9 Best Pad VST Plugins 2022


Best Pad VST Plugins

From soft synths to scoring instruments, there are plenty of options when it comes to VST plugins that deliver competent pad sounds.

And whether it’s reversing sounds or layering multiple instruments, there is unprecedented convenience that can come with modern VSTs, which will do most of the heavy lifting for you.

In this guide, we look at the best pad VST plugins.

Diva by u-he – Best Overall

Diva by u-he – Best Overall

We’re enthralled with all that u-he has to offer, both free and premium products. Diva exemplifies excellence in the soft synth arena, with its vintage hardware synth inspired tones, drawn from the best and most utilized foundational synths that rocked the 70s, 80s, and beyond.

Some even consider Diva the best software synthesizer available, and that’s high praise given the high bar the competition has set. We’re not afraid to list it as our best overall option either, especially if you like the idea of taking vintage synth sounds to new heights.

But it makes sense – Diva’s sound quality is stellar, it has over 1,200 presets, and the UI is simple and attractive. The only downside, if there is one, is that it’s a bit CPU hungry.

Diva or “Dinosaur Impersonating Virtual Analog” synth comes with five oscillators (Juno, Moog, and others), five filter modules, three ADSR envelopes, and various modulation and effects options.

And what that means is you can combine a Juno oscillator with Moog filter or an MS20 filter with an Oberheim oscillator. So, not only do you get access to much sought-after vintage synth tones, but you can also fuse them in surprising, delightful, and satisfying ways.

The pads are fantastic.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Gravity by Heavyocity – Best Premium Option

Gravity by Heavyocity – Best Premium Option

Heavyocity does excellent work, especially in the realm of strings, and with Gravity, we find them right in their element again. This is a versatile, unique, creative tool that put pulses, risers, pads, ambiences, and more, right at your fingertips.

Its feature set is nothing short of phenomenal – 2,200+ sound sources, 815+ snapshots, 325+ motion presets (NKAs), 1,200 NKIs, 780+ pads, 390+ strings, 19 riser menus, nine hit menus, two new designers for hits and risers, motion page (for advanced volume, pitch, and pan pattern creation), and playable trigger FX.

Heavyocity spent over a year capturing the organic source material featured in Gravity – bowing, resonating, smashing, dropping, and even colliding. You can tell they had fun doing it too.

Gravity comes with 100 complex pads in four categories – aggressive, ethereal, experimental, and unnerving. And we’re just talking about the pads included here, not the pulses, risers, ambiences, and other included tools.

Gravity is naturally an excellent choice for composers and sound designers. But even for those who aren’t scoring for films and video games, it will have its uses. The term “hybrid instrument” seems to fit best, extending its potential. It’s a natural fit for our best premium selection.

Some producers felt the vast library of patches was simply too much. That’s typically a good thing, but in this case, it might mean you’ll never get to hear all that Gravity can do.

Gravity requires Kontakt Payer 5 of higher.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Circle2 by Future Audio Workshop – Best Budget Option

Circle2 by Future Audio Workshop – Best Budget Option

Future Audio Workshop’s Circle2 promises to be able to help you craft unique synthesizer sounds. With the original iteration of the powerful VST plugin earning cult status with the likes of Deadmau5, David Guetta, Arca, and others, the latest version comes with a variety of new features.

Circle2 features four “analog” oscillators, four wavetable oscillators, four VPS oscillators, noise source, feedback, a mixer, two mouth filters, two fuzz distortions, two overdrives, two parametric EQs, two crushers, an analog modeled filter, a dual analog modeled filter, and one VCA.

It also comes with five wavetable LFOs, five ADSR envelopes, five step sequencers, three analog phasers, three reverbs, three double echoes, three pin pong echoes, three choruses, three panners, three analog modeled bucket delays, and three analog modeled tube distortions.

