If you are passionate about music and use a DAW, then the term “VST” is certainly not strange to you. In fact, I bet that you already have dozens of VST plugins installed, each trying to offer the best features to make your music sound the way you want it to. However, the market is constantly expanding, and new plugins appear almost weekly, if not even daily, both free and commercial.
Because someone asked me what the VST3 format brings more than the other formats, I decided to write a short article to explain this. So the next time you install a new plugin and you have a choice between several formats, you will know what to choose and why to choose a specific plugin format.
Compared to VST2, VST3 offers several advantages, including better performance, improved audio quality, enhanced user interface, increased compatibility, and more advanced routing and side-chaining capabilities. VST3 also offers better MIDI support, which can be important for users who want to take advantage of the expressive capabilities of modern MIDI controllers.
The VST3 plugin format, developed by Steinberg, offers several benefits over previous versions of the VST format:
- Improved Performance: VST3 plugins use more efficient processing techniques, such as SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data) processing, which can reduce CPU usage and improve overall performance.
- Better Audio Quality: VST3 plugins support 64-bit processing, which allows for more accurate calculations and can result in higher-quality audio.
- Enhanced User Interface: VST3 plugins support high-resolution graphics and allow for more flexible resizing and customization of the user interface.
- Increased Compatibility: VST3 plugins are designed to be more compatible with different operating systems and host applications, making them easier to use in a variety of settings.
- Advanced Routing and Side-Chaining: VST3 plugins offer more advanced routing and side-chaining capabilities, allowing for more complex audio processing and routing scenarios.
Better MIDI Support: VST3 plugins offer improved MIDI support, with features such as note expression and custom controller mapping, which allow for more expressive and dynamic MIDI control over plugin parameters.
VST3 plugins are widely supported across a range of music software and digital audio workstations (DAWs). Some examples of music software that are compatible with the VST3 plugin format include:
- Steinberg Cubase
- Ableton Live
- FL Studio
- PreSonus Studio One
- Bitwig Studio
- MOTU Digital Performer
- Magix Samplitude and Sequoia
- Avid Pro Tools (since version 12.6)
- Apple Logic Pro X
Another example is Reason 12, which can be loaded into other sequencers as an AU, VST3, and AAX plug-in. This means that if you already have another DAW, for example, Ableton, or FL Studio and you have a Reason 12 license, you can open this DAW inside another DAW. Interesting? Worth experiencing. On the other hand, according to Reasonstudios, support for VST3 plugins is currently not planned.
These are just a few examples, and many other music software applications also support VST3 plugins. In general, most modern music software and DAWs will support VST3 plugins, making them a versatile and widely-used format for audio processing and effects.
While VST3 is a powerful and widely-used plugin format, it is difficult to predict whether it will be the “future” of audio plugin development. There are several other plugin formats that are also widely used and continue to be developed and improved, including AAX, AU (Audio Units), and RTAS (Real-Time AudioSuite).
Additionally, new plugin formats may emerge in the future that offers even more advanced features and capabilities. For example, some developers are exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in audio processing, which could potentially lead to new types of plugins and formats.
CLAP (Clever Audio Plug-in API), the new open standard for audio plugins and hosts, has been announced by Bitwig and u-he in the summer of 2022. The developers are enthusiastic about CLAP, which provides contemporary features, inherent stability, and quick support for plug-in and host developers. CLAP is an open-source and liberally licensed format, making it a secure option for the future.
Note: VST is a trademark of Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH.
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Which are the main benefits of VST3 plugin format?