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Electronic Dance Music Gear Buying Guide

EDM Production Gear for the Home Studio

Quietly building an underground fan base since disco's death, electronic dance music is now an integral part of the mainstream. While EDM has been taking the world by storm, the genre has caught some flack from the 'old guard' of music. Perhaps a DJ isn't as musically involved as a brooding guitarist on stage, but the real genius behind EDM is the talent and effort that goes into crafting songs in the studio, where EDM artists meticulously sculpt sonic textures into tightly packed compositions.

Want a piece of the action? Follow this buying guide, and find the gear you need for your own EDM production setup!
DAWs: Recording and Sequencing Software
At the center of your EDM production rig is your digital audio workstation (DAW) software running on your Mac or PC. This is where you arrange your tracks and compose your music. Each DAW comes with its own array of recording, editing, sequencing and sound processing tools, and can also host third-party "plug-in" applications, extending the capabilities of the software.

It's important to note that all DAWs "sound" pretty much the same, since they're simply a means of capturing and playing back digital data. What differentiates one DAW from another is its specific workflow and features. Choose a DAW that suits your creative process. If you're doing a lot of loop-based composition, you'll want a DAW with a non-linear workflow and solid time-stretching tools. If you're a classically trained musician, you may need a DAW that displays musical notation.

Check out each of the software titles below to get a sense of how each DAW looks and feels. Once you've honed in on what works best for you, you can move on to choosing some third-party plugins that will help expand and customize your sound.

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  Ableton Live 9 Suite Music Production Software
or 4 payments of $174.75
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  Image Line FL Studio 11 Producer Edition Software
Play as You Pay on orders $249+
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  Avid Pro Tools 11 Music Production Software
or 4 payments of $174.75
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Audio Effects Plug-ins
Plug-ins are small add-on applications that can be "inserted" on tracks within your DAW. While your DAW will come with an array of sound editing and composition tools, these third-party applications can expand your sonic palette. You can't have too many!

Audio effects plug-ins can emulate the classic outboard gear found in studios -- compressors, limiters, reverbs, and so on. They can also give you entirely new, modern sounds -- check out iZotope Stutter Edit or Melodyne Essentials.

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  iZotope Stutter Edit Effect Software
Play as You Pay on orders $249+
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  iZotope BreakTweaker Beat Production Software
or 4 payments of $62.25
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  Celemony Melodyne Essentials Audio Editor Software
Play as You Pay on orders $249+
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Virtual Instrument Plug-ins
Virtual instrument plug-ins give you the tools to create fully orchestrated compositions entirely "in the box." Sample-based virtual instruments -- such as Toontrack EZDrummer, or SampleTank in IK Multimedia Total Studio 3 -- come with libraries of sampled sounds and loops you can trigger via MIDI. For even more sophisticated sound-sculpting, software synthesizer virtual instruments like Spectrasonics Omnisphere or Cakewalk Z3TA give you the tools to generate new sounds from scratch.

Your virtual instruments are driven by MIDI data that you sequence in your DAW. Sure, you could build beats by entering notes one by one on the grid. But if you want to play your virtual instruments in real time, a MIDI controller is the way to go.

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  Toontrack EZ Drummer 2 Software
Play as You Pay on orders $249+
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  Cakewalk Z3TA Plus 2 Software Synthesizer
Play as You Pay on orders $249+
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MIDI Controllers: Keyboards and Drum Pads
If you're producing electronic dance music, you'll likely be spending a lot of time with your MIDI controller -- so the way it feels under your hands is important! For experienced keyboardists, we recommend a keyboard MIDI controller with at least 49 keys, so you can comfortably play two-handed. Pianists will appreciate the semi-weighted keys found on the Akai MPK49. On more budget-friendly instruments like the Novation Launchkey 49, you'll find springier synth-action keys.

If you need a MIDI controller strictly for laying down drum grooves, pick a pad controller like the M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro, or Akai MPC Studio. Both controllers come with libraries of samples to help you get started making beats right out of the box.

