In 1996, Steinberg Media Technologies introduced the acronym “VST” to add real-time audio effects to audio tracks recorded on a computer. It was pretty unknown at the time. Nowadays they are a staple for every musician who works digitally. VST plug-ins are usually either instruments (VSTi) or effects (VSTx).
What does VST mean?
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. A VST plug-in is digital software that allows you to use virtual instruments and audio effects in a DAW (digital audio workstation or music software). They are used by amateurs and professional sound engineers to improve their audio projects. No matter if you are in a huge professional studio or just on a laptop in your room.
VST is an audio plug-in software that combines software synthesizers and effects devices into audio workstations. A software synthesizer is a computer program or plug-in that creates digital audio for music. An effect unit or pedal is an electronic device that changes the sound of a musical instrument or other audio source. In this article we are going to talk about the different types of VST and their use, especially FX as it gets so advanced and complicated.
How does a VST work?
VST plug-ins work in DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) applications and offer additional features that allow you to make music at home or in a professional studio. Virtual Studio technology is not connected independently, but is connected to another effect unit. A VST plug-in processes audio or MIDI in a DAW and creates either audio effects or MIDI notes that sound like real musical instruments. VST plug-ins are compatible with almost all DAWs
What are the different types of VST effects?
There are two main types of VST plug-ins with thousands of different variations. The two main types are VST instruments and effects. Today we’re going to take a closer look at VST effects (also known as VSTx).
These plug-ins are used to process audio instead of producing it. You can say that VST effects are the software version of hardware audio processors like reverbs, compressors or phasers. VST effect plug-ins receive digital audio and process it via their outputs. There are an extremely large number of different types of audio effects plug-ins. Some of the important types are explained below.
EQ plug-ins: An equalizer, also known as an EQ, is a plug-in that either increases, removes, increases or decreases the frequencies of an audio file. An EQ usually has different controls and these are:
- frequency: The frequency adjusts the center frequency range for a specific frequency band.
- Q.: Q is another control that extends or narrows the frequency band curve.
- To gain: The gain increases or decreases the volume of each frequency band.
The main types of EQ plug-ins are:
- Parametric EQ: This is the most common EQ used in music production. A parametric EQ has controls that are specific to different frequency ranges. It has a setting called Q that was explained earlier. It also has a filter slope that determines how steep the slope of the low or high pass filter will be.
- Dynamic EQ: A dynamic EQ is similar to the parametric EQ, except that the dynamic EQ offers the additional function of compression, extension or both.
- Graphic EQ: Increases or decreases fixed frequencies. These are not suitable for mixing when the user needs to perform precise EQ types.
Compressor plug-in: A compressor plug-in is used to compress the dynamic range of a sound. In other words, to bring the louder and quieter parts of the sound performance closer in volume. They are necessary to reduce the dynamics of vocals or instruments so that every element of the track in the mix is exactly where it is needed in terms of volume and frequency. There are several types of compressor plug-ins:
- Sidechain compressor: Sidechaining means the exit of a track, such as A kick drum, to change the compression on another track, such as a bass line. The kick is triggered when compression is to start and end in the bass line.
- Parallel compressor: A parallel compressor is a compression technique used in recording and mixing sound. In this process, the highest peaks are not reduced for the purpose of reducing the dynamic range, but the dynamic range is reduced by calling up the quietest sounds.
Compressors have controls and functions. Some of them are:
- attack: Attack determines how fast the compressor starts to work after detecting an audio signal above the level.
- release: Release indicates how quickly the compressor stops or reduces its effect on the audio signal.
- threshold: The threshold is a level above which an audio signal needs a threshold to start the compressor.
- knee: The knee determines how aggressively the compressor starts as soon as it reaches or exceeds the threshold.
- relationship: Ratio controls how much the dynamics decrease as soon as the audio signal reaches or exceeds the threshold.
- Output gain: With the output gain you can compensate for the volume reduction caused by the compressor.
