the world's top musical instrument producers - and no effort was spared in creating these ultra-high-quality sounds. In addition, the Nintendo DSi/DS Touch Screen controls are used to the fullest to provide unsurpassed feel and operability, making this an innovative musical tool that is perfect for both aspiring musicians and professionals alike. Work a professional style synth on your DS or DSi. Viewlarger.