What is VST – A Summary.

What is VST…? Virtual Studio Technology Explained.


As the title of this post says, VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. It is not the same as a VST Instrument (VSTI) or a VST plugin – as you will see in a few seconds. So, what is VST for real?

The abbreviation “VST” is the name of a so-called software-protocol for music – and soundproduction. Initially it was developed by Steinberg Media Technologies for its sequencer (DAW) Cubase in 1996. A few years later, it established itself as the industry standard for the integration of plugins into music software. This music software, for example FL Studio 12 or Cubase, is also called a VST Host. When a new plugin for an Audio software is created, it is typically attached with the VST-protocol. VST is open to be viewed but cannot be changed due to Steinbergs proprietary license.

CUBASE 6:Cubase_6_feature_collage_(x2)

In summary, one could say that VST is there for establishing the dialogue between VST Host and virtual instruments or virtual effects which are to be run inside a DAW/Sequencer. As you can see, there are two fields of use for VST, the virtual instruments and the virtual effects.

Virtual Instruments

Virtual Instruments, for example the replica of a Fender Rhodes Bass or the Synthesizer “Harmor” which is used as a plugin in FL Studio 12, can be assigned to a MIDI Keyboard. This means you can assign a Fender Rhodes Bass to your keyboard and then play what you hear. The quality of virtual Instruments is very good nowadays, but there are still things which can´t be copied so easily. For example, if you have a virtual guitar, the sound will be very similar to an original guitar, but the strumming will never sound as good as in real life.

Cubase 6 HALion Sonic SE sample Player:Cubase_6_HALion_Sonic_SE_sample_player

Virtual Effects

Here, the VST protocol interacts with the audio signals. This means: through the interaction with an audio signal, various effects can be created, for example Reverb or Delay. It is also used in Equalizers and Compressors.

Virtual MIDI Effects

There are also other effects called MIDI effects which include for example arpeggiation or transposition (the shift of a musical Motive into another key). As you can see, VST is also capable of processing MIDI Signals.

In this way, VSTIs receive notes in the form of digital information via MIDI and put out digital Audio. VST effects receive digital audio, which is different to MIDI.

Most often, VST is used directly in a DAW, but there are also some standalone plugin hosts which support VST. This means you can use it to compose a song without buying a DAW.

There are other software-protocols which deliver the same purpose. For example:

  • Audio Unit which is for Mac Os X,
  • Direct X which is a Windows-based API for numerous multimedia functions which also allows the operation of virtual Instruments and effects,
  • LV2 which is a free audio plugin interface under LINUX.


If you want to get aqcuainted with a good DAW which supports a lot of VST Instruments, Effects and Plugins, grab a copy of Image Line FL Studio 12 Producer Edition

If you enjoyed this article, or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below.






1 Comment

  1. Joshua Thomas

    Hey Fabian,

    I’m neither an audiophile nor a DJ, but I found your post to be interesting nonetheless. My advice to you though would be to use some more images to increase the appeal of the post since it would help to lighten the reading experience. Additionally, it would be good to link some of your acronyms to your glossary so that persons (like me XD) can reference unfamiliar terms.

    Otherwise, good post and I can see you’re passionate about this stuff!



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