We use Digital Audio Workstations to record and edit our music.
Plugins are the most common way to apply processing or effects to audio.
When you think about getting the required plugins for your DAW, you see that there are various different formats available.
You want the plugin you get to be compatible with your music software.
Each format of plugins is different on the basis of the operating system and DAW it works on.
All of them have unique features and supported file types.
So it is important that you know about the differences between the most common plugin formats.
Today, we discuss in detail the difference between Audio Unit and VST formats to help you choose the right one for your needs.
Audio Unit vs VST – Updated 2021
The most relevant types of audio plugin formats are AU, AAX, VST2, and VST3. VST2 is the most widely used format for about 25 years and is a standard format used by Windows users.
While almost all DAWs running on Windows support it, it is available for Mac as well though a little less widespread.
The VST2 format runs in the form of a .dll file on Windows PC while it is .vst on Macintosh.
Logic, Pro Tools, and Garage Band are some examples of DAWs that don’t support VST2.
VST3 is different from VST2 and the latest format for Mac and Windows.
It is designed with some new features that specifically work with feature-intensive plugins.
AU is slightly comparable with VST2 and comes in .component file format.
AU is for Macintosh systems and the only format supported by DAWs Garage Band and Logic from Apple.
AU is for Mac what VST is for Windows users.
Both these formats are quite popular and there is no difference for the end user between the two formats.
However, there are differences in the way they are built, programmed, and delivered.
Audio Unit is a proprietary audio technology of Apple and mainly designed for Mac Operating Systems.
It is a part of the OS so the only format available to Mac users.
Most DAWs designed to work with OS X have integrated support for the AU interface due to system-level solutions and stability.
VST plugin was introduced as a free plugin in 1997 to change the way music was handled on computers.
Since then, it has become the industry standard and the most widely implemented format across the world.
As it was the first to be free, it was incorporated into every DAW.
The format evolved through the years and is available in its 3rd generation today, commonly known as VST3.
VST is supported by most DAWs including Cubase, Sonar, Ableton and more.
It is compatible with any PC (Linux or Windows) and even Mac.
It has been widely used as a common interface type for instruments and effects and can be used everywhere.
It is particularly useful when you need switching between different devices and setups.
AU or VST For Logic
Logic is a feature-rich music production software developed and offered by Apple.
It is a Mac-based DAW so it is important to make sure the plugins you use are compatible with Mac.
While most plugins are developed to be cross-platform, only AU format works with Logic.
This means you should use the .component version of the plugin you want to use.
VST format is not recognized by Logic Pro so it is not possible to install plugins in this format on the software.
Only the Mac only format Audio Unit is compatible with the Mac workstation to host third party music plugin effects and instruments.
AU vs VST For Ableton
Ableton is a DAW that offers flexible music production software that works equally well on Mac and Windows operating systems.
It is possible to extend the collection of devices used on the software through plugins.
It supports Audio Units as well as VST plugin formats for music effects and instruments.
Working with these formats in Ableton is similar to working with devices.
While there is not much difference in experience for AU and VST plugins in Ableton, it is important to choose the format wisely depending on the requirements.
As AU does not work on Windows, PC users should download plugins in VST format for Ableton.
However, Mac users should see that they never want to take the project to a PC or want to exchange sets with Windows users.
In these cases, AU can make it difficult.
There are few minor differences in the way Ableton handles AU and VST formats.
With VST plugins, it offers a menu to select presets and it is possible to exchange presets in the .fxb format.
This is not the case with AU and AU plugins will only let you handle presents the way you do with native devices.
Difference Between AU & VST:
What You Should Know?
A big difference between AU and VST is that AU is a proprietary plugin format specifically developed for the Mac operating system.
While VST is available for free to download and install, AU comes integrated into the OS itself to provide faster processing.
However, it is not possible to change the file path for the AU plugins like VST.
It is a good idea to use VST if your host supports both the formats.
Using VST will allow sharing projects with Windows users from a Mac as it is cross-platform.
Moreover, the Audio Units format does not send MIDI out which means some plugins won’t work.
So if you want to route a MIDI file from any plugin, it is important to switch to VST.
You should make sure you don’t use the AU and VST versions of the same plugin in your project when working with Ableton Live.
It is also important to understand the preset handling of AU and VST plugins.
Plugin manufacturers use proprietary formats to store the presets.
This would allow both versions of a plugin to use the same preset files and need not be installed twice.
AU plugins can sometimes have different preset handling as compared to VST.
This can sometimes create problems.