14 Best Ambient VST Plugins 2024


Atmospheric music has a certain quality to it, something comparable to immersion. To reproduce this quality, and make it a part of your projects, you need the right tools for the job.

While you can create sounds from scratch, and it’s well worth learning the process, nowadays there are so many convenient tools just waiting to be leveraged.

So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best ambient VST plugins.

Novum by Tracktion – Best Overall

Novum by Tracktion – Best Overall

Tracktion’s Novum is a slick-looking next-gen sampler that lets you take a single sample and transform it into unique and fascinating creations. Whether it’s gentle pads or walls of resonating synths, this sampler puts some serious power and versatility at your fingertips.

Novum features the functionality to “decompose” a sample into six layers, while giving you access to both the timbral characteristics and temporal dynamics of the sample. This gives you the ability to creatively mold the sound to suit your purpose.

You can also combine sonic elements, be it a flute that sounds like a piano or a filter sweep that carries to the tonal quality of a church bell.

Granular synthesis capabilities are also onboard, letting you add grit and glitter to your tracks. This function can even be used to create rhythmic pulses. The one of a kind HOMOGENIZE feature will add velvety textures to your sounds too.

No matter the sample, Novum can turn it into something musical. You don’t even need to go out into nature for long field recording sessions.

Overall, Novum features a unique algorithm that breaks samples into layers, granular synthesis with up to six layers, disentangled editing of timbre and temporal change, timbre flower (spectral modification), cross synthesis with drag and drop, SYNTIFY analog filter and comb filter, modulation system, full MPE support, and over 300 factory patches.

Whether for ambient music, soundscapes, or sound design, Novum holds enormous potential. If you’ve ever wanted to turn everyday ordinary sounds into something more musical and atmospheric, this sampler will make it easy on you to do exactly that.

Novum should come in handy for anyone wanting to explore the outer reaches of creative sound making, and it’s our best overall pick. Of course, we know that some of you would prefer a synth to a sampler, so keep reading, because there are several great synths featured in this guide.

Tracktion is also one of my favorite developers, and it should be noted that they make plenty of great synth / samplers.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

R4 by iZotope – Best Premium Option

R4 by iZotope – Best Premium Option

iZotope’s R4 is like multiple vintage hardware reverb units in one. Besides adding pleasant echo and space effects to your tracks, R4 also includes creative effects like warp and freeze, which allow you to create some twisted time effects.

R4 comes with a stereo reverb algorithm, warp controls with compression and overdrive, freeze (for creating ambient drones and textures), pre-delay and reverb delay adjustable by tempo, chorus and gate modules, five additional early reflection patterns, an additional hall algorithm, dynamic tail suppression, over 1,200 presets (rooms, plates, halls, chambers, and others), and EuControl support.

R4’s user interface is easy to navigate. Its sound is (amazingly) comparable to hardware reverbs, and its cost is only about 10% of such units. R4 is also quite versatile.

So, if you’re thinking about adding a premium reverb to your VST arsenal, you should give this one a go. It’s our best premium pick because you’d be hard pressed to find a reverb this good.

You will require an iLok account to take advantage of R4.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Holy Ambiences by Soundiron – Best Budget Option

Holy Ambiences by Soundiron – Best Budget Option

Soundiron’s Holy Ambiences is an affordable Kontakt ambient synth pad instrument created for artists and sound designers alike.

Per the developer, it captures a wintery, icy vibe, while giving you plenty of mysterious character.

Holy Ambiences comes with 18 categories of sounds, with long one-shots as well as infinitely looping sustains. These sounds were painstakingly hand crafted, and they’re rich in detail. There are entries ranging from tonal to abstract, and everything in between.

The interface features fine-tuning controls, including swell, attack, release, offset, vibrato, filter, pitch (coarse & fine), articulation switching, crossfading, layering, and more. Holy Ambiences also comes with 20 sound-designed custom FX presets.

You’ve also got an adaptable LFO system, featuring selectable LFO shape, modulation target parameter, speed, intensity, tempo-syncing, fade-in time, 12 lowpass, high-pass, and FX filters (with assignable modulation targets – velocity, modwheel, expression, after-touch, key position, step-sequencer table).

There’s an arpeggiator with a velocity table and parameters for arp direction, timing, swing, randomization, and duration. The key and scale lock system ensures the note selection is always perfect for your compositions and creations.

There’s also an FX rack, with 18 DSP effects that can be assigned to any of the 10 slots, in any order – phaser, flanger, delay, distortion, compressor, EQ, rotator, amp and cab sims, and more. The reverb comes with convolution reverb impulses, and there are some solid FX rack chain presets included too.

