Top 20 Ambient & Downtempo Plugins 2022 (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes)

Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes) | integraudio.com

For this post, we tried to pick the 20 best plugins that work great for ambient & downtempo music.

The sounds that are used the most in these music genres are atmospheric sounds, pads, and leads. Other than that, you can spice up your production with textures, background noises like rain, foleys, drones, and soundscapes. Pianos, guitar, strings, and percussions also contribute to creating atmospheric vibes and make your track complete.

When it comes to effects, probably the most used is a reverb and delay that creates a vibe to create distant sounds and drags your pad and ambient tones even more.

Beginners Tip: For making your pads last longer, increase the Attack and Release on ADSR Envelope in your synth. This will make your pads sound smooth and dreamy.

As mentioned, the list includes 20 paid and free plugins mixed up together. If you are just starting out, feel free to use free plugins, though, if you are more serious, we recommend picking premium plugins.

Top 20 Ambient & Downtempo Plugins 2022 (For Pads, Atmos, Drums, Soundscapes, Pianos, Guitars, Drones & Cinematic Sounds)

1. Native Instruments Absynth 5 (Great For Ambient Pads & Textures)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

If you are looking for atmospheric, and unique pads for your ambient and downtempo tunes, this plugin is a great choice.

Absynth is great for those genres because other than creating pads, you can create interesting textures, soundscapes, drones, and even effects. It’s because it offers great unique effects like Aetherizer.

Don’t get me wrong, Absynth comes with a palette of sounds like any other synth including basses, leads, and drums other sounds but it’s especially useful and great for things mentioned above.

Also, sounds that Absynth comes with / your own that you can create fit great into RnB, Trap, Hip-Hop, and DnB (great for Liquid, Deep, Neuro). Though, if you are looking for pads for EDM we wouldn’t recommend this plugin.

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Native Instruments Absynth 5 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Also, we made a free pads library for you in Absynth 5 that you can download here.

Key Features:                                                                                                                            

  • Aetherizer Grain-cloud Effects
    This is an advanced type of Granular synthesis whereby the granular delay effect is unique to Absynth 5. Here, each grain is given a random location in the stereo field, and each grain can be pitch-shifted before returning to the effect’s input.
  • Mutator
    Mutator helps users that are not sure where to start. All you have to do is choose a random preset as a starting point. Then you will be prompted to choose some of the tags from the Absynth database. The tags that you can choose from include Genre, Source, Timbre, Instrument, Articulation, and more. As you continue to choose relevant tags, the Mutator tool will narrow down the presets that can be used as targets for your mutations.
  • New Filter
    Absynth 5 now has two new filters. The first one is called Cloud and is like a mini version of the Aetherizer, only with fewer parameters and without a graphic window. The second filter is called the Supercomb and is an update to the existing comb filter, offering tonal extras and more feedback options. These new and improved filters in Absynth 5 help add to the richness and charm of the overall sound.
  • Standalone
    Absynth 5 has a wide range of support. It comes in a standalone version which means that it can be used separately without needing a DAW, and the sounds generated can be exported to and controlled by MIDI controllers.

Compatibility:

Absynth 5 comes in standalone, AU, RTAS, and VST formats and is compatible with Windows XP (32/64 bit) or higher or Mac OS 10.5 or higher.

Summary:

Absynth has been the number one plugin for producers and sound designers looking to create ambient, atmospheric, and progressive sounds for a long time now. This is due to its excellence in quality and the variety of features it offers. Try a trial first to see if it would fit your productions.

2. NI Ethereal Earth (Pads, Ambient & Atmospheric Library With Sequencer)

More Info & Price

NI Ethereal Earth is an easy-to-use library for Kontakt 6 that is loaded with various features and customizable ambient sounds.

Ethereal Earth is part of the play series by native instruments, a series of very simple plugins to use and aimed more towards producers looking to create sounds quickly and less towards sound designers.

NI Ethereal Earth - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

NI Ethereal Earth - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

NI Ethereal Earth - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Play Series Engine
    Ethereal Earth is powered Kontakt 6 Play Series engine. This engine aims to simplify sound design for all users, including novices. In addition, the Play Series engine allows users to edit the existing factory quickly presets and create entirely new presets.
  • Ambience Focused
    The Ethereal Earth library contains exciting, atmospheric sounds that include pad, string, ambience, drone, FX, bass, lead, brass, texture, string, and wind sounds. In addition to that, Ethereal Earth provides users with a comprehensive set of tools that can be used to generate custom sounds according to their needs.

Compatibility:

Ethereal Earth is a Kontakt 6 library. Kontakt 6 comes in VST/AU (32/64 bit) formats and supports Windows 10 or higher and Mac Os 10.14 or higher.

Summary:

In conclusion, it can be easily said that Ethereal Earth by Native Instruments is the optimum plugin for users who have little knowledge of sound design and need a tool that guides them to create atmospheric sounds through a user-friendly interface and a collection of ready-to-use presets.

