Ambient music is a genre of music that focuses on atmosphere, tone and texture, rather than the traditional structures and rhythms of music.
This kind of music is sometimes described as ‘atmospheric’.
Producing ambient music can be challenging, since there is so much emphasis on timbre (how a note sounds) and texture (how the sound is layered and organised), and less reliance on beats, melodies and rhythm.
This means that the sounds you create will stand out more, so it’s important to get them right.
A good place to start is to source the best ambient VST plugins to help you create more interesting sounds, atmospheres and textures. These elements are vital for producing high quality ambient music.
You’ll also need suitable VST effects, and of course, lots of reverb to create atmosphere.
Discover the best VST ambient plugins in this helpful guide. We cover a range of VST instruments and VST effects that are perfect for creating ambient music.
Summary: best ambient VST plugins
Best ambient VST instruments
Often cited as the king of all VST instruments, you have probably heard of Omnisphere 2.
Omnisphere 2 is considered an essential VST plugin for all electronic genres in music production. It comes with over 14,000 inspiring sounds, making it a hugely resourceful base for your ambient sounds.
This VST is great for ambient music in particular, with an enormous library of pads, textural sounds, synths and much more. Omnisphere 2 is often hailed as one of the best VST plugins for pads.
UX: Easy-to-use interface, with a variety of modulation, LFO, oscillator and envelope controls. Sounds are well categorised for ease of use.
Character: Omnisphere has a sound for pretty much any genre of music. Whilst this means its sound character is more versatile than distinct, every sound is high quality.
Uses: Ideal for adding ambient pad sounds and atmospheric layers. Or, start with Omnisphere’s more basic sounds and modify it using ambient VST effects.
As the name suggests, Auras is an ambient VST instrument that focuses on atmospheric sounds. Auras is capable of creating beautiful sonic sculptures and soundscapes.
It comes with a large library of 60 unique sounds, and presets can be modified using a range of controls to achieve your desired ambient sound.
UX: Auras’ interface is stunningly designed. With a simple and minimal UX, this ambient VST instrument feels like a true exploration of atmospheric creation with each tweak you make. The interface lets you easily control each sound layer to design something truly unique.
Character: Auras is an ambient VST that emphasises formless, textural sounds. It produces warm, depthful sounds that can really cut through with presence when you want them to. These can sound especially impressive with some subtle audio saturation.
Uses: Auras is perfect for designing unique soundscapes. Sounds can flow in and out effortlessly across soft waveforms, perfect for ambient production. It’s minimal interface and MIDI compatibility makes it ideal for exploring new sounds - after all, sonic exploration is the most fun and rewarding process in ambient sound design.
SPECTRES by Slate and Ash introduces a world of radical extended techniques at an accessible price point, providing ambient composers with a treasure trove of experimental sounds to elevate their sonic landscapes.
UX: Delving into the elusive realm of radical extended techniques, SPECTRES offers an immersive user experience. Its COLLAGE engine, a cutting-edge sample looping environment, empowers artists to fully explore and reinvent over 650 core phrases from fifteen premier experimental instrumentalists in New York. The intentional departure from classical norms invites users to navigate the sonic unknown with ease.
Character: SPECTRES intentionally steers away from traditional boundaries, embracing the unique voices of luminary musicians. The haunting spectrum of noise and color, revealed through sonic illusions and spectral apparitions, sets the stage for ambient compositions that defy convention. With contributions from award-winning flautist Claire Chase, harpist Zeena Parkins, and percussionist Sarah Hennies, SPECTRES is a celebration of distinctive voices in experimental music.
Uses: Unlocking over 500 specially sound-designed textures, atmospheres, and tones, SPECTRES becomes an indispensable tool for ambient composers seeking to break free from the ordinary. With a wealth of over 500 expertly crafted presets, this plugin offers fresh angles for experimental ambient music.
Capturing the grace of a skilled violinist, Violin Textures by Emergence Audio stands out as a must-have VST plugin for those seeking authentic violin play in their ambient compositions. Its value is amplified by the extensive features tailored to enhance the ambient production process.
UX: Designed with the ambient composer in mind, Violin Textures ensures an intuitive user experience. MIDI learning and automation for all controls make it easy for artists to sculpt ethereal atmospheres without being hindered by complex interfaces.
