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Roland Zenbeats

Roland Zenbeats  ·  Source: Roland

Roland Zenbeats

Roland Zenbeats  ·  Source: Roland

Roland Zenbeats

Roland Zenbeats  ·  Source: Roland

I’ve been a fan of Stagelight for many years. It’s an extremely affordable and capable touch-orientated DAW and performance software that works great on Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. The last version was really good and took great strides with the content and feature set. I wonder whether that trajectory will continue under Roland’s guidance? Is this finally the end for Open Labs or is a new and innovative adventure for this awesome piece of music-making software? 


Open Labs says that development has proceeded at a rapid pace and Roland are ready to release the revitalised and rebranded Roland Zenbeats. It’s been pumped full of Roland sounds and content, includes 3rd party plugin integration, added drag-and-drop support, collaborative jamming via Ableton Link, streamlined Cloud support and enhanced export options. They’ve streamlined the interface a bit and are ready to take on the world.

This is not the first time Roland has got into the DAW game. In 2003 they got together with Cakewalk for a “Strategic Alliance” and took over as majority stakeholder in 2008. There were a number of “Cakewalk by Roland” products going around until they sold all their stock to Gibson in 2013. So they have form for this sort of thing and I wonder how they are approaching it this time around.

The good news is that for the next 90 days existing users will be able to obtain the full version of Zenbeats completely free. All of your existing songs and purchased content will still be there. All you have to do is apply for a Stagelight key with your registered email address and then create a Roland Backstage account and drop the key into the Roland store. It should all go swimmingly.

Moving from Stagelight to Zenbeats

Hang on, let me check that out…. and yes it was all relatively straight forward. Once I uploaded my key all the extra parts of the software were unlocked and after and restart I could use VST plugins.

It all looks very similar, a little greyer if anything but all the same effects and instruments are present and accounted for. I can’t see any additional Roland instruments, effects, ah there they are – there are boxes of loops and drum kits in the store including 808, 909 and 707 kits which seem to be free for my full version license but otherwise, it’s all Stagelight.

Try for free

Zenbeats is now one of the fruitiest touch-enabled DAWs out there. The Sampleverse instrument is excellent, the pattern editor for the drums is simple, fabulous and has classic Roland drum machine kits and the performance page turns it into a more finger-friendly version of Ableton Live. You get online collaboration between different platforms and you can save your project from your desktop to the Cloud and then open it on your iPhone. It even has MPE support. So, yeah, Roland has got itself a nice thing, I hope they do interesting things with it.

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