3. Mixed In Key Captain Beat (Drums)

More Info & Price 

The Mixed In Key Captain is a bundle of plugins that include chords, melody, etc. In addition, the Mixed In Key Captain Beat is its drums plugin.

Mixed In Key Captain plugins are not necessarily ambient-focused plugins. However, the Captain Beat plugin allows you to create drum patterns that fit the atmospheric/ambient vibe that you may be looking for. Captain Beat comes with several drum samples and kits as well as hundreds of pre-made drum patterns that help you create ambient drums to fit your liking in a few short moments.

Key Features:

  • Pre-made drum patterns
    The pre-made drum patterns on this plugin are incredible. You can choose from hundreds of genres, including hip-hop, reggae, pop, dancehall, etc. In addition to that, you can also mix and match drum patterns to create your unique rhythm.
  • Standalone GUI
    The Mixed In Captain Beat plugin comes in a standalone format which means that you can work on drum patterns without the need for a DAW. You can also export your patterns in MIDI format to use them in a project.
  • Beginner Friendly
    Mixed In Captain plugins are beginner-friendly and have relatively simple and easy-to-use interfaces. The Captain Beat plugin is even more straightforward than the rest with the drag and drop features and straightforward controls.
  • Dynamic Controls and Effects
    Mixed In Captain plugins come with built-in dynamic controls such as delay, reverb, chorus, etc, as well as effects that helps users mix their sounds without the need for external plugins, which also saves time.

Compatibility:

Mixed In Captain Beat is available for Windows 10 or higher and Mac OS 10.14 or higher for 64-bit, VST format only.

Summary:

Mixed In Captain beat is a nice plugin for users looking to create drum patterns for their ambient music quickly. The MIDI export feature on this plugin increases its compatibility and makes it a go-to plugin for many users.

4. Spitfire Audio Eric Whitacre Choir (Vocals)

More Info & Price

If you are looking for choir vocals to take your ambient track to the next dimension, then the Eric Whitacre Choir plugin by Spitfire Audio has got you covered.

This plugin is a collaboration between Spitfire Audio and Eric Whitacre, who is a renowned choral composer. The choir on this plugin comprises 22 singers that were handpicked by Eric Whitacre himself from his award-winning Eric Whitacre singers. Their vocals were recorded in AIR Studios’ Lyndhurst Hall.

The resulting product is smooth, luxurious, and rich-sounding choir vocals that hold the reputation of EWC. The multiple samples are recorded beautifully and are always in tune, even when the performers sing a semitone clash. In addition, the plugin follows a standard SATB format, whereby the ranges of the four sections overlap to a certain degree. This provides good opportunities for layering.

Key Features:

  • Evo Grid
    The Evo Grid is a creative feature used by Spitfire Audio in many of its plugins. A peg-board in a solitaire style allows users to assign an evolving sound to any of the keyboard’s nine-pitch zones. Users can choose from several Evo styles listed in 51 rows, each style with its volume and pan controls. These Evo styles are categorized into simple, episodic, dynamic, clashes, special and rhythmic categories, each with a different color code, for more straightforward navigation.
  • Vocal Quality
    As mentioned, the vocals on this plugin were recorded almost perfectly, and the quality that the users get is exquisite.
  • Great Tuning
    The choir vocals are accurately tuned, and the deliveries by the singers were very precise. This results in satisfying musical results that can be used instantly and incorporated directly into tracks.
  • Impeccable Design
    UsTwo Design handled the visual aspects of the EWC plugin. These guys created a pair of eloquent, flavourful, resizable GUIs that also have a minimalistic aesthetic to them.

Compatibility:

This plugin comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports Windows 7 or higher and Mac OS 10.10 or higher in 32/64 bit formats.

Summary:

The Eric Whitacre Choir plugin by Spitfire Audio is by far the best-paid plugin for users willing to add vocal choirs to their downtempo/deep music. The EWC plugin provides precisely tuned and high-quality samples that are a perfect match for the Evo Grid and Evo Styles of Spitfire Audio format.

5. Baby Audio Crystalline (Algorhitmic Reverb)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Baby Audio Crystalline is a bold attempt at modernizing reverb without following conventional reverb algorithms.

The resulting product is a reverb plugin that follows completely new algorithms and takes full advantage of modern CPU power. Conventional reverb plugins usually prompt users to choose between different reverb reflections, be it a large hall, small room, etc. Crystalline works much differently, allowing users to control the size, sparkle, and width of the reflections.

While this may seem like a complication for many users, Crystalline’s Baby Audio’s fantastic interface makes up for it. The interface is comprehensive and categorizes the controls into 4 different parts: reflections, clean-up, depth, and shape.

