There is no doubt that about 10 years ago, casual music video games had their time and place in the spotlight. These games gave players instruments as well as the actual impression that they could play music. But as a self-proclaimed musician myself, I never enjoyed playing these types of music games; they always came off as incredibly boring. I’ve always gravitated to the games that let me actually write a song piece-by-piece, track-by-track. Enter the KORG DSN-12, a music application based on the KORG MS-10 monophonic synthesizer, originally released in 1978. Detune Ltd. is the company behind this re-creation of the KORG MS-10 in all its analog synthesis glory. But be warned, if you have never tinkered with actual synthesis before, you’ll need to invest some serious brain-bucks in the process. It can be very time consuming to build complex sounds within a monophonic synthesizer. Is the DSN-12 worth picking up if you are not skilled in the sweet process of synthesis? Let’s find, out shall we?
First of all, understand that Detune Ltd. has done an outstanding job of re-creating the original KORG MS-10 synthesizer on the 3DS. Although the screens are not the largest digital real estate around, they do display all the information clearly. All the knobs, switches, and patches are virtually re-built for the DSN-12 and are easily adjustable with the stylus. From a design standpoint, the application is easy to navigate once you know what each screen controls within the application.
Knowing what everything does within that layout is another story. As I stated before, analog synthesis is not an easy process to understand. The DSN-12 gives you 12 basic monophonic synthesizer channels in which you can twist and tweak knobs and sliders to create unique sounds. The possibilities are only limited by the amount of time you wish to invest into experimenting, and be warned, experimentation is a must. You won’t find any sort of tutorial system or intro into how to use the DSN-12 . I understand this is a straight re-creation of an actual keyboard, but there are so many switches knobs and patch cables that without understanding what each does, it’s extremely easy to get lost. You can glance at the digital manual, but it’s incredibly hard to read, and having to pause the game to read it almost deems it worthless. I myself have found other users online through forums and blogs who are ready and willing to share tips and tricks.
One new addition to the original KORG MS-10 that is included in the DSN-12 is the world’s first 3D display oscilloscope screen: a visual representation of sound waves. The top screen on the 3DS functions as the oscilloscope and although it adds nothing new sound-wise to the synth, it truly is something to marvel at while you play and create.
If analog synthesis and old-school music creation is something that interests you, it’s hard not to recommend the DSN-12. It truly is a faithful recreation of an awesome analog synthesizer at a fraction of the price you could find them for in today’s market. But remember, this is in no way an easy tool to pickup and learn in one afternoon; it has an extremely steep learning curve. A lot of players might find themselves somewhat frustrated within the their first couple hours with the program, but if you can give it some time and patience, you will definitely be sonically rewarded. Even though the DSN-12 may mostly appeal to a niche audience and definitely take some dedication to master, it is still a great pickup for anyone looking to tinker in the fine, yet not forgotten craft, of analog synthesis.