Steinberg’s Virtual Studio Technology has been around since 1996 and VST plug-ins make up a majority of the plug-in selection out there. Especially, where freebies are concerned. So, why not start taking advantage of VST in your Pro Tools sessions?
Quick VST and RTAS History Lesson
Kudos to Steinberg
Back in 1996, Steinberg, the German software developer behind hugely successful music programs like Cubase, Nuendo, and Wavelab, developed a technology called VST. VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology.
The first thing Steinberg did with this technology was to incorporate it into their flagship music software, Cubase VST.
All of us who are producing music in our home studios, in one way or another, owe respect to Steinberg. Cubase VST was the very first music application that offered real-time host-based plug-in processing. It offered a then-powerful and affordable way to produce music “in the box”, using only the software and a decent computer.
Pro Tools in 1996
At the time when VST came out, Digidesign Pro Tools did not have a host-based, real-time plug-in format of their own. So, if you wanted to run Pro Tools with real-time plug-ins, you would have to use Pro Tools TDM, with it’s proprietary hardware DSP cards. Unfortunately for home studio enthusiasts, the typical Pro Tools TDM system in 1996 cost between $10k and $20k.
Digidesign Introduce RTAS in 1999
In September 1999, Digidesign announced their own host-based real-time plug-in format called RTAS. With RTAS, Pro Tools users could now have real-time, host-based plug-in processing in an affordable Pro Tools home version, Pro Tools LE.
VST and RTAS today
So, here we are today. Cubase and Nuendo users have VST. Pro Tools users have RTAS. Everyone’s happy. So, why even talk about using VST plug-ins in Pro Tools?
There are tons of amazing VST plug-ins.
Steinberg made the Software Development Kit for VST freely available to anyone who wants it. Therefore, any experienced developer can create a processor or virtual instrument and make it into a VST plug-in. As a result, there are thousands of VST plug-ins out there, including free, low-cost, and/or commercially available ones.
The sheer quantity of VST developers and plug-ins out there means that finding great VST plug-ins for free requires some time and effort. But in spite of that, it’s worth it. There are still more than enough well-coded and stellar sounding free VST products – not to mention, first rate commercial VST plug-ins – on the market to make it worthwhile looking at VST plug-in options.
RTAS Software Development
Instead of putting their ‘code’ out there for anyone to use, Digidesign require developers to fill out an application if they want to make RTAS plug-ins. If accepted, not only will the developer have access to the RTAS SDK, but they’ll get development support – for free – from Digidesign. While some may grumble about this, I believe this approach ensures a higher overall quality standard for RTAS plug-ins.
The FXpansion VST to RTAS Wrapper
FXpansion have developed a utility application that you can buy and download for $99.00 from their website, www.fxpansion.com It enables Pro Tools to use VST plug-ins. It does this by taking the VST plug-in and wrapping it in a RTAS “shell”. The result of using the wrapper is that you have a seamless integration of VST plug-ins into your Pro Tools mixing environment as well as access to some very cool VST-only virtual instruments.
Tutorial: Using the FXpansion VST-RTAS Wrapper
This tutorial requires that you have a legal downloaded version of the FXpansion VST-to-RTAS V2 software and that you have experience installing software on your computer
Step 1: Get the Wrapper
If you don’t already have it, get the VST–RTAS Wrapper at the FXpansion store. It’s $99.00.
Step 2: Get a free SSL VST plug-in
Go to the SSL website here, fill out their ten second registration form and then download the LMC-1 plug-in.
The LMC-1 alone is reason enough to want to use the VST–RTAS Wrapper. It’s a plug-in that emulates the SSL Console signal path that Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and many others have used to create a very classic drum sound.
Note: Make sure you read the compatibility details at the site.
Step 3: Install the Wrapper
Please refer to Page 2 of the VST-to-RTAS V2 Wrapper PDF manual that was part of the purchased download – it has step-by-step installation instructions for both OSX and Windows systems.
Step 4: Install the SSL LMC-1 Plug-In
Install the plug-in by double clicking on the Installer that you downloaded and follow the prompts.
