Commercial developers are now releasing music creation apps for mobile game systems, in the form of the KORG DS-10 for Nintendo DS and Rockstar’s Beaterator for PSP. But some of the best ideas still come from the homebrew community.

What’s most impressive about ToneSynthDS is not so much what it does as its interface, fitting all its functionality into the DS’ two compact screens. Its minimal interface finds an elegant arrangement of everything you most urgently need, with a sequencer screen on one DS screen and basic virtual analog synth parameters on the other. A 4 x 4 matrix next to the main sequencer grid lets you switch between patterns, in a step sequencer reminiscent of the monome and Tenori-On. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to event editing in this early version, but it could be a lovely way to sketch melodic patterns. (And some of those limitations come from the DS itself. Note, though, that this app gets a full 16 real-time channels on the original DS hardware to the Korg DS-10’s paltry two.)

Developer Fanta/Hotelsinus Sound Design has been posting mock-ups, demos, and now builds as he goes. That means that he gets feedback from an audience of readers and incorporates those as he develops the app – another key difference between the DIY/homebrew scene and conventional commercial development.

More good news: this DS app should also run as a PC VST in a forthcoming version, opening up the fun to folks using netbooks and laptops instead of the DS and creating a nice mobile-to-computer workflow.


In related Nintendo DS news: If you’re thinking about getting the new DS-10 Plus Limited Edition of the KORG DS-10, you’ll need to get it for the region coding of your DS. (In other words, you probably won’t want to import it.) The “Dual Mode” functions are region-locked, so North American and European users can’t use the Japanese DS-10. That’s not such a big deal, as North American distribution was announced, and other regions are expected to follow, but it’s good to know. See details on the All Things KORG DS-10 blog. (Thanks, DS-10 Dominator!)

Check out some demo videos and a quick run-down on specs, and if you’ve got the capability to run homebrew, you can give this a try. Thanks to Art/toitoy for the tip!

  • Two oscillators with fixed oscillators, ADSHR envelopes
  • Filter section (in development)
  • Ring modulation and “cross” mixing (cross-fading between oscillators)
  • 16×16 step sequencer, 4×4 pattern selection

Clearly, there’s a lot of work still to be done, so test this build at your own risk. But it’s already good fun, and the coming roadmap looks logical, with filter options, disk rendering, song mode, and more in store. It’s also an interesting read as far as wrangling with emulators and some of the challenges of DS development.

  • Nice! I'm definitely looking forward to this… it looks like the filter has yet to be implemented, and i wonder if the envelopes will be fast enough to make decent drumsounds though.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Wow, this sounds absolutely wonderful. Gotta grab this now!!! Thanks for the heads up Peter.

  • Aaron

    hell yeah, this looks crazy sexy. gotta f'in love ds music brew 😉

  • Eoj

    Nice! This looks top.

  • jonah

    This is great for simple hypnotic melodies. I just ran it through a bunch of guitar pedals to great effect. I hope it gets a patten sequencer soon. I almost tripped a few times running back and forth to change patterns.

    I donated.

  • epiphanius

    True to the Korg monosynth heritage, the Korg DS synth does not have a sine wave option, while this does. I can't see any advantage of the DS synth over this, though they sound different, so more is good.

  • epiphanius

    Also, there is obviously at least one way to share patches, if they can be saved, then they can be shared. No way of doing that with the Korg DS 10, which is a major shortcoming.

  • smck99

    Fantastic! Truly portable, great sounding, music creation on the go. As if the Korg DS-10 wasn't good enough, this definitely tops it! Systhesis for everyone!

  • Kathryn!!

    Wow! great idea to be able to create music wherever you are!

  • Hi there.

    THank you for the review!

    New version available for download!

  • griotspeak

    Thank you for this, but i am actually very disappointed, I can tell a whole lote of work is going into this, which makes it a little harder to say this but it needs more cowbell.

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  • Why not just do a tenori-on on the DS-10 since they seem to be so popular right now? Yeah, for how long though.