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Roland Zenbeats: Mobile Music Production Powerhouse

In September 2019, Roland released Zenbeats a cross-platform DAW that promised to be a mobile music production powerhouse. Let’s take a look at the new version 3.0

When Roland released Zenbeats in 2019 it was their first foray into mobile music production. When I tried version 1.0, it was very impressive in many ways. However, it was very unstable on my iPad so I thought I would wait a while before I tried it again. Now they have just released the latest update, version 3.0 so I thought it would be a good time to revisit it and see what the new version has to offer.

The beauty of Zenbeats is that it puts everything you need to make complete music productions and perform live in one place. The Loopbuilder view is a powerful clip launching window that allows you to play parts into the grid using Roland’s built-in instruments, Audio Unit instruments, live audio recording, audio loops, and external midi instruments. Similar to Ableton Live, you can trigger these parts in many combinations to create different sections of a song. The grid is laid out with the instruments on the left of the screen and different sections of the songs in columns. The master track is across the very bottom and by pressing play on any of those squares you can trigger the whole column to play at once. All of the parts on this screen are designed to loop automatically. One square per row can be triggered at one time. There is also a standard linear screen, where you can record and edit your tracks traditionally. Zenbeats provides automation curves that can be drawn in to automate parameters like volume, pan, mute, solo, hi, and low cut, as well as parameters for the onboard instruments, effects, and Audio Units instruments and effects. This is quite powerful, especially for iOS.

Zenbeats is backed by Roland’s legacy of ground-breaking instruments, with over 14,000 presents available for the onboard instruments, you will never be without the perfect sound. From Juno to Jupiter and TR-808, TR-909, and many more, Roland provides the sounds everyone is looking for. The ZC1 synth engine is based on Roland’s powerful ZEN-Core Synthesis System that can provide you with hundreds of authentic Roland sounds. The new ZR1 Drum Sampler provides highly sought-after vintage drum machine sounds and allows you to sample your own sounds and build the perfect custom kit for every occasion. With the touch of a finger, you can sample right into the pad, providing you with simplicity and flexibility. You can use advanced editing features to sculpt your samples, like chop, fade, reverse, and trim. Once you have your custom drumkit built, you can use the dynamic step sequencer to create your drum parts, applying accents, automation, and more per step.

There is a powerful browser that organizes all of your loops, kits, and instruments, and presents with clearly labeled artwork to help you quickly find what you are looking for. The browser also includes all of the Audio Units instruments and effects that you have installed on your iPad also, so you don’t have to leave Zenbeats to utilize them. Also included is the Zenbeats Store, which is loaded with sounds, loops, and more to expand your musical palette. All of the packs are royalty-free and new ones are being added constantly.

The full-screen mixer view allows you to work on your mix like you would on a traditional recording console. It is easy to control volume, filter, panning, and more. You can assign the 17 native effects to your tracks or use Audio Units effects. You can EQ your tracks and balance all of your audio, instruments, and drums from one location. By enabling input monitoring, you can apply effects to the incoming signal. This is an excellent way to use Zenbeats as an effects processor for instruments that don’t have on-board effects. In fact, with a little practice you could use Zenbeats as a live looper and record the effects directly to the loops.

Zenbeats is an exceptional DAW, packed with everything you need to produce music on the go. It offers powerful desktop features and the simplicity of an iOS app. It is nice to finally have a clip launcher-style app that combines audio and midi on the same screen. Integrating Audio Units into the interface is also very handy and I like the way all of your sounds, loops, kits, etc. are organized and right at your fingertips. Zenbeats supports Ableton LINK so you can stay in perfect sync with your other music apps.

You can share your projects, tracks, stems, and more with your other devices, phone, and desktop, and with Google Drive or OneDrive, you can share your files with others. It is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

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