Altogether, you’re getting 10 Astronautum ambiences, 15-note chromatic glockenspiel bloom ambience, four-note chromatic glockenspiel pulse ambience, 15-note chromatic glockenspiel wave ambience, seven-note chromatic guitar gliss ambience, and a seven-note chromatic guitar invocation ambience.

There are also four-note chromatic “Hallelujah” men and women’s choir ambiences, four-note lakeside organ glorious and lakeside organ warm ambiences, seven-note chromatic piano ripple ambience, five-note sleighbell mindscrape ambience, five-note chromatic Voxsyntar ambience, and four-note chromatic Spiritum” men’s and women’s choir ambiences.

Finally, there are 19 original “Holy” ambiences, and six “Holy Night” ambiences as well.

That’s a lot of stuff! Producers and composers should find Holy Ambiences very ethereal indeed. It’s mysterious and eerie when you need it to be, and relaxing and calm when you want it to be. Check it out for yourself in the video below.

Holy Ambiences works on Windows and Mac and requires the full version of Kontakt.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Diversion by DS Audio

Diversion by DS Audio

DS Audio’s Diversion is an all-around versatile soft synth you can use in just about any musical situation conceivable.

Diversion comes with four oscillators with different waveforms, and they also boast near zero aliasing. The oscillators generate sounds based on DS Audio algorithms. All waveforms include parameters X and Y, which gives you control over the timbre. FM, RM, wave shaping, filtering, and other synthesis modes are included.

There’s also a built-in wavetable editor, which lets you edit waveforms in time and frequency space while applying various effects. Sample playback with granular synthesis and output audio recording options are also included.

There are two bus processors that let you do a lot of things to the oscillators output. The processors are made up of a stereo filter (with many modes), distortion, and a lo-fi section. These features are sure to come in handy for ambient projects.

There are also two FX lines, allowing for the creation of layered sounds. Up to eight effect instances can be stacked on a single FX line.

Diversion uses up to 8x oversampling, which is used on the entire processing path, including the FX section. The processing modules all use at least 2x oversampling.

The modulation section includes four LFOs, four ADSR envelopes, four MSEGs, as well as an XY-controller (Master Morph).

Finally, Diversion also includes a 32-step arpeggiator / sequencer, and a 16-step trance gate module.

This is a great sounding synth, and there are more than a few presets perfectly suited to creating celestial soundscapes.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Generate by Newfangled Audio

Generate by Newfangled Audio

Newfangled Audios’ Generate has been dubbed a “marquee polysynth” with eight chaotic oscillators. Yes, you read that right – “chaotic.” From huge lead sounds to complex and beautiful pads, Generate gives you all the tools you need to generate (see what I did there?) the perfect sounds for your projects.

Altogether, Generate comes with a wavefolder based on a bent model of the Buchla 259 algorithm, modulatable effects (up to 13 effects parameters), step sequencer with randomization and pulse width output.

The chaotic oscillator comes with eight types, including Double Pendulum, Vortex, Pulsar, Discharge, Turbine, Helix, Crescent, and Magma.

There’s also a low pass gate based on the Buchla 292 (with poles and resonance controls), Modulatable controls with MIDI / MPE, two looping envelopes, two LFOs, sample and hold / random, step sequencer, up to 1,440 modulation routings in one pane, effects (EQ, chorus, delay, reverb, limiter), resizable UI, over 900 presets, and much more.

From the video, it’s easy to tell there are sounds that would be perfect for electronic music, films and video game compositions, ambient soundscapes, and much more.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Modular V by Arturia

Modular V by Arturia

Taking after the legendary 60s modular Moog synth, Arturia’s Modular V was created in partnership with Dr. Bob Moog himself.

Even if you weren’t creating ambient music, this soft synth would be one to behold, given its huge collection of modules – nine oscillators, three filter slots, two LFOs, six envelopes, a noise generator, VCAs, mixers, and a 24-step sequencer.

You also get 16 auxiliary VCAs with modulation inputs, one filter bank (with 14 bandwidths), mono / polyphonic (up to 64 voices per instrument), soft-clipping function, stereo delay and chorus, 12-stage phaser and ring modulator, accurate reproduction of the 24 dB / octave low-pass filter, and 600+ presets.

Modular synthesis offers a near endless set of possibilities. But with over 600 presets, you won’t be at a loss for starting points, many of which are great sounding. With some nice echo effects? Forget about it. You’ll be creating ambient beats you can get lots in, in no time.

Vintage synth sounds are nicely encapsulated in this entry. God bless Arturia.