Baby Audio Crystalline - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Modern Technology
    The technology and algorithm behind this plugin are 100% new and do not resample or emulate any classic reverb algorithm. This means that this plugin makes use of the modern CPU power and delivers a reverb effect that is very powerful and highly flexible.
  • Easy To Use & Understand
    It has a 3D graph that shows a spectrum analysis of the reverb for a short duration of time. In addition to that, the controls are well laid out and display drawings that reflect what each control is about. Finally, the interface is resizable and comes in both dark and light modes.
  • Large Preset Library
    Baby Audio Crystalline comes with a large preset library that features effects unique to this plugin. Having a large preset library is very rare among reverb plugins. This makes Crystalline stand out a bit from the competition.
  • Integrated Help System
    This plugin has an integrated help system which means that users can hover the mouse cursor over any control knob, and a pop-out will appear explaining how each knob works and what it contributes to the signal. This makes Crystalline a perfect reverb plugin for beginners.

Compatibility:

Baby Audio Crystalline comes in AU/VST/VST3/AAX formats and requires Windows 7 or higher and Mac OS 10.7 or higher in both 32 and 64 bits formats.

Summary:

Baby Audio made itself a pioneer with Crystalline. This plugin is one of the very few modern reverb tools built completely from scratch and features totally new algorithms. As a result, it is one of the most flexible reverb plugins out there.

6. Newfangled Audio Generate (Synth with Ambience in mind)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

This plugin is a soft synth that is notorious for its chaotic feature.

Generate comes as a successor to the Pendulate mono synth plugin, also by Eventide. This plugin can be used in mono, four-voice, eight-voice modes, or layered voice unison. This is a powerful plugin, meaning that when producing downtempo or ambient music, you wouldn’t need to use four or eight voice modes.

However, this plugin is often described as a “chaotic plugin” due to its chaotic oscillator and its crazy interface, whereby parameters are placed in square boxes and have waveforms as backgrounds.

Newfangled Audio Generate - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

We also made a free library for Audio Generate with various presets, leads, basses, and pads as well. You can DL the library here!

Key Features:

  • Multiple Presets
    Generate plugin comes with a ton of presets that can help you get started including Basses, Keys, Pads, Sequences, Textures, Plucks & Leads. It also has a random feature that generates random presets if you are looking for different inspirations.
  • Chaotic Oscillator
    This oscillator is a unique feature exclusive to this plugin and Pendulate. This oscillator has 5 different modes; Pendulum, Vortex, Pulsar, Discharge, and Turbine. The working principle of the chaotic oscillator is that this oscillator is based on a non-linear system that reacts with the keyed oscillator. Therefore, the 5 different modes differ in how they react to the nature of the non-linear system.
  • Modulation Flexibility
    Modulation sources on Generate plugin can be patched to different destinations, and users are allowed to control the amount of modulation from each source as well as the waveform (sine. sawtooth, triangle, etc.) and speed of the modulation.
  • Dynamic Controls
    Generate plugin comes with its own built-in set of dynamic controls and effects. These include EQ, reverb, delay, chorus, and more. It also has a built-in limiter that saturates at high levels.

Compatibility:

This plugin comes in AAX/AU/VST/VST3 formats and supports Windows 8 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac in 64-bit format only.

Summary:

Generate plugin by Newfangled Audio is a powerful synth plugin with many uses. It can generate bass sounds, textures, loud leads, etc. At the same time, it can also have a chill, analog sound, achievable by toning down the chaos.

7. Native Instruments Arkhis (Library For Cinematic Atmospheric Scores)

More Info & Price

Arkhis is a collaboration between Orchestral Tools and Native Instruments, which are two elite music software developers.

Arkhis is a great library that features sounds perfect for theatrical atmospheres and cinematic scores. It is a Kontakt library that consists of deep pads, textures, ambient sounds, and much more. Upon its release, Arkhis gained a lot of positive feedback from producers and sound designers looking to create storytelling and progressive passages.

Native Instruments Arkhis - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Generous Library
    The library contains a broad collection of 160 multi-samples. In addition to that, users have the option of layering, which means that they can create unique sounds that fit their desires. Users can choose from 200 presets categorized into Textures, Stutters, Motions, Pads, Sparkles, Subs, and Swells.
  • Kontakt’s Central Playback Module
    Arkhis is built on Kontakt’s central playback module, which can easily be linked to any MIDI controller. This module allows users to select from 90 sound sources and assign them to 3 individually modulated layers.

Compatibility:

Native Instruments Arkhis is compatible with Kontakt 6.2.2 or later. Kontakt 6.2.2 requires Windows 10 or higher for PC and macOS 10.14 and comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats for 64-bit systems only.

Summary:

Overall, Arkhis by Native Instruments in collaboration with Orchestral tools is a vital plugin for ambient pads and cinematic patches. Multi-samples for this library were recorded at the legendary Teldex Scoring Stage. This means that the quality you will get on Arkhis is guaranteed to be exquisite.

8. Baby Audio Spaced Out (Pro Delay/Echo)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

This reverb/delay plugin by Baby Audio is a vital tool for spacey, atmospheric beats that emulates the classic Roland Space Echo unit.