The different types of compressor plug-ins are:
- VCA compressors: VCA compressors react quickly and control peaks on rhythmic tracks with many transients. Depending on the settings made by the user, VCA compressors either retain the original sound or not.
- FET compressors: These react even faster than the VCA. FET compressors do not have a threshold setting, but an input and an output gain. Without limiting the threshold and without ratio, the audio signal is compressed based on the volume of the input.
- Optical compressors: Optical compressors process audio smoothly and transparently. These are good for vocals and to give the guitars warmth. They are not ideal for temporarily difficult routes because they are smooth and slower.
- Tube compressors: Compared to other types of compressors, tubular compressors have a slower attack and release, which gives them a warmer vintage sound.
- Multiband compressors: These are compressors designed for different frequencies on one track. They split the sound into several frequency bands and have them compressed individually. This type of compressor is ideal for measuring and gluing a mixture together. De-essing is a process for reducing hard high-frequency tones that come from dialogues or vocals, with the letters S, F, X, SH and Soft Cs. This is usually a necessary process when mixing audio.
Limiter plug-in: Like a compressor plug-in, a limiter controls the dynamics. Limiters are designed to sound good when compressing a very hard signal. This is used to add some nice features to the track, especially the good plug-ins. It prevents clipping and distortion. It can also be used to increase the volume of a track. Limiter plug-ins have almost the same controls as the compressors.
Reverb plug-in: This is an audio effects plug-in that makes audio sound like it was created in a specific location. Some of the controls and functions of reverbs are:
- Pre-delay: Predelay is the time it takes for the sound to leave its source and be reflected by an object.
- time: Time is the total time that the reverb lasts from start to finish.
- Dry and damp: With Dry / Wet you can select the amount of audio signal without reverb to be mixed with the audio signal with the reverb.
- Disintegrate: Decay is the time it takes for the reverb to completely disappear.
- Early considerations: An early reflection is the first set of echoes or reverberations that are generated when sound waves hit an object.
- damping: Attenuation is a function that allows you to make the reverb sound less sharp or high.
- Shape: In this context, form refers to the space that is imitated and the number of walls.
- size: Size refers to the size of the room to be imitated.
- diffusion: The diffusion controls the density of the reverberation and echoes.
The main types of Hall plug-ins are:
- Room reverb: A room reverb gives vitality and natural coloring without hiding imperfections.
- Hall Hall: A reverb is designed to produce minimal echoes and a balanced sound.
- Chamber reverb: A chamber reverb has a lot of texture and adds energy and color.
- Plattenhall: A plate reverb provides a soft sound and is best suited for vocals and other reverbs.
- Ambience reverb: Instead of imitating a certain space, an ambient reverb conveys an atmospheric feeling.
Delay plug-in: Delay records the audio signal entering the plug-in and repeats it over a period of your choice. This is used to make a mix sound fuller and richer. Some of the controls and functions of delay plug-ins are:
- Delay Time: The delay time is the time between the individual delays.
- rating: The time it takes for the audio signal to jump between the right and left stereo channels while using the “ping pong delay”.
- Feedback: The time it takes for delays to disappear.
- Delay mode: The delay mode changes the type of delay.
- Dry / wet mix: With this function you can select how much of the original signal should be mixed with the processed sound.
The different types of delay plug-ins are:
- Stereo delay: This is the most common type of delay plug-in. A stereo delay creates a large delay, which is shown simultaneously on each side of the stereo field.
- Mono delay: A mono delay creates a narrower and more focused type of delay.
- Ping pong delay: Jumps between the right and left sides of the stereo field.
- Slapback delay: This is a very short delay that creates a very quick and springy doubling effect.
Distortion and Saturation plug-ins: Both Distortion and Saturation plug-ins provide additional sound. While distortion adds a more extreme sound, saturation is a subtle form of distortion that gives a sound a pleasant-sounding harmony and a warm tone. Saturation adds a little more grain than a limiter that adds a certain type of saturation. Sometimes distortion can make things sound blurry, and sometimes it can make it sound completely unrecognizable. On the other hand, the saturation adds a pleasant static charge.
