Test: Sonicware Liven LoFi-12, Sampling-Groovebox - AMAZONA.de (2023)

Lots of LoFi examples, baby!

13 January 2023

Sonicware Liven LoFi-12, Muestreo-Groovebox

Table of contents

  • What is Liven LoFi-12?
  • Summary of the Liven series
  • What is included in the Liven LoFi-12?
  • Description of the functions
  • What connections does Liven Groovebox offer?
  • Sonicware Liven LoFi-12: Hardware
  • Sampling and editing options
  • sequencer
  • Operation Sonicware Liven LoFi-12
  • detailed manual
  • interim conclusion
  • Software update 2.0 New features

It really happens in quick succession, but not the other way around with Sonicware from Japan. Every six months, the small, active Tokyo-based company releases electronic drum kits and affordable drum machines, most recently with demo capabilities. The two newest products are SmplTrek and LoFi-12. Both with sample engine. Today we're going to focus on the cheaper LoFi-12 and test the 12-bit Groovebox, hence the name and its sampling abilities.


What is Liven LoFi-12?

Here we have a portable drum machine with 12-bit sampling function, which stylistically fits into the hip-hop, chill, lounge, funk and 70s of the internal sound spectrum. However, the factory loops and sounds can be completely replaced. Since the sampler engine can (also) run in 12-bit, the sound aesthetic has its own lo-fi charm, just like it did with the Akai S950. A 4-track sequencer, extensive sound and sample processing functions, several audio effects per track and other features invite you to improvise and produce music.

Summary of the Liven series

Somehow the design reminds me of the Akai Sampler, here without the overlay.

The Sonicware Liven LoFi-12 looks the same as the other Liven devices, only the colors and labels have been adapted to the new concept. The internal hardware is basically exactly the same, only the operating system and the sound content have been adjusted. A smart concept! This saves costs, which is reflected in the moderate price and development time, which suits the musician, since the sales price can be kept low to appeal to exactly the right target group. Ever since I had the chanceit's him8-bit animated distortionsto AMAZONA.de, where I also voiced some criticism, I am curious to see whether the echo from Germany has also arrived in Japan.

What is included in the Liven LoFi-12?

Long story short, there's not much in the box, which is almost exactly the same dimensions as the device itself aside from thin padding, a business card (anime, after all), and a security information booklet. No power supply, no cable, nothing! The Pure device comes with a template (overlay) for the example functions. And now? Well, if you don't have a 9V power supply with at least 1A, take a look at the tube first. If you don't have it lying around at the moment, you can switch to 6 AA batteries that can be stored in the floor. If you don't have them ready, the anticipation evaporates, because then it's time to go to the discount store around the corner!

If you don't have a suitable power source, consider switching to batteries.

A small consolation: the missing power supply is not included in the scope of delivery of other Liven devices either. This is likely to have fallen victim to cost pressure. And let's face it, adding a power supply would also mean a bigger case. More volume also means less space in the container etc. You know where this is going. However, since this is a standard power supply, it might not be a bad idea to go without it. Chances are you have one at home and don't use it all the time. Therefore, saving raw materials is not a negative point.

Description of the functions

No more heating up! Let's take a quick look at the technical facts. I summarize the most important facts:

  • 16-bit PCM sampling - 12kHz/24kHz (switchable) (mono)
  • 12-Bit-LoFi-Sampling-Modus
  • 4 seconds 12 kHz / 2 seconds 24 kHz sample memory per sample slot (128)
  • a total of over 8 minutes of sample memory (12 kHz)
  • Start sampling automatically
  • Examples of editing functions
  • 10 faces polyphony
  • 128 Sample-Slots (16x 8 Bänke)
  • Import and export samples via MIDI
  • Filter: LP/HP/BP
  • Pro LFO-Spur
  • 11 Reizwirkung
  • 8 main effects
  • 4 sequencer tracks with up to 64 steps
  • Parameters and sound blocking
  • Example of color rendering
  • Relaxed button for delayed rhythms and the "flow"
  • 80 handpicked preset sounds

Sampler structure diagram

We've got a little under the hood. What shouldn't be missing? That's right, the small built-in loudspeaker, which should only be used to guide the sound. By the way, it can be switched off, which I absolutely recommend!


What connections does Liven Groovebox offer?

All connections are on the front panel. Left, right, back and forth, nothing to see. It's also nice that you can put Sonicware Liven Appliances next to each other. For syncing we have SYNC IN and OUT, full size MIDI IN and OUT, then a LINE IN (stereo) input for sampling, a stereo output and a headphone jack. Everything done in mini jack! You won't find a USB port or a port for a micro SD card. Samples can only be saved via the MIDI port of a connected computer. It's certainly not convenient and technically outdated, but it fits the concept of an improvised device.

