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Sonicware unveil LIVEN Mega Synthesis

Latest synth dedicated to retro video game sounds

Sonicware Liven Mega Synthesis Sega Mega Drive Genesis retro vintage game console music synthesizer

Sonicware’s line-up of hardware instruments includes a number of devices dedicated to creating classic and lo-fi sounds, and their latest offering continues the trend, setting its sights on the world’s first 16-bit video game console. LIVEN Mega Synthesis recreates the sound engine of the YM2612 chip used in SEGA’s Mega Drive/Genesis console, faithfully recreating the sound of late 1980s and early 1990s game music.

Sound Engine

The instrument faithfully recreates all of the aspects of the sound engine used by the iconic console, which includes a four-operator/eight-algorithm FM module, an 8-bit PCM module and a PSG (Programmable Sound Generator). Sonicware have implemented a Legacy Mode which simulates the chip’s quirks, allowing users to configure parameters such as each FM tracks’ filter frequency response simulation, as well as replicating the sound of the 9-bit DAC employed in the design — for maximum flexibility, the mode can be turned on or off on a per-track basis. It is also possible to run the PCM track in a 4-bit playback mode.

The FM module occupies three of the instrument’s six tracks, and offers Mono and Legato voice modes with adjustable glide times, as well as a Polyphonic mode that utilises up to six voices. Two tracks are then dedicated to the PSG module, which provides a choice of 11 wave shapes and offers up to four-voice polyphony. The final track hosts the PCM module, an 8-bit sampler that is capable of running at 12, 24 or 48kHz, offering eight, four or two seconds of sampling time per sample respectively.

Renowned composer and game producer Yuzo Koshiro, who created the soundtracks for classic games including ‘Ys’, ‘The Streets of Rage’ and ‘Etrian Odyssey’, has contributed to the development of Mega Synthesis, and has also created 32 of the instrument’s presets.

Sequencer & Effects

Mega Synthesis’ six-track sequencer is capable of storing up to 128 patterns which can each contain up to 128 steps, and supports step lengths between 1/1 to 1/32. Notes can be entered directly when playback is on or off via a built-in 27-note keyboard, and can be tied together to accommodate longer notes when using shorter time divisions. There are a number of onboard editing tools and functions that make it possible to copy and paste steps or tracks and duplicate sequences, transpose parts, apply swing to patterns and more.

Further sound shaping is provided by the following 10 built-in effects:

  • Send Delay
  • Insert Delay
  • Reverb
  • Crusher
  • Distortion
  • Compressor
  • Low-pass filter
  • High-pass filter
  • Isolator
  • Remix performance effect


In terms of audio I/O, Mega Synthesis features stereo line-level inputs and outputs on 3.5mm mini-jack connectors, along with a stereo headphone output (also on a 3.5mm mini-jack socket) and there’s also a built-in speaker. MIDI I/O is provided by a pair of five-pin DIN sockets, and another pair of 3.5mm mini-jacks offer Sync In and Out connections that can be used to integrate the instrument with other compatible devices. The instrument can be run on six AA batteries, or via an external 9V DC supply (it is compatible with PSUs designed for Korg’s Volca instruments).

Pricing & Availability

The LIVEN Mega Synthesis will begin shipping on 11 January 2024, priced at $239. Sonicware say that units will be produced in small quantities, and they will be shipping orders on a first come, first served basis. 

Update 5 January 2024 - The first shipment has now sold out. Pre-orders are being accepted for the second batch, which is planned to ship from 23 January 2024.

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