Recording setup essentials: make mind-blowing electronic music for less than £500

Electronic music rig for less than £500
(Image credit: Future)


RECORDING WEEK 2022: In recent years, the term electronic actually encompasses all manner of genres, approaches and subcultures. Starting a studio (or switching up your existing one) with this type of music in mind is perhaps the most plainly cost-effective way to get started. 

After all, we’re predominantly working within the realms of synthesis, drum machines, samples and processed vocals – all of which can be easily realised in the box. We’re keeping things under £500 here, and with that budget in mind, we’ve carefully chosen where you should be spending money, and what you can afford to lose.

We’ve carefully chosen where you should be spending money, and what you can afford to lose

With any genre, you’ll need a solid foundation for working, and for electronic musicians there’s no finer DAW than Ableton Live – the Intro iteration of which can be picked up for £69. With 16 audio tracks and 16 scenes to play with, it’s the most stable bedrock on which to build your EDM floor-filler, with a super powerful sampling instrument built-in. 

A set of studio monitors we can hand-on-heart recommend doesn’t really come cheap, but we’ve determined the best solid budget-minded pair from M-Audio that will more than step up to the job.

At the core of most EDM comes synthesis, from dirty, pounding bass to wiry leads. Affordable, multi-faceted solutions abound from Arturia’s complex quad-engine Pigments (£83), to BLEASS’s virtual FM synth Omega (£57), but we’d implore you to fork out just a little more here and pick up Native Instruments’ beloved Massive synth (£129). Regarded as ‘the synth that defined bass music’, it’s well worth the purchase even if it is on the pricier side, and will grant you access to boundless sonic avenues.

It’s not all about sampling and synthesis, you’re going to need some suitable compression to fatten up your tracks, and some entrancing delay. We’ve got you covered on that front, with a fine option from the mighty Waves. 

Lastly, it’d be remiss of us not to throw in an item from our free CM plugin suite, available with every issue of Computer Music Magazine. In this case, we’ve elected to include Thenatan Trax CM, our free version of a superb sample-based drum machine, loaded with 20 solid preset kits.

The monitors: M-Audio BX5-D3

M-Audio BX5-D3

(Image credit: Future)


Monitors don’t come cheap, but it’s a truism that precision and clarity is vital when you’re listening to EDM. 

M-Audio’s BX5-D3’s are studio grade monitors which give a superb, flat-frequency response, with an optimised waveguide and powerful low-end drivers. They can be calibrated to suit any number of rooms. A solid set.

Read our full M-Audio BX5-D3 review

The DAW: Ableton Live Intro

Ableton Live

(Image credit: Ableton)

£69 | Buy from Ableton

The EDM DAW bar none, Ableton Live has been a cornerstone for electronic musicians since its inception back in 2001. 

Providing both Live’s vaunted Arrangement view and Session views, albeit with some restrictions, Live Lite is the best way to learn about the ever-evolving Ableton universe.

Read our full Ableton Live 11 Suite review

The synth: Native Instruments Massive

Native Instruments Massive

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

£129 | Buy from Native Instruments

NIs’ virtual analogue beast has provided a veritable ocean of wonder for electronic explorers for years. 

Containing more than 1300 sounds, its unique wave scanning algorithm within its three oscillators lay at the heart of what makes Massive’s leads and basses so beloved.

Read our full Native Instruments Massive review

The delay: Waves H-Delay

Waves H-Delay

(Image credit: Waves)

£25 | Buy from Waves

Waves’ slick delay multi-tool is capable of yielding expansive, emotive delay effects, short, sharp rhythmic ping-pong, slap-back echo and LFO-controlled pitch modulation. 

Using H-Delay to give character to synths, basses or cutting leads might just be the missing element that transforms your EDM track from fodder to floor-filler.

Read our full Waves H-Delay review

The compressor: Cytomic The Glue

Cytomic The Glue

(Image credit: Cytomic)

£87 | Buy from Cytomic

Another item that’s had plaudits heaped upon it since its release over a decade ago, Cytomic’s The Glue is based on the classic SSL E-series bus compressor, and is hugely effective on both bussed channels and individual tracks. 

Its Range knob allows you to control the amount of compression without affecting the threshold. It’s a top tool for adding that extra clout.

Read our full Cytomic The Glue review

The freeware: Thenatan Trax CM

Thenatan Trax CM

(Image credit: Future)

Free with every issue of Computer Music Magazine

One of our favourite free tools, and it would certainly be beneficial when assembling sampled drum and percussion sounds. 

Trax CM contains 20 preset kits, with kicks, snares, cymbals, claps and FX sounds contained therein. There’s a whole smorgasbord of effects in here too, including some deliciously grisly distortion.

Read our full Thenatan Trax CM review

Total cost = £464

Computer Music

Computer Music magazine is the world’s best selling publication dedicated solely to making great music with your Mac or PC computer. Each issue it brings its lucky readers the best in cutting-edge tutorials, need-to-know, expert software reviews and even all the tools you actually need to make great music today, courtesy of our legendary CM Plugin Suite.