Spaced out by Baby Audio comprises 3 main sections, as evident in the interface. The echos engine on the left contains 16 blocks corresponding to tap delays. Each block can be turned on, off, as well as low accent, whereby the delay effect is minimal.

Baby Audio Spaced Out - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Spaced Engine
    The space engine on the right is the most exciting section, whereby supply the reverb and modulation to the delays and rhythm that comes from the echoes engine. Finally, the mixer section in the middle adds wetness and decay to the signal.
  • Modes and Programs
    In the echoes section, users can choose between 4 timing modes; straight, dotted, 2x, and triplet. The space section also gives users a choice between 4 different reverb programs, namely; Vacuum, Small Space, Medium Space, and Outer Space. 
  • X-Y Pad
    Using an X-Y Pad to mix up the delays & rhythms in the echoes section, the reverb/modulation with the delays in the space section, and the wet/dry level in the mixer section is pretty intelligent.
  • Ducker Feature
    This unique feature in the mixer section allows users to duck the wetness effects for an external signal to achieve classic reverb effects.

Compatibility:

This plugin comes in AU/AAX/VST/VST3 formats and supports Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.7 or higher for Mac, 32, and 64-bit formats. 

Summary:

Spaced Out is another incredible reverb plugin by Baby Audio that is innovative and packed with features. Unlike Crystalline, this plugin emulates a classic reverb unit, that being the popular Space Echo by Roland. While many other plugins emulate this classic reverb, Baby Audio always manages to add its creative touch to make it more exciting and inspiring for composers.

9. Soundiron Holy Ambiences 3

More Info & Price

Another Kontakt library synth pad is dedicated to ambient music, atmospheres, and progressive music.

Holy Ambiences is a synth pad that is made explicitly for ambient sounds. It is a Kontakt library aimed at composers looking to create atmospheric, progressive style sounds and music. The original idea behind the library was to have a winter theme.

However, it has then evolved into an overall cosmic synth and ambient instrumental patches that fit all genres of music. The sounds in the library are categorized into 18 types and are filled with sustains and one-shots. These sounds are luxuriously detailed and have unique flavors. The majority of sounds are tonal, but many are textural or abstract. They are designed to be played at root pitch, but you can retune them according to your needs.

Soundyron Holy Ambiences 3 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • FX Rack
    Since this is a Kontakt library, users have access to the FX rack tab, which contains 18 built-in special effects and dynamic controls. You can add distortion, delay, reverb, saturation, lo-fi FX, etc.
  • Interface Controls
    Users are given a few unique interface FX controls used to alter the output signal. This includes LFO, glide, filter, and arpeggiator. 
  • Automation-ready controls
    Users can control the library sounds when given sound-shaping controls that are automation-ready to enhance flexibility. These controls include attack, release, swell, filter, vibrato, pitch, switching, articulation, crossfading, layering, etc.
  • Dynamic Effects
    To add to this plugin’s versatility, flexibility, and control options, users are provided with a set of advanced dynamic effects that include delay, reverb, flanger, phaser, distortion, EQ, compression, amp & cab simulators, and a lot more. 

Compatibility:

Holy Ambiences 3 is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac. It is a Kontakt library which means that it comes in AU/VST/AAX versions, both 32 and 64-bits.

Summary:

Holy Ambiences 3 by Soundiron is an ambient synth pad loaded with several unique sounds categorized into 18 types, each type fitting a different vibe. It is a must-have tool if you are a composer of ambient music and searching for the perfect ambient pad.

10. Arturia Modular V3

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

This plugin is a bold attempt by Arturia to recreate a modular synth into a software instrument.

Arturia Modular V3 emulates the classic Moog modular synthesizer. The Moog synthesizer was introduced in 1971 and became an instant success due to its unmatchable filters and fat sound. Arturia used their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology to accurately recreate the circuitry behind the classic synth, which delivers exceptional sound quality. Arturia managed to equip the plugin with all the sonic qualities of the original synth. Furthermore, it used modern technology to make the plugin more powerful and add to its functionality. These are discussed in the key features section.

Arturia Modular V3 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Dynamic Controls and Effects
    In addition to the two ADSR envelope generators, the 3 oscillators, and the 24dB/oct resonant filter present in the vintage Moog synth, Arturia Modular V3 also gives the user further dynamic controls and effects that include polyphony, delay, chorus effects, arpeggiation, and much more.
  • Tons of Presets
    The Modular V3 provides users with a set of exciting presets to help beginners and advanced composers seeking inspiration as a starting point. These presets are tweakable and can be controlled using MIDI controllers.
  • Advanced Automation
    Through the advanced automation feature in the Modular V3, users can choose up to 4 parameters and automate them simultaneously, which enhances sonic effects.
  • Vintage Interface
    The interface of this plugin precisely resembles the classic synth, which is a pleasing visual to many users and can help those who are already familiar with the classic synth adjust to this quickly.

Compatibility:

This plugin supports Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.6 or higher for Mac. It comes in AU/AAX/VST formats and supports 32 and 64-bit systems.

