(3DS eShop)

KORG M01D (3DS eShop)

Game Review

KORG M01D Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Blast from the past

3DS has amassed a curiously robust library of music creation software for a chunk of hardware built to play video games. The KORG brand in particular has made itself comfy on Nintendo's handhelds in the past few years, starting with an emulation of the classic MS-10 synth in KORG DS-10, and now the M1 gets the software treatment with KORG M01D. Originally released to retail in Japan, M01D arrives in the West as an eShop exclusive.

The KORG M1 is a music workstation released in 1988 whose popularity rolled it on to become the top-selling synthesizer of its time, in large part propelled by the stellar quality of its sounds and a relative ease of use. You've likely come across some of its samples without even realizing it: The synth was a staple in 90's dance music, and acts like Depeche Mode, The Cure and Pet Shop Boys all jammed out with it. Even the Seinfeld theme song owes its jazzy slap bass to the M1. How 'bout them pop culture bona fides?

Anyone who has futzed around with a step sequencer will find M01D's interface familiar. Songs can have up to eight tracks (individual instrument slots) and are broken down into "scenes" with up to 64 "steps" — i.e. notes — in each. Adding a note is as simple as tapping where you'd like it to go. However, creativity doesn't always suit a grid layout, which is where the Kaoss Pad comes in: Sliding the stylus around the bottom of the screen allows performers to play and improvise melodies and chords, and tapping Record will save a performance to a scene. The same can be done using a keyboard layout. Notes can be tweaked on an individual level for things like velocity and gate, and individual scenes can each have their own settings for reverb, delay, feedback, tempo and level. There is less nitty-gritty control over notes than found in Rhythm Core Alpha 2, but there is plenty on offer to help bring a song to life.

The three sound banks carry across them a total of 342 sounds and instruments, which all sound fantastic. The waveform data from the original M1 occupies its own bank, in addition to one compiling sounds from KORG's 1991 station 01/W as well as an extra bank with samples unique to this release.

As M01D emulates the M1, musicians still have to work within the workstation's original limitations and quirks. Songs can only hold so much information so a handy percentage meter shows how much room is left to work with, and there is a maximum of 24 notes able to be played at once — exceeding this limit will cause notes to be dropped. In addition, the original M1 could expand its sonic library by inserting data cards, but no such functionality is emulated for this release — while the 342 sounds on offer is not an insignificant amount, there are some gaps that could stand to be filled, most notably in the vocals department. Finding a specific sample isn't as easy as it could be as sounds are sorted by bank and then by type, and there is no way to search for one by name.

The interface emulates the M1's 40x2-character LCD screen, and navigation involves pressing five softkeys at the top of the screen to get around. It's not the most intuitive interface at times, but as the workstation's functionality isn't insanely extensive the learning curve isn't as overwhelming as it may first appear. However, the interface can feel a little cramped, with lots and lots of information crammed into the bottom screen. The top screen is used to emulate the body of the workstation itself and is, for the most part, space that could be used more efficiently.

Sharing a magnum opus is easy: Songs can be exported in MIDI form to an SD card, sent to a friend over local WiFi and transmitted to a stranger via StreetPass. Furthermore, up to eight systems can connect over the internet to share tracks with 3DS friends. As for harnessing the unique features of the host hardware, M01D makes completely novel and inessential use of stereoscopic 3D by adding depth to the synth's body on the top screen. It's a nice touch, but you'll hardly notice it after the first hour or so.


KORG M01D doesn't attempt being a single solution for music creation. In fact, it does exactly one thing, but it does it very well: it offers as accurate an emulation of the classic M1 synth as you're going to get for the price, even if the interface translates in quirky fashion to the 3DS. There are more fully-featured music suites out there, but the M01D's versatility and the quality of sounds on offer more than make up for the feature gap.

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User Comments (43)



C-Olimar said:

I like the idea of sharing songs over Streetpass. This isn't my kind of thing though, lacking any sort of musical talent.



Thunderbird said:

I can't believe I wasted 25 euros to this game I'm not too fond of...

