What Is A VST Plugin? How to Use Them

This article will answer what is a VST Plugin, what they do, and how to use them. We also provide tips for downloading and installing VST plugins.

What Is A VST Plugin?

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What Is A VST Plugin
What Is A VST Plugin

What Is A VST Plugin?

To understand VST plugins, it is first essential to know what a plugin is. A plugin is a type of software that works in another piece of software, and it is a piece of software designed to function in conjunction with a sequencer or a DAW and provide the extra features and sounds that don’t come with original DAW software.

So a VST plugin is a piece of digital software that enables us to use audio effects and virtual instruments in a DAW (also known as Digital Audio Workstation).

What is a VST Plugin & How to Install One in Ableton Live – Source

It processes audio or MIDI as it is played in a DAW. It is either used to add some audio effects to it or make the MIDI notes sound, so they are played through a musical instrument.

Related: Free VST Plugins

They are designed so that VST plugins work within the DAW applications, which can be used to make music in the home studio or a professional studio setting.

Although VST instruments are generally designed for use with DAW applications, remember that different VST plugins can have other purposes.

VST plugins can work on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.

Here are some of the types of VST plugins:

#1. VST Instrument Plugins

These types of plugins generate audio that emulates Piano, Bass Guitars, and many other real-world instruments. They are also known as VSTi plugins.

These plugins can emulate different instruments within Digital Audio Workstations. This is a cost-effective way because you can simulate any musical instrument just by using a VSTi without purchasing those instruments.

Examples of VST Instrument Plugins

  1. Free Synth VST Plugins
  2. Guitar VST Plugins
  3. Drum VST Plugins
  4. String VST Plugins

#2. VST Effects Plugin

These plugins add effects to the audio, and they take the audio and modify it in different ways, which is great for an audio engineer. This involves digital signal processing.

The VSTi plugins create the audio, but VST effects plugins alter the audio.

Just like the VSTi plugins are designed to sound similar to the real instruments, in a similar way, VST effects plugins are also designed based on the real, physical effects hardware.

DAWs generally come with built-in audio effects, but VST effect plugins help take it to another level.

Some of the effects that can be applied using VST audio plugins are as follows:

  1. Reverb Plugins
  2. Chorus
  3. Compressors
  4. EQ Plugins
  5. Delay Plugins
  6. Saturation plugins like a saturation knob.

See Related: 50 Best Free VST Effects Plugins

#3. VST MIDI Effects

These plugins mainly work with MIDI data either independently or with other VST plugins. They are designed in such a way that they can process the MIDI data on their own or modify it and pass it to the other plugins as well.

The VST MIDI plugin can perform tasks like transposing or arpeggiation. Although MIDI is a powerful tool, it can also sound artificial sometimes.

But if you use the right VST plugin, you can make the MIDI input sound more natural.

Why Use VST Plugins?

You can use VST plugins to add more sounds to your music-making software, and there are hundreds of free and paid VST plugins available online.

VST plugins have made the process of creating music much simpler. Previously in the past, hardware and instruments were required, which were virtually not accessible for especially the new musicians, because of the cost implication. But VSTs are quite cost-effective.

10 VST Plugins you NEED for Music Production & Sound Design

Here are some of the reasons why VST plugins are useful:

  1. They come with presets, which are nothing but built-in sounds that the manufacturer itself programmed. Due to them, the user now doesn’t have to create the sound from scratch.
  2. You don’t need to purchase high-end and costly instruments because you would get almost the same sound with the VST plugin. VST plugins generally come with different instrument sounds already loaded. So the user can download and install the specific instruments with more detailed sound libraries.
  3. It is very easy to access VST plugins and start working on projects fast. Using VST plugins, you can save a lot of time as they are easily accessible.
  4. Even if you aren’t an expert in doing a certain task while recording or producing the music, we can take the help of the VST plugins.
  5. You can control the VSTi plugins using the external MIDI controllers. Whether your VST plugin is free or paid, you can use your MIDI controller with almost any VST plugin that exists. Using VST with your MIDI controller, you can also save a lot of money because you would basically only need one piece of hardware compared to numerous pieces.

What Programs Use VST Plugins?

Most popular DAWs and music software programs support VST plugins. Although some VSTs can operate by themselves, VST plugins are meant for use within a Digital Audio Workstation.

So to use a VST plugin, you should download the DAW of your choice.

You may like to check out these related articles:

How Do You Use VST Plugins?

To use a VST plugin, you have to download and install VST plugins in your favorite music software.

Check out our guide on How to Install VST Plugins on Windows, Mac, and FL Studio.

Where Do I Download VST Plugins?

We have a dedicated category of articles on our blog from where you can download around 400+ free VST plugins and free VST instruments. We highly recommend you check that out for more information.

What Is A VST Plugin Folder?

The VST plugin folder is the location where you need to add new VST plugin files so your music program can find them.

Here is the typical process for adding new plugins to your computer:

  1. Download the VST plugin to your computer. Unzip the file if needed.
  2. Add the new VST plugin .DLL file to your VST plugin folder.
  3. Rescan the VST plugin folder in your music program to find the new plugin.

Then you should be able to use the new VST plugin if your music program supports the plugin.

The VST plugin folder will be different for different people depending on the program and operating system.

Here are the typical VST plugin folder locations:

Windows ( .dll )

  • C:/Program Files/Steinberg/VstPlugins/
  • C:/Program Files/VSTPlugins/
  • C:/Program Files/Common Files/VST2
  • C:/Program Files/Common Files/Steinberg/Shared Components/
  • C:/Program Files/Common Files/VSTPlugins/

Mac OS ( .vst )

  • /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST/
  • ~/Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST/

The plugin location may vary depending on the plugin format. Most VST plugins online were created to work with Windows, but not all VST plugins will work with Mac.

Free VST Plugins vs. Paid VST Plugins?

There are pros and cons to both free and paid VST plugins. Free plugins can be buggy, provide limited sounds, have fewer features, and may not work with all music programs and operating systems. And many paid plugins can be costly and may not provide as many features and sounds as some free plugins.

When you are considering buying a VST plugin, you may want to search if there are any free alternatives with similar sounds and features.

If you do not have the time or patience to figure out how to make free plugins work with your music setup, then buying a VST plugin from a trusted source may be best.

Some trusted popular brands for paid plugins is XLN Audio, Native Instruments ( Komplete Start ), Plugin Boutique, Spitfire Audio, and Plugin Alliance.

Many free VST plugins offer the same quality and features as paid plugins. So free plugins vs. paid plugins will depend on your setup, needs, and time availability.

What Is A VST Host?

A VST host is the host software application or hardware device under which a VST plugin runs. It provides a VST Plugin interface to edit VST plugin settings and get access to the sound libraries. These interfaces are essential for tweaking the settings, changing audio presets, and customizing sound.

Recommended: 12 Free VST Host Applications

Summary of What Are VST Plugins?

VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. This is an audio plugin software interface that helps connect audio synthesizers and effect plug-ins to audio editors and hard-disk recording systems. It is used by music and recording professionals to enhance their audio projects.

We hope you found this information on VST Plugins helpful.

If you are looking for some free VST plugins to download, we have tons of helpful articles available.

If we missed anything, please share it in the comments.

Mark V.

Written By Mark V.
Hip Hop Makers is a music production website launched in 2008 to teach music lovers how to make music, sell beats, and make money from music.

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