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  Akai MPK49 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard
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$329.95
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or 4 payments of $87.25
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  M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro USB Controller
or 4 payments of $100.00
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Groovebox-Style Hardware and Drum Machines
The Native Instruments Maschine Studio and the Akai MPC Renaissance controller give you velocity-sensitive illuminated drum pads, knobs, and transport controls -- along with powerful sequencing software for your host computer, and extensive sample libraries. With these groovebox-style hardware/software setups, you won't even need separate DAW software.

Modern drum machines like the Roland TR-8 AIRA deliver even more hands-on beat-making bliss. The TR-8 generates fat virtual-analog synth-drum sounds, and outputs 14 channels of audio over USB for integration with your DAW. The Arturia SparkLE, on the other hand, generates no sounds on its own -- it's strictly a USB MIDI controller. It ships with 1500+ drum sounds (plus a sweet software synth) that live on your host Mac or PC, ready to be triggered via the SparkLE's pads and knobs.

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  Native Instruments Maschine Studio
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$799.95
Save 27%
or 4 payments of $249.75
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  Akai MPC Renaissance Music Production Controller
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$854.95
Save 57%
or 4 payments of $250.00
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  Roland TR-8 AIRA Rhythm Performer Drum Machine
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$459.95
Save 7%
or 4 payments of $124.75
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Audio Interfaces
A robust audio interface is a must if you're planning on recording any analog sound sources -- such as vocals through an XLR microphone, or a 1/4" output from a guitar. And the interface you choose will have a definite impact on your sound. That's why it's a good idea to invest in the best audio interface you can afford.

If you're doing EDM production with a lot of audio effects and virtual instruments, you're likely to run up against the limits of your computer's processing power. Universal Audio's Apollo series to the rescue: these audio interfaces' dedicated DSP chips are made to handle DSP-hungry UAD-2 plug-ins, taking the load off your host machine.

Learn more in zZounds' Audio Interface Buying Guide »

  Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 USB 2.0 Audio Interface
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$224.95
Save 25%
or 4 payments of $62.49
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  Apogee Duet Audio Interface for iPad and Mac
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$579.95
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or 4 payments of $148.75
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  Universal Audio Apollo Twin Duo Audio Interface
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$822.95
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or 4 payments of $224.75
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  Universal Audio Apollo Quad Thunderbolt Audio Interface with DSP
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$2,249.00
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or 8 payments of $312.38
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Learn more in zZounds' Audio Interface Buying Guide »
DJ Equipment
Want to get out of the studio and into the club? zZounds can help you find the right DJ gear. Check out our Digital DJ Buying Guide to compare the four major platforms: TRAKTOR, Serato, Pioneer CDJ, and Ableton. Plus, we've got the latest and greatest all-in-one DJ controllers, like the Pioneer DDJ-SX.

Learn more in zZounds' Digital DJ Buying Guide »

  Native Instruments Traktor Scratch Audio 6 USB DJ Audio Interface
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$269.95
Save 20%
or 4 payments of $74.75
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  Numark NS6 Digital DJ Controller and Mixer
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$579.95
Save 55%
or 4 payments of $174.75
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  Pioneer DDJ-SX USB DJ Controller for Serato DJ
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$804.95
Save 32%
or 8 payments of $124.88
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Learn more in zZounds' Digital DJ Buying Guide »
Questions? Our gear experts can help!
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Available on
orders $249+
learn more

Need it now but short of cash? All we need is the first payment up front and the rest in easy monthly payments!

Fast approval.
We approve everyone, with very few exceptions, as long as we can verify your identity.
No interest. Ever.
It's just as if you paid the whole amount up front!
No paperwork. Nothing to track.
No application to mail or fax, no bills to pay. We automatically charge the payments to your credit card.

We'll wait on your money so you don't have to wait for your gear!

When you checkout, just click the Play as you Pay checkbox to indicate which installment plan you wish to use.

close [x]
on most orders $29+

Just $1.99 on
smaller orders

Really heavy stuff might cost you a
little more

learn more

Why fight traffic and pushy salesmen when we'll bring your gear straight to your home, free of charge?

zZounds free shipping is really free!
No hidden charges or hassles on returns.
Fast, reliable delivery
We have warehouses on both coasts, so most shipments arrive in 3 days or less.
We don't collect sales tax. Bonus!
Only NJ residents pay tax during checkout.
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