Best Free Ambient VST Plugins

28 Best Free Ambient VST Plugins 2024

Last Updated on January 1, 2024

Hooked on atmospheric music? There’s just something about it, isn’t there? It’s often relaxing and engrossing, and it can even get you into flow or a trance like state.

But what if you wanted to make your own ambient music? What tools would you require? Are there enough free tools to cover your bases?

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

Avatar ST by HG Fortune

Avatar ST by HG Fortune

HG Fortune’s Avatar ST is a versatile soft synth, tailor made for pads, atmospheres, soundscapes, FX, and even basses.

Included is a 16-step modulator, which empowers you to add a rhythmic quality to your sounds. You can even modulate one section while leaving the other alone.

Avatar ST includes two sections with oscillators, modifiers, VCA EG, delay, pan, reverb send, and a multimode filter (can be inserted using different audio routings).

In total, Avatar ST comes with two PCM wave oscillators (with 384 waves in three banks), two Osc Mix section with one XY-Pad, and mix option (for direct and step modulated out), two Mystify with three types (bright, soft, dark), grain processor, filter with four types (LP, HP, BP, and Feedback), and an ADSR EG.

There’s also two VCA EGs, two delays, two pans, seven LFOs, one S&H, 16-step modulator, keytrack and modwheel, one semi-parametric three-band stereo EQ, one small reverb, 16 voices, and eight lazy buttons.

That’s a lot of features, especially for a free plugin!

When I first heard about Avatar ST, I was curious to discover how it sounded. After all, it’s free and it’s sitting on PLUGINS 4 FREE, which is effectively an archive of hit and miss legacy plugins. But you know what? If you’re going to make ambient music, I can honestly say, this baby delivers.

Check it out for yourself in the video below.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Serenity by Quiet Music

Serenity by Quiet Music

Developer Quiet Music calls Serenity a “relaxing pads instrument.” This free Windows and Mac compatible instrument was built with 10 layers of sound, four layers of pads and textures, and six layers of sound from various field recordings. Each sound has an assignable output.

In total, Serenity is a 64-bit virtual instrument with three pads, one texture, six field recordings, reverb, high and low pass filters, LFO controls, multi outputs, ADSR controls, and pitch control for each pad.

It may not look like much, but I can almost guarantee ambient producers will love Serenity, as you virtually don’t require any other instrument to craft your ambient masterpieces. You could literally make entire tracks with this synth. This is an on-point entry.

Download: Quiet Music

LABS – Tape Piano by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Tape Piano by Spitfire Audio

Spitfire Audio has multiple free plugins that should complement your ambient projects nicely. We’ll be highlighting a few throughout this guide. Of course, you can always check their website for more – they’re always adding new LABS plugins.

The first we’ll look at here is LABS – Tape Piano. Piano certainly has a role to play in ambient music, even if it’s just for slow, relaxing melodies. You might not use it in every track, but it can be a very nice addition here and there.

Tape Piano, specifically, though, adds that vintage tape machine “wobble,” giving it a delicious, warm, lo-fi quality.

LABS – Tape Piano also comes with tape loops, echoes, and a magnetic card reader. Take advantage of the built-in variation slider to affect the tones you hear.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Astral Forms by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Astral Forms by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Astral Forms features a collection of atmospheric sounds originally stemming from vocals, double bass, electric guitar, saxophone, and others.

The result is a rich, layered sound that somehow retains an organic quality while not being entirely distinguishable as a specific instrument. LABS – Astral Forms is a very dynamic instrument, so while you might not wish to push the intensity envelope, in lighter doses, it should make for a powerful ambient tool.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Organic Textures by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Organic Textures by Spitfire Audio

This one probably doesn’t need much of an explanation. LABS – Organic Textures offers up various sounds taken from nature, producing a synth-like quality.

Spitfire Audio managed to capture everything from thunder and rain to wind and birdsong in the English countryside.

For soundscapes with ethereal characteristics, LABS – Organic Textures is a shoo-in.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Tape Orchestra by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Tape Orchestra by Spitfire Audio

An orchestra on its own can be a little too dynamic, both in terms of volume and frequency, for ambient music (at least not without some processing). A Tape Orchestra, on the other hand? That’s a whole other matter.