Summary:

The Arturia Modular V3 is the perfect tool for creating deep, thick basslines and unique theatrical leads and melodies that fit the downtempo vibe of your track. It emulates a classic Moog synth and does so spectacularly while adding more modern functionality and power.

11. Cinesamples Soundscapes

More Info & Price

Soundscapes create completely new sonic textures of tonal and atonal sound design through granular synthesis. It encompasses samples from violinist Michael Levine and is full of exciting textures.

While Cinesample’s new Soundscapes virtual instrument does not have an infinite number of options, it is an intriguing and a musical departure from the company’s usual fare. This Kontakt library boasts 1.5Gb worth of powerful granular synthesis effect. Granular synthesis is a technique that allows users to choose one or more tiny grains (1 to 50 ms in length) from a larger sound wave and merge them to create interesting new complex sounds. Cinesample approaches granular synthesis by prompting users to choose from a group of sounds recorded by violinist Michael Levine and categorized into pads, textures, one-shots, pulses, and sound design patches. The users can then control the motion setting and density of the grains.

Cinesamples Soundscapes Review - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Auto Map
    The auto map feature on this granular synthesis ensures that the sound generated follows somewhat of a western tuning at the very least. This helps the effect stay in tune and be more comprehensible.
  • Grain Overlap
    The Grain Overlap setting allows users to control how much crossfading occurs among grains; a low value usually results in a pointillistic sound with space, whereas a higher value may result in a more sustained sound even within transient textures.
  • Jitter and Width settings
    On top of the grain overlap feature, there are also the jitter and width controls. Jitter is used to add more randomization to the grain generation, whereas the width setting increases the stereo separation of the effect.
  • Well-organized patches
    As mentioned before, this plugin comes with a good number of patches and sounds that include samples by Michael Levine. These patches are so well organized that they can be used instantly. The density and overlap settings can be applied immediately to create magical sounds.

Compatibility:

This library requires Kontakt 6.2.2 or later, which is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.12 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64-bit systems for Windows but 64-bit systems only for Macs.

Summary:

As discussed previously, granular synthesis is an important effect if you compose atmospheric, downtempo-style tracks. It is a stimulating effect, and Cinesample Soundscapes is one of the more exciting plugins that execute this effect.

12. Big Fish Audio Ambient Minimalism

More Info & Price

This ambient plugin by Big Fish audio received a ton of positive feedback from composers, producers, and sound designers, and for good reasons.

Ambient Minimalism is a one-of-a-kind phrase and texture-based virtual instrument for quickly and easily creating unique and expressive ambient soundscapes, cinematic cues, and backing tracks. Each Ambient Minimalism instrument patch consists of many sounds, such as playful guitar effects, vocals, custom-generated pads, and so much more, to provide you with a broad range of musical aspects and themes to work with.

Big Fish Audio Ambient Minimalism Review - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • The Dark Side
    This plugin comes with another version called Big Fish Audio Ambient Minimalism The Dark Side. This is a dark mode version of this plugin with darker, more cinematic, and theatrical sounds. These include creepy pianos, detuned glass, Wurlitzer, and ominous horns.
  • Well recorded patches
    Ambient Minimalism plugin contains a ton of sounds. These are all well recorded and recorded in the same key, which gives users the ability to mix and match any sounds they like to create nice compositions.
  • Control over the Patches
    In addition to the fact that the samples on this plugin were recorded on the same key, users are presented with 12 key switches (red colored) that they can use to change the key of the music element of their choice.
  • Komplete Kontrol and Maschine Integration
    Ambient Minimalism has been developed to function seamlessly with Komplete Kontrol and Maschine, providing a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience. You can use the controls of any NKS-compatible hardware to easily manipulate the interface.

Compatibility:

This plugin is a Kontakt library and comes in VST/AU/AAX formats. It supports Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac in 32 and 64-bit formats.

Summary:

In summary, this is another synth library specifically aimed at creating ambient sounds. It consists of some of the most beautiful vocal samples and cinematic ambient pads. If you are just entering the world of composing ambient music, then Ambient Minimalism by Big Fish Audio can be your perfect starting point.

13. Spitfire Audio LABS Collection (FREE)

More Info & Download

This plugin by Spitfire Audio features some absolutely spectacular instruments, and is entirely free!

Spitfire Audio LABS is well known among all producers, not just those composing ambient music. Developers at Spitfire Audio have been adding more sounds to their sample library since 2008. The most popular and exciting instrument in this plugin is the soft piano. This was recorded by Nick Taylor back in 2008 and is an upright, light piano that has a softer tone perfect for all genres.