All connections can be found at the top right

Sonicware Liven LoFi-12: Hardware

Before we move on to the music test, a few words about the hardware itself. It only occurred to me to unscrew the device since I had never seen or read anything about the technical intricacies of Sonicware Liven devices. We at AMAZONA.de are exactly right! There are no half measures here. So let's take a look. beat!

Take LoFi-12. Notice the speaker in the top left corner.

As I suspected, all Liven devices share the same motherboard. The year 2020 is written on the blackboard. I discover a Texas Instruments low-power DSP core with 200 MHz as the main processor. Everything is labeled, perfectly structured and always equipped with high-quality components. The circuit boards are permanently installed in the front panel and mechanically screwed so tightly that the electronics are not damaged even with rough handling. The case itself is made of hard plastic and due to the rounded corners, something shouldn't come loose too quickly. Only the row of smaller menu buttons is rubberized.

All other controls, buttons and the keyboard are also made of durable plastic. Incidentally, it pushes and turns just as precisely as other Liven devices. You can't hear a firm pressure point on all keys, not even on the "keyboard", but it still feels precise. You can also trigger multiple steps by moving or pasting them into the sequencer. Unfortunately, the small carriers are not screwed into the housing, but sit firmly on the potentiometer shafts and almost touch the front panel. Not easy to turn, good grip I would say. Only the value identifier (DATA) has a grid, which makes parameterization easier. Incidentally, the printing on the front panel is high-quality, durable and very easy to read with this color combination. I just realized that the color might be from an Akai sample. I almost didn't notice it because of all the testing.

The labeling of the secondary function is easy to read.

In terms of area, it is slightly smaller than a DIN A4 sheet and with a height of just 4.8 cm, the LoFi-12 can also be described as transportable in relation to its weight of only 790 g. In short, a proven concept! There are no design deviations and nothing to complain about.

For those interested: The H11L1, H11L2 is an optically coupled isolator. It consists of an infrared emitting gallium arsenide diode and a microprocessor compatible Schmitt trigger. It is housed in a standard 6-pin double in-line package.

Sampling and editing options

Sampling is pretty quick. Place the red model on the LoFi-12, apply an audio signal to LINE IN, select the sample bank and sample slot, turn on sampling so you can see the audio level using the LEDs from left to right can see and Records. All this is also possible with an adjustable threshold. And you can already play the chromatically recorded material on the "keyboard", like in father's time. Of course, you can preset the sampler quality and level, whether you want to record mono or stereo. It's also important to know that you can't sample directly connected guitars and microphones. To do this, you need a center-connected mixer or a device that provides a line level.

Now with red overlay for sample editing only.

After all, the most important things are offered: attack, throw, starting point, end point, throw and level. You can even set a loop and reverse sample playback is also possible.

There is no slicing, i.e. the sample is divided into fragments. It is also not possible to automatically adjust a loop to the internal clock (extended time). Rather, it means that the recorded loop can be matched to the BPM number just by changing the pitch. That's how it used to be done, and now it's being done again. Simply old school! I felt transported back to the days of the Akai S2800, although it was a useful time back then. It is precisely these limited options that lead to unpredictable results. Good to know: For each sample slot you have four seconds at 12 kHz or two seconds at 24 kHz for your own samples. There are 128 sample slots available, giving us 512 seconds of sample memory, which is roughly eight and a half minutes. He's fine! You can work with it.

Addendum:All in-house samples can be replaced with new material. A factory reset is also possible to restore the factory settings.


The Sonicware Liven Lofi-12 only has four sequencer tracks (tracks), but nothing is missing. The maximum length of a pattern is 64 steps. Programming is possible both in direct mode and in steps. It goes hand in hand, so it's pretty intuitive. In general, they have stayed true to the sequencer concept of previous drum machines, weakened a bit here and there, so many things have really become easier.

Randomization and audio shutter effects are useful and especially useful for samples. The parameter lock, i.e. the recording of controller movements, can be programmed in stages. Alternatively, simply rotate the desired parameter during playback and the movement will be recorded. I couldn't find any concurrent usage limits. Any parameter can be written to the sequencer. This can introduce sonic differences inherent in a per-step pattern and makes the concept even more interesting. You can be sure that you won't miss any sequencer function. The LoFi-12 is also packed with features, just like its brothers and sisters from the same company. Here you play the proven card and progress on safe ground. A new feature is the relaxed function, which slightly changes the time at the beginning of the sample, which then degenerates into a somewhat more rhythmic interplay. Actually, it's a superficial reference to hip-hop, but brings a bit of naturalness with a fast tempo. It really works and I find it very useful. Doesn't sound weird. There are no restrictions when pairing the LoFi-12 with external devices. Everything has been thought of again!