Spitfire Audio’s LABS – Tape Orchestra serves up ethereal synth-like pads on a plate. If you think it might be a bit harsh, and want to take the edge off, you can always use EQ, filters, or other effects to soften the tones.

LABS – Tape Orchestra was created by feeding orchestral and synth recordings through pre-distressed cassettes and tape loops, making it another lo-fi powerhouse for expressing nostalgia or fragility in a track.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Piano Pads by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Piano Pads by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Piano Pads features ambient pads and swells made from single piano hits that were then warped using spring reverb, crossfade, reversing, and time-stretching techniques (basically, the kinds of things you would do yourself if you were creating unique ambient textures).

While the instrument does possess a very ethereal quality out of the box, you may need to take the edge off a bit for best results. Still, it’s got great character to it, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – London Atmos by Spitfire Audio

LABS – London Atmos by Spitfire Audio

Ever wanted to incorporate sounds from the streets of London into your project? Then you will love LABS – London Atmos.

A variety of sounds – like city traffic and tube doors – were captured, and then warped to give you access to a mix of soundscapes, be it pads, atmospheric loops, percussion, or otherwise.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Pedal Pads by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Pedal Pads by Spitfire Audio

In creating LABS – Pedal Pads, Spitfire Audio recorded a guitar, felt piano, and a Wurlitzer through various effects pedals possessing an ethereal quality. It’s perfect for dreamy, ambient pads, and it even comes with nine patches.

Because you can sustain any sound indefinitely, this is basically ambient music in a box.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Synth Pads by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Synth Pads by Spitfire Audio

I mean… for the most part, you can’t really go wrong with any virtual instrument that does pads well. And, since Spitfire Audio never fails to deliver quality sounds, LABS – Synth Pads is, of course, a very competent pads instrument you could utilize in a variety of musical situations.

In creating LABS – Synth Pads, Spitfire Audio took full advantage of Christian Henson’s enviable synthesizer collection. Five vintage synths were fed through a mix of reverb, guitar pedals, and other outboard gear to put celestial tones right at your fingertips.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Soft Piano by Spitfire Audio

LABS – Soft Piano by Spitfire Audio

At the risk of sounding repetitive, a soft piano tends to be an ambient music and compositional essential, and it just so happens that this one is near the top (if not at the top) of the free plugin pyramid.

Either way, you will find multiple useful pianos in this guide.

Anyway, LABS – Soft Piano is basically what we know today as a “felt piano,” which naturally has a softer, less percussive, less abrasive sound. This virtual instrument is haunting and beautiful.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Electric Piano

LABS – Electric Piano

It’s hard to deny the relaxing qualities of an electric piano in ambient music specifically, or music in general.

From mellow and dreamy to gritty and groovy, LABS – Electric Piano puts the legendary vintage electric piano sound right at your fingertips.

Give this one a go – you won’t be sorry.

Download: Spitfire Audio

Atmos Piano by PrismAudio

Atmos Piano by PrismAudio

PrismAudios’s Atmos Piano is yet another worthwhile “soft piano” entry. Having used this myself (on an award-winning film score no less), I can tell you that, while it might be basic, it works and sounds great. Sometimes the simplest plugins are the best.

Atmos Piano features 341 samples (24-bit / 44.1 kHz / uncompressed), two microphone positions (main, hall), main mic release control, hall mic release control, and sustain pedal compatibility.

Download: KVR Audio Software

Atmos 2 by Elektronik Sound Lab

Atmos 2 by Elektronik Sound Lab

Elketronic Sound Lab’s Atmos 2 is an ambient piano instrument for Windows and Mac. Samples for the instrument were recorded using a Yamaha C3 Grand Piano with a Zoom H6 digital recorder.

Atmos 2 comes with 56 samples, two layers, ADSR controls, LFO modulation, and a HP/LP filter.

As with Atmos Piano, it has a great sound with basic but slightly extended functionality.

Download: KVR Audio Software

Valhalla Supermassive by Valhalla DSP

Valhalla Supermassive by Valhalla DSP

While it probably depends somewhat on the genre of music you’re making, when it comes to echo based effects, Valhalla DSP may well have the market on lock. Generously, they’ve offered up Vahallah Supermassive for free, and this baby’s no pushover. It should work very nicely for ambient music indeed.

