Electronic dance music, better known as EDM is known for its feel-good grooves and high-energy beats. If you've been interested in EDM music production, keep reading as we'll be covering the best DAWs for EDM.
Truthfully, there may not be an actual best DAW for EDM, as it always comes down to personal preference and skill set. However, the DAWs on this list have cool features which may pique your interest concerning electronic music production.
1. Ableton Live (Mac/Windows)
Many electronic music producers rave about Ableton, from amateur to professional, and with good reason. Ableton Live puts many innovative tools into a producer's hands, providing highly creative ways of making music. For this reason, Ableton has personally become my main DAW over the years.
For starters, Ableton introduces you to its session view workflow, which is a non-linear style of music creation. Session view allows you to try out ideas in a fluid manner, mixing and matching elements as you see fit. Think of it as auditioning musical ideas before committing to a fully sequenced track.
Sometimes the constraints of timelines can impede the creative process, and seeing that EDM is fast-paced, you can get your ideas out just as quickly when using Session view. Drag and drop audio loops or record midi into the clips/scenes, and begin experimenting.
Ableton comes with all of the professional effects you'd expect to see in a full-fledged DAW, such as compressor, reverb, EQ, etc. However, the latest version of the software comes with a new 'Hybrid Reverb' which combines a convolution reverb with an algorithmic reverb, allowing you to create interesting spaces.
Side-chaining is a very common practice in electronic music, and Ableton makes this process super easy via its compressor plugin.
Seeing that EDM is built around sound design, Ableton lets you create complex sounds via its wavetable and operator synthesizers. With these devices, wavetable, FM, and physical modeling synthesis are possible.
This DAW features one of the larger sound libraries available, providing you with over 70 GBs of content. Among these are tons of drum samples, percussion loops, grooves, and virtual instruments to aid your productions.
EDM is known to make use of various audio loops, such as percussion or vocals samples, and with Ableton, you can edit these samples in a cool way. Live features audio warping which allows you to time-stretch and morph samples without compromising sound quality.
Once your warp markers have been set, you can change the tempo of your track and the samples will automatically follow. Combine this with Live's intuitive automation capabilities, and you'd be able to do some interesting things with your productions.
Lastly, as the name suggests, Ableton is great within a live performance setting, being the DAW of choice for many pro-level performers.
Though Ableton may come with a bit of a learning curve, EDM producers looking for a fresh approach to creating music will find Live pretty useful.
More info on Ableton here
2. Logic Pro X (Mac Only)
Our next digital audio workstation is Apple's Logic Pro X, which is an industry-standard piece of music production software. It can be argued by some that Logic is on par with Pro Tools for the best DAW available, the difference being a matter of preference. Electronic production duo Disclosure uses Logic Pro to produce their hits.
Logic Pro is a fully capable DAW, giving you all the tools you need to begin and finish your tracks. Audio and midi recording coupled with powerful editing tools give you much flexibility when it comes to producing your tracks.
The latest version of the software features a step sequencer inspired by classic drum machines, so you can build beats quickly, as well as something Logic calls 'live loops'. With live loops, you can trigger different cells to play with your ideas without worrying about timelines, similar to Ableton's Session view.
For the electronic producers who also perform live, the latest version of Logic also has a 'Remix FX' module that lets you bring DJ-styled effects to an individual track or whole mix bus. You can choose between a selection of echoes, stutters, gating, and filter effects.
Logic comes with over 70 GBs of content as well, featuring samples and loops of different genres, and many high-quality instruments to get going.
Upon browsing through the library, I stumbled upon many EDM drum/percussion loops that can easily be dropped into the session. They proved to be a great addition to my tracks, as I was able to add some nice textures. If the stock loops aren't enough, Logic also has expansion packs available.
The included synthesizers offer a variety of patches, suitable for any project. The synth that stands out is Alchemy, which has over 3000 sounds to play with.
Not only is Alchemy capable of being a synth powerhouse, but it's also a sampler that lets you import samples and manipulates them in interesting ways. Sound creation in Logic Pro is top-notch, as you can tweak different modules for unique results.
Also worth mentioning are the Drum Synth and Drum Machine Designer modules that let you build custom electronic drums and drum kits.
When it comes to recording music, Logic Pro has support for 24-Bit/192 kHz audio, and lets you create up to 1000 stereo/surround tracks and 1000 software instrument tracks.
Also when recording, Logic has automatic take management, providing you with a playlist of recorded takes for you to choose from.
Aside from the typical editing tools featured in most DAWs, audio editing in Logic is a breeze with features like Flex Time, Flex Pitch, and Quick Swipe Comping.
Flex Time lets you correct timing issues or morphs audio, while Flex Pitch lets you fix the pitch of an audio recording. I imagine electronic producers can have a bit of fun manipulating audio loops to fit their projects.
