Sonicware's new synth captures the gloriously retro sound of the Sega Genesis

Sonicware, the Japanese manufacturer behind the LIVEN Texture Lab and Lofi-12 groovebox, has unveiled its latest synth, the LIVEN Mega Synthesis.

Mega Synthesis recreates the sound of the world's first 16-bit video game console, the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive, to us Brits). Released in 1989, the Genesis made use of the YM2612 sound chip, which Sonicware has emulated in precise detail through the development of three separate components.

A four-operator, eight-algorithm FM synthesis module mimics the YM2612's unique sound, a PSG (Programmable Sound Generator) module handles basic waveforms and noise to create those nostalgic chiptune-esque tones, and an 8-bit PCM module delivers crunchy sample playback in the style of the Genesis' Z80 microprocessor, with 96 sample slots and between 2-8 seconds of sample time depending on the chosen sample rate.

Mega Synthesis' recreation of the console's sound goes even further with Legacy Mode, a feature that captures the sonic details of the YM2612 sound chip through the emulation of the synth's filter frequency response and its 9-bit digital-to-analogue converter, while the PCM track can be switched to 4-bit playback for extra grit. 

The synth is equipped with a six-track sequencer comprised of three tracks for the FM synth, two tracks for the PSG module and one track for the PCM sample player. The sequencer can hold up to 128 patterns of up to 128 steps; steps, tracks and patterns can be duplicated and transposed, and the sequencer offers parameter locking, randomization, arpeggiation and probabilistic sequencing.

Notes can be recorded via the 27-key keyboard or dialled into the step sequencer, and patterns can be processed through a range of ten onboard effects, including delay, reverb, bitcrusher, distortion, compressor, low and high-pass filters and a "remix performance effect". 

When it comes to I/O, Mega Synthesis offers line in, line out and headphone out via stereo 3.5mm mini-jacks, along with MIDI in and out through 5-pin DIN connectors, and sync in and out via more 3.5mm mini-jacks. The synth can be run on six AA battereis or powered via an external 9V DC supply. 

Sonicware have enlisted the talents of video game composer Yuzo Koshiro, known for soundtracking Sonic The Hedgehog and Streets of Rage, to design 32 sound presets and 8 patterns for the synth, which join its 320 FM presets and 64 sampled drum kits. Take a listen through some of Yuzo's preset patterns in the video below. 

The first units of LIVEN Mega Synthesis have sold out, but a second batch will be shipped out on 23rd January. The synth is priced at $239. 

Find out more on Sonicware's website.


(Image credit: Future)


(Image credit: Sonicware)


(Image credit: Sonicware)
Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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