Here's another tip:When triggering loops, be sure to turn on the internal metronome and adjust the volume. It is factory set to zero. However, this is extremely useful, especially when grouping loops. The built-in speaker is very useful.

Sound quality and built-in audio effects and sounds

As for overall sound quality, when using 24kHz samples it's just like Sonicware Liven Bass & Beats or Sonicware Liven XFM. It's the same hardware. It's easy to be distracted by the look of the plastic case and sometimes find the sound cheesy, but with the LoFi-12 this is due to the many factory samples and, above all, the 12kHz function. This is already heavily represented in the internal sounds. Of course that's the concept. In this respect it is a matter of taste and everyone has to judge for themselves. The sound quality is still good for this price range. Don't expect silky, crystalline highs. This is a blocking machine. If you record the material correctly you can already feel the pressure in the beats and all four tracks come together in fine detail. There is nothing to complain about here either. The internal sounds are more hip hop or lounge jazz. There are also disco or '70s sounds here and there that sound more garish than natural, but it makes sense to hop on the unit and give it a try. Every sound inside is interchangeable, so there's no genre limitation. We have a 4-track sampler here! Unfortunately, none of the four tracks can manage multiple samples as a kind of drum track and then fit a drum beat into a single track.

Let's move on to the built-in audio effects that can be assigned to each track individually. There is a multi-effects engine and an additional reverb processor. Chorus, flanger, delay, crush, distortion, low-pass filter, high-pass filter, isolator, slope EQ, tremolo and a compressor are available. The reverb effect also has several variants: Hall, Room, Arena, Plate, Tunnel, Infinity, Tape and Vinyl simulator. I wonder why this was added to reverb programs? All effects sound usable and appropriate for the price range. The reverbs sound really good and sound great. This is a good start. The noise tape simulation and wow+flatter fit into the concept and the vinyl crackle can also be regulated from subtle to excessive. I know it's like a toy, but it fits here. Hello, it must be like this! Effects can also be added to the whole thing if desired. The fat crackle of the vinyl in the stereo sum is a treat. Then add relaxed control and it's time to relax. Hardware can be so beautiful. Let's get back to the point!

Test: Sonicware Liven LoFi-12, Sampling-Groovebox - AMAZONA.de (17) Test: Sonicware Liven LoFi-12, Sampling-Groovebox - AMAZONA.de (18)

Sonicware VIVIR Lofi-12

Customer rating:


Operation Sonicware Liven LoFi-12

Many features go hand in hand with double assignments, as is the case here. The SHIFT key is mainly used for the lower functions of the keys, and the FUNCT key is for all other keys. You get used to it quickly, but in reality you always need it. The display shows abbreviations, which after a short time are no longer hieroglyphs. Orientation is easy thanks to the many buttons and illuminated LEDs. The dials, while small, have good resistance when turning. The value slider is snapped, so it can edit sensitive parameters. In general, you can quickly become familiar with this concept, provided you have some prior knowledge of sampling. Of particular note is the LED strip that shows the fill level during sampling, as marked on the red model. This allows you to visually see the volume level of the incoming audio.

The most commonly used keys on the device: SHIFT and FUNC

detailed manual

If the content of the instructions for the other Sonicware devices is very functional and technical, but not very clear, then you can speak of a manual upgrade. Although still only available in English, the chapters and sub-items in the 80+ page manual are well structured. Attractive illustrations, detailed diagrams and colorful icons bring the content straight to the brain. The corresponding sequence of steps is also numbered in the figure. In this way, even a motivated beginner can learn the sometimes tricky processes. A big leap up as far as the manual goes. Thank you SonicWare! So the critics of the past were heard.

interim conclusion

What to think of Sonicware Liven LoFi-12? Basically, the wallpaper (design) has been changed, the content changed and improvements made. Not exactly! This is the first Sonicware sampler that integrates and merges an entire sequencer in the simplest way. As icing on the cake, there are all the features that have always been available with Sonicware that work. And that gives you a fat pack. Of course, an iPad app can do that too, but not like this. The size and quality of the hardware is absolutely fine and it gets to the point with its simplicity. Both beginners and professionals can use the device, as the list of functions is long and you can use whatever you want. For us musicians, who always have an infinite number of tracks at our disposal, four tracks are of course not enough. But we also know that less is often more. A beat, a bass and a few other samples are enough, right?

Oh yeah, and I forgot the cute thank you card that jumps in your face when you open the package! Isn't that cool or does it affect the tester's opinion?

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Software update 2.0 New features

Patterns and tracks can now be resampled. It is also possible to record during playback.

the Hacken
The two new models "Drum" and "Chop" have been added. Drum rhythms can now be automatically created on the keyboard and played individually.

Remix Effect
A remix effect has been added to the internal effects. A beat repeater makes real-time playback even more varied.

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