By Ben Kuchera | Published: November 09, 2008 - 08:00PM CT

While the DS is sold as a gaming console, the hardware can have many uses. While the US market hasn't been as friendly to DS software like language trainers and personal organizers as the Japanese market has, a very cool product has just been released here that allows you to create your own electronic compositions on the Nintendo DS. The Korg DS-10 is here, and, while you may have to spend some time with the product before you learn the ins and outs of the software, the $40 software has some serious potential.

Ars spoke to Nobuyoshi Sano, the producer of the DS-10, and he wanted to stress exactly what the product is. "The DS-10 is not a game, but a professional music creation software tool that just happens to be on a gaming platform," he told us. He's right. When you first turn on the product you're presented with a wealth of options and intimidating screens filled with dials and knobs. It looks like anything but a game and, if you've never used a high-level synthesizer before, be prepared to feel lost. Sano doesn't see this as a problem, however. "Instead of trying to learn everything the software can do, I think one of the joys of DS-10 is to go with your instinct and have fun with the tone and sound, and before you know it you have a song on your hands."

We had fun twisting the knobs, using the touch screen, and generally trying things out in the hope of getting some interesting sounds out of the software. It's amazing to look at what a practiced hand can do with the software. The ability to hook the DS up to a set of speakers and the portable nature of the hardware means you could use the software during live shows, if you're so inclined, or you can just bring it to parties to show off your music. Be prepared to put some hours into learning the ins and outs of the system—the video tutorials on the product's site are certainly helpful, but if you've ever been interested in learning how a synth works, this is an inexpensive way to teach yourself.

Oddly enough, although it comes with a "low price" for a music product, the DS-10 has caused some mainstream retailers issues. "Since this title is so unique and the first of its kind, some retailers have indeed been hesitating to carry it since they believe that a $39.99 suggested retail price is too high for a DS 'game,'" Sano told us. "The music enthusiasts out there know it’s an absolute bargain at that price since the DS-10 is a full-featured synthesizer comparable to hardware that costs hundreds of dollars, but it’s been challenging to convince retail video game buyers of that since they are used to dealing with a $29.99 price point for most DS games." He said they are in talks with some specialty music retailers to stock the software.

DS Lite Orchestra - Cicadas
from DS Lite Orchestra.

The product may seem like a powerful musical tool crammed into a gaming system but, in practice, the DS does a very good job of letting you control all of the many features of a synthesizer. "At the beginning of this project, before thinking of the primary audience, it was simply all the development staff who loves synthesizers getting together and wanting to create something that we wanted," Sano told Ars. As a labor of love, this is a very cool product and, while the creator's don't like to call it a game, you can certainly have a whole lot of fun playing with it.

People certainly need to know exactly what they're buying—you'll get as much out of it as you put into it. The Korg DS-10 can be anything from a fun desk toy for those who want to throw on some headphones and make some music, but it can also function as a portable part of a real band. You can even wirelessly link up multiple carts to make music with friends.

Here's hoping more companies find interesting uses for the Nintendo DS.