Just as it sounds, Valhalla Supermassive can produce massive reverbs and delays, gracing your tracks with lush, otherworldly qualities.

Valhalla Supermassive includes 16 reverb and delay modes, and you can further tweak the sounds using the onboard controls – mix, width, delay, warp, feedback, density, mod, depth, EQ, and low.

Download: Valhalla DSP

Ambience by Smartelectronix

Ambience by Smartelectronix

Smartelectronix’ Ambience consistently makes it to the top of best free reverb plugin lists, thanks to its sound quality, which comes close to some of the best commercial reverbs out there. Even better, it comes with a few unique extras you might not find elsewhere (especially with freebies), like the gater and “hold” function.

Ambience comes with a preset library, parameters for dry, wet, time, size, pre-delay, width, quality, and variation, as well as multiple advanced controls – damping, EQ, gating, hold, and diffusion.

It may not be the best reverb you’ve ever heard, but Ambience is still quite capable, and highly usable. You’re going to need reverb for your ambient projects regardless, and this one is quite competent.

Download: Plugin Boutique

Ambient Reverb by Stoned Voices

Ambient Reverb by Stoned Voices

Stoned Voices’ Ambient Reverb is an algorithmic reverb plugin designed specifically with ambient music in mind.

It offers up to 100 seconds of reverberation time, which lets you freeze sounds, turn them into pads, and more.

Ambient Reverb comes with 16 factory presets, two-band parametric EQ, input / output level indicator, and the various parameters seen in the graphical user interface – dry, early, late, pre-delay (left, right), decay and freeze, space (size, wide), damping (bass ratio, crossover, hi), and parametric EQ (lo band, hi band, each with freq controls).

As you’ll see in the video below, the long reverberation time presents many interesting possibilities.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Triple Cheese by u-he

Triple Cheese by u-he

u-he’s Triple Cheese may not immediately strike you as a viable soft synth for ambient projects. But dig a little deeper, and you will find multiple capable patches. Add a little reverb (Valhalla Supermassive anyone?), and you’ll be well on your way!

Triple Cheese is a bit of an unusual synth, evidenced by its name and its construction. This synth does not utilize oscillators, wavetables, FM or phase distortion, or for that matter, analog modelled filters. What does it use for sound generation, then? It uses three comb filters.

Triple Cheese also comes with eight modes per comb filter (11 total), up to 16-voice polyphony, as well as duophonic, monophonic (retriggered), and legato modes, VCA with amplitude modulation and pan, skinnable UI, 254 factory presets, and support for Oddsound MTS-ESP.

u-he has multiple free synths, and they’re all worth a look, but this one certainly isn’t one to pass up on, especially if you’re working on ambient oriented projects.

Download: u-he

Surge XT

Surge XT

Surge XT was originally created by Vember Audio and sold as a premium synth. Creator Claes Johanson, though, couldn’t keep up the project anymore, and decided to make it a community-supported open-source hybrid synth project. The result is an ever-evolving, powerhouse of a synthesizer.

This subtractive hybrid synth comes with three oscillators, two filters with eight configurations, 12 LFO modulation section (six per voice, six global), 16 effects, 2,779 factory patches, and 614 wavetables.

While producers may not find every patch usable, many of the lead sounds would be well-suited to ambient music. And don’t forget – you can change things up relatively simply using the onboard effects.

Surge XT is worth a look for its versatility alone.

Download: Surge

Helm by Matt Tytel

Helm by Matt Tytel

Matt Tytel’s Helm is a nicely designed, free synth with a ton of powerful features:

  • Oscillator with waveform selector, cross modulation, tune / transpose, and unison
  • Sub with waveform selector, shuffle, and octave down
  • Mixer
  • Feedback with transpose, tune, and amount
  • Filter with response, type, blend, drive, envelope depth, and key track
  • Stutter with stutter frequency, resample frequency, and softness
  • Formant
  • Distortion with distortion type, drive, and mix
  • Delay with delay frequency, feedback, and mix
  • Reverb with feedback, damping, and mix
  • Modulation with envelope, LFO, and step sequencer
  • And much more

Helm is primarily a tool for making electronic music, especially EDM. Its built-in features make it very versatile, though, and that means it’s a capable synth for sound design purposes too.

It’s free, so you may as well give it a go.

