Mac OS X: audio engineering plugins

From Wikipedia: Virtual Studio Technology:

'Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is a software interface that integrates software audio synthesizer and effect plugins with audio editors and hard-disk recording systems. VST and similar technologies use digital signal processing to simulate traditional recording studio hardware in software. Thousands of plugins exist, both commercial and freeware, and a large number of audio applications support VST under license from its creator, Steinberg.'

'VST plugins generally run within a digital audio workstation (DAW), to provide additional functionality. Most VST plugins are either instruments (VSTi) or effects, although other categories exist—for example spectrum analyzers and various meters. VST plugins usually provide a custom graphical user interface that displays controls similar to physical switches and knobs on audio hardware. Some (often older) plugins rely on the host application for their user interface.

VST instruments include software simulation emulations of well-known hardware synthesizers and samplers. These typically emulate the look of the original equipment as well as its sonic characteristics. This lets musicians and recording engineers use virtual versions of devices that otherwise might be difficult and expensive to obtain.

VST instruments receive notes as digital information via MIDI, and output digital audio. Effect plugins receive digital audio and process it through to their outputs. (Some effect plugins also accept MIDI input—for example MIDI sync to modulate the effect in sync with the tempo). MIDI messages can control both instrument and effect plugin parameters. Most host applications can route the audio output from one VST to the audio input of another VST (chaining). For example, output of a VST synthesizer can be sent through a VST reverb effect.'

From Wikipedia: Audio Units:

'Audio Units (AU) are a system-level plug-in architecture provided by Core Audio in Mac OS X developed by Apple Computer. Audio Units are a set of application programming interface services provided by the operating system to generate, process, receive, or otherwise manipulate streams of audio in near-real-time with minimal latency. It may be thought of as Apple's architectural equivalent to another popular plug-in format, Steinberg's VST. Because of the many similarities between Audio Units and VST, several commercial and free wrapping technologies are available (e.g. Symbiosis and FXpansion VST-AU Adapter).'

'Mac OS X comes with Audio Units allowing one to timestretch an audio file, convert its sample rate and stream audio over a Local Area Network. It also comes with a collection of AU plug-ins such as EQ filters, dynamic processors, delay, reverb, and a Soundbank Synthesizer Instrument.

AU are used by Apple applications such as GarageBand, Soundtrack Pro, Logic Express, Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, MainStage and most 3rd party audio software developed for Mac OS X such as Ardour, Ableton Live, REAPER and Digital Performer.'

From Quick Tip: How to Manage VST and AudioUnits Plugins in Mac OS X (2010):

'VST and AudioUnits (AU) are the two native plugin formats for Mac OS X. Although there are other DAW specific formats for plugins, VST and AudioUnits are more common and compatible across various DAWs like Cubase, Logic, etc. There is an abundance of VST and AU plugins for expanding your DAW and building your collection of effects. However, it can be difficult to know how to get those plugins running on your computer. Especially if they are free and do not come with installers or instructions. I’ll help you get those files in the right places and make them appear in your plugin stacks.'

'The plugin folder is nested in the Macintosh HD Library. There are usually a minimum of two Libraries on your Mac, one in Macintosh HD and another in your user account. You should only place the plugins in the Macintosh HD Library so that it can be accessed by all users on the computer. The usual location of the folder should be:

/Macintosh HD/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/
$ ls -1 /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/


How to Install VST Plugins

1. Unzip the downloaded file if it is an archive like .zip or .rar. You should only see a file with a .vst extension. This is the actual file required for the plugin.

2. Move the .vst file to the VST folder in your audio plugins folder.

3. If your DAW is running, close it and restart it. When your DAW starts up, it will rescan your plugins folder and detect your recently installed plugin.

How to Install AudioUnits Plugins

1. Unzip the downloaded file if it is an archive like .zip or .rar. You should only see a file with a .component extension. This is the actual file required for the plugin.

2. Move the .component file to the Components folder in your audio plugins folder.

3. If your DAW is running, close it and restart it. When your DAW starts up, it will rescan your plugins folder and detect your recently installed plugin.

Other Plugin Formats

You might come across another folder labelled VST3, this is for VST3 plugins which are not as common as of yet. They can be identified with the .vst3 file extension. MAS is used for MOTU Audio System. HAL is Hardware Abstraction Layer and you should not be needing to change anything there.'

Plugins for Audacity

Note: Audacity is a 32-bit application so won't see 64-bit versions of VST plug-ins, even on 64-bit operating systems.

From VST Plug-ins:

'In current Audacity (and legacy 1.3.8 and later), VST effects are displayed with full GUI interface (where provided by the plug-in), and without need of the VST Enabler. This has been made possible by use of an open source VST header.

