The KORG M01D app, available now for about a month for Nintendo’s 3DS handheld, seems the definition of anachronism. It’s a mobile Nintendo DS music app in an age of iPhones and iPads. It’s based on a 1988 digital synth, even as analog is back and style. You use it with a stylus. You can look at the keyboard, which is essentially flat – in 3D. (Well, then you get to see the … flatness … really with some depth.)

But guess what? It’s also wickedly good.

Like, good enough to try to pick up a 3DS on the cheap? Yeah. That good.

The M01D, developed by Detune in collaboration with KORG, is an update of the earlier Japan-distributed M01 app. The “D” is presumably for digital: you can now get this app worldwide, localized to your language. There’s even a nice, extensive manual included.

If the DS-10, like its iOS cousin the iMS-20, is all about synthesis, M01D is about sequencing. It has elaborate tools for arranging patterns and songs, both in terms of editing and X/Y, KAOSS-style input. Pairing the M1 sound bank with those tools means it’s almost impossible not to concoct something.



And perhaps more than the DS-10, what you get is something unique, something you can’t really directly replace in an iOS app. Maybe it’s the combination of the vintage 80s sounds from the KORG M1 and 01/w with the sequencer interface. But what the DS hardware delivers that you might miss in iOS is really speed. Physical hardware controls, coupled with the precision of the stylus and some clever screens, mean that with some practice you can navigate the whole interface and rapidly assemble entire songs.

Fortunately, you’re not restricted to making music on your handheld. Using the 3DS’ SD card slot, you can export Standard MIDI Files (SMF). I’ve even been toying around with the M01D as a mobile MIDI pattern generator, dropping clips into Ableton Live. If you have a copy of the Korg Legacy Collection’s own M1 library, you can even remap most of the sounds to the M1 sounds there, making this a satellite to your desktop software.

And if you do decide to make friends with other fans of this sort of thing, you can use the DS’ wireless features to share songs that way.

Full feature set in the 3DS update:

  • 8 part multi-timbral synthesizer with 342 sounds (max 24 voices)
  • includes all of the original sounds from the KORG M1, selected sounds from the KORG 01/w and some all new sounds developed for the M01
  • Master effects: Reverb and Delay
  • 8 track/max 64 step sequencer for 1 scene/ up to 99 scenes
  • Sound browser, Mixer, Keyboard
  • Easy input “KAOSS” mode for notes, chords and drums using the touch screen
  • Exchange song data with other Nintendo 3DS using Nintendo local wireless communication and via the Internet
  • 3D viewing of M01D on the 3D Screen (hey, stop snickering. It’s completely … okay, actually, totally completely ridiculous.)

Creator Nobuyoshi Sano, whom I got to meet in Frankfurt at Messe, gives a terrific interview with Nintendo Life:
Interview: KORG M01D Creator Nobuyoshi Sano Talks About Making Sweet Music On The 3DS eShop

See their review of M01D, too

In the interview, the tool’s creator really explains the point of this software:

When we made KORG DS-10, it was a software focused on making unique and fantastic sounds and was a great success in doing so — there are many examples on Youtube and Soundcloud of DS-10 in action. Next, as a contrast, we wanted to make something that focused on making songs and compositions. We chose a digital synth that we loved as much as the original Korg MS-10 analog synth — the KORG M1.

Here’s the official demo song:

And I asked Dutch producer Rutger Muller, aka DS Dominator in his chip music guise, to share some of his favorites from the M01. While these cover the earlier version, I think they nicely summarize some of the sort of music being made with the app. Here’s Rutger’s own track to start:

I don’t know why there’s a silver robot on a bike. I can tell you my ass looks fantastic while cycling, though, so let’s assume it’s just the mark of fine music producers.

And Rutger shares two of his other favorites in M01 production. Of course, a quick YouTube or SoundCloud search will yield many more, including a number made on M01D.

Oh, yeah, and the newest Zelda game ain’t bad, either.

Maybe the DS can live forever.

Official site: