The VST first appeared in 1999. In 1996, Steinberg, known primarily for the development of DAW Cubase, introduced the VST format – Virtual Sound Technology. This was only an announcement, in its perfect form plug-ins of this category appeared only three years later. The announcement forever changed the music industry and how computer-assisted music is created. The doors to the world of creativity were open to everyone: technology transferred studio analog effects to the digital environment, thanks to which anyone could create a studio at home with copies of real devices.
Gradually, the computer began to play a more prominent role in the process of making music. In fact, the machine was able to replace a huge fleet of professional equipment.
Soon, Steinberg introduced the second version of the format – VST2, and the sound revolution went on a new round. The new version made it possible to copy not only effects and treatments, but also musical instruments. Through the efforts of third-party developers, home musicians have at their disposal virtual versions of real guitars, drum kits, synthesizers and other instruments. Now the computer could replace not only hardware, but also real musicians.
The popularity of VST could not pass unnoticed by competitors who created their own plugin formats. Assessing the prospects of the technology, Apple adapted VST to the macOS environment, thereby creating a new format – AU. Avid, then called Digidesign, also got involved, creating its own RTAS format that is compatible with DAW Pro Tools. Microsoft did not lag behind and came up with DX – a plug-in format based on the popular DirectX technology. Nevertheless, there was no competition – VST remained the most popular format.
In musical circles, it is customary to separate formats among themselves to avoid confusion. Nevertheless, today the term «VST-plug-in» has become a household name – in colloquial speech they mean any virtual instruments and effects, regardless of their actual format.
VST plugins are directly dependent on computer resources. These are programs that connect to music software. Plugins can only work online. They process sound effects using the resource base of computer hardware. The main role here belongs to the processor.
VST3 plugins differ from their previous versions:
• a large number of audio inputs;
• the ability to work exclusively in 64-bit format;
• improved sound effects;
• greater optimization and, accordingly, lower requirements for equipment resources.
These are the main differences. There are also a number of minor differences in the interface, installation algorithm, and so on. When it comes to DAWs, the need for universal compatibility requires the DAW to support all three formats.