Check it out for yourself to see whether it’s your jam.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Loom II by AIR Music Technology

Loom II by AIR Music Technology

AIR Music Technology’s Loom II is an award-winning additive synthesizer. It comes with a shape-shifting morph pad that lets you add richness and swirl to your sounds in a heartbeat.

With a modular inspired design, Loom II features 34 editable modules that give you the ability to create organs, pads, soundscapes, wobbles, and just about anything else.

Loom II is obviously an iteration on the original Loom, and AIR Music Technology made some improvements to their additive synth based on user feedback.

As result, Loom II comes with eight voices, a spectral noise section, four new modules, two additional subharmonic optional partials below the normal spectrum, enhanced morph pad options, 500 new patches (created by the likes of Mark Ovenden and Richard Devine), the original 350 patches remastered, new wave parameter options, and over 20 other performance enhancements.

In total, you get 750+ patches, smart sound randomizer, 34 editable sound modules combinable in 10 cells, two additional subharmonic optional partials, enhanced morph pad options, and economy mode.

Not surprisingly, Loom II can produce a variety of sounds. But you might want to skip to the pads and atmospheres sections in the video below to get a sense of how it might work in ambient contexts. Some of these sounds are quite unique.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Atma by MNTRA Instruments

Atma by MNTRA Instruments

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and when it comes to MNTRA Instruments’ Atma, you’ve probably got a meditative vibe going already.

In creating Atma, founder and composer Brian D’Oliveir obtained a collection of sacred instruments while traveling across the world. His discoveries include pitched Aztec volcanic rocks, ritual healing bells, and much more.

These instruments were creatively sampled, to give users of Atma access to their complex harmonics. The team then went to work on an array of presets – atmospheric pads, cinematic percussion, arpeggiated bell clusters, and so on.

The interface also gives you access to sound shaping tools you can use to transform the sounds in near limitless ways.

In total, Atma features 39 instrument sample maps, up to 30 round robins, 32-bit / 384 kHz resolution samples, downloads and updates via Pulse Downloader, and more.

The sample maps include gongs, handbells, wawa bells, healing bell, tubular bells, spirit bell, spring bell, Tibetan bells, mini temple bells, kalimba plucks, Bendir hit, bass temple drum, treble temple drum, singing bowl hit, ritual bowls, hang drums, hand drum, metal shaker, temple blocks, pitched rocks, temple conch, and glass tubes.

If you’re looking for some inspiring, meditative material to work with, I’d say that ought to cover the gamut.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

NASTRO Soundscapes by Have Audio

With a name like NASTRO Soundscapes, you’ve got to be curious already, right?

This is essentially a four-track tape machine VST plugin. The developer, Have Audio, sampled some of their favorite instruments (organic and synthetic), loops, textures, noises, and arpeggios using classic analog synths. This material was re-processed with an array of vintage tape devices, Walkmans, boomboxes, cassette players, and VHS players.

NASTRO Soundscapes comes with four independent tracks, 64 sound sources, four playback modes, adjustable speed, 80 presets, 58 IR effects, and four FX macros for panning, EQ, compression, and distortion. Effectively, you’ve got 1,024 unique sources.

The 64 sources are organized in the following categories – synthetic tones, synthetic chords, synthetic textures, arpeggiation, hybrid, and reel noise.

The result is a Kontakt instrument that offers sounds that are perfectly suited to soundtrack work, ambiences, synthwave, and more.

Lo-fi, gritty material can sound quite nice in ambient tracks, and it’s a vista well worth exploring. It might not be a bad idea to add a lo-fi VST plugin or two to your shopping list, either.

NASTRO Soundscapes requires the full version of Kontakt.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

WORMHOLE by Zynaptiq

WORMHOLE by Zynaptiq

Zynaptiq’s WORMHOLE is just as it sounds – this is space-age multi-effect tech you can use to create all kinds of drones, voices (aliens, monsters, robots), ambiences, and more. That, of course, makes it an attractive product for sound designers, producers, composers, and more.

WORMHOLE combines pitch / frequency shifting, spectral warping, dual reverbs, and dry / wet morphing to deliver ethereal, celestial sounds that will help you create those otherworldly musical soundscapes you’ve been trying so hard to create.

WORMHOLE probably won’t be to everyone’s liking. It’s also not something you would reach for on every occasion. It’s a unique multi-effect, but if you aren’t into the spacey sounds it creates, it’s okay to give it a pass. Sci-Fi vibes aren’t for every ambient project.