Spitfire Audio LABS Collection - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Source: Spitfire Audio

Key Features:

  • Multiple instruments
    LABS consists of several outstanding instruments including pianos, guitars, drums, etc, all within one plugin. Furthermore, Spitfire Audio developers always seem to make an effort to add more sounds to each instrument to stay fresh and relevant.
  • Dynamic Controls
    The dynamic controls offered by a Spitfire Audio are always excellent, and LABS is no exception. Users can control each instrument’s reverb levels, compression, and other dynamic features. This eliminates the need for using 3rd party plugin to mix the sounds with your track.
  • Dedicated plugin
    A music library of this caliber and with different instruments is usually expected to be incorporated into a player like a Kontakt player. The developers at Kontakt are more experienced. However, the Spitfire Audio plugin is fantastic and works seamlessly with all its instruments.
  • Free Updates
    In addition to it being free, users of Spitfire Audio Labs also receive constant updates to the instruments in the library. Moreover, the developers of this plugin seem to give it a lot of care as they constantly add more and more sounds to their library, which is impressive for a free plugin.

Compatibility:

LABS is compatible with Windows 7 and higher (32 and 64-bits) for PC and Mac OS 10.10 or higher for Mac (64-bit). It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats.

Summary:

Spitfire Audio LABS is a very popular plugin for many users and for very good reasons. The fact that it provides users with a ton of instruments with frequently updated sounds, all for free, is very intriguing and highly appreciated among producers. Several instruments within this plugin can be used for downtempo and atmospheric music.

14. MaxSynths Crisalys (FREE)

More Info & Download

Crisalys is an all-around free virtual synthesizer as powerful as some of its paid competitors.

This synthesizer plugin is powered by an audio engine that can work up to 192Khz. Custom waveforms drive 3 oscillators, ensuring high-quality sound in any situation. Each oscillator includes Ring Modulator, FM, and Cross Modulation options controlled by three independent internal LFOs. Due to the internal custom circuit explicitly designed for this purpose, the Ring Modulator can obtain sound characteristics well beyond the familiar timbres of this effect.

MaxSynths Crisalys - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • 3 Oscillators, 18 custom waveforms
    The driving force behind Crysalys is made up of 3 oscillators. These oscillators give the user a choice between 18 custom waveforms. Each waveform can be edited using the set of control knobs that are offered in this plugin.
  • 2 Multi Filters, 12 Different Filter Modes
    Crysalys has 2 multi-filters that can be used to edit the output waveforms generated initially. Additionally, these 2 multi-filters give users 12 different filter modes to choose from for more creativity and excitement.
  • Built-in Dynamic Controls
    Users can mix the sound that they designed in this plugin without the need for external plugins. This is due to the excellent set of built-in dynamic controls and effects like EQ, delay, reverb, chorus, etc.

Compatibility:

This plugin comes in a VST version and is only compatible with PC (Windows 7 or higher) in 32 and 64-bit formats.

Summary:

In short, Crisalys is a very powerful synthesizer that comes loaded with built-in features and effects. So if you are a sound designer and synthesizers like Omnisphere or Serum are beyond your budget, then Crisalys got you covered because it is totally free.

15. u-he Zebralette (FREE)

More Info & Download

If you are looking for soft synths, then Zebralette by u-he is highly recommended.

Zebraletter is a 16-slot polyphonic wavetable synthesizer with waveform editing, three audio effects, a 32-stage envelope generator, 24 spectral effects, etc. There are also 300 factory sounds included with the instrument. U-He refers to Zebralette as “their Trojan horse” because it’s meant to pique your interest enough to upgrade to the full version known as Zebra2.

u-he Zebralette - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Clear GUI
    One of the most eye-grabbing features of this wavetable synthesizer plugin is its well-designed, easy on the eyes interface. It has a waveform display in the top center where users can also change the wave type according to their liking. The Oscillator and Mixers are the left and right laid out neatly.
  • Advanced FX controls
    Zebralette comes with its dedicated FX section in the bottom right corner of the interface. It includes EQ, chorus, delay, stereo imaging, phaser, distortion, and much more.
  • Presets
    In addition to the fantastic set of presets already available in this plugin, Zebralette makes it easy for users to install their own presets on this plugin using their new incredible soundset installer.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac in both 32 and 64-bit systems.

Summary:

In summary, u-he is a well-known developer responsible for some major plugins in the past. Zebralette is their free version of the Zebra 2, which is an incredible soft synth plugin that can take your sonic palette to another level. Although it is free, Zebralette still packs impressive features, and if you are a beginner or even an intermediate sound designer, this plugin could be more than enough.

16. Matt Tytel Helm

More Info & Download

Helm is a well-reviewed, popular synthesizer plugin developed by Matt Tytel and is perfect for designing deep, theatrical sounds.

The most popular feature of this plugin is its GUI, which is relatively clean and well-organized for a synthesizer of this caliber. Helm also has a very powerful engine capable of generating spectacular sounds that we don’t even get in some of the paid synthesizers. Users looking to create rhythmic sequences will be satisfied with the formant filter section and the stutter effect module. Additionally, Helm packs the necessary modulation controls and is laid out along the well-organized interface, which makes it easy to connect multiple elements of the sound engine.

