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VST Plug-Ins with Pro Tools

This Tech Tip is more of a “Did You Know?” for our Pro Tools users regarding plug-ins. You probably already realize that the list of available plug-ins in AudioSuite, RTAS, TDM and HTDM formats is a long and distinguished one, with hundreds of available products.

But you may not be aware that you can now use VST plug-ins on your Pro Tools LE or TDM session. Thanks to a software wrapper from Fxpansion (called, logically, VST to RTAS Adapter), nearly one thousand VST plugs can now be applied to your tracks. The Fxpansion software is easy to load and is not CPU-intensive.

Why would you want to add VST capability to your Pro Tools rig? The answer is simple: availability and savings. VST (now VST 2.0) is arguably the most-supported plug-in format around, with nearly 1000 existing VSTi instruments and effects and more appearing at an amazing rate. And the Software Developer Kit is a free, open-source tool (you do have to sign a license agreement), which makes it easy for just about anyone to develop plug-ins (which is not always a good thing). Most VST plug-ins are usually priced very reasonably.

You might be skeptical about how well this wrapper performs. Here’s some reassurance from producer/engineer and EQ Magazine editor David Frangioni’s “Studio Tech” forum at www.musicplayer.com: it works pretty well. A few respondents have reported glitches with some specific plug-ins. To combat these, one pro studio engineer (who runs Pro Tools in Windows XP) offered some tips on how to set your workstation up:

“Add your VSTs one at a time, do the wrap and then launch PT and test it out. If it works, repeat these steps with each additional plug-in. Takes a bit of time, but this way you can determine what will and won’t work and won’t have a bunch of stuff on the plug-in menu that doesn’t work or crashes the system.”

A Mac report came in from Mitch Gallagher, Editor of EQ Magazine (and Sweetwater alumnus): “I’ve been trying FXpansion’s VST to RTAS Adapter on my Mac PT system with mixed results. Some things seem to work fine, others don’t … I need to go back and rewrap and reinstall everything according to Phil’s plan… it pays to be painstaking, I guess.” Another forum user reported using VST to RTAS Adapter 1.06 with Pro Tools 6.1 and OS X 10.2.8 with few problems.

There are limitations to the FXpansion wrapper’s abilities, though they are minor. First, you need to be using Pro Tools LE or TDM/HD version 6 or higher on Mac OS X or Windows XP. No Mac OS 9 plug-ins will work.

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