Depending on your system, the Installer will put the plug-in in one or more VST Plug-Ins folders on your hard drive.
In Mac OSX, it will put it in the Library → Audio → Plug-Ins → VST folder.
Step 5: Launch the VST-RTAS Config application
This is the control panel for the VST–RTAS Wrapper. We’ll use this to “wrap” the LMC-1 VST plug-in in a RTAS shell so Pro Tools can use it.
Step 6: Enter the Serial Number and Proceed
The first time you launch the Wrapper Config application, you’ll be asked to enter the Serial number that you got when you bought it. After doing so, you’ll be presented with the Config Application window, like so:
Step 7A: Detect ALL VST plug-ins
You might not want to wrap all the VST plug-ins on your system. Please read through Step 7A and Step 7B before completing this step.
In the top left-hand corner of the Wrapper Config application window, you’ll see a list of locations where VST plug-ins may reside on your particular computer.
You may want the Wrapper to detect any and all VST plug-ins on your system. If that’s the case, leave all the VST folders in the list and press the Detect and Wrap VST plug-ins button.
The Wrapper will scan each of the folders in the list and wrap as many VST plug-ins as it can.
Step 7B: Detect hand-picked VST plug-ins
If you’re like me, you might just want to hand-pick the plug-ins that are wrapped from among the VST plug-ins on your system. This takes a few extra steps.
Step 7B-1: Copying the VST plug-ins to the correct location
Before you wrap your hand-picked selection of VST plug-ins, you’ll need to copy the plug-ins you want – in this case the SSL LMC-1 – into the Applications → “VST to RTAS Wrapper” → “vstplugins” folder:
- On the Mac, go to the LMC-1 plug-in at this Location: Library → Audio → Plug-Ins → VST folder.
- Right-Click on the plug-in to reveal a contextual menu.
- Select “Copy SSL LMC-1.vst”
- Navigate to: Mac → Applications → “Vst to Rtas Wrapper” → “vstplugins” folder.
- Right-Click inside the folder area and Select “Paste Item” from the contextual menu.
Step 7B-2: Customizing the VST folders list
In the Wrapper Config application, click to select the folders you DONT want to use and remove them from the list by clicking the minus sign
Step 7B-3: Click on Detect and Wrap plug-ins button
Step 8: The Messages Window
As the Wrapper is detecting and wrapping the SSL plug-in, the Messages window will update in real-time, showing you what’s happening.
The bottom half of the Wrapper Config application is called the “Wrapping Options and Information” window. This is where you can find the current status of the plug-ins that the Wrapper has detected.
Step 10: Launch Pro Tools
It’s time to start using the VST plug-in within Pro Tools. You won’t be needing the wrapper config application any more for this tutorial, so feel free to Quit it, if you like.
Step 11: Create a New Pro Tools Session with a stereo Audio Track
Step 12: Selecting the LMC-1 from the Plug-ins Menu
Click on an Insert tab to show the plug-ins list drop-down menu. Navigate to MultiChannel Plug-Ins → Wrapped Plug-ins → VST Listen Mic Compressor (stereo)
Step 12: The SSL LMC-1 VST Plug-in in Pro Tools
Step 13: Start building your VST Plug-Ins Library
Hopefully you’ll take some time to play with the LMC-1. Try it on drums! But this is just the start. Now that you’re set up and you know how to wrap VST plug-ins, you can start making use of some of the many VST plug-ins out there.
Read the specs. Allot of free VST plug-ins are specific to a particular Operating System version
Expect some Hit and Miss. There’s tons of VST plug-ins out there. Not all of them are going to be professionally written. Be picky about what you take the time to download.
If you’re surfing for free VST plug-ins, don’t be disappointed when you get lame plug-ins. You’ll probably get at least ten lame ones for every good one.
Don’t forget about commercial VST plug-ins: There’s a number of plug-in developers out there, such as CamelAudio making VST (not RTAS) plug-ins that pro-users swear by. Now you can start using those, too!