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VST 3: New Standard for Virtual Studio Technology

With VST (Virtual Studio Technology), Steinberg established the world’s leading and most widely supported standard for plug-ins and virtual instruments in 1996. With VST 3 Steinberg releases the next major revision of Steinberg’s Virtual Studio Technology to the audio industry. VST 3 marks an important milestone in audio technology with a completely rewritten code base providing not only many new features but also the most stable and reliable VST platform ever. This combination of the latest technology and new features is the result of Steinberg’s twelve years of development experience as the leading plug-in interface provider. VST 3 has been designed to provide a technological and creative basis for many innovative and exciting new products for the audio industry, offering a new world of creative possibilities for instrument and effect plug-in users. The VST 3 SDK is available as a free technology, open in use for any developer.

About the VST standard

The Virtual Studio Technology (VST) interface is nothing short of a revolution in digital audio. Developed by Steinberg and first launched in 1996, VST creates a full, professional studio environment on your computer.VST allows the integration of virtual effect processors and instruments into your digital audio environment. These can be software recreations of hardware effect units and instruments or new creative effect components in your VST system. All are integrated seamlessly into VST compatible host applications like digital audio workstations (DAW). VST also allows easy integration of external equipment, allowing you to put together a system tailor-made to your needs. Being an open standard, the possibilities offered by VST have steadily been growing over the past decade. New virtual effect processors and virtual instruments are constantly being developed by Steinberg and of course dozens of other companies.

From the technical point of view

A VST plug-in is an audio processing component that is utilized within a host application. This host application provides the audio or/and event streams that are processed by the plug-in's code. Generally speaking, a VST plug-in can take a stream of audio data, apply a process to the audio, and return the result to the host application. A VST plug-in normally performs its process using the processor of the computer. The audio stream is broken into a series of blocks. The host supplies the blocks in sequence. The host and its current environment control the block-size. The VST plug-in maintains the status of all its own parameters relating to the running process: The host does not maintain any information about what the plug-in did with the last block of data it processed.

From the host application's point of view, a VST plug-in is a black box with an arbitrary number of inputs, outputs (Event (MIDI) or Audio), and associated parameters. The host needs no implicit knowledge of the plug-in's process to be able to use it. The plug-in process can use whatever parameters it wants, internally to the process, but depending on the capabilities of the host, it can allow the changes to user parameters to be automated by the host.

The source code of a VST plug-in is platform independent, but the delivery system depends on the platform architecture:

  • On Windows, a VST plug-in is a multi-threaded DLL (Dynamic Link Library), recently packaged into a folder structure.
  • On macOS X, a VST plug-in is a Mach-O Bundle.
  • On Linux, a VST plug-in is a package.