Synths provide musicians and producers with seemingly endless possibilities of building sounds. Ambient music is built on a foundation of synths for creating chilled vibes and provoke emotions from the listener.
In this comprehensive list of the best synths for producing ambient music, we will take a look at the features and components that make these instruments well suited to created dreamy productions.
4 Best Synthesizers for Making Ambient Music
1. Moog One
The Moog One is the most complete synthesizer that Moog offer, an analog dream-synth which is polyphonic, tri-timbral and highly imaginative. This synth really can do it all.
The first polyphonic Moog synthesizer in more than three decades, this revolutionary instrument was handmade in the Moog factory in North Carolina.
With a tactile interface that is loaded with intuitive features, you have the freedom to experiment and build unique ambient sounds using a range of sonic layers. It’s a modern synth, but it still retains the glorious feel and sound that have made Moog the leading manufactures in this field for decades.
Every sound on the Moog One beams with clarity and rich tones, thanks to the constant improvement they make to the circuitry. It took Moog years of research to finally manufacture this synth, and the result of their expertise is perfect for composing in an ambient style.
The Moog One sound engine is polyphonic by nature, with every voice featuring three analog voltage controlled oscillators. There are also two independent analog filters per channel which can be run parallel with each other, perfect for implementing gentle effects into your chosen sounds.
The analog mixer is fitted with an external audio input, four LFOs, and three envelopes. To finish off, there is a high quality Fatar keyboard installed with 61 velocity sensitive keys.
The Blofeld synth by Waldorf is an improvement on the highly respected Blofeld synth series, now fitted with a top of the range keyboard. With 49 weighted keys, all with aftertouch, this synth is extremely comfortable to play.
With the Blofeld synth you get 25-voices which are all polyphonic by nature. There is a pitch bend control for creating trippy, ambient lead melodies and a variety of modulation wheels perfect for building suspense in your tracks.
Storing your personal synth patches is also easy, thanks to the 60MB of built in sample memory. One of the best things about the Waldorf Blofield synth is that you get access to over 1,000 high quality sounds, with the option of adding more via USB connection.
Some of these sounds are perfect for ambient music, and even the more pop based samples can be manipulated using the effects controls in order to make them more suitable for your style of production.
Dave Smith is a legend in the synthesizer world, and has been responsible for some incredible instruments over the years. What makes the OB-6 even more special is that he designed it in collaboration with another highly respected synth designer, Tom Oberheim.
The result is a combination of sonic variety and highly polished sounds thanks to the classic SEM circuits that Oberheim popularized in the 1970’s. The OB-6 is full of all the required patches you need to make ambient music.
With two oscillators which are controlled by voltage and an added sub oscillator on each individual voice, you can customize the original patches to be lighter in tone or more bass heavy, depending on the needs of your track.
Every voice also has its own state-variable filter, allowing you to further affect its sonic makeup. You also get a 64 step polyphonic step sequencer for programming rhythmic synth parts, and two digital effects engines to further sculpt your ambient sounds.
The X-Mod feature is definitely worth noting too. This is a modulation unit designed by Smith which will lead to hours of fun experimentation.
With a filter envelope and oscillator at the source, you get full control over the makeup of your chosen patch and can automate them to move as your song progresses.
Loaded with controls and variables, the OB-6 is a detailed synthesizer capable of producing infinite ambient sounds to add into your music.
Finally, let’s take a look at the minilogue from iconic synth manufacturers, Korg. On the surface, this small-sized, compact synthesizer may look like it doesn’t have as many controls options as some of the bulkier synths we’ve covered previously.
Looks can be deceiving though, and as you’d expect from Korg, the minilogue is crammed with a multitude of ambient synth possibilities.
In order to produce the minlogue, Kord had to redesign their analog synthesis technology. They built a unique platform which includes 2 VCO’s a VCF, 2 EGs, 1 VCA, and an LFO. It’s remarkable that all of these sound manipulation facilities fit into such a concise unite.
With the minlogue you also get acces to cross modulation to create pulsating, dream synth lines and oscillator synchronization allows you to model the rythms in any way you wish.
The list of effects includes multiple delays, a ring modutor, a highpass filter for dramatic sweeps and an oscilloscope which visually displays your results in from of you.
Korg have created the perfect blend of size, science and music for ambient productions with the minlogue. If you produce in a number of locations, or intend to take your synthesizer on tour, it doesn’t get much better than this magical little synth.
The sound quality, mobility, and unique structure of controls make it a brilliant addition to your studio setup.
The Most Effective Synth Effects for Ambient Music
When choosing the right synthesizer for your ambient music production, there are a number of effects which are vital to create that dreamy sound.
Some synths have these effects in abundance, whereas others may only include a few. The main ones to look out for are listed below:
- Filter Envelope
Key Aspects of Ambient Synths
The best ambient synthesizers contain a wide range of pre-made sounds, which you can either use in their original form or build upon and add your elements. Presets are also beneficial for learning about how ambient synth sounds are created.
On many synthesizers, it’s also possible to save your user presets to the internal memory bank of the device. This allows you to quickly access your desired tones, and potentially store them to be edited or improved at a later date.
The more high-quality ambient presets and sounds a synth includes, the greater your options for exploration are. You can use these ready-made sounds for compositional and live performance applications.
Ambient synth tones cover a wide range of effects and sonic attributes. These include dreamy sounds which gradually evolve, and also more rhythmic tones. Having a built-in arpeggiator on the synth is a great tool for ambient musicians.
An arpeggiator is essentially a programmable feature that controls the rhythmic nature of an ambient sound. It allows you to pre-program rhythms, which can consist of a mixture of note lengths such as quarter notes, eighth notes, or sixteenth notes.
Using this feature allows you to take control of the rhythmic evolution of an ambient sound, changing the way it pulsates throughout a song and thus, creating a psychedelic, fluid effect.
Another highly useful rhythmic feature of many great synthesizers is tap tempo. This is particularly important for ambient music, as it can be used to perfectly synchronize the delayed signals of the core sound manually.
You might find tap tempo to be most useful if you’re playing with a live band, with no pre-determined tempo or click track.
As a performance develops, it’s common to slow down or speed up slightly, and the tap tempo allows you to ensure that your ambient synths remain locked in.
Filters are one of the most enjoyable aspects of using a synthesizer and are heavily used for ambient styles of music. They work by adjusting a certain aspect of the sound, most commonly the frequencies present.
For instance, if you’re using an ambient piano sound that produces a lot of treble frequencies, you could use the filter knob to gradually reduce the presence of the highs until the sound becomes mellow and less bright, changing the mood completely.
I hope that this detailed guide has pointed you in the direction of the perfect synth for your ambient music production. Now it’s time to go and enjoy hours of experimentation!