The Best Gear for Ambient Music

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So you want to make ambient music? Well you’ll need some decent source sounds, some great effects, a synth or two and reverb and, of course, plenty of reverb. Here are some dream studio set-ups for dreamy music making…

Best Gear for Ambient Music

Synths

You’ll need some serious synth work if you want to make more out-there ambient music (as opposed to ‘real’ ambient music which is more about environmental noise as we’ll see later) but we’ve got you covered with these four picks…


Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2

Price £339
Contact www.spectrasonics.net

It’s the king of soft synths so will take you on any ambient journey you wish.

We say: “Coupled with the excellent Granular Synthesis module, the Audio Import works at its best creating ambient soundscapes, where an original musical phrase is stretched, looped and mangled far beyond its original form. Thanks to some genuinely innovative features, not to mention a wealth of extra sonic material to play with, it’s hard to imagine any software instrument delivering the same breadth and sheer sonic excellence as Omnisphere 2.”


Arturia V Collection

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Arturia V Collection 6

Price €499
Contact www.arturia.com | www.sourcedistribution.co.uk 


Analogue synths have produced some of the best and dreamiest tones ever and here are some of the best analogue synths ever, recreated in software.

We say: “The V Collection offers you a hell of a lot of classic sounds – and also a lot more contemporary sounds, it must be said – for the money. Outstanding.”


IK Multimedia Syntronik

Best Gear for Ambient Music - IK Syntronik

Price €300
Contact www.ikmultimedia.com

Like V Collection, this is a vast collection of classic synths under one hood but arguably a little more manageable as it’s one hood rather than several.

We say: “We like Syntronik a lot. It ticks pretty much every synth box you could ask for. Electric dreams indeed.”


The Dronar collection

Best Gear for Ambient Music - The Dronar Collection

Price from £59.95 each
Contact www.timespace.com

These are synths with a very different appeal, taking real sounds and really messing with them to produce incredible atmospheres and ambiences. You buy them as modules and we’ve loved every one we’ve tested.

We say: “Dronar modules all sound menacing and atmospheric and they really do represent excellent value too, especially for the sonic manipulation options that you get.”


Effects

There are some cracking plug-in effects out there for ambient music so many that we can’t possibly list all of our favourites, but by all means add yours in the comments below. In the meantime here are four to get your ambient moods going and we have a round up of freeware reverbs here…



Eventide Blackhole

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Eventide Blackhole

Price $199
Contact Eventide

A smashing extraterrestrial reverb plug-in where the sounds of places that don’t (or can’t) exist are created.

We say: “It really does have a sound all of its own: from multi-layered shimmers across conventional instruments and vocals to huge atmospheric drones – depending on the source material. Blackhole sounds great as ever.”


Sugar Bytes Turnado

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Sugar Bytes Turnado

Price £€119
Contact Sugar Bytes

A massive multi-effect that will have your sound moving in ways you can’t imagine.

We say: “A very quick way to take your sound in very different directions and best of all it’s quick and easy to master.”


Unfiltered Audio SpecOps

Unfiltered SpecOps - Main GUI

Price $129
Contact Plugin Alliance

Another multi-effect but with a huge sound which can be brash or subtle but, again, is out of this world.

We say: “It might as well use black magic, we don’t care. If you want to take your sounds to places that few plug-ins dare, then SpecOps is your new sonic spy. Quite brilliant.”


112dB Mikron Cascade

Best Gear for Ambient Music - 112dB Mikron Cascade

Price $39
Contact 112dB

Another multi-effect that uses combinations of delays, tuning effects and a lot more for, well, cascading results.

We say: “Adds anything from gentle shimmers to dramatic shudders and will add real atmosphere to whatever you put through it.”


For more ‘real’ ambient music

Ambient music doesn’t always mean electronic. It can mean creating music with moody piano or strings, or even capturing location recordings and blending those ideas in, so here are four (and very different) picks for adding ambient realism…


Output Analogue Strings

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Output Analogue Strings

Price $199
Contact www.output.com

Where real strings meet imaginary ones, Analogue Strings is a hugely powerful instrument.

We say: “If you like your pads and strings, this will take you on some incredible journeys.”


Modartt Pianoteq 6

6 of the Best: Hi-Tech Pianos - Moddart Pianoteq 6

Price €99 to €699
Contact https://www.pianoteq.com

Pianoteq has been a MusicTech favourite for many a moon and can be a straight up authentic upright or a more ambient instrument.

We say: “If you want some great options to consider, the Electric Pianos are stunning and, combined with the Random option, offer some completely out-there results, throbbing and droning to the max if you want them to..”


Spitfire Audio Albion Tundra

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Spitfire Audio Albion Tundra

Price £399
Contactwww.spitfireaudio.com

This out-there instrument will have you exploring northern wastelands (we mean Nordic, not Grimsby) for a proper ambient journey.

We say: “A brilliant exercise in sound design in itself but will also inspire you to travel chilly sonic paths yourself.”


Olympus LS Pocket LS-P2

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Olympus LS Pocket LS-P2

Price £179.99
Contactwww.olympus.co.uk

You might want to get yourself a field recorder to capture some proper ambience and this one is a cracking little find. We say “Great recording quality, highly portable and fantastic features. The recorder you can take everywhere.”


DAW

You’ll need a DAW to put all of your ambience together so we’ve chosen four based on their sound design capabilities and how much content and instruments you get with each…


Propellerhead Reason 10.1


Best Gear for Ambient Music - Propellerhead Reason 10

Price £349
Contact https://www.propellerheads.se

Yes it does do dance music well, but Reason also had loads of atmospheric cards up its sleeve too.

We say: “Reason 10 gives the DAW a nicely rounded set of fresh beats, electronic extremes, acoustic sounds and experimental dreams. You want more? You got it.”


Apple Logic

band studio

Price £199
Contact www.apple.com

We say: “With such a volume of content, for such a great price, Logic still retains the title of being one of the best DAWs around.”


Ableton Live

Best Gear for Ambient Music - Ableton Live 10 box shot

Price £359
Contact www.ableton.com


We say: “For the sheer amount of goodness you get with it, you can now take Live on all sorts of sonic journeys.”


PreSonus Studio One

Best Gear for Ambient Music - PreSonus Studio One 4

Price £344
Contact www.presonus.com

We say: “Loads of content for a variety of genres and the all new version 4 has some great new ways to compose and arrange including a new Chord Track feature.”


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About Author

Andy Jones

Andy Jones has an MA in Music Technology and has been writing about it for 25 years. He has launched and edited several magazines on the subject and was editor of MusicTech for the last four years. Naturally, he has far too many synthesisers...

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