What are audio plugins

An audio plugin is a software tool that is used in a DAW software – a Digital Audio Workstation.

What is the need of audio plugins in a DAW :

 The Audio plugins are processors that make the existing audio sound better with clarity to blend with the other rest of the tracks ( music) and makes the listener have a blissful listening experience.

What are the different types of Audio Plugins Formats :

VST – Virtual Studio Technology

AU – Audio Units

AAX – Avid Audio eXtension’s

RTAS – Real Time Audio Suite

TDM – Time Division Multiplexing

Softwares & Plugin Formats

  1. VST – Used in Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase, Nuendo, Reaper
  2. Audio Unit (Mac Only) – Used in Ableton Live and Logic Pro
  3. TDM – Used in Pro Tools with dedicated hardware like outboard DSPs
  4. AAX – Used in newer versions of Pro Tools (Pro Tools 10 and earlier)
  5. RTAS – Used in later versions of Pro Tools (Pro Tools 10 and later)

Types of Plugins Formats Explained:

VST (Virtual Studio Technology)

What are the benefits of VST - SM Mastering benefits of VST

Originally created by the Steinberg company in the mid 90s, Virtual Studio Technology is the most common plug-in format. Earlier was  only available to Windows users, it is now compatible with Mac and Linux within almost most DAWs and is currently in its third iteration (VST3).

There are a few exceptions to the list of DAWs that support VSTs though. Notably, Pro Tools doesn’t natively support the format, and nor does Apple’s Logic Pro.

AU (Audio Units)

apple audio units

The Audio Unit plug-in format is relative to the Core Audio driver standard in Apple’s operating system. Being part of the OS means it is low latency and lives with the audio interface at the system level for faster processing. At first Logic was the only DAW that ran AU, but others have joined the fold in recent years including Reaper, Studio One, and Ableton. As you might expect, Pro Tools does not support the AU plugin format.

RTAS (Real-Time Audio Suite)

avid rtas

Digidesign created their proprietary plug-in format and it continued even after Avid acquired Digidesign until Pro Tools 10. Pro Tools had such a stranglehold on the digital audio industry that many companies created RTAS versions of their software just so they could run in Pro Tools. The format only supports 32-bit, and is being depreciated by Avid in favor of other plugin formats, like AAX. Pro Tools 10 is the last version of Pro Tools to support RTAS.

TDM (Time-division Multiplexing)

avid tdm

This quirky Pro Tools-only format is the only one that requires outboard hardware to run. It’s pretty much a marriage between digital signal processing in a hardware package like analog outboard gear. The advantage of this is that it frees up system resources by doing the plug-in processing in the external hardware.

It’s an older format that was expensive, exclusive (in a bad way), and has been phased out as computer technology has gotten better – though it was a unique idea in the early days of digital audio recording.

AAX (Avid Audio Xtension)

avid aax plugin

AAX was created by Avid when it released the first 64-bit version of Pro Tools. It comes in two versions: Native (runs on the system) and DSP (runs externally via peripheral hardware). Currently, only Pro Tools supports the AAX plugin format, and that’s unlikely to change any time in the near future.