The ultimate guide for all musicians, producers and engineers working with VST, AU and AAX plugins - Every DAW can be expanded with new virtual instruments and effect plugins, so here you will find everything about plugins and the best recommendations for music production!
Here you will learn the differences between VST, AU and AAX plugins, finally find out what 32 bit and 64 bit means and find examples of plugins used in professional music production and audio editing!
What are audio plugins?
Plugins are extensions for your DAW, for example in the form of effects and virtual instruments. Many software manufacturers try to digitally emulate analog devices, such as the compressor model Teletronix LA-2A, which is why the "same" plugins often exist from different manufacturers.
Whether a DAW supports a plugin depends on the installed file format and the DAW off. The most common plugins in music production have the file formats VST, AU and AAX.
Why do you need audio plugins?
Plugins can differ greatly in their use. Software instruments such as keyboard, string and wind instruments and audio samplers such as the Edison plugin available for FL Studio are extensions and are called plugins.
An effect plugin can be a reverb or a delay, for example. Dedicated software such as that of iZotope is particularly suitable for mixing and mastering, while the Voxengo Span Analyzer plugin or the Waves VU meters are particularly suitable for the analysis and control of audio material .
Typical Audio Plug-ins (with definitions)
Both in their own home recording studio and in the recording studio, producers and audio engineers use many plugins and often analog outboard equipment. Plugins that are often used in mixing and mastering and that every musician should know are the following plugins:
An equalizer is a filter for processing the frequency spectrum of a signal.
A compressor limits the dynamics of a signal. A popular model is the Teletronix LA-2A compressor.
A limiter limits the output signal to a defined level. Noise Gate: A gate (noise gate/noise reduction) suppresses the audio signal as soon as it falls below the set level. Reverb: A reverb is a hall effect. Popular reverbs are the plugins Valhalla VintageVerb and Brainworx bx_rooMS. Delay: A delay is a delay effect (echo). Analyzer: An analyzer is an analysis tool for graphically displaying the frequency spectrum of a signal. Good examples are the Voxengo Span Analyzer and the MMultiAnalyzer from MeldaProductions.
A gate (noise gate/noise reduction) suppresses the audio signal as soon as it falls below the set level.
A reverb is a hall effect. Popular reverbs are the plugins Valhalla VintageVerb and Brainworx bx_rooMS.
A delay is a delay effect (echo).
An analyzer is an analysis tool for graphically displaying the frequency spectrum of a signal. Good examples are the Voxengo Span Analyzer and the MMultiAnalyzer from MeldaProductions.
Plug-in interfaces simply explained
Here you will find the different plug-in types and file formats and a simple explanation of the different versions and their specifics in relation to DAWs. Some plugins are only available with certain interfaces, so pay attention to the required system requirements.
VST is the first generation of the interface developed by Steinberg for virtual instruments (VSTi) and effects and is the most common in circulation.
The second generation of VST.
The third and fastest generation of VST. VST 3 is not offered by every plugin manufacturer. *We usually only install the VST 3 version of a plugin so that our project files are compatible on both MacOS and Windows.
This interface is only supported by the MacOS operating system and was developed by Apple. In addition to Logic Pro X and GarageBand, there are other DAWs that support the AU format.
This interface was originally developed for the DAW Pro Tools developed by Avid. Pro Tools only supports plugins in AAX format.
More info on this topic can be found here on PluginBoutique.
The difference between 32 bit and 64 bit plugins
The number of bits determines how much RAM a plugin can use. A 64-bit plugin can therefore process more data at the same time than a 32-bit plugin and is more stable and performant. Larger data packets are read from your system, which is why 64-bit plugins only work on powerful devices with a 64-bit operating system.
In theory, 64-bit plugins are "faster", but there are many software manufacturers that do do not yet support this technology. In addition, since the operating system CatalinaOS from Apple, only 64-bit plugins work on MacOS.
OPTIMAL FOLDER STRUCTURE FOR INSTRUMENTS, EFFECT PLUGINS AND SAMPLES
In order to prevent the installation of numerous plugins from creating total chaos on your computer, a well thought-out folder structure for samples and plugins is recommended. Some DAWs only scan your computer for default folder paths, so you should always keep an eye on your sounds and plugins.
Owners of a Windows PC or laptop should almost always change the installation path for plugins and create their own path for this purpose install folder. Mac users, on the other hand, have it easy - experience has shown that they can install any software in the standard paths provided for it.
MOVE PLUGINS, SAMPLES AND SOUNDS
Moving samples and sounds is problematic because many DAWs rely on the file paths of the samples used not changing. If you then move your samples, there are numerous problems when opening the project file.
Some DAWs such as Pro Tools and PreSonus Studio One create a separate project folder for each project into which the audio files used can be copied, so that you can is protected against complications with altered paths. Nevertheless, we recommend that you prefer to stick to a folder structure and stick with it!
Uninstall plug-ins without leaving any residue
On Windows and Mac, always use the original uninstaller of the respective program or look in the product portal like that of iZotope to uninstall plugins properly.
On MacOS, some plugins have to be moved to the recycle bin manually. To do this, go to the path Library/ Audio/ Plugins and delete the desired plugin. To delete files and folders belonging to the plugin, it is recommended to uninstall on MacOS, look for the name of the plugin in the Finder and delete all associated files. This is a little faster with the AppCleaner program.
How to get your plug-in for free
Before you buy an audio plug-in, you can often install a free trial version. At Plugin Boutique you even get a new free plugin every month!