Does Pro Tools Work With VST? (We Checked)

Does Pro Tools, the dominant DAW software, support virtual studio technology (VST) plugins?

Let’s break down whether Pro Tools can use VSTs, and if so, how to add them.

Key Takeaways

  • Pro Tools supports both its native AAX format and third-party VST plugins
  • Enable “Legacy VST Support” in Preferences and set the VST folder location
  • VSTs appear alongside AAX plugins in track insert menus after restarting Pro Tools
  • Right-click a track and select Inserts to add plugins as normal
  • AAX optimizes for Pro Tools while VST offers broader developer support

Can You Add VST Plugins To Pro Tools?

Yes, Pro Tools does support the integration of VST plugins alongside its native AAX format. While Pro Tools is best known for its proprietary AAX format, it can absolutely use VST plugins as well. 

This flexibility lets Pro Tools users access the huge library of available VSTs, rather than limiting to AAX-coded plugins alone.

There are a few different ways to add VST plug-ins into Pro Tools. 

The main methods are:

Using the VST plug-in format directly in Pro Tools on Windows PC. Pro Tools for Windows has supported VST plug-ins for years. You simply load the VST files like normal plug-ins.

Using a VST bridge plugin for Pro Tools on Mac. The most popular bridge is AVX Virtual Serializer, which allows you to scan for and load VST plugins as normal Pro Tools plug-ins.

Using a DAW like Pro Tools that natively supports both VST and Audio Units (AU) formats, such as Logic Pro. You can browse and load plugins from either format.

As long as you’re using Pro Tools on Windows, or using a VST bridge on Mac, you have full access to the huge world of VST plugins right in Pro Tools. It greatly expands your sonic options.

Some of my favorite synthesizer plugins like Sylenth1 and Massive only exist as VSTs. Being able to integrate them into my Pro Tools workflow expands my sound design possibilities tremendously. 

VST support opens many creative doors!

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How Do I Use VSTs In Pro Tools?

Using VSTs with Pro Tools is straightforward, but requires some initial configuration:

First of all, ensure your Pro Tools system requirements support VST functionality. All recent Pro Tools versions run VSTs, but very old systems may lack support.

Then, under the Setup menu, enable the “Legacy VST Plug-In Support” option. This activates VST scanning so Pro Tools recognizes installed plugins.

After restarting Pro Tools, your VST folder location must be specified. Proceed to the Plugin Manager, then choose VST under the Location column to select the folder containing your VSTs.

VSTs will then appear alongside AAX plugins in Program Selection dropdown menus on audio tracks. 

Simply click the plugin type filter and add VSTs as normally like any other plugin! 

To actually use VST plug-ins in Pro Tools, here are some more basic steps:

  • Make sure your Pro Tools system meets the requirements for using VST plug-ins. For Windows, just have the latest version of Pro Tools installed. For Mac, install a bridge software like AVX.
  • Browse to and install the VST plug-in files onto your system. Most come as a .dll (Windows) or .vst file (Mac).
  • Open Pro Tools and go to the Mix window. Click on the arrow next to an insert slot to pull up the plug-in browser.
  • In the browser format menu, make sure VST is selected as an option. Then you’ll see all installed VSTs in the list.
  • Click to load the VST onto the selected track. It should now show up as an inserted plug-in like any other.
  • Use the plug-in interface and parameters as normal. For things like effect sends, create an aux track and insert the VST there.

And that’s the basics of using VST plug-ins right in Pro Tools!

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How To Add Plugins In Pro Tools

To actually add an effect or instrument plugin in Pro Tools, right-click the track you want to insert on. 

Select “Inserts” from the menu, then choose where you want to insert the plugin – before or after existing plugins, or at the top of the chain.

Next, use the “Plugin” dropdown menu to select the plugin type – in this case, either AAX or VST. Browse available plugins of that format and select the one you wish to add. Done! 

There are a few different ways to add or load plugins within Pro Tools, and knowing the options can help you choose the right method for any situation. 

Here are a few more ways to add plugins in Pro Tools:

  • Plug-In Window: Open this window and browse installed plugins by format (VST, AU, AAX, etc). Click Load to add to a track or aux. Best for finding new plugins.
  • Mix Window: Click the arrow next to an empty insert slot to pull up the plug-in browser without leaving your mix. Good for faster browsing during a session.
  • Search: Type a plugin name in the search bar at the top to find and load quickly without browsing lists. Handy if you know exactly what you need.
  • Favorites: Drag preferred plugins to the Favorites bar for one-click loading without diving into formats/lists. I keep my used regularly here.
  • Clipboard: Load the same plugin on multiple tracks Fast by adding it once, copying it to the clipboard, and pasting. Great for common verbs/delays.
  • Automation: Enable auto-write, insert plugin, and it will follow any recorded or drawn volume/parameter moves. Useful for live renders.

Those are the main plugin loading methods in Pro Tools. Play around with them and see which you prefer for different tasks. Knowing your options makes the process fast and intuitive.

Here are some popular VST plugins and their uses:

PluginUse
MassiveSynthesizer sound design
FabFilter Pro-Q 3Surgical EQing
SerumComplex wavetable synthesis
ValhallaDelayAmbient/experimental delays

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What’s The Difference Between AAX And VST

When we look at Pro Tools plugins, there are two main formats to consider—AAX and VST. 

CategoryAAXVST
OriginCreated by Avid for Pro ToolsCreated by Steinberg, cross-platform standard
ProcessingUses DSP on audio interfaceUses computer’s CPU resources
Formats supportedPro Tools onlyMulti-DAW compatible
OptimizationTailored for Pro Tools workflowMore universal design
Developer supportAAX-focused developersBroad developer support across platforms

Let’s break down the key differences between them:

AAX: Pro Tools native format. Offers lowest latency, tightest integration, and best performance within Pro Tools. Only works in Pro Tools.

VST: General plugin format compatible with many DAWs like Cubase, Logic, etc. Works in Pro Tools with bridge software on Mac. Can have higher latencies.

Compatibility: AAX plugins only work inside Pro Tools. VSTs work across platforms but need bridges for some DAWs like Pro Tools on Mac.

Performance: AAX plugins are optimized for Pro Tools and can have the lowest possible latencies. VSTs have more variable performance depending on the system.

Updates: Updating AAX plugins is seamless within Pro Tools. VST updates may require re-installing plugins outside the host DAW.

Formats: Pro Tools supports both AAX and VST. But some plugins only offer one format—so choose the DAW based on plugin availability.

While both formats work, AAX offers tighter integration and performance, so it’s recommended when possible for a Pro Tools system. 

But VST is a versatile cross-platform solution too.

Final Thoughts – Does Pro Tools Work With VST?

In conclusion, Pro Tools provides the flexibility to use plugins in both AAX and VST formats. This allows users to leverage the immense library of VST instruments and effects. 

It also maintains capability with AAX plugins optimized for the Pro Tools workflow. 

With some simple configuration changes, producers can seamlessly integrate VSTs alongside native plugins in their sessions. 

Both formats deliver high-quality sound, so choose based on personal preferences, project needs, and developer support. Whether using VSTs or AAX, the versatile Pro Tools empowers limitless creativity for any artist.

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