Download: Matt Tytel

Amurg Lite by audiolatry

Amurg Lite by audiolatry

A lo-fi and ambient rompler, Amurg Lite comes with 33 presets (keys, leads, basses, pads, FX), sounds that were all captured from hardware synthesizers. These can be further customized using the onboard envelope, modulation, filter, reverb, and other controls.

Amurg Lite was made specifically with ambient, lo-fi, hip-hop, R&B, and EDM or similar genres in mind.

In total, Amurg Lite comes with 33 presets, ADSR, filter section with cutoff, modulation section, voice mode and glide, lowpass / highpass filter with cutoff, tune knob, and a reverb module.

As you’ll discover in the video below, Amurg Lite can produce many different types of sounds. Quite nice!

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Vinyl by iZotope

Vinyl by iZotope

We’ve covered a few plugins that either already have a lo-fi quality to them or have a bit of built-in lo-fi functionality, but we have yet to look specifically at lo-fi plugins.

Degrading, warming up, and adding character to your sounds can certainly give your tracks more of an ambient quality, so we’ll be looking at several entries that can give your tracks some needed dirt, warble, and grit here.

iZotope’s Vinyl is just like it sounds, and it will add some nice vinyl like characteristics to your tracks – dust, scratch, warp, and more.

You can choose from a specific decade (1930, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, and 2000), while tweaking the various parameters until you’re completely satisfied with the results.

For instant lo-fi vibes, Vinyl always comes to the rescue.

Download: iZotope

Lo-Fizer by ToneBytes

Lo-Fizer by ToneBytes

ToneBytes’ Lo-Fizer gives you access to a range of lo-fi effects – vinyl, hum, hiss, monoizer, speaker sim, lo-bit, crusher, vowel, and GLS. You can combine any four effects in the rack to get exactly the sound you’re looking for.

ToneBytes has also made it possible for you to save your settings using the preset manager. Automation and MIDI learning are also supported.

In the video below, you can see Lo-Fizer in action around the 00:31 mark. Unfortunately, it won’t give you much of an idea how it sounds, but it is ranked as one of the best free lo-fi plugins, so it’s at least worth a try.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

Gramophony by Martinheterjag

Gramophony by Martinheterjag

Martinheterjag calls Gramophony a lo-fi “style” effect. Inspired by the Scottish electronic music duo Boards of Canada, the effect utilizes compression, vibrato, and filtering to achieve an effect like the one heard on their recordings.

The result is a sound that’s a little dirty, and a little out of tune.

It’s a simple but great effect for changing the vibe of your tunes.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

MiniSpillage by AudioSpillage

MiniSpillage by AudioSpillage

“Ambient” means different things to different people – electronic, lo-fi, hip-hop… So, depending on your creation, you might want / need access to solid drum VSTs as well. We figured we’d cover a couple here, so you aren’t left scratching your head.

The first is AudioSpillage’s MiniSpillage, and this plugin has appeared in many “best of” lists, and for good reason. It’s a compact drum synthesizer that allows you to tweak and mold the included sounds, however you see fit.

The 64-bit DSP processing synthesis algorithms includes three sounds – bass drum, hi-hat, and wood drum. I suppose you could say that this is its chief weakness – that it doesn’t include more sounds. But because you can edit them to your heart’s content, you can achieve a variety of percussive sounds without overstretching your creative capacity.

This one is 100% worth a try, because it has gotten great ratings from producers everywhere.

Download: AudioSpillage

DRUM PRO by Studio Linked

DRUM PRO by Studio Linked

Available for Windows and Mac, Studio Linked’s DRUM PRO can handle just about any electronic genre – pop, EDM, trap, hip-hop, or R&B.

The free version comes with 20 kits, sampling some of your favorite vintage drum machines.

Of course, this is where they hook you. If you use the free version and end up liking it, you can extend the functionality of DRUM PRO by purchasing their expansion packs. Whether you do any of that, though, is completely up to you.

The interface comes with classic ADSR controls, volume and reverb, kit art, pads, as well as volume faders and pan controls for each channel. It’s very straightforward.

Download: Studio Linked

Fracture by Glitchmachines

Fracture by Glitchmachines

Glitchmachines’ Fracture is something that will certainly appeal to sound designers, and may interest you also, especially given that the developer is well known for making some great plugins.