Character: At the heart of Violin Textures lies the ability to capture the essence of a skilled violinist, providing a unique character ideal for ambient music. Its Infinite Motion Engine™ and Non-Static Sampling™ contribute to the creation of evolving and non-repetitive organic soundscapes, making it an essential tool for those seeking atmospheric depth.
Uses: Violin Textures excels in the realm of ambient music, offering a spectrum of articulations, over 100 customisable parameters, and 100+ presets tailored for ethereal compositions. From subtle solo performances to intricate layered textures, this plugin empowers ambient artists to weave rich sonic tapestries, adding a touch of sophistication to their work.
Novum by Tracktion offers unique and powerful features for sound design and music production. One of the standout features of Novum is its granular synthesis engine, which allows users to create complex and fascinating sounds from a single sample.
With Novum's granular synthesis engine, you can split a sample into up to 6 layers, each with its own settings for pitch, duration, and other parameters. This makes it possible to create rich and complex textures from even the simplest of samples. It also includes a range of tools for working with samples in other ways, including tools for time-stretching and pitch-shifting, which can be used to create unique and interesting ambient sounds from static samples.
Overall, Novum by Tracktion is a powerful and versatile DAW that offers a range of features and tools for sound design and music production. Its granular synthesis engine, ability to create fascinating instruments from a single sample, and its flexible sample manipulation capabilities make it a great choice for producers and sound designers who are looking to push the boundaries of their creativity.
Price: $179.00 | £174.95
UX: Intuitive and user-friendly interface for easy navigation, with a customisable workflow that adapts to your creative process.
Character: Powerful sound design capabilities for creating unique and innovative sounds, with highly versatile features that allow for experimentation and creativity.
Uses: Ideal for electronic music production, including ambient, techno, and experimental genres. It's also perfect for sound design and film scoring, with tools for creating intricate textures and soundscapes.
Padshop 2 is a granular and spectral synthesiser capable of creating impressive pad sounds.
With a unique blend of granular and spectral oscillation, this ambient VST plugin lets you edit sounds at the smallest level of granular detail, whilst layering multiple harmonic sounds with spectral synthesis.
There are more than 570 sound presets to help you get started, making this one of the best ambient VST plugins - especially at it’s more moderate price range in comparison to others.
UX: Padshop 2 has a familiar and simple user interface. It lets you easily switch between granular and spectral oscillation interfaces for complete control over smaller details and sound layers.
Character: Padshop 2’s ambient sounds are rich, clean and bright. This makes Padshop 2 an ideal ambient VST for lighter and airier mixes.
Uses: Padshop 2 is the ideal ambient VST plugin for creating dark soundscapes, cinematic textures and atmospheric pads. It is capable of producing high quality ambient sounds, making it suitable for film and TV music composition.
Ambient music is as much about creating calm, sonic landscapes as it is about creating weirder, experimental sounds. If you’re looking for a more experimental ambient VST, Alien Artifact is a fun place to start.
This VST is full of alien-esque, raw beeping sounds that you can get fully creative with. Plus, it’s free, so there’s no reason not to explore this oddly outerworld synth.
UX: Alien Artifact’s user interface is simple, yet completely bizarre. Don’t get me wrong, it is easy to use. It’s controls include the usual - envelope, oscillation, LFO, and effects, but these are not explicitly labelled in plain human English. Although, that is the entire point.
Character: As a free ambient VST, Alien Artifact’s sound quality is not as clear and crisp as some of the paid alternatives. But in ambient music, sometimes the more saturated, messier sounds can actually create pleasant textures.
Uses: Alien Artifact is a free ambient VST, so there is no harm in trying it out. It’s intergalactic sounds can be used to add out of this world textures and soundscapes to your ambient mix.
This is one of the most beautifully textured ambient VST plugins available right now. Tapes.01 by The Phono Loop is a VST plugin that uses actual cassette tape loops to produce ambient sounds. Every key has its own sample, and it is compatible with both Native Instruments’ Kontakt 6.6 or free Kontakt Player 6.6.
UX: The user interface of this plugin is just as stunning as its sounds. It is minimalistic and simple, giving the entire floor to the sounds themselves. It has two tabs, one for basic controls - volume, sample start, macro controls, and another for more detailed controls.
Character: Tapes.01 is an impressive ambient VST plugin, capable of producing warm, vintage soundscapes with ease. Its sound character is full of texture, with subtle white noise layered with synth sounds.
