VST, otherwise known as Virtual Studio Technology, are plugins utilised by professional and amateur recording artists and engineers who use these tools to strengthen their audio projects.

Essentially, a plugin is a variety of software that performs inside another fragment of software. Instead of the software working on its own, it is plugged into another piece of equipment.

In this article, we will be taking a deeper look into everything you need to know about VST and what they do. Let’s get straight into it.

What Is a VST Plugin?

When contemplating the function of a VST plugin, you first need to understand that they were designed to seamlessly integrate into digital audio workstation (DAW) applications, allowing artists to create music both at home and in professional studio settings.

While VST-specific plugins are manufactured to integrate with DAW applications, many different VST plugins contain different functions.

For instance, VST instrument plugins enable access to a range of different instruments virtually, therefore, allowing you to incorporate these into your audio recording without requiring the physical instrument.

Likewise, by doing so, you can produce new and unique sounds by altering the VST effect plugin.

With the help of different VST plugins, you can create a more powerful final audio product.

What Are VST Plugins For?

Once, you required physical hardware and physical instruments when recording and mixing to generate effects such as reverb and compression.

The tools needed to achieve these types of effects are not only expensive but also take up a lot of space.

However, now, Virtual Studio Technology was designed to supersede – or work with – physical equipment to achieve the same results.

Rather than investing time and money into effects hardware, synthesisers, instruments, and other necessary gear, you can now simply use a VST plugin to perfect and execute the same functions.

As a matter of fact, you can even produce a full song by using the DAW and VST plugins of your choosing – long gone are the days of requiring every single instrument known to man to create a rich, powerful song.

Types of VST Plugins

Typically, VST plugins are split into three major categories, these include:

  • VST instruments – These plugins are used to replicate the sounds of traditional instruments, such as a guitar or piano, or a synthesiser. Various VSTi plugins were created to look, sound, and perform like many well-known hardware synthesisers, not only are these exceedingly more expensive but they may even no longer be available.
  • VST effects – These types of plugins seize audio and adjust them in many different ways. While you can’t create new audio, they can, however, add effects such as reverb and many more! In this category, you’ll also find plugins that provide visual feedback.
  • VST MIDI effects – This type of plugin works alongside Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data, whether this is on its own or working in conjunction with other VST plugins. If you’re looking to connect an instrument, such as a keyboard, into your DAW using a MIDI connection, then these types of VSTs would be ideal.

VST Instrument Plugins

VST instrument plugins, otherwise known as VSTi plugins, are used to replicate many different types of instruments all within a digital audio workspace.

Whatever type of instrument you’re trying to emulate, you can usually do it here; for a fraction of the cost of purchasing the real thing.

The main advantage of utilising VSTi plugins is that they enable you to produce audio from the get-go without requiring any actual instruments or synthesisers to produce the sounds you want to achieve.

An attractive feature that you can gain from VSTi plugins is that they allow you to imitate synths such as Yamaha CS-80, Hammond B3, Moog Voyager, and many more.

Not only are these synths famous for their unique sounds, but they are also extremely expensive; therefore, the thought of using one isn’t comprehensible to some – VSTi plugins are a cheaper alternative, and you can even find many great VSTi plugins for free.

Another benefit of these VSTi plugins is space. No longer do you require large studio spaces to produce and record music.

All you need is a computer that is equipped with the necessary VSTi plugins to have a collapsable, transportation operation that is small enough to take home.

VST Effects Plugins

While the process of creating audio from VSTi plugins can be achieved from the get-go, VST effect plugins seize the audio and transform it in various ways.

The types of plugins are typically designed using real, physical effects hardware. Similar to how VSTi plugins are manufactured to replicate real synthesisers and instruments.

While many DAWs come with integrated functions that allow you to include fine-tune and effect into your mix, VST effects plugins take this to a whole new level.

They are able to perform the same functions as those expensive, bulky hardware audio processors usually found in a studio rack.

Using a VST effects plugin, you can achieve any type of effect once applied to an audio track.

Whether you’re looking to include a simple pan or reverb or looking to imitate a specific sound from an 80s synth-wave track, you can do so with a VST effect plugin.

VST MIDI Plugins

VST MIDI plugins are comparable to VST effects plugins in the sense that they don’t create audio, instead, these plugins are manufactured to work seamlessly with MIDI data.

Here, they can either process the MIDI data on their own or adjust it and then deliver it to another plugin.

While VST MIDI plugins can carry out somewhat basic operations such as arpeggiation or transposing; however, this is just the beginning with these tools.

Despite MIDI being a powerful tool, sometimes, chart-based MIDI compositions have the ability to sound artificial to the proficient ear.

With the help of the necessary VST plugins, you can create a more natural sounding MIDI input, with the ability to modify them in a myriad of ways.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Use VST Plugins?

Designed with efficiency in mind, some VSTs can be operated on their own; however, VST plugins are intended to function within digital audio workspaces.

If you’re looking to utilise a specific VST plugin, then you first need to install a DAW such as Sonar, Ableton Live, or FL Studio.

Typically, the process goes something like this:

  • Locate the specific VST plugin you desire, then download it.
  • If contained within a ZIP file, unzip it.
  • Store the unzipped VST plugin files within a folder.
  • Launch the DAW program, and search for new VSTs.
  • In your DAW, create a new project and then choose your new VSTi as an instrument, alternatively,
    place your new effects VST onto a track through a mixer.

Where To Find VST Plug-Ins?

On the market, you can find thousands of available VST plugins, both freeware and commercially. Simply search on the internet and you’ll be flooded with free VST plug-ins for use.

For instance, Plugin Boutique and Splice offer a range of free plugin options.