Synth VSTs are the backbone of modern music production. VST plugins can be used to create a multitude of different sounds, from ambient pads to sub bass and textures.
Pads are great for adding atmosphere and body to your music, and can be used in any genre. You’ll find pad sounds in ambient, pop, techno, house, rock, rap, IDM music, and pretty much any other style of music.
The best pad VST plugins enhance your music with unique atmospheric qualities - from emulating iconic analog pad synths, to creating contemporary pad textures.
This article highlights a selection of the best pad VSTs available. This selection includes pad VSTs that I have used personally, have been widely reviewed by professional music producers, and are recommended by independent producers.
Quick summary - 9 Best VST Plugins for Pads
What to look for in a pad VST
When choosing a pad VST, you should look for a plugin that has a range of unique pad presets, modulation tools and built-in effects. You should also consider how much the VST plugin costs, and any system requirements before installing the plugin.
When it comes to the actual sounds that pad VSTs produce, there are several things to look out for. Firstly, check whether the plugin focuses on the type of sound design most suited to your music style. For instance, whether the plugin creates more analog or digital sounding pads.
You should also consider how many pad presets the VST plugin comes with. If time is important to you, it is better to choose a pad VST with a wider selection of unique pad presets, as you’ll have to spend less time tweaking to create different pad sounds.
Pad VST plugins can range from around £50 to £400 ($60 to $500). Lower cost pad VSTs will usually have fewer presets and modulation tools, whereas higher priced VSTs will have more presets and modulation options that allow for more dynamic pad sounds.
There are also a range of free VST plugins available that offer impressive pad sound qualities.
Disk space and CPU
When choosing a new pad VST, make sure that you have enough disk space and the correct system requirements before buying it. The pad VST plugins in this list require a minimum of 4GB of RAM, and are all compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems.
9 Best VST Plugins for Pads
Omnisphere 2 is well-known as the most extensive VST plugin available, with over 14,000 sound presets to choose from. It is often hailed as the Godfather of synths when it comes to pads, and for good reason.
The great thing about Omnisphere 2 is that it comes with a huge amount of quality and detailed pad sounds straight out of the box. Other pad VST plugins require a lot of tweaking to create your desired pad sound, but chances are, Omnisphere 2 already has it.
It is definitely one of the more expensive pad VSTs, but is well worth the investment. Plus, get access to a huge library of textures, soundscapes and motions to layer with your pad sounds.
Jup-8 by Arturia is a software VST synth that emulates the iconic sounds of the Jupiter-8 keyboard synthesiser. This was a hugely popular synth keyboard in the 80s, used to create that famous pad sound in so many 80s songs.
Capable of both airy and bass pad synth sounds, this pad VST is great for producing a variety of nostalgic analog pad sounds.
Auras by Slate and Ash is an inherently pad based VST. This pad VST owes itself to formless sound sculptures, with a range of stunning pad patches and built-in modulation tools. Auras focuses on abstract and textured pads, full of detail, character and motion.
This is one of the best modern pad VSTs available, developed with Slate and Ash’s detailed approach to sound design.
Rev by Output has become an increasingly popular VST plugin used my music producers. It focuses on ‘reverse’ elements, with a huge range of reverse pad sounds that can make your mix sound much more interesting.
It is a highly powerful VST capable of producing quality pad sounds. Though, with great power comes great CPU usage, so make sure you have the right system requirements and enough disk space before installing Rev.
Iris 2 by iZotope is one of the best pad VSTs for creating layered atmospheric textures. Not only does Iris 2 come with a range of pad sound presets, you can also add layering using the spectral functions to create truly unique pad sounds.
Native Instruments are one of the most trusted names in music production. Straylight by Native Instruments is one of the best pad VSTs for suspenseful, atmospheric soundscapes, complete with a range of pad presets, sound envelope controls, and modulation tools.
Serum by Xfer Records is a soft wavetable synth used to create many styles of music. This powerful VST plugin comes with over 144 wavetables and 450 patches - with a huge range of impressive pad sounds.
Pads can be edited using Serum’s built-in compression, distortion, flanger, phaser and EQ tools - as well as standard envelope modulation.
Pigments 3 is a modular VST plugin that offers a high level of control and modulation over pads and other sounds. Its pad sounds have an analog character to them, with a range of professional FX algorithms and modulation tools to create more dynamic pads.
Diva has a great quality to its low-end frequency sounds. Diva has some fantastic sounding pads with warm low ends, perfect for producing ambient music and creating soundscapes.
This was one of the first pad VST plugins that I used when producing music, and was immediately impressed by its warm and fat sounds. It is not primarily a pad VST, but does have a great sound quality to it capable of creating beautiful pad sounds.
The VST plugins on this list are ideal for creating pad synth sounds. This will help you add atmosphere to almost any style of music.
If you are looking to use pads as the main form of your music, for instance, if you are creating soundscapes, it’s important to consider which other plugins can complement pad plugins. For instance, ambient vst plugins that help add texture and movement to your sound mix.