Uses: This ambient plugin is a great VST for those who want a sound that is well textured straight from the first use. It is also great for adding raw ambient field recordings to your mix, with a range of 217 different noises to choose from.
This plugin might not be as suitable for producers who want to design ambient sounds from the ground up.
Symptohm PE is a free VST plugin offering an interesting selection of sounds. It comes with a variety of synths, pads, drums and more - all of which can be used creatively in your ambient mix.
UX: Symptohm PE comes with two different skins; both are incredibly easy to use. The classic skin has a simple, analog style interface with a basic level of control over sounds and textures. The other skin is called ‘funky’, which has a much more abstract user interface. The ‘funky’ interface makes this a particularly inspiring ambient VST.
Character: Symptohm PE is a free vst plugin, so it is not going to offer the highest quality sound, but that is not always needed for a great ambient mix. Its sounds have a more low-mid end frequency to them, with a slightly muddy texture - although this can be easily adjusted by using EQ on your track and final mix.
Uses: This ambient plugin can be used to add subtle rhythm and movement to your mix, or help it flow with texture and atmosphere depending on how you use it in your music production.
Iris 2 is one of the best ambient VSTs available right now. This is a sample based synthesiser that has a unique built-in spectral modulator. This lets you input samples, and then build your own sounds by filtering frequencies from each unique sample. Just take a look at the video below for a preview of this type of spectral synthesis.
Iris 2 is widely used by professionals, and is even used by ambient artists such as Arca. The best thing about this plugin is its ability to create completely new sounds - though it does also come with several pad and ambient presets.
UX: Iris 2 is easy to use, even for beginners. Its spectral synthesiser has a visual interface, letting users drag, drop and select different sound frequencies on the sound wave itself.
Character: Iris 2 produces high fidelity sounds, and is suitable for professional-level music production. Its character can be as unique as you make it. That's what Iris is all about - creating your own unique sounds through spectral sampling.
Uses: This ambient VST can be used to create your own unique pads, soundscapes, atmospheres. It can also be used to create unique textures to accompany these, making for a truly interesting ambient mix.
Atmos 2 is a free ambient piano VST plugin compatible with both Windows and Mac. This ambient VST plugin comes with over 55 samples, 2 layers, ADSR controls, as well as LFO and filter modulation. The best part, this plugin is free to download.
UX: Atmos 2's user interface is clean and easy to use. With simple controls, you'll be able to get to grips straight away and start producing ambient music.
Character: The samples of Atmos 2 use a Yamaha C3 Grand Piano. This has rich tone to it that is surprisingly good for a free VST plugin.
Uses: Create warped and atmospheric ambient piano sounds.
Avatar ST has a good range of pads, soundscapes and atmospheres for creating ambient music. It also comes with a range of other presets for bass and synth sounds.
Sounds can be modulated using a number of options within the VST interface, letting you tailor the sound so it's suitable to your ambient mix. It's modulation options include:
- 2 PCM wave oscillators
- Frequency filters (low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and feedback)
- ADSR modulation
- Delay, reverb and panning
- 16 step modulator
- Mod wheel
- Grain processor
The only downside to Avatar ST is that it is only compatible with Windows OS. So, if you produce using a Mac, this one's not available for you.
UX: Avatar ST's user interface is organised and simple. You'll find everything you'd expect to see in a VST plugin, with LFO, sound envelope, and other modulation sections across the interface.
Character: Avatar ST's sounds have a slight saturation to them. They sound warm and somewhat fuzzy, with a subtle vintage feel to them.
Uses: Best for creating soundscapes and atmospheric ambient sounds.
Ambient VST effects
Absynth 5 by Native Instruments has long been a favourite ambient VST plugin amongst music producers. It offers both a synthesiser and a standalone VST effect plugin. Its effects offer a range of out of the ordinary sounds that can completely transform the texture of the sound.
From shimmering glass textures, to warm watery sounds, you can create truly unique ambient textures with Absynth 5’s impressive effects.
If you're looking for ambient sounds straight out of the Absynth plugin library, there is a great Absynth ambient soundscapes preset pack available for download.
UX: Absynth 5’s user interface may appear slightly confusing at first. It has a diverse range of control options spread across several tabs. You might find that the user interface takes some getting used to, but it is certainly worth exploring.