But if you have thoughts of exploring the outer reaches of sonic territory, you’ve found yourself a match made in heaven.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Crystallizer by Soundtoys

Crystallizer by Soundtoys

Soundtoys’ Crystallizer has been described as a granular echo synthesizer, a creative effect that will transform your instruments using pitch shifting and reverse echo, based on Eventide’s H3000’s “Reverse Shift” algorithm. And if you know anything about Eventide, you’ll know that many of their effects are well-suited to creating soundscapes.

Well, the Eventide H3000 was all over 80s music, because it turned simple guitar chords into magical soundscapes in an instant.

Having nailed the sound of the original, developer Soundtoys proceeded to add MIDI sync and automation, gate and duck feature, as well as low- and high-cut filters.

If you don’t know where to start with this effect, no problem – Soundtoys included 200 presets, by category. Some of these categories include crystals, detune & double, drums, echo, echo pitch, echo reverse, effected, guitar & keys, harmonized, and melodic.

Although I did mention guitars earlier, you can try this effect on just about anything, be it bass, drums, loops, or otherwise, and it’s a great tool for sound design as well.

If an icy echo effect is what you need, you will love Crystallizer. Hear it in the video below.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Crystalline by Baby Audio

Crystalline by Baby Audio

Baby Audio’s Crystalline algorithmic reverb might be the perfect tool for adding space to your ambient tracks.

With Crystalline, the developers set out to create the “perfect” algorithmic reverb, asking themselves what the innovators of the yesteryear would have done if they had all the tech and resources that are more freely available to creators today. Then they went and made that reverb.

Crystalline is meant to sound unreal, unlike any rooms or halls most reverbs are trying to reproduce.

Crystalline comes with 300 presets, including those created by Baby Audio and their friends. These include Damian Taylor, Eric J Dubowsky, Matt Sim, Michele Canova, and M-Phazes.

This VST plugin also features BPM-synced start and end times, reflection section (with size, sparkle, and width), depth section (resolution, modulation, shimmer), clean-up section (damping, sides, gate), shape section (tone, smoothing, transients), output section (ducker, reverse, freeze, dry / wet), and top panel (color, Eco mode, save as default, reset, and tool tips).

Crystalline also features a resizable user interface and it’s compatible with Windows and Mac.

This reverb is great on guitars, synths, drums, and even vocals. With so many presets and sound possibilities, you’re sure to find plenty of ethereal and usable ambiences for your projects.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Polaris by Audiority

Polaris by Audiority

Audiority’s Polaris is an affordable digital echo and reverb plugin with a late 70s vibe.

Audiority took the primitive but powerful technique of mixing unmodulated taps with the remaining modulated taps and extended it by making the echo tap recirculate with the diffusion section. This results in longer reverb tails.

All taps can be edited to create unique room responses, resonant combs, tuned delay lines, chorus, flanging, vibrato, and so on.

Since its release, Audiority has added new features like shimmer, internal sample rate reduction, stereo width (ping pong delay), swell, pre-delay, modulation boost, and three-band feedback EQ.

Overall, Polaris comes with a single multitap delay line, pre-delay, early reflections (eight programmable taps), diffusion (16 programmable modulated taps), echo (Ms, sync, tuned, long), echo modulation, modulation boost, three-band feedback equalizer, LFO, shimmer, sample rate reduction, stereo width, and swell.

The swell feature is especially useful when it comes to ambient sounds. There’s a lot you can do with it, whether endless pads or ethereal guitars.

Polaris is Windows and Mac compatible.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Chorus DIMENSION-D by Arturia

Chorus DIMENSION-D by Arturia

Arturia’s Chorus DIMENSION-D combines a smooth analog style chorus with powerful stereo enhancement capabilities.

This chorus is very easy to operate, with four buttons for depth and rate variations, spacial enhancer, BBD warmth (bucket-brigade circuitry replication) for subtle saturation, and a few advanced controls – LFO shape, BBD compression, and a new stereo width control that outclasses the original.

Chorus DIMENSION-D comes with four modes, BBD response, analog compression, filtering and expansion, mono and stereo modes, four additional oscillator (LFO shapes), dynamic color control, stereo width control, emulated send mode and dry / wet mix controls, as well as eight presets.

Now, some may say they can do ambient without a dedicated chorus effect, and I get it. You could take advantage of your synth’s built-in chorus, use a standalone doubling effect, even layer, and slightly delay your tracks if you wish.

But Chorus DIMENSION-D is an effect that defined an era, and it’s got a killer sound you’ve got to hear for yourself. The stereo width functions make it more valuable than your standard chorus effect too.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In An Ambient VST Plugin?

“Ambient” really means different things to different people, and for the most part, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing the best VSTs for the genre. You don’t need to use specific instruments or effects for it to be ambient.

