What is VST?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

In the realm of technology, VST has several distinct meanings. Voice-Scan Technology is one technology that is abbreviated with the acronym VST, and it refers to the verification of individual identity based on distinctive aspects of the voice. Another phrase associated with this acronym is Variable Speed Technology, an example of which is a motor in, for example, an air conditioner that is fine-tuned to control air temperature through the ability to run at a wide range of speeds rather than the single speed of a conventional motor. Most often, though, it seems that VST is used as the acronym for Virtual Studio Technology.

Woman holding an optical disc
Woman holding an optical disc

Virtual Studio Technology, or VST, is an interface that processes and integrates audio effects and synthesizer plug-ins with VST-enabled host software, such as audio editors such as Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) or music notation software, such as Sibelius Software. Plug-ins are software modules that are made for integration into an existing software environment, adding on to software applications without requiring an upgrade for the user or an entirely new version to be released by the developer. VST engines provide a means to add effects, mastering tools, and both synthesized and sampled sounds to be added in real time to such hosts.

FVST is not the only plug-in standard: Audio Units (AU), for example, is another one. VST, developed by Steinberg, can be used on both Windows PCs and Macs, while AU, developed by Apple, can only be used on Mac. Other formats on the market include Real Time Audio Suite (RTAS), Time Division Multiplexing (TDM), MOTU Audio System (MAS), and DirectX Instrument (DXi). VST’s popularity is boosted by its dual platform compatibility and Steinberg’s choice to support third- party development, and the fact that VST virtual instrument plug-ins range from freeware to high-end VSTs.

The main categories of plug-in are virtual instruments and virtual processors. VST instruments include the Vienna Symphonic Library, the East West Quantum Leap line of virtual instruments, as well as those by Native Instruments, Garritan, GForce, MusicLab, Wallander, Synthogy, Arturia, WaveMachine Labs, and VST’s by Steinberg itself. Instruments range from choirs to concert grand pianos, from drum sets to orchestral instruments. Virtual Processors are made by companies such a Waves, DigiDesign, McDSP, TC Electronic, and URS. VST processor plug-ins add effects such as reverb and delay, compression, modulation—such as phaser, flanger, and pitch shift—guitar effects, vibrato, and filters.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to EasyTechJunkie about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


What is available that has a provision that allows you to play, record and hear in real time a VST? Or a work around to hear the VST while recording?


@Charred - Actually, I think any trained musician would be able to tell better than the average listener would. It would be easy to fool me.

A violin symphony sounds the same to me whether it’s an electronic effect or an actual concert. I think one thing would set apart the electronic sound from the raw, acoustic sound, to the trained listener, however.

I believe that with real music, the instruments “breathe” more or less as they interact with the air. I am willing to guess that a trained musician would hone in on these whispers of the instrument, as opposed to only the musical sounds that they produce.

Perhaps there are VST effects that simulate that level of realism, I don’t know.


@David09 - I wonder about some of these electronic effects plugins and software packages.

Given that it’s possible to simulate everything from a grand piano to a complete orchestra, what is the difference between the simulation and the real thing?

Do you think a trained musician would be able to listen to a recording with VST effects and be able to tell the difference between what is real and what is electronic?

I am willing to bet that maybe only a chorus conductor could tell; all others, I think, would have a hard time.


I haven’t done much audio recording but have played with a few VST plugins that I’ve found online.

I use the free plugins; there are quite a variety of them that you can download. In addition to musical effects, you can also get audio VST effects that will do things like change the tone of your voice.

You can add effects like reverberation, chorus, echo and even nasal sounding qualities to your voice. In the past, it used to be that I’d have to use an audio editor and do this kind of stuff in post production to make it work.

However, with the VST plugins you can apply the effects in real time, so that when you’re done with your recording, the effect has already been applied to the final audio.

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