6 powerful synths for ambient music

Most software synths offer decent pad sound, but if you’re looking to produce more than just a painted-by-numbers ambient track, you’ll want to find ways to bring more variation to your patches.

For ambient sounds, wavetable synths also allow you to create sonic interest by transforming the table over time, making them perfect for evolving timbres. Combining different types of synthesis also helps to create more unique textures.

Read on for a roundup of 6 soft synths capable of creating expansive atmospheres, organic textures, and sweeping ambience.


(Image credit: Synapse)

Capable of producing beautifully rich sounds, thanks in part to its attractive unison/vocals section and filters, Dune 3 is also extremely easy to program and comes equipped with a powerful modulation matrix and effects section.


(Image credit: Spectrasonics)

This flagship synth combines DSP and sample-based sound generation, bundles it with a huge library of samples and patches, and then lets you control it, if you want, from over 65 well-known hardware synths. There really is nothing else like it.


(Image credit: iZotope)

Undoubtedly a bit of a left-field synth, Iris 2 has a sample-based design that lets you use specific frequency regions in a source sample. It produces sounds you’ll struggle to create elsewhere and is an education in the power of soft synth design.


(Image credit: G-Force)

With its eight linked yet individual modules, Oberheim’s 8 Voice is a unique and rare synth that has been faithfully recreated by G Force Software. It’s certainly not a do-it-all instrument, but it creates rich, evolving textures like no other synth we know of.


(Image credit: KV331)

We love the simple user interface and sound of this long-running software synthesizer. But what really hooks us is the breadth of its patch library. Whatever sound you are looking for, you will find several examples in standard and in the many paid extensions.


(Image credit: Korg)

Korg’s software version of its classic wavetable synth makes creating pads a pleasure. OK, there are probably more powerful wavetable style synths out there (Serum, Massive X and so on), but with all the original patches, it’s great for that ambient retro vibe.