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.