Some of the controls and functions are:
- journey: Drive increases the distortion or saturation.
- Character or color: With characters or colors, the user can switch between certain colors and saturation tones.
- High and low frequencies: With the high and low frequencies, the user can adjust the frequency band within the brown, pink or white noise.
- volume: Offers the user more tools to work with the frequency spectrum of distortion and saturation.
One type of distortion is:
- Multiband distortion: This allows you to shape your distortion. Multiband distortion is good for vocals that require controlled saturation.
Harmonic exciter plug-in: A harmonic exciter adds synthesized harmonics and band compression to a sound. This is good for boring-sounding tracks. Most harmonic exciters have a high and low frequency exciter, with the high frequencies being the most used. Low-frequency harmonics are well suited for cinematic rumbling noises or voices where the additional boom is desired. Good harmonic pathogens should have the following properties:
- High and low control: This controls the high and low frequencies.
- bypass: Very useful in the sense that sometimes exciting can easily be exaggerated. With this you can easily bypass the effect.
Subtractive synth plug-in: these are most plug-ins. Subtractive synthesizers are a method of sound synthesis in which part of an audio signal is reduced by a filter to change the character or quality of the sound. Good subtractive synthesizers should have the following characteristics:
- Good selection of oscillators: These are the sound generators that are played when someone hits a note. The more flexible the oscillator, the more complex the sound can be.
- Good filters: Good filters subtract the frequencies that should not shape the sound.
- Modulation potential: This helps change parameters such as volume and filter limits
- Good presets: Presets make it easier for you to see the effects of the individual parameters on a sound that has already been created.
Vocal processor plug-in: This is a plug-in that converts vocals directly to pitch or converts vocals into synthesizers or something else. They are used to correct the pitch, to control the volume, to imitate a synthesizer or an instrument, to double a voice or to transform in another creative way. Some of the controls and functions are:
- Song key: A song key determines the key in which the user will sing.
- Scale: The scale determines the scale on which the user will sing.
- Input type for the vocal register: With this function, the autotune plug-in processes the vocals differently depending on the input setting.
- Correction / re-tuning speed: The correction / re-tuning speed determines how slowly or quickly incorrect notes are corrected.
- Humanize: Humanize controls how natural the processed voice sounds.
- Natural vibrato: Natural vibrato controls how much natural vibrato is generated.
- Dry / wet mixing: The dry / wet mixing controls how much processed and unprocessed audio signal is mixed together.
Spectral analysis plug-ins: These are useful when mixing. A spectral analysis plug-in shows a graphical representation of an information spectrum. You can view the collision in frequency and width of a track or instrument. Some of the functions are:
- Graphics window: The diagram window is an area in which the information to be analyzed is displayed in diagram form.
- Graphics display controls: The controls for the graph display are used to display various elements of the graph.
Sampler plug-in: This helps you combine samples from a bunch and turn them into beats. A good sampler has the following characteristics:
- Loads multiple sounds: With a good sampler you should be able to load sounds immediately. This will help you assign different notes or drum samples to different keys.
- Loads SFZ files: SFZ is the abbreviation for Sforzando, which means subito forzando and translated means “suddenly with violence”. SFZ is a sign of a strong, sudden accent on a note or chord. SFZ files assign themselves automatically so that you cannot assign individual notes to each key.
Plug-in for music analysis: Music analysis has no influence on the sound of your track. It is useful for locating problem areas and displaying data such as dynamic range and problem resources.
Final VST effect types and differences
VST effect plugins are the software representation of their original equipment with their sound properties. Although it’s probably always better to use the original instruments, the developers of VST plug-ins try to create the sound as close as possible to the original. Instead of buying so many individual musical instruments and spending a lot of money, musicians and sound engineers with VST plugins can use virtual versions of the real instruments or devices. VST instruments and VST effects can only be used with a software application or hardware device.
There are thousands of plug-ins available. Some are free but don’t sound that good and others can be purchased with a wonderful sound.
Further equipment evaluations and instructions in the Reich …