What Are VST Plugins? How To Use Them (Explained)

I often get asked, what are vst plugins. In this post, I will answer these questions and more about vst plugins.

What are vst plugins? How to use them (explained) | audio apartment

Are you a music producer, DJ, or audio engineer? Do you want to add some extra dimension to your sound with effects? If so, you’ll want to know about VST plugins! Understanding what VST plugins are and their role within the music production industry provides you with the knowledge to identify the most effective tools for your music production outfit. But what are VST plugins?

This article will introduce you to the basics of VST plugins. So if you’re new to recording music or are just curious about VST plugins, this post is for you!

What is VST? Virtual Studio Technology, or VST, is a plugin audio interface that may be used with many different DAWs to add additional instruments, effects, and synthesizers. Virtual Studio Technology (VST) and related technologies employ digital signal processing to create software simulations of classic recording studio gear.

Image of someone sitting in front of a computer and a midi controller with a plugin. Source: tima miroshnichenko, pexels
Image of someone sitting in front of a computer and a midi controller with a plugin. Source: Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

What are VST effects?

So what exactly do we mean when we refer to “VST effects”? Steinberg Media Technologies created VST in 1996. These are simulated studio-grade hardware effect processors for use in your audio productions.

Effects like reverb and chorus may be used to create a feeling of depth in an audio recording, while delay can be used to create an echo.

Effects like compression and reverb used to depend on physical instruments and hardware. Unfortunately, the equipment required is expensive and takes up a lot of space.

Virtual studio technology has replaced or added to traditional studio setups. To get the same results as more costly instruments, synthesizers, and effects hardware, VST plugins may be used instead. In fact, with the help of VST plugins and your preferred digital audio workstation, you may compose a whole song from scratch without ever touching a real instrument.

If you’re looking for a DAW, check out FL studio. Here’s a complete bundle to get you recording and mixing in no time.

  • Bundle Includes: FL Studio 20 Producer Software (Boxed), TX-100 Closed-Back Studio Monitor Headphones, and Universal 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub with Individual Switches and LED Lights
  • ADVANCED FEATURES: Take full control of your creativity today with powerful and easy to use multi-track audio recording, MIDI piano roll editing, and over 80 plugins effects and virtual instruments today
  • OVER 80 PLUGINS: FL Studio Producer Edition includes over 80 instrument and effect plugins covering automation, sample playback/manipulation, synthesis, compression, delay, equalization filtering, flanging, phasing, chorus, reverb, distortion, bit-crushing and more
  • PIANO ROLL EDITOR MIDI RECORDING: Studio's Piano roll has the well-deserved reputation as the best Piano roll in the business. The Piano roll is used to send note and automation data to plugin instruments (sequencing). It includes a wide range of tools to aid complex score editing and manipulation
  • VST STANDARDS: Support for all VST standards
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What are plugins?

Plugins can be anything from a compressor to an equalizer to a soft synth to a virtual emulation of a real effect or sound source. They can be used with your DAW (digital audio workstation).

Before VST, sound effects were often implemented in a hardware setting by using “Inserts” on a mixing desk, which redirected the audio signal to an effect box and then back to the mixer. Software digital audio workstations would have a virtual mixing board with insert buttons that could be used to add a VST effect right away.

So, the word “plugin” was made up to describe these software audio effects because they could be “plugged in” into an audio channel. This also applies to DAWs that employ proprietary effect formats that are incompatible with VST. The terms “plugin” and “VST plugin” refer to the same thing, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the terms “VST effect” and “plugin effect” may also be used.

There are many different plugins, not just VSTs, such as AUs and RTAS.

Image of someone's hand using a midi device. Source: layla yehia, pexels
Image of someone’s hand using a MIDI device. Source: Layla Yehia, Pexels

Types of vst plugins

In general, there are three types of VST plugins:

VST instruments

Various virtual instruments may be played inside DAWs with the help of VST instrument plugins (often abbreviated as VSTi plugins). For far less than the price of the real thing, you can get a VSTi that can mimic practically any instrument. VSTi plugins are useful because they enable you to produce original music that mimics the sound of instruments like the piano, saxophone, or synthesizer.

Also, virtual synthesizer instrument plugins (VSTi) sometimes try to mimic the look and feel of hardware synths that are expensive or no longer made.

VST effects

VST effects plugins can change the existing sound, unlike VSTi plugins, which make new sounds. Moreover, similar to how many Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plugins are designed to mimic the sound of actual instruments and synthesizers, these plugins are often based on genuine, physical effects devices.

Adding effects and fine-tuning your mix is a standard feature of most DAWs, but VST effects plugins take it to the next level. In a recording studio, they provide the same function as the cumbersome and expensive hardware audio processors found in the rack.

VST midi effects

Like effects plugins, VST MIDI plugins work with MIDI data. These plugins are versatile because they can either handle MIDI data or change it before sending it to other plugins to be processed further.

Even though this technology is very useful, a trained ear may be able to tell when a MIDI composition based on a chart has a fake sound. With the right VST plugin, you may be able to improve the sound of MIDI inputs and make other changes to them.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “10 VST Plugins you NEED for Music Production 2022” from the Sanjay C YouTube channel.

A video called “10 VST Plugins you NEED for Music Production 2022” from the Sanjay C YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about VST plugins. 

Are VST plugins free?

Many VST plugins are free, tho you will need to pay a premium to get the best effects on the market.

What are vst plugins used for?

A vst plugin is used to add effects, and virtual instrument sounds to your mix. They are typically used with a DAW (digital workstation). All producers and engineers use some sort of VST plugin for mixing. Compressors, limiters, and equalizers play an important role in dynamics processing, which is why they are used in audio mixing.

Do I need a DAW for VST?

A VST plugin can function without DAW. The most convenient method is to use a virtual instrument host or VST host. The virtual instrument format (VST) requires a ” host ” program to load and run the VST. However, I strongly recommend just using s DAW.


We hope this article helped you understand VST plugins and why music producers use them so often.

This article covered what VST effects are, what plugins are, and what VST plugins are. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • VST plugins are simulated studio-grade hardware effects for audio productions.
  • Effects like compression and reverb used to depend on physical instruments and hardware.
  • If you want to use a VST plugin, you first need to download and install a daw like Ableton live FL studio or sonar.
  • Fl studio only supports its internal plugin architecture.
  • Thousands of plugins exist, both commercial and freeware.
  • VST plugins can be used within a digital audio workstation in programs like pro tools and logic.

So, do you prefer to use VST plugins for your DAWs? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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Luke is a seasoned editor with over seven years of experience. His passion for writing and storytelling started when he was a teenager, spending countless hours reading books and creating his own stories.

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