Other features include NKS support, MIDI note arpeggiator with swing and DAW timing sync, randomize preset, 32 voice polyphony, visual MIDI learn with advanced range adjustment, 110 wavetable oscillator shapes, 300+ patches, drag and drop modulation system, OSC control (for Mac OS), true analog modeled oscillators, filters, and effects, 16 wavetable LFOs, and a 16-step sequencer with note output.

First and foremost, Circle2 is very easy to use. That’s always a plus. It also sounds great and is quite versatile to boot. The presets are also solid. Some users said it was a little too “clean” sounding to them, but you could always apply saturation or a lo-fi effect, perhaps?

It’s not the cheapest synth out there, but it is the most affordable in this guide. Circle2 is our best budget pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Serum by Xfer Records

Serum by Xfer Records

There are names that will come up again and again in the realm of soft synths, because frankly, there’s nothing that quite compares. And with the standards set so high, it’s hard to imagine what might come along to upset the cart next.

Xfer Records’ Serum is a wavetable beast. There simply are no other words to describe it. You can do virtually everything with wavetables with Serum, be it creating your own, importing, manipulating wavetables in real time, morphing wavetables, or otherwise.

Although the term does seem to get thrown around a lot, there are plenty of producers who will tell you that Serum is simply the “best.” And, true to form, it may well be one of the most versatile and easy to use wavetable synths available.

Serum does offer quite a bit more, though, with effects, the ability to modulate just about anything, LFOs, and of course over 400 presets.

Does it sound any good? Why yes, to have received such high marks across the board, would you expect any less? The pads are rich and full, sometimes with unexpected overtones and background layers. You can check out multiple pad tones in the video below.

Learn more: Splice

Pigments 3 by Arturia

Pigments 3 by Arturia

Arturia’s Pigments 3 is an analog/wavetable hypbrid “polychrome” software synth. Given that it’s an Arturia product, it’s hard to imagine there are many cons to it, but before deciding, let’s take a closer look.

This is the third iteration of Pigments, so of course there are some new features. But its feature set covers the gamut regardless – 1,200 presets, harmonic engine, wavetable engine, virtual analog engine, sample & granular engine, and even a utility engine.

Pigments 3 also includes modulation, filters, FX, an advanced sequencing section, arpeggiator, scale quantization, and random sequence generator.

Pigments is just as versatile as it sounds. It features a beautiful UI, an easy-to-use additive oscillator (hard to find), a great selection of modulation sources, as well as intuitive modulation routing control. If there’s a downside to any of it, it’s that it could be a little overwhelming.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

ANALOG STRINGS by Output

ANALOG STRINGS by Output

As the meeting place of real-life strings sounds (a 22-piece orchestra captured at the BMC Hall in Budapest) and the best vintage synths with breathtaking strings sounds, Output’s ANALOG STRINGS has an instant appeal that’s hard to shake off.

Whether as a strings VST or soft synth, it is highly usable. Its true power, though, is in its ability to combine the organic samples and synthesized sounds (and even morph and mangle them) to create otherworldly sounds.

For the active composer and sound designer, there are also creative sound sources in the form of screeching guitar resonance, tape noise, plucked piano, sampled feedback, and much more. Whether you’re searching for the perfect sound for your song’s intro, or you’re trying to select an eerie sound that will evoke panic and fear in the listener, there is much here on offer.

ANALOG STRINGS comes with 500 presets, a dual-layer engine, preset menu with smart tagging, layer FX, global FX, four central macro sliders unique to each preset, dual arpeggiators, tempo sync, and a built-in help menu.

ANALOG STRINGS should still be experienced before you make up your mind. The video below demonstrates a good variety of things the plugin can do, so check it out. Although not every preset is suitable as a pad sound, many are.

ANALOG STRINGS works on Windows and Mac and requires Kontakt to run (it works with both the free and paid versions of Kontakt).

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

ANALOG BRASS & WINDS by Output

ANALOG BRASS & WINDS by Output

If you know why ANALOG STRINGS is great, then you probably know why ANALOG BRASS & WINDS is great, too. The concept is virtually the same – the sounds you get access to are comprised of an 18-piece brass section as well as some of the best synths hand selected for their brass and wind tones.

