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Open Labs Stagelight 4

Touch-friendly DAW For Desktop & Mobile OS
Published January 2019
By Robin Vincent

Cross-platform: Stagelight 4 looks identical on iOS and running on Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet computer.Cross-platform: Stagelight 4 looks identical on iOS and running on Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet computer.

Can a single DAW really perform well on laptop, tablet and mobile phone?

Although some Windows digital audio workstations give a nod to the touch possibilities in the Surface range of hybrid laptops, it's the iPad that attracts all the finger-friendly attention. Stagelight from Open Labs is thus unique in being a touch-centric DAW forged in the fire of the Windows multi-touch interface. In fact, the new version 4 release of Stagelight brings it to iOS for the first time.

Can a single fully featured DAW really be implemented across desktop and mobile platforms? Open Labs believe so, and Stagelight is now compatible with Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS — and not just as a fun music-making app. You can build a project in Stagelight on your iPhone and beam it to your PC and finish it off using desktop processing power, though there will inevitably be compromises in terms of mixing performance profiles and interface gymnastics. So, does touch functionality enhance or hinder the desktop experience? And can Stagelight capture the imagination of creators on iOS who want the option of taking the touch interface and the same software beyond the power of the iPad?

Single Use

Visually, Stagelight reflects many of the apps we see on iOS: it is flat, colourful and stylised, with the neon glow of Tron about it, and stands out from the desktop DAW crowd. It's very adaptable to screen size and unafraid to be chunky when touchscreen fingers demand it. Cascading windows and dockable zones are not its style, and neither are multiple screens or extended desktops. You are encouraged to focus on one thing at a time, as is necessary when working with a phone interface, although this philosophy occasionally delivers strange-looking results in other situations, such as when a small plug-in GUI ends up sitting in the middle of a large screen filled with black space.

Expanded to fit a full desktop monitor, Stagelight looks much like any conventional DAW...Expanded to fit a full desktop monitor, Stagelight looks much like any conventional DAW...

It's a lively interface, peppered with LED-style metering and animated frequency spectrograms. The data within clips is expressed in bright white and stands out dramatically from the darker colours of the interface, especially in the Loop Builder, where you can lay out an Ableton Live-style loop grid for live performance. This works well in low-light conditions, but...

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Published January 2019