Logic Pro also has some pretty advanced midi editing features, enabling you the ability to tighten up loose performances fluidly and easily. It has a smart quantize function that can preserve things like flams and chord rolls, keeping the human feel in your midi tracks.
The major downside is the fact it's only available for Mac, sorry Windows users. However, if you've been thinking about switching to Mac OS, Logic would be a great addition to your toolbelt.
I'd say Logic Pro is the perfect DAW for producers who might be looking for a one-stop-shop. You're able to use Logic's intuitive interface to build your tracks from the ground up, and later mix them with professional plugins. It's powerful DAW software that shouldn't be overlooked.
More info on Logic Pro here
3. FL Studio (Windows/Mac)
Image-Line FL Studio has been around for around 20 years now and is the DAW of choice for many electronic dance producers. The elements that make FL Studio a heavy hitter are its piano roll and sequencing functions.
Similar to hip hop, the main focus of EDM production is typically the drums, and with FL Studio you can create drum beats extremely fast via its step sequencer. I know many FL Studio producers who forgo the use of a midi controller, simply relying on the mouse.
You're able to click patterns quickly on-the-fly, and if you're still not satisfied, you can open it up in the piano roll. This is where the magic happens.
Once in the piano roll, you have many advanced features at your disposal such as the ability to draw, paint, chop, add flam, glue, strum, arpeggiate, quantize, group notes, and much more. There's also a stamp function that lets you lay down preselected chords with a single click.
Also, there's a ghost note feature that lets you see the midi of other tracks faintly in the background, so you can draw in the correct notes about the rest of your track.
The DAW comes bundled with around 80 effects/instruments in the basic version, expanding up to 107 in the top-tier version. There are many audio processing effects to completely mix your tracks as well.
While these instruments sound good in their own right, they're just not as rich sounding as some virtual instruments in other DAWs. However, thanks to support for VST plugins, you can bring in nearly any third-party plugin you need to get the job done.
FL Studio does offer expansion packs from either their in-house team or signature packs from respected artists/producers.
Far from your typical DAW, FL Studio offers a fast, unique approach to building your tracks. There may be a learning curve, as it may take some time to know your way around the interface. But once learned, you'll be programming drums and sequencing your tracks in light-speed timing.
More info on FL Studio here
4. Studio One (Mac/Windows)
Last on our list is Presonus Studio One, which is a powerhouse that allows you to create music at every stage of the process. It's truly one of the best DAWs around, as you can record, produce, edit, compose, mix, and even master without leaving the software.
Studio One has multiple features and tools which may be of value to your EDM beats, depending on what you're exactly looking for.
I know that in dance music, melody/harmonic structure is key, and Studio One has an impressive chord track feature that lets you create, audition, and change chord progressions easily. Taking it a step further, you're even able to extract the chords from any MIDI file or audio/instrument track as well.
When used in conjunction with its harmonic editing feature, you'll be able to break through creative blocks without knowing a ton of music theory.
Midi and audio editing are made easier via a highly capable smart tool, seeing that you can add fades, trim, glue, and more. Not spending a large amount of time navigating menus is sure to speed up your workflow.
Also, there are clip gain envelopes that give you the ability to adjust the volume of an individual clip, without the need to reach for a compressor. For those dance drum loops that are inconsistent in level, you can dial in on a specific part and adjust as you see fit. The coolest part is the fact that it's clip-based, so after you fix the clip once, it subsequently changes the other instances of that same clip anywhere in your session.
Studio One also comes with some pretty high-quality plugins such as the Impact XT, Mai Tai, and Sample One XT for example.
Impact XT is the beat and rhythm production instrument, which has the appearance of any classic drum machine. You get up to 8 banks with 16 pads per bank, with 16 mono and stereo outputs.
Where Impact shines is the fact that you can load either one-shot samples or full musical loops, and later drag-and-drop effects directly onto the pads for processing. You're also able to launch loops that automatically sync to your song via real-time stretching, and synched start/stop.
The native synths are not to be taken lightly, seeing that you have both monophonic and polyphonic synthesizers at your disposal. The multi-instrument plugin lets you stack multiple synths and instruments, giving you endless possibilities for your sound designing needs.
Worth mentioning is the pro-level audio effects that can aid your productions as well. There are tools such as analog delays, arpeggiators, repeaters, and analog modeled guitar amps to name a few.
PreSonus Studio One is a great DAW for EDM with much to offer producers of any skill level looking for a complete package.
More info on Studio One here
Dance music production is a fun process and finding a suitable EDM DAW to complement this process is key. Hopefully, the provided list can steer you in the right direction when narrowing down your selection.
As mentioned above, there's no one true best DAW for EDM, as a producer's workflow determines what may appeal to them. Knowing your music production needs will help you greatly. If budget is a concern, these DAWs offer demo versions to get you started.
Until next time!