Please avoid profanity next time -Lz



Shiryu said:

This thing is so, so awesome and powerful! Makes DS-10 look terribly dated! I'm really glad this now has MIDI export so I can compose some melodies, export the MIDI and use in my DAW. Brilliant stuff from KORG as always!



ToniK said:

I'm more into "real" instruments, but this is actually something I will consider getting. You can never have too much musicmaking in your life



daggdroppen said:

I would have bought this if it were more effects and more tweaking possibilities for the presets. the only real progress from M01 on the DS is M01Ds MIDI-support. that is to little for 25 Euros!

perhaps they could have implemented some use with the microphone as well? I have mailed the team and asked about this but I havent got any answer..

Hope it sells well though, so they will develop another even better KORG product! =)



ramstrong said:

Do reviews mention download size? Pricing in all regions would be appreciated, too. I'm getting this one. It's just a question of when, and whether it's a download/cartridge.



cfgk24 said:

@ramstrong - It's download only - Korg M01D uses 382 Blocks.
Korg M01 was a Cartridge only release for Nintendo DS in Japan. - Hope that helps!



Zaphod_Beeblebrox said:

No one has mentioned it so I'm going to say it: GREAT REVIEW. Thanks!

I have no artistic talent whatsoever but I've been debating about buying this anyway just to "play with music". And it's vastly, vastly, vastly cheaper (and more portable) than buying almost any other kind of musical instrument (not including the cost of the 3DS since I already own it, of course).



cfgk24 said:

@Zaphod_Beeblebrox Yes, it is a great review - it also Doesn't mention that you can exchange songs over the internet! - You must be Friends and be online at the same time but I can send M01D files to a friend in Japan which they can work on and save and send back to me! Brilliant!



onyxbox said:

I've got a real Korg M1 up in the loft... it was/is an amazing synth but weighs and absolute tonne this looks far more portable



SCAR said:

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to get the creations of the app. I know there is the straight recording method, but I really do wish I could use the MIDI files without buying another program for my PC.

Otherwise, for what the app offers, I completely agree with the review. The only reason I could see someone giving this app a bad score is if they can't figure it out, or didn't know what they were buying.



SCAR said:

BTW, the only reason why anyone would ever want to export to PC is for sharing online and such. Within the realms of 3DS, this app delivers.



uhhhhhhhh said:

nice, i love my microkorg. this will be fun.
its about time another useful app was developed!



cfgk24 said:

Just to point out in regard to the MIDI feature - You are a Composer - on a long train journey/flight/sitting in bed - you put on your headphones and start happily composing away on KORG M01D on your Nintendo 3DS - The next day you get to your computer - fire up the DAW/Garageband/Logic/Ableton Live - export the Korg M01D to your SD card on your 3DS - slip your SD card into your computer and transfer over all the MIDI data for that symphony you happened to compose on the train/plane/bed. It opens up nicely in your DAW and you can start assigning sounds/patches to all that lovely touchscreen composed music. . . simples!



jkvasn said:

This thing is a BIG deal. The one of the best things to grace the 3DS imo.



SCAR said:

Exactly. The only issues with having a program that has the same MIDI as on your PC is that it's more expensive.

Some of the programs cost more than $75, but I haven't looked into it that much. My only option right now is straight recording from the the 3DS via the headphone jack.



cfgk24 said:

@SCAR392 Ok, I use Garageband ( which comes free with a Mac or iPad) but a lot of people use Audacity which I think you can download for free as a DAW but I still record my DS10 and Korg M01D audio using a headphone jack . . . Most Digital Audio interfaces come with a free lite version of something like ableton or cubase. . . It's an unfortunate fact that musicians need at least some hardware . . . . . . .



drexegar said:

@Shiryu the Korg M01 is totally awesome, I have the original and the M01D now, but the korg ds-10 is still a beast on its own, I like doing chiptune and FM a lot (game boy, nes, sega genesis) and korg M01 can't handle it that much especially with the lack of pitch bend. But the Korg M01D is still a powerful tool for music creation, when used correctly you make some professional sounding music in any many many styles.



Shiryu said:

@drexegar True, the DS-10 is much better at creating distinct sounds by manipulating it's parameters, but this thing is just spot on perfect to make some melodies on the go. Chiptunes eh? You should probably check out http://shiryumusic.no.sapo.pt/ for all my music for free, chiptunes and everything!