Fracture is a “glitchy” buffer effect you can use to create musical malfunctions and robotic sounds. The effects processor can be used on percussion, drums, synths, sound effects, and more.

Overall, Fracture comes with a buffer effect, multimode filter, three LFOs, and a delay. The order of the effects can be reconfigured in the menu. There’s a built-in randomize function, which can give you some needed inspiration when ideas just don’t seem to be flowing.

Fracture’s sounds tend to be somewhat abrasive, but they can be toned down using the onboard controls. It’s an interesting entry, to be sure, but for some songwriters and producers, it could come in handy. Check out the video and you will know whether it’s for you.

Download: Glitchmachines

Hysteresis by Glitchmachines

Hysteresis by Glitchmachines

Here’s another glitchy entry via Glitchmachines… would you expect any less with a name like that?

This time, though, we’ve got ourselves a glitch delay (producing some of the same results Fracture does, except in the delayed section of the sound).

The delay effect includes stutter, lowpass filter, as well as modulation effects, all combined in the feedback signal path. Hysteresis comes with 60 factory presets.

When your track seems a little bare, this effect could help add some needed sonic interest to it.

Download: Glitchmachines

Want To Make Your Own Ambient Music? – Get Creative!

Starting with the right sound can obviously make a big difference when composing ambient music. Many of the above plugins give you access to plug and play material you don’t even need to alter. Much of it is highly usable, right out of the box!

But producers of yesteryear didn’t necessarily have all the same convenient tools – that we have today – at their disposal. They had to think a little outside the box to produce the right kind of tones and vibes for their ambient tracks. You do know that ambient music isn't a new invention, right?

I like efficiency in the studio as much as anyone, but if you want to create something truly uniquely ambient, you’ve got to do some of your own legwork. Here are some tips to help you think more creatively about the process and to begin experimenting with different methods of achieving usable ambient sounds:

  • Use effects and processing to alter sounds. What makes a guitar sound atmospheric? Check out U2’s The Edge, and you will probably conclude that delay effects are a big part of the equation. Similarly, you can listen to a variety of artists and musical styles, identifying what makes their songs so “ambient.” Chances are you could replicate their results with a custom effects chain or a combination of guitar pedals, hardware, and post-processing, or at least come close (like what Spitfire Audio has done). Doing this yourself teaches you a lot about how to manipulate sounds and get the results you want, which is ultimately the job of a producer anyway.
  • Feed your sounds through tape machines, EQs, reverbs, and other vintage gear. This is obviously the most expensive route and may not be the most practical. But it’s certainly one of the most effective ways to degrade sounds, add warmth and saturation to them, boost the harmonic content, and so on. If you ever have the opportunity to “go crazy” in a studio filled with rackmount gear and hardware, take advantage.
  • Go out into the field and sample a variety of sounds. Whether it’s the sound of a river or stream, traffic passing by, a construction crew hard at work, or otherwise, there are plenty of compelling sounds in the city and in nature that are well worth capturing. While it can be time consuming and effort intensive, there’s nothing quite like having access to real, unfiltered, unprocessed, organic sounds. And again, you can transform them beyond recognition using modern effects and post processing. Most sounds have some tonality to them if you listen closely.
  • Layer various sounds. Don’t forget that layering a part (performing it newly each time) creates a unique chorusing effect that can lend itself nicely to ambient music, especially if drenched in reverb or delay. Layering many different sounds is also very effective (like synth, guitar, piano, etc.), even if more time consuming than using a synth that already has multiple layers. This adds more of a human dimension to your projects as well. Again, you only stand to learn from time spent in experimentation, so you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet, especially if you want to master the craft of making great ambient music. Some of your best creations will likely come from deep experimentation.

Top Free Ambient VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

We’ve covered a wide array of tools you can use to enhance your ambience projects, including synths, virtual instruments, reverbs and delays, lo-fi effects, drums, and glitch effects.

Now it’s time to go and combine the ingredients, follow the recipe, and bake yourself an ambient cake!

Even if you’ve never done it before, the act of engaging in the project will help you sharpen your skills. It’s okay if your first or second tracks suck. What matters is you keep experimenting until you’ve got your masterpiece!

Have fun and happy recording.