VST vs. VST3 – What’s The Difference?

There Are A Number of Great Improvements Over VST with Newer VST3 Plugins

A few of these improvements are:

  • Improved performance and lighter on the CPU.  It only applies processing when there is an audio signal present, freeing up resources
  • 64-bit processing. 
  • The ability to create audio input busses to VST3 instruments. Audio signals can be routed to an VST3 instruments, unlike with the previous technology.
  • They can be surround-capable with true multi-channel processing, unlike the previous VST technology.
  • These plugins allow users to deactivate and reactivate busses.
  • VST3 has more capabilities than standard MIDI events. This is going to open the doors to some great new advances in plugin technology.
  • Multiple midi inputs. VST3 can allow multiple midi inputs, while VST 1.x & 2.x are limited to one.

First, What is VST?

VST stands for “Virtual Studio Technology,” a technology for virtual instruments and plugins that Steinberg developed in 1996. It is an open-source technology that powers many of the plugins and instruments developed by major companies such as Arturia, Waves, and T-Racks.

ProTools has its own AAX plugins, but you can check whether your version will be able to support VST plugins by visiting this page.

Improved Performance and Lighter on the CPU

The biggest advance with VST3 is that it only applies processing if there is an audio signal present. This reduces that weight on the computer’s CPU, allowing greatly increased performance.

Let’s say that you have an acoustic guitar that comes in 1 minute and 30 seconds into the song. You’ve applied an eq, a compressor, and some light reverb to that channel.  With VST, your computer would process the channel throughout the entire song.  With VST3, it would only process it while the instrument is playing.

It also allows for 64-bit processing.

Route Audio Through VST3 Instruments

This is really cool.  With VST3, you can route actual audio through your instruments, not just midi signals. Given the range of possibilities with the human voice, this opens up limitless possibilities now that actual audio can be processed by virtual instruments.

VST3 Plugins Are Surround-Capable

This is going to make life easier for sound engineers that often have to switch between 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound, i.e. people that work in movies and television.

It Has Much Higher Capabilities for Event Handling

Steinberg explains:

VST3 has a dedicated interface for event handling that carries a much wider range of functionality than standard MIDI events would be able to provide. This opens up a big range of opportunities for musical use cases with very high potential for innovative product design. For example with VST3 some controller events (for example, pitch) can be referred to a note event (using a note unique ID). This offers the possibility to e.g. modulate only a single note which itself is part of a chord.

VST3 Allows For Multiple Midi Inputs

This should really open up the floodgates when it comes to the sounds that you can get out of this new generation of plugins.

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