Can Windows VST Plugins Work on Mac?

Can Windows VST Plugins Work on Mac?

This article will discuss whether you can run VST plugins on a Mac or not.

VST plugins were initially created only for the Windows operating system but became more compatible in the later stages. However, the question of running a VST plugin on a Mac is more layered and is dependent on the Operating System you run and the DAW you are using.

We will dive into those complexities and give you a well-rounded answer so you can know if you can run a VST plugin on your system.

Can Windows VST Plugins Work on Mac?

Yes! The latest versions of VST (VST2 and VST3) can run on Mac on some DAWs like FL Studio, Ableton, Cubase, Studio One, etc., with VST2 having limited compatibility and VST3 having wider compatibility. The first version of VST can run on Mac only if you have a Windows operating system installed on it.

Consider the following list of the DAWs that support VST plugins on Mac.

DAW Version(s) 32-bit 64-bit
FL Studio 12.5+ not compatible VST2, VST3
Ableton Live 9 and below VST2 VST2
10+ not compatible VST2, VST3
Logic Pro ALL not compatible not compatible
Cubase 8.5 and below VST 2, VST3 VST 2, VST3
9.0+ not compatible VST3
Studio One Prime not compatible not compatible
Artist VST 2, VST3 VST 2, VST3
Professional VST 2, VST3 VST 2, VST3
Pro Tools ALL not compatible not compatible

So, VST3 plugins (64-bit) can run on MacOS on FL Studio 12.5+, Ableton Live 10+, Cubase 9.0+, and Studio One Artist and Professional versions. While VST2 plugins (64-bit) can run on Ableton Live, Cubase 8.5 and below, and Studio One Artist & Professional versions.

However, VST plugins are not designed to work with Logic Pro and Pro Tools, as Logic supports only AU (Audio Units), and Pro Tools support AAX (Avid Audio Extension) and RTAS plugin formats. However, there’s a hack around it!

How do I run VST plugins on Logic Pro and Pro Tools?

Method 1: VST Racks

Example: Waves Studio Rack

Check the plugin here

Waves Studio Rack

StudioRack is a powerful plugin chainer and processing rack designed by Waves Audio.

It’s essentially a virtual rack that allows you to host and organize Waves plugins and third-party VST plugins within digital audio workstations (DAWs). Waves Studio Rack is compatible with Pro Tools and Logic Pro and can load up to eight VST3 plugins simultaneously.

The plugin also allows you to do multi-band processing on any plugin, and its AI-based engine also gives you plugin combination recommendations. It also gives you eight MACRO controls for easy processing and customization.

You can save different plugin chains, load presets of these chains, and sort out your workflow with this plugin. If you want to load more than eight plugins, you can simply load up another instance of the Studio Rack in your DAW mixer channel.

Similarly, you can find other VST racks that do the same thing. Other VST racks include plugins like Yamaha VST Rack, Reason Rack, etc.

Method 2: VST Hosts

Example: Pedalboard2 (Free – Logic Pro only)

Check the plugin here

Pedalboard 2 is an open-source, cross-platform application that works as a VST host.

Although its main purpose is to create guitar effects chains, it can be used to chain and organize VST plugins for any audio processing. The best part is that the plugins you run on it can receive MIDI and audio input, which can also be used to control the plugin parameters.

However, its workflow involves modular patching, which could be a bit complex. Also, the plugin has not been updated for years, and users have reported that it has bugs. Lastly, it’s available as an AU (Audio Unit) plugin and cannot run on Pro Tools.

Similarly, you can find other VST hosts like Topten Cantabile, AudioStream Live Processor, etc. This article consists of a comprehensive list of the best VST host plugins. You can check it out here.

You can also try FXpansion’s VST to AU Adapter V2 (Logic Pro 9 and below only) and VST TO RTAS Adapter V2 (Pro Tools 10 and below).¬†

Where should I put my VST (.dll and .vst3) plugins on Mac?

If you are a Mac user, store your VST2 plugins in the following directories: Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST and Users/username/Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST, and VST3 plugins in the following directories: Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST3 and Users/username/Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST3.

Verdict

Although you can run VST plugins on Mac systems, it’s best that you run AU plugins on it, as AU formats are programmed to support the MacOS architecture, while the VST format is more Windowws-focused. If you run VST plugins using hosts and racks like Waves Studio rack, there will be extra processing involved, which may load up your DAW and system of bites that you can utilize more optimally.

Anyhow, use the methods mentioned above, if you need to have a plugin in your session that’s not available in VST format. I hope the tips and recommendations help! Thank you for reading!

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