When Audacity is first launched, an "Install VST Effects" dialogue will appear which lists VST plug-ins detected in the Plug-Ins folder inside the Audacity installation folder and in other system locations. Press OK to load the chosen plug-ins. Prior to Audacity 2.0.4, the scan happened automatically with no choice of which effects to load. Your VST effects will appear in the Effect menu, underneath the divider.

When you restart Audacity again it will reload the plug-ins it detected last session, as stored in the plugins.cfg file in the Audacity folder for application data. This avoids slowing down each Audacity launch by scanning for new plug-ins. So if you add more VST plug-ins later, you must go to the Effects tab of Audacity Preferences, check "Rescan VST effects next time Audacity is started ", then restart Audacity. If you subsequently remove any VST plug-ins, they will automatically be removed from the Effect menu after restart, without need for a rescan (as long as you are using 1.3.10 or later).'

From Audio Units:

'This page describes support for Audio Unit effect plug-ins in Audacity. Audio Units is a plug-in architecture developed by Apple and is only supported in Audacity 1.3.1 and later on Mac OS X.


Audio Unit support

Audio Unit (AU) support is available in Audacity 1.3.1 and later - Audacity scans for available AU plug-ins each time it launches. AU support is enabled by default, but it can be turned on or off by clicking Audacity > Preferences: Effects then under "Enable Effects", uncheck "Audio Unit". Restart Audacity for changes to take effect.

Audio Unit "MusicEffects" are supported in Audacity 1.3.14 and later. This class of Audio Unit supports audio input like pure "Effect" AU's but has the ability to use MIDI input to set effect parameters. Audacity doesn't yet accept MIDI input, so although MusicEffects should work fine as audio effects, parameters need to be set manually. Examples of MusicEffects are all those from DestroyFX, Ohm Force and SFXmachine, plus FXpansion Snippet, Tobybear MadShifta and u-he MFM2.

Like VST plug-ins in current Audacity, Audio Units display their full GUI interface by default, where one is provided. If interface difficulties arise, Audio Units can be limited to a tabular interface with sliders by unchecking the option "Display Audio Unit effects in graphical mode" at Audacity > Preferences: Effects. Once again, restart Audacity for changes to take effect.

.. You can find a useful list of third-party AU plug-ins (free and demo/paid-for) on Hitsquad.

To add new Audio Units (AU) plug-ins, place them in:




and restart Audacity. As always, ~ means your home directory. Audacity will not load Audio Unit plug-ins from the Audacity "Plug-ins" folder. '

From Nyquist Plugin-ins:

'Audacity supports Nyquist effects on all operating systems, and includes a number of Nyquist plug-ins. You can download additional Nyquist plug-ins, edit their behavior, or even write your own. Nyquist Plug-ins are merely plain text files which can be opened and studied using any simple text editor.


We host a large collection of Nyquist plug-ins for use in Audacity


On Windows and OS X, place new Nyquist plug-ins in the Plug-Ins folder inside your Audacity installation folder and restart Audacity. Your installation folder is usually under C:\Program Files on Windows computers, or under Mac Hard Disk > Applications on OS X.

On Linux, place new Nyquist plug-ins in one of the following locations:

- /usr/share/audacity/plug-ins if Audacity was installed from a repository package

- /usr/local/share/audacity/plug-ins if you compiled Audacity from source code

- ~/.audacity-files/plug-ins which is a per-user directory for which super-user privileges are not required (Note:

- The .audacity-files folder is not created during installation so must be created manually)

- in a Nyquist directory specified in the AUDACITY_PATH environment variable.

Restart Audacity then new plug-ins will be visible in either the Effect Menu, or sometimes in the Analyze or Generate menus. '

From Wikipedia: Nyquist (programming language):

'Nyquist is a programming language for sound synthesis and analysis based on the Lisp programming language. It is an extension of the XLISP dialect of Lisp.

With Nyquist, the programmer designs musical instruments by combining functions, and can call upon these instruments and generate a sound just by typing a simple expression. The programmer can combine simple expressions into complex ones to create a whole composition, and can also generate various other kinds of musical and non-musical sounds.

The Nyquist interpreter can read and write sound files, MIDI files, and Adagio text-based music score files. On many platforms, it can also produce direct audio output in real time.

The Nyquist programming language can also be used to write plug-in effects for the Audacity digital audio editor.

One notable difference between Nyquist and more traditional MUSIC-N languages is that Nyquist does not segregate synthesis functions (see unit generator) from "scoring" functions. For example Csound is actually two languages, one for creating "orchestras" the other for writing "scores". With Nyquist these two domains are combined.

Nyquist runs under Linux and other Unix environments, Mac OS, and Microsoft Windows.'

From Ladspa Plug-ins:

'LADSPA (Linux Audio Developers Simple Plugin API) is an audio plug-in standard originally developed on Linux, but which can be ported to Windows and Mac too. Audacity has built-in support for LADSPA plug-ins.'

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