ANALOG BRASS & WINDS features 500+ presets, a 28 GB sound library, tempo sync, dual-layer engine, preset menu with smart tagging, layer FX, global FX, four central macro sliders unique to each preset, dual arpeggiators, and a built-in help menu.

This VST can produce unconventional sounds, with the ability to twist, contort, and morph quality organic and synthesized tones.

This Kontakt instrument sounds amazing, as you would expect. Some users felt its price was a little high, which might be the case. At the end of the day, you’ve got to decide what you want. But if you’re looking for unique and versatile brass- and winds-oriented pad sounds, this is the one.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Jup-8 V by Arturia

Jup-8 V by Arturia

When hunting for authentic sounding recreations of classic keyboards and synths, Arturia has always got something up their sleeve. Their Jup-8 V, of course, is a faithful recreation of the legendary Roland Jupiter-8 polysynth.

In creating Jup-8 V, Arturia rebuilt the classic from scratch. With their analog modeling technology, the developer is confident they’ve created nothing short of a masterpiece, but they didn’t stop there – they also added modern features to give you even more flexibility.

Jup-8 V comes with four customizable voice dispersion modes, free-running phase oscillators with up to 16 voice polyphony, VCO cross modulation, assignable VCO sync, classic and mono unison modes, arpeggiator, and extra modulation capabilities (two complex LFOs and modulation mixer).

It also features double notes and modulation sequencer, velocity, aftertouch, modwheel, and keyboard tracking, three output effect slots, advanced brightness, timbre, time, and movement macro controls, over 300 presets, and built-in tutorials.

In almost every way imaginable, Jup-8 V lives up to the hype. It sounds fat and big, it has great effects processors, the built-in sequencer is a blast, and the Galaxy module is out of this world. But CPU usage is quite high, and sequence length requires modulation. But those really are about the only downsides.

If you loved the original Jupiter-8, this virtual instrument is well worth a try.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

REV by Output

REV by Output

Output’s REV is a go-to for reversed instrument sounds, which as you know are perfect for texture, adding character to a mix, and surprising listeners.

But this is not merely a “reverse” button. REV is loaded with sounds that have already been reversed and processed, including complex synths, real instruments, multi-layered organic pads, rises, swells, pulses, stutters, and more.

The 1,000+ instruments can be played in real time and in reverse. REV also comes with free or locked tempo options, live recorded loops, risers for a variety of genres (especially electronic or trailer music), as well as volume and pitch stutter FX.

Some patches are certainly better than others, but REV sounds amazing. And it’s positively addicting. Once you start using it, you might end up adding it to every song you make.

REV works with the free and premium versions of Kontakt.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

What Should I Look For In A Pad VST Plugin?

The above aren’t just among the best synths and virtual instruments for pad sounds. They’re also among some of the best in their categories, which means they can all do considerably more. That doesn’t necessarily make the buying decision any easier, though.

Here are the main things to consider when shopping for pad VST plugins.

  • Sound quality. How does the plugin sound? Obviously, it helps if you like the tones, because you’re the one that’s going to be incorporating it in your projects. You can also listen for things like authenticity, clarity, dirt, and depth, depending on what matters most to you.
  • Genre. What genre of music will you be producing? Some synths will fit nicely with pop and rock tracks, others will work better in EDM and electronic genres. So, filter the options based on how you plan to use the plugin.
  • Budget. VST soft synths and virtual instruments are certainly more affordable and convenient than hardware gear, but they can still run a pretty penny. So, plan well, especially if you intend to buy more than one synth and avoid going into debt for any purchase.

Top Pad VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

Pad sounds can add lush atmosphere, mysterious and complex ambience, and beautiful backgrounds to your tracks. For that reason, they have a lot of utility.

But don’t forget – most soft synths and virtual instruments have been built for more. It’s worth exploring all they can offer, because you never know when you might want to take advantage of other types of sounds.

Have fun!

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