Matt Tytel Helm - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Formant and Stutter Effects
    These two effects are pretty unique to this plugin. Given that this is a free plugin, some of the effects that it packs are pretty impressive. For example, the stutter effect can be used to add rhythm to your sounds, and these rhythms can be set according to 1/2 notes, 1/8 notes, and so on. The formant feature has an X-Y pad whereby the amount of effect applied can be selected from a grid.
  • Free Source
    Helm is not only a free plugin, but it also has an open source. This means that you can look at the code behind this plugin. Furthermore, you can alter this code to remove bugs and modify it according to your liking.
  • Waveforms
    The modulation controls in Helm are laid out very neatly, and they display a waveform to the users so that the effects applied to the waveforms can be viewed in real-time.

Compatibility:

This plugin is available in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac in both 32 and 64-bit systems.

Summary:

Helm is a relatively new plugin developed and released first back in 2015. It is a free version of another synthesizer called Vital, also developed by Matt Tytel. Helm is well-liked among producers and sound designers of all genres and is known to be one of the best free synthesizer plugins. Some of its presets can be used as starting points to create deep, atmospheric, and theatrical sounds.

17. Cinematique Instruments Landscape (FREE)

More Info & Download

Cinematique Instruments released this free Kontakt library to celebrate its 9th anniversary.

Landscape allows sound designers and composers to create dynamic ambiance and drones that are deeply woven. It has 7 different sound slots that can be filled with various sounds. Among the 7 slots, 5 slots contain several waveforms: sine waves, fragile sax, warmness, and flirring sound. In addition, a slot is preserved for rumblings and noise, whereby the last slot is preserved for atomic blips or waterdrops at any interval. Each slot has its own filters and speed adjustable automation controls that allow users to be more creative.

Cinematique Instruments Landscape - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Built-in Effects
    Like many plugins on this list, Landscape also has its own set of built-in dynamic controls and effects. These include reverb, delay, EQ, etc. These built-in effects allow users to mix their sounds instantly without using third-party plugins.

Compatibility:

Landscape requires Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher, which is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX versions and supports 32 and 64-bit systems.

Summary:

Landscape by Cinematique Instruments lives up to its name in the way that it allows users to create ambient sounds that are similar to painting a landscape. It is a free Kontakt library that offers users a lot of controllability and space to be creative.

18. Surge VST (FREE)

More Info & Download

Surge is an interesting plugin in its interface and it comes packed with a ton of features and excitement.

This synth is so complex that it can be used to make sounds for almost every genre, including dubstep growls, EDM supersaws, FM, wavetable, string, experimental, or even ambient or textural music. A huge plus point is that it has excellent sound quality and has controllable tonal features like oscillator pitch/drift variation, random modulation oscillator brightness, wave-shaping, and insert/send FX, which gives it a rich character and helps you achieve a “warmer” and more vintage sound. Surge VST - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Analog and Digital Mix
    This VST for Windows combines digital and analog synthesis technologies into a single package. This means that wavetable oscillators and FM-style algorithms produce dazzling and clear sounds, while its analog features can generate all the thump and gust you’d expect from a high-quality vintage keyboard.
  • Easy to install
    Unlike many plugins on this list, Surge is possibly the easiest to install. Once you request the plugin you are immediately given a download link without any cryptic copy protection. The download link has a Zip file containing the DLL file. This means that there are no installers needed or any other time-consuming procedures.
  • Powerful Engine
    Behind a smart GUI, Surge is made up of a trio of powerful Oscillators. Each oscillator can be used for a different function and the modulation controls can be edited individually.

Compatibility:

Surge is compatible with Windows 7 and higher (32 and 64-bits) for PC and Mac OS 10.11 or higher for Mac (64-bit) for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats.

Summary:

Surge is an interesting synthesizer. It has an attractive interface and is packed with a ton of sounds and control options that can help users create any type of sound that they like. Much like Helm, Surge is a must-have tool if you are a beginner or an intermediate sound designer looking for a free synthesizer. Additionally, many advanced, top sound designers often find themselves using this tool as opposed to many paid synthesizers due to its light nature and incredible features.

19. XPERIMENTA Project MINIMA (FREE)

More Info & Download

Our last Kontakt library for this article is Project MINIMA, an ambient collection of pads, C3 rehearsal pianos, guitars, and more.

Minima, as the name suggests, is a collection of 14 instruments designed for creating minimalist music. It has a minimalist interface with control over instrument selection, pitch/pan, and a single FX knob. The developers behind this library describe it as a library made by musicians for musicians.

The pads on this library are just perfect for downtempo music. They blend organic samples and hardware synths with a theatrical quality. While some samples are calm, others are more rhythmic and contain motion.

XPERIMENTA Project MINIMA Review - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Minimalistic Design
    The minimalistic design on this plugin may be a negative trait for many sound designers and producers. However, if you are looking for a focused plugin that only does what it says, you will love this plugin’s minimalism.
  • Dreamy Sounds
    The sounds in the library of the instruments present on this plugin have a common theme. This theme is a dreamy, atmospheric style that resembles this plugin’s minimalistic nature and name. This makes it an essential feature for atmospheric, ambient music.

