How Lo(fi) Can You Go? Sonicware's New Liven Lofi-6

An Affordable Lo-Fi Sampler/Groovebox at 6kHz

Ryan Gaston · 08/08/23

We're thrilled to announce that Sonicware has released the Liven Lofi-6—the newest addition to their Liven series of affordable, approachable all-in-one grooveboxes. It borrows many of the features of the ever-popular Liven Lofi-12, with some important differences that drive it into new sonic territory.

The Liven Lofi-6 is a limited edition release, with only 500 units available worldwide—and Perfect Circuit is proud to act as the exclusive retailer for this release. And note: to celebrate its release, we've teamed up with YouTube synth aficionado Starsky Carr away a full set of Sonicware Liven boxes—so head to our contests page for your chance to win!

Given how awesome Lofi-12 has proven to be, we're excited to see and hear what everyone does once they have the even more lo-fi Lofi-6 in their hands. I'd strongly suggest checking out our Lofi-12 review for background on the Liven Series as a whole, as well as a focused look at what make Lofi-12 so special. We'll re-tread some ground here as we take a closer look, though, and the Liven Lofi-6. Let's dive in.

Sonicware Liven Lofi-6 Overview

Sonicware's Liven Lofi-6 is a retro-inspired multi-track sampler with an integrated keyboard, sequencer, and effects. It has a dedicated headphone output and a built-in speaker. It can easily be used to build out entire tracks, but its inclusion of MIDI input and output as well as 3.5mm sync inputs and outputs means that it can easily fit into nearly any musical workflow—you can control it from external sources, sync it to your Roland Aira Compacts/Korg Volcas/Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators, or even use it to sequence synths or drum machines. Despite its low price, it's a surprisingly capable piece of kit—certainly great for beginners, but also perfect for anyone looking to add a touch of lo-fi sampling to their setup.

But how does it work? And what makes it unique from the Liven Lofi-12?

Lofi-6 offers nearly all the same features as Lofi-12—including the "laid-back" sequencing option, resampling, and sample chopping. It offers the same powerful four-track sequencer, complete with paramater and sound locks. But the most significant unique aspect of Lofi-6's sound is its sampling engine itself—which use a super-retro 6kHz, 16-bit sampling algorithm to create truly crispy, crunchy lo-fi tones. Anything you sample will instantly transform into a pleasingly vintage-style tone. As an added bonus, the low sample rate means that you can have quite long samples in the individual sample slots. In fact, when sampling in mono, you can get up to eight seconds in every slot (with the option for start and end point trimming, pitch adjustment, reverse playback, sustain loop, filter, and LFO-based modulation of various parameters).

Interestingly, the 6kHz sample rate wasn't necessarily a common rate among vintage samplers—classic like early Akai and E-mu samplers often used 12kHz sample rates. Halving the sample rate gets you into distinctly different sonic territory—somewhat less like the sound quality of early hip-hop, and more in the realm of early television and radio shows. This unique sound quality will prove a great tool for injecting a sense of nostalgia into your music.

Lofi-6 also offers the unique TUBE mode—which replicates the harmonic distortion from a vacuum tube amplifier. This adds an extra layer of fat bass and crisp highs...a pleasant complement to the vintage digital sound. Especially when considered in conjunction with the old television-esque sound quality, this takes the sense of nostalgia up a notch.

That said, Lofi-6 otherwise offers basically the same feature set as Lofi-12—aside from the sampling frequency and 12-bit sampler mode (exclusive to the Lofi-12). The tremendously flexible sequencer provides four tracks of step sequencing with per-step parameter locks and sound locks...enabling per-step sonic modifications and the ability to switch the samples used on every sequencer step altogether. So, despite having only four tracks, you could create immensely rich, detailed, and intricate sonic structures. You can use the laid-back feature to slightly delay sounds for a markedly human feel; you can resample your sound to help build more intricate arrangements; you can auto-slice samples; you can finger drum patterns, or play it like a polyphonic keyboard—the options are nearly endless.

Liven Lofi-6 offers independent effects on each of its four tracks. It has twelve types of effects, each of whose parameters can be controlled via sequencer parameter locking. In addition to these effects, you also get six types of master effect, including multiple high-quality reverbs. Some of our favorite master effects, though, are the cassette tape simulator, vinyl simulator, and remix performance effect—all of which provide their own colorful and characterful spin on our sound. Additionally, the new S.Maximizer effect helps to compensate for the high-frequency loss inherent to the low sampling frequency...bringing some air and crispness back into your tone.

Getting into every detail of how Lofi-6 works is beyond the scope of this short article...but suffice to say, it's a tremendously exciting addition to the Liven family. Liven Lofi-12 has already proven to be one of the most fun instruments Sonicware has produced, and Lofi-6 feels like an organic outgrowth of everything that makes the Lofi-12 so special. It pushes farther, though—out of the realm of '80s and '90s nostalgia and into territory that feels relatively unmined in the world of electronic music. The unique sound and robust feature set combine to make a novel and just plain fun if you're looking for a sampler with a sound and features unlike anything else, you've simply got to give Liven Lofi-6 a careful look.