Character: The ambient effects offered by this plugin are varied in style. Some presets will make your track sound sharp and shimmering, whereas some muffle your track with a warm and low frequency texture.
Uses: This VST effect plugin can be used to either transform your entire sound mix into a different dimension, or simply tweak the finer details of each sound. Its variety of different effects make it versatile, and useful for designing distinctly different sound characters within the same mix.
Like many VST plugins on this list, dearVR Pro is not strictly an ambient VST, although it is an extremely powerful tool to utilise as an ambient producer. dearVR PRO lets you pan sounds across a 3D binaural spatializer.
In essence, this lets you take sounds left, right, up down, forwards, backwards and beyond.
Price: £259 | Free version also available (dearVR MICRO)
UX: The user interface is very easy to use and control. Simply drag sounds in whichever direction you want to take them.
Character: Ambient music is all about texture and flow, and this VST plugin is perfect for helping you achieve that in your production. Tighten or widen particular sounds in your mix, or separate sounds across contrasting binaural directions.
Uses: dearVR Pro is perfect for making sounds flow exactly where you want them to within your ambient mix. You can even use your DAW’s automation to alter sound directions throughout the mix.
Echoboy by Soundtoys is perhaps my favourite ambient VST plugin on this list. No ambient sound is complete without delay, reverb and texture, and this plugin delivers all three.
Echoboy lets you delay sounds with great control and creativity, with a variety of feedback, pitch and expressive controls.
UX: Like the majority of Soundtoys’ VST plugins, Echoboy’s user interface favours an analog design. This is easy to use, making it quick and simple to design interesting echo sounds.
Character: Echoboy is an ideal ambient VST effect for creating vintage tones.
Uses: This VST can be used to add echoing soundscapes that fill out your ambient mix, and is great for adding subtle textures to individual sounds.
No ambient VST list would be complete without a mention of a great reverb plugin, and Altiverb 7 by Audio Ease is often cited as the very best. It is known as the industry standard reverb plugin, using high quality samples to emulate the acoustic reverb of real spaces.
Spaces include the Sydney Opera House, the cockpit of a jumbo jet, and many more exciting places. Altiverb 7 is known as the industry standard reverb plugin, but this is reflected in a hefty price tag.
UX: Simple, easy to use interface with visual representations of each reverb space.
Character: Altiverb 7 is one of the best reverb plugins available, with a range of small and large reverb effects that can make your ambient mix sound much more professional.
If you are looking for a slightly more price friendly ambient reverb plugin, Kleverb by Klevgrand is a great choice. This plugin offers high quality reverb for small, medium and large reverb sizes.
Its reverb quality
UX: The user interface makes this ambient VST effect easy and simple to use. All sound controls are kept in one singular interface
Character: This plugin offers a high quality reverb. Its sound quality does have a slight metallic character to it, which some may prefer and some may not.
Uses: Kleverb can be used to achieve subtle and more emphasised reverb sounds. It has three different reverb size setups: small, medium and large.
Another favourite amongst ambient producers, Fracture XT by Glitchmachines. This is a free vst plugin that buffers and glitches out sounds. This is perfect for adding a disruptive touch to your ambient flow, resulting in an interesting contrast in sound.
UX: Fracture is very easy to use, with a clean and simple interface. It uses a selection of knobs that are labelled accordingly.
Character: This plugin can add a sharper edge to your ambient sound design, by adding jittering textures and buffered sounds that contrast the softer conventions of ambient music.
How to use ambient VST plugins
Producing ambient music is all about layering and texture. To make the best ambient music, you’ll most likely find that layering sounds together results in a richer mix - even when you're trying to create a simple soundscape. Start by finding a base sound from a plugin of your choice, and then add several effects to this to make it more unique. Adding effects to your tracks will result in a more unique sound.
We recommend delay and reverb especially, since these can make raw instrument sounds less ‘dry’.
With a lot of sound layering going on, it's important to make sure your track is well-mixed, using mastering techniques such as compression and equalisation to balance each track. To get the most out of your ambient plugins, audio saturation is a great tool for adding extra warmth and character to the sound.
Ambient Tapes and Textures
The ambient sample pack from Pitchbends
Ambient Tapes and Textures is designed to give you full creative flow with a collection of unique ambient sounds. 340 samples, processed with ambient texture in mind. Get creative with ambient loops, chords, one shots and textures, all in one sample pack.