Compatibility:

Project Minima requires Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac. In addition, it comes in VST/AU/AAX versions and supports both 32 and 64-bit systems.

Summary:

Despite not offering many control options, the default samples that it provides are already more than enough and can fit in perfectly with whatever style you choose.

20. Valhalla Space Modulator (FREE)

More Info & Download

Valhalla is a well-known developer and is responsible for some of the best dynamic effects like reverbs and delays. Their attempt at space modulation is an exciting one as well.

Valhalla Space Modulator is a plugin that was released back in 2016. Initially, it was only accessible to existing users of ValhallaDSP. However, it is now free to use for everyone. Valhalla Space Modulator includes eleven modulation algorithms and an easy-to-use set of controls for shaping the depth and kind of modulation applied to the signal. Users can control the rate and depth of the modulation and the feedback amount, and the mix of wet and dry signals.

Valhalla Space Modulator - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Advanced GUI
    The GUI of this plugin is an interesting one. It is made up of big colorful knobs that are very simple to use. The knobs consist of Mix, Rate, Depth, Feedback, and Manual. The interface is resizable and very easy to use.
  • Preset Manager
    The preset manager on Valhalla plugins is fantastic. For example, for Space Modulator, users are provided with 70 presets that can be edited according to needs. In addition to that, users can download and create their own presets.

Compatibility:

Valhalla Space modulator is available in VST/AU/AAX/RTAS formats and supports Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.9 or higher for Mac in both 32 and 64-bit systems.

Summary:

In summary, you simply cannot go wrong with a Valhalla plugin. Whether it be their incredible vintage reverbs to their impeccable supermassive delays, Valhalla always seems to get it right. The space modulator is no exception, as it offers users similar controls to the ones you get on premium plugins but for free. As a result, the Valhalla Space modulator is very popular among sound designers and music producers, and it could be perfect for you if you are looking for a budget modulator.

Bonus:

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

More Info & Price

Omnisphere 2 by Spectrasonics is probably the most popular synthesizer plugin by far.

Omnisphere plugin really needs no introduction. It is perhaps the most powerful synthesizer that offers users a ton of control over their sounds. It is perfect for composers, music producers, and sound designers of all experience levels. It comes packed with a massive library of sounds categorized based on their type, for example, Organs, Pads, Strings, Guitars, Bass, and much more. Upon selecting any sounds, users have a large set of controls that helps modify their sound according to their liking.

In addition to the pre-existing library that Omnisphere 2 comes with, there are many other libraries by many different developers sold online and provide users with more sounds and more options to choose from.

Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 - Top 20 Ambient Plugins Paid & FREE (Pads, Atmos, Soundscapes, Pianos, Synths, Effects) | integraudio.com

Compatibility:

Omnisphere 2 is compatible with Windows 7 and higher (32 and 64-bits) for PC and Mac OS 10.13 or higher for Mac (64-bit) for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats.

Key Features:

  • Add your Audio
    This feature was not present in earlier versions of Omnisphere. However, it is perhaps the most crucial feature whereby you can add your audio files to the sound engine and then modify them using controls such as granular synthesis, vowel-based filters, and the exclusive Innerspace FX.
  • Sound Match
    A feature that sets Omnisphere 2 apart from the rest of the competition is the sound match feature. This feature, present in the mini browser, allows users to upload their sounds, and this incredible feature will look for similar sounding sounds within the library.
  • Sound Lock
    Another unique feature present in the patch browser is the sound lock feature. This feature lets users lock an aspect of a patch such as the arps, envelopes, or Mod Matrix while searching for alternative sounds.
  • Online Patches
    As mentioned before, this plugin is viral among producers of all genres. Hence, many sound designers who are enthusiasts of this plugin have designed patches that fit their style and made them available online. This can help you save a lot of time if you produce for a specific genre.

Summary:

Omnisphere 2 by Spectrasonics sets itself apart from any competition in the synthesizer world by its incredible range of features. From its gigantic library of sounds to the infinite controllability options that it provides to users, Omnisphere’s versatility and flexibility are yet to be matched by any other plugin.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, this article discussed several different plugins that are perfect for ambient, atmospheric, or downtempo styles of music. Some of the plugins discussed are effects plugins such as Crystalline by Baby Audio or Space Modulator by Valhalla. Other plugins were sample libraries such as LABS by Spitfire Audio and Ambient Minimalism by Big Fish Audio. Furthermore, synthesizers like Omnisphere, Surge, and Helm were also discussed. If you are a beginner looking to create ambient-style music, then it is recommended that you have at least one plugin from each kind. For example, you could have LABS as your sample library, Space Modulator, and Baby Audio Spaced Out as your effects plugins, and Helm as your synthesizer.

Don`t copy text!