Synth Site: Korg: DSS1 Sampler: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.4 out of 5
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Sašo Podobnik a part-time user from Slovenia writes:
There's one thing about the DSS-1 that I'll remember until the rest of my days - the SIZE. The pictures just DON'T do it justice, maybe it'll help if I tell you that it's bigger and heavier than my Yamaha DX7 IN A ROADCASE. When I drove it home from where I bought it this March, I had to knock down BOTH back seats in my car, and I still barely got it in. The guy who just picked it up from my house had to do the same in a much bigger car.

The size, however, is absolutely justified for a 1986 machine, for the DSS-1 is was immensely powerful piece of gear back then. A sampler which would treat each sample as an oscillator and could process it the same way that analogue synths process a waveform - through analogue filters, mind you - was something unheard of then and it took a while for dedicated samplers to include this feature.

That's not nearly all, however: the DSS-1 allows you to edit every single frame of the sample or to create a completely new waveform, which you can also draw with a slider. When I first got the synth, I thought this was going to be cooler than it turned out to be. It IS fun, but no matter what I did, I got hollow and/or metallic sounds which got only mildly after having been processed.

Even though the factory sample disks are pretty good, especially the brass and strings, they didn't see much use as I don't use many samples of real instruments in my songs. There was a particular sample disk that I used all the time, however - the orchestra hits. I make 80's pop music and the hits were absolutetly perfect (e-mail me at to hear them in action). I wanted to sample my analogue drum machines into the DSS-1 and make sample libraries, but either the sampling on the DSS is a really bothersome thing, or I just wasn't doing it right. The drums lost all their punchiness and there was too much noise because of the 12 bit A/D converters.

Other than that, I used the DSS-1 as my master keyboard, even though I didn't like the key action very much - way too "clunky" for fast synth solos, if you know what I mean. So after I bought a DX7, it was time for the DSS-1 to go - it was taking up too much space for what it did and I sold it for a fair price. I wasn't particularly sorry about seeing it go, even though it wasn't a bad keyboard. I consider myself very fortunate that nothing broke down during the six months that I had it, especially the disk drive, which is expensive to fix. I'm really happy about all the space I reclaimed in my (bedroom) studio - the next time I buy a keyboard as big as this, it'll be the Alesis Andromeda.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Saturday-Oct-12-2002 at 08:26
José António Pereira a part-time user from Portugal writes:
Very competent and sturdy synth/sampler. You can get very synthetic sounds out of it. I'm searching for a PC or Atari software editor for it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Jul-21-2002 at 08:09
Metropoj a part-time user from Toronto Area, CANADA writes:
I am one of the few lucky ones to own a DSS Expanded with SCSI and 2meg. I've owned this for about 10 years now and some of those sounds just can't be done justice on another axe. For you others out there with an Expanded ( I hear there's about 6 of us according to Korg Canada ) I have the only known drivers for Turtle Beach Sample Vision 2.0 Dos editor. Works great for looping, etc.... Drop me an email if you're interested ...... I am interested who out there has one ..... or if yours is dead and you want to sell it for parts ....

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Feb-13-2002 at 13:16
Matthias Stock a part-time user from Germany writes:
The most important thing in rating this instrument is to view it as a synthesizer with endless possibilities to create own waveforms. If you look at it as a sampler its no wonder if you are dissapointed. But as a synthesizer this thing is the most versatile piece of gear I have ever seen. From fat analog to cold digital sounds it is all possible. Especially the hybrid sounds have their own character which remind me on the PPG Wave 2.2 and 2.3. The difficulty with the DSS-1 is that it is not easy to understand and to program. From 1989 to 1996 this was my only synthesizer and so I was forced to get everything I needed out of this machine. After all those years I can tell you it is possible.

A unique features of this machine is to get directly into the sample-ram to edit every single sampleword which is usefull to create one cycle waveforms for subtractive synthesis but which is also a lot of work with over 1000 samplewords. The waveforms on the Korg disks are created with additive synthesis so the classic waveforms like saw, square, triangle are not perfect. With editing every sampleword you can give them a perfect form. Especially the perfect sawtooth sounds much more punchier and fat. If you remind that the original waveforms inside are played with 32KHz samplerate the sampleword editing also allows you to create waveforms with 48 KHz on your own which is also a lot of work but results in a much better sound, especially in the lower octaves.

I can also recommend a usefull modification to get the filter into self-oscillation which expands the sound possibilities very much. For this you have to open the DSS-1 and to recalibrate the trim pots for each of the eight filter modules. This is not very easy and you have to know exactly where you are allowed to recalibrate and where not. If you are interested in this modification please send an email and I can give exact introductions for this operation.

The DSS-1 is a very good synth for all kinds of pads because of its "cheap" filters with a liquid sounding resonance and its VCA section with operates with linear amplification (this means slow attack and decay). Try sampling wavesequences or wavetables from synths like the Korg Wavestation or the Waldorf Microwave and treat it with a filter sweep from the DSS-1 and you have something close to the PPG sound.

Another strong point is the ability to use the DSS-1 as an external digital delay when you give any signal into the sampling input without starting the sampling process. Any parameters of the digital delay you programmed before are kept for your external signal. Also try this with decreasing the bit resolution and a low sample rate of 24 or 16 KHz. The resulting aliasing gives an exciter effect to the sound (but with an interesting lo-fi character).

Even if its a lot of work and patience try to get into the depth of this machine; its worth it. Don´t judge the DSS-1 as a bad machine before doing so. It belongs to the most underrated synths ever.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Jan-26-2002 at 20:48
Dru a professional user from USA writes:
I don't know why you guys mind the size, this thing is a beast on stage. I use it as a controller sampler and synth. Makes some of the worst, horrifying, disturbing, wretched, car crash noises ever and I love it! Really good for R+B or rap too. I write industrial coldwave stuff and it works fabulous for that too. Get one of these, maybe an external sampler and a rack module and you'll be set AND have a huge twisted beast on stage. Be a man and just lug it. :)

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Dec-29-2001 at 23:22
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