JonWahlgren said:

@Yosher It's a high-quality emulation of a well-known synthesizer, and it's also the digital version of a retail release.



Vincent294 said:

I plan on getting this. I love music, and I'm not too good at my clarinet. Perhaps I'll be better with a synth.



HaNks said:

looks awesome...think i want to get it would i better picking up a copy of the DS version instead though? or the 'plus' version? the US only 'plus' version won't work on a EU 3ds will it? :/



NekoGeo said:

I know nothing about music composition and vocabulary, and the interface looks too intimidating for me o.o Is there any kind of tutorial on how to learn to use the software??



JonWahlgren said:

@NekoGeo It's actually pretty straightforward and you don't have to dig too deep to get a lot out of it. The manual explains how to use everything but playing around is the best way to learn.

@HaNks You're thinking of DS-10, which is available as a retail release. This, M01D, is only available on the eShop in the west.



HaNks said:

@JonWahlgren yeah the DS-10. seems they are quite different in their applications though. think i'll pick this one up for the convenience of having it on my 3ds all the time. may be a bit easier to get into as well



AyeHaley said:

@cfgk24 You are selling this quite well dear. Made me wanna buy it! (and I will )

I love how you can take a midi file and finish it on mac/pc.



cfgk24 said:

@NekoGeo There is a very supportive KORG DS10 and M01D community at www.ds10forum.com including a music theory section based on using these programs. . - Apart from that Jon is right - it is such a simple and intuitive piece of software to use. Trial and error to start with can build your music composition skills.



Zaphod_Beeblebrox said:

Woohoo! I bought it and I've started punching in Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag (sheet music available in PDF format on the web). Nothing like diving into the deep end with some ragtime music. I haven't read music in decades so I had to give myself a crash refresher course on the web.

The default piano sounds great! I predict playing the Maple Leaf Rag with different instruments will be really amusing.

OK, I'll post my future blatherings in the forum thread.



drexegar said:

@HaNks The plus version will work on the EU, just the dual mode wont work, but you still get extra features like mute channeling in song mode (now you can compose a song without having to do it live, or have your hands free to mess with effects live and being able to change a couple of things while the song is playing. Plus some bug fixes. So I say you need get your hands on plus mode most definitely.



drexegar said:

@Shiryu wow you have a lot of music! I heard some of your soundcloud stuff and its awesome! I have to check out your chiptune stuff when I get the time to download them the files are so big!

You can here my korg ds-10 stuff and other things here: I trying my hardest to push the limits of it! https://soundcloud.com/gxscchater



Shiryu said:

@drexegar I have been releasing free music for the past 15 years, very amateurish, mostly from purchase loops and such, but I guess that yes, these things are piling up... I've added you on Soundcloud, listening to your stuff right now. ^_^



drexegar said:

@Thunderbird I feel sorry you feel that way, but its a really powerful tool, you should look up some tutorials on composing music, the programs sequencer is very similar to FL studio, so as long as you look up techniques of placing notes to make certain music you can learn a lot. You can also watch the hundreds of tracks of music made on this on youtube to see how far you can go with it.

Also buried in is a lot of instrument that were use in snes games and movies. Did you know the same bass sound used for Seinfeld is also the use in mega man X games?



cfgk24 said:

I really want someone to come up with the Piano solo from Bruce Hornsby's 'That's Just The Way It Is' . . . . but on KORG M01D!



Blue_Yoshi said:

Been waiting for this since announcement but I think I'll have to wait on this for a while until I get some more free time.



PainiteGames said:

Is MIDI a music file like mp3? I don't want this unless it creates a actual music file I can listen to.



H_Hog said:

@PainiteGames MIDI is indeed a music file, though the files it produces aren't generally playable on an MP3 player. It can be exported and played on pretty much any PC though, chances are if you've used a computer at any point in the 90's you'll have heard MIDI music before, it was pretty much a staple in PC videogame background music.

As for the program itself, picked it up during the Christmas sale (that's still going as I write this!), the only thing that somewhat disappoints me is that it doesn't seem to have an option to import MIDI files.

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