Sure, you’ll probably want some complex and detailed atmospheric synth pads, maybe some organic material captured in the field, and a reverb or echo plugin (or two) to add warmth and space to your tracks.

But beyond that, it’s entirely up to you. If you want saturation for extra warmth and grit, try adding some saturation. If you want drums, you can add drums. Pianos, guitars, saxophones, it doesn’t matter. You can create chill, ethereal tracks using just about any material, and any combination conceivable.

Experimentation is encouraged, because any sound can be turned into a lush pad.

That said, we did our best cover off the essentials in this guide – synths, virtual instruments, samplers, echoes (reverb and delays), choruses, and multi-effects. That isn’t to say, of course, that there aren’t other categories worth exploring.

Either way, knowing what you need is obviously a great place to begin any purchase. If you think you might already have more than enough pad sounds, then another soft synth might not be what you need right now.

If you’ve got a reverb you’re totally in love with, there is no requirement that you substitute it for something else. You can keep using what you’ve already got.

But if, after looking over the above, you’re still not sure what you might need, or you’re looking for some additional guidance, you’re in the right place at the right time. Here we’ll consider key criteria you should factor into your purchase decision. These include:

  • Sound quality
  • Features
  • Budget

Let’s talk about each.

Sound Quality

Sound quality can mean a lot of different things to different people, especially when you’re talking about a category as broad as all virtual instruments and effects. I mean, we limited our scope somewhat in this guide, but there are still many types of plugins represented here.

That said, sound quality is not something we can get away from. To greater or lesser degrees, it will, and it should, impact our buying decision. We should always be thinking about how something sounds, as well as how we can tweak it to suit our purposes.

A reverb, for example, that sounds great on paper but doesn’t float your boat in practice, is probably more deadweight than anything. And that goes for just about any plugin type you can name. Don’t be fooled by descriptions alone. Take your time and choose a plugin that meets your needs.

We always encourage you to examine the plugins for yourself. Listen to them. Check out the video reviews and demos. Check out the audio samples. It’s a great idea to come to your own conclusions about what you’re hearing, and to check for yourself whether you’re hearing possibilities or limitations.

You’re the one that’s going to be using the plugin. It should serve you first and foremost.

That said, we’re confident that the plugins above all sound great, even if there isn’t an easy way to compare each.

Features

What does the plugin come with? What parameters or effects? What features or extras?

More isn’t always better, of course. Chorus DIMENSION-D, for example, features a very streamlined four-button design. That doesn’t really limit its capabilities though.

When it comes to comparison shopping, it’s generally wise to compare apples to apples. In other words, “how does this reverb compare to this other one?” or “how does this synth sound compared to this one?” Comparing a reverb to a synth wouldn’t make any sense, right?

Also, sometimes you do need more than one tool for the job. Virtually no one said, “this is the last synth I’ll ever buy” and was right about it. Tech changes. New stuff shows up. Cooler, better, more versatile synths come along frequently. It’s a competitive market, and developers are fighting for market share.

Besides what I’ve already covered, the main thing to look for is whether the VST plugin has the controls you need to make it work for you. Presets are always handy when you don’t know what you’re doing, but of course the impulse to explore and experiment will probably take over at times.

You could say that this is a commentary on workflow, but features, parameters, and workflow do tend to go hand in hand. The interface, after all, is generally built around the controls.

The best advice we can give here is to examine each plugin you’re thinking about buying on a case-by-case basis. What you discover will be instructive.

Budget

Plugins in this guide cost anywhere from about $15 to $300. None are over the top expensive, but some do cost more than others. Moreover, if you do buy more than one, you could easily end up spending a pretty penny.

We know well the temptation, because VST plugins can be quite addictive. We suggest showing some restraint and avoid going into debt for any of your purchases. That way, you’ll always be able to enjoy what you buy and not have to worry about paying it down.

Use your budget as a filter to determine the best purchase for you right now. If there’s something you want, but can’t afford it at the moment, bookmark the plugin, save up for it, and return to it later. Delayed gratification can be quite fulfilling.

Top Ambient VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

Be prepared to get creative and break the rules. Ambient music is generally all about the mood, and there are limitless ways to create moods and atmospheres. You can use synthesized material, organic material. Vocals or instruments. Field recordings. Sound effects or even sounds that don’t appear to have any musicality to them.

Depending on the tools you’re using, every sound can be incorporated in your ambient projects. Non-musical sounds can be made musical. Vocals and instruments can be turned into ethereal soundscapes and pads. Field recordings add atmosphere. The only limitation might be your imagination or present skill level.

So, practice lots. Try different things. Experiment and have fun.

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