In 1996 Steinberg introduced the first version of the audio plug-in standard VST (Virtual Studio Technology). Three years later VST2 allowed for using virtual instruments for the first time.
VST3, introduced in 2008, is the latest standard for effect plug-ins and virtual instruments. It marks an important milestone in virtual studio technology and incorporates countless updates, enhancements, changes and new features. Following is a brief overview of the major new features included with VST3 and a FAQ section.
Some current plug-ins are known to be heavy on CPU load. Managing large plug-in sets and multiple virtual instruments on typical project studio computer systems can often be difficult because of CPU performance limits. VST3 helps to improve overall performance by applying processing to plug-ins only when audio signals are present on their respective inputs. So instead of always processing input signals, even when there is only silence present, VST3 plug-ins can apply their processing economically and only when it is needed.
Multiple Dynamic I/Os
VST3 plug-ins are no longer limited to a fixed number of inputs and outputs. Their I/O configuration can dynamically adapt to the channel configuration they're inserted in. For example, the new VST3 plug-ins in Cubase 4 can work in stereo-mode when inserted into a stereo channel, but switch to 6 channels when inserted into a 5.1 channel. In any case, each audio channel is processed independently. Interaction between channels depends on the type and design of the plug-in. While it is still eligible to have dedicated surround plug-ins, basically any VST3 plug-in can be surround-capable with true multi-channel processing. In addition to their flexible audio bussing capabilities, VST3 plug-ins may also offer a dedicated event bus. Typically, this is a MIDI input for control/modulation but these busses are no longer restricted to MIDI standard only. Future plug-ins may replace the common MIDI interface with alternative control methods.
A typical issue with current virtual instruments is their audio output bussing system and how they are connected to the mixer after loading. Especially virtual samplers with multiple outputs often occupy more mixer channels than needed. The VST3 interface offers the possibility to deactivate unused busses after loading and even reactivate those when needed. This cleans up the mixer and further helps to reduce CPU load.
Plug-ins can be connected to the host environment in many different ways: Future VST3 Instruments can have audio inputs. As an example, a synthesizer that offers a built-in vocoder will be able to directly receive an audio signal to control the effect. A VST3 plug-in may have multiple MIDI inputs at the same time.
Note Expression (since VST 3.5)
With Note Expression, each individual note (event) in a polyphonic arrangement can contain extensive articulation information, which creates unparalleled flexibility and a much more natural feel of playing. Articulation messages are no longer bound only to channels, but can now be used for every single event.
All our sequencers since version 4 are installed with a complete new set of plug-ins, according to this new VST3 specification. You can still use VST2 plug-ins and instruments as well of course. Please note the FAQ below for additional information to this. For plug-ins, which have been created according to the very old VST1 specification, please note that correct functionality is not warranted anymore.
VST3 - Frequently Asked Questions
With VST (Virtual Studio Technology), Steinberg established the world's leading and most widely supported standard for plug-ins and virtual instruments. Here are just the key facts about VST3 as well as some answers to frequently asked questions:
What is VST3?
VST3 is the next major revision of Steinberg's Virtual Studio Technology and follows VST 2.4, which is the latest current version of VST. VST3 is a plug-in standard, not a product or host application. In order to run VST3 plug-ins or instruments, the host application must also support VST3.
Can I still use my existing plug-ins and instruments?
Yes. Existing VST 2.4 plug-ins and instruments are fully compatible with our current host sequencers. Any plug-in or instrument older than VST 2.4 must be tested and potentially updated.
Can I load projects from my previous Cubase version?
Yes. Projects created in Cubase SX or later can be opened in Cubase and Nuendo 4 or later and included plug-ins should work as expected if they were designed and tested for VST 2.4.
Can my old plug-ins and instruments also use the benefits of VST3?
Yes, they can. Although they do not offer the exclusive features of VST3 such as sample-accurate automation, improved performance or dynamic I/Os. VST2 plug-ins may benefit from VST3s new preset handling. FXB or FXP presets can be converted into VST3 preset format.
Is VST still an open and free standard?
Yes. VST is still an open and free standard.
Where are VST3 plug-ins installed?
In contrast to VST2 plug-ins, all VST3 plug-ins share the same installation folder. So it's easy for both host sequencers and users to find the VST3 plug-ins. These are the installation paths defined in the VST3 specifications:
- Windows 64 Bit: C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3
- Windows 32 Bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\VST3
- Mac OS X: Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST3