Most soft synths deliver a decent pad sound but, that's if you're looking to produce more than just a paint-by-numbers ambient track, you'll want to find ways of bringing more variation to your patches.
For ambient sounds, wavetable synths also give you a way to create sonic interest by morphing through the table over time, making them great for evolving timbres. Combining different synthesis types also helps create more unique textures.
Read on for a round-up of 6 software synths that are capable of creating expansive atmospheres, organic textures and sweeping ambience.
1. Synapse Dune 3
Capable of some beautifully rich sounds, in part due to its lovely unison/voice section and filters, Dune 3 is also supremely easy to program, and is equipped with a powerful modulation matrix and effects section.
2. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2
This flagship synth combines DSP and sample-based sound generation, bundles it with a massive sample and patch library, then allows you to control it, should you wish, from over 65 well known hardware synths. There really is nothing else quite like it.
3. iZotope Iris 2
Without a doubt a bit of a leftfield synth, Iris 2 has a sample-based design that lets you use specific frequency regions in a source sample. It achieves sounds you’ll struggle to create elsewhere, and is an education in the power of software synth design.
4. G-Force Oberheim OB-E
With its eight linked but individual modules, Oberheim’s 8 Voice is a unique and rare synth that’s been faithfully recreated by G Force Software. It’s certainly not a do-it-all instrument, but it makes rich, evolving textures like no other synth we know.
5. KV331 SynthMaster 2.9
We love the simple user interface and sound of this long-running soft synth. But what really hooks us is the breadth of its patch library. Whatever sound you’re after you’ll find multiple examples as standard and in the many pay-for expansions.
6. Korg Collection Wavestation 2
Korg’s software version of its classic wavetable synth makes pad creation a joy. 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 ideal for that retro ambient vibe.