Audio plugins come in various formats to support loading in different digital audio workstations. When you are looking for new plugins to extend your digital audio workstation, you need to ensure that the plugin format is one that your digital audio workstation supports. Below is a table of popular plugin formats and their supporting digital audio workstations.

Plugin Format DAWs
VST Ableton Live, Cubase, Nuendo, Reaper
Audio Unit Ableton Live, Logic Pro
AAX Pro Tools 10 and later
RTAS Pro Tools 10 and earlier

Windows and Mac support for VSTs

When downloading VST plugins, you will need to take note if the plugin supports your operation system. While the VST format is cross platform not all plugin developers compile their plugins to support both platforms. This is especially true for free plugins. You do not have to worry about this for Audio Units as the format is Mac only. And I have rarely come across AAX and RTAS plugins that do not support both platforms.

32-bit and 64-bit Plugins

You have probably come across some description of your digital audio workstation being 64-bit or 32-bit. This has nothing to do with digital audio bit depth such as 16-bit or 24-bit audio. This refers to the number of bits that computer processors, operating systems and applications do their calculations with. The latest versions of most DAWs are 64-bit only (Logic Pro X, Pro Tools 11) or ship with installers for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions (Ableton Live 9).

Other differences aside, a 64-bit digital audio workstation is only able to load 64-bit plugins and 32-bit digital audio workstation are only able to load 32-bit plugins. Before purchasing your plugins, make sure that the plugin is compatible with your digital audio workstation of choice. If majority of your plugins are 32-bit only, you might want to stick to using a 32-bit version of your digital audio workstation.

Things to note when choosing third-party plugins

Here are some questions to ask when getting a new third-party plugin.

  • does my digital audio workstation support the plugin format?
  • is this plugin 32-bit or 64-bit? Does it match my digital audio workstation?
  • is the plugin compatible with my operation system?
  • Feel free to comment below if you have questions about plugin formats and Ill try my best to answer them.

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