A Guide to Vst Plugins

By: Jason Cole

If you have been recording or producing music via a computer, you may have heard the term VST. What is VST and how does it figure in to playing, recording, and editing music?

What is VST?
VST, Virtual Studio Technology, is an interface standard for connecting synthesizers and effects to audio editors and recording systems. Invented and developed by Steinberg, makers of the Cubase audio recording programs; VST replaces traditional audio recording hardware with software equivalents. So instead of having to route your audio out of your computer into your hardware effects units and then back into your computer, all the routing is done internally. If you have a powerful enough computer, you can do real time effects processing, utilizing either a MIDI controller or through envelope tweaks using MIDI.

There are 2 different types of VST plug-ins, with thousands of different varities, making it the most widely used plug-in type. The 2 main types are:

VST instruments - Also know as a VSTi, they take the form of synthesizers and sampler units. They can be played in real time, or also used in conjunction with MIDI for live performance. They are basically a software version of a piece of hardware. I have and use the Master Hammond B3 VST soft synth very often, which is the software version of the Hammond organ. Let me tell you, lugging the soft synth version of the B3 around in my laptop is a whole lot easier than having to carry around the hardware version!

VST effects - VST effects are used to process audio, like any other type of audio effect. These can also be used in real time, most effectively when coupled with an appropriate low-latency soundcard. There are VST equivalents to every type of audio effect available as hardware. I use all of the standard VST effects that come with Cubase SX, plus quite a few standalone units as well. One great VST effects bundle is the WaveLab 6 package offered by Steinberg.

VST instruments and effects must be used in conjunction with a VST host to be used at all. A VST host is usually a software application or a hardware device. I use Cubase SX as a host for my VST instruments and effects, and I recommend the program not just for its VST support. As a multi-track recording program that supports MIDI and VST technologies, there aren't many other programs out there as robust and user-friendly as Cubase SX.

As a computer savvy musician, if you aren't familiar with VST technology, I suggest that you get acquainted. It will cut down on your equipment costs and potentially streamline your recording and editing processes.

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