Comparison of synthesizer plugin formats

VST, AU, AAX, CLAP, etc. Plugin Virtual Instruments Discussion
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As a developer I frequently get asked by customers "which plugin format is the best one?".
To answer this frequently asked question I created a website with a comparison of the most important plugin formats. It is a summary of facts, not opinions. Some of these facts are only known by developers.

https://www.tone2.com/plugin-formats.html
Last edited by Markus Krause on Fri Nov 18, 2022 5:49 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Markus Krause wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 2:14 am We frequently get asked by users which plugin format they should use.
Really? I usually decide for myself which plugin format I want to use...

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“a neutral point of view “

😉
I lost my heart in Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

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well, not really accurate - MAS /RE are missing (if they have RTAS and AAX); AU is not only Mac, iOS as well, which makes quite a difference.

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Thanks, its worth knowing that you get slightly better cpu efficiency and stability with vst2 than 3. I wish knew this before I installed my 26782 plugins as I just assumed vst 3 was better than 2.
If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. HOW CAN YOU HAVE ANY PUDDING IF YOU DON'T EAT YER MEAT!?

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Really? I usually decide for myself which plugin format I want to use...
Why so offended? It was always and will be always your own choice

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kenny saunders wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 2:49 am Thanks, its worth knowing that you get slightly better cpu efficiency and stability with vst2 than 3. I wish knew this before I installed my 26782 plugins as I just assumed vst 3 was better than 2. 
Sadly VST3 is the only plugin-format on the list that does does not come with full Midi support. We developers have to do ugly hacks to make things work (at least partially) here :(
  • Unlike what marketing people advertise there is no sigificant difference in sound quality between the plugin formats in practise. All of them sound excellent.
  • There are also only very small differences in CPU performance.
  • However, there are big differences in stability and reliability.
Last edited by Markus Krause on Fri Nov 18, 2022 3:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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steff3 wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 2:43 am MAS /RE are missing (if they have RTAS and AAX)
There are also other plugin formats like DirectX. However they don't play a big role in today's music production. So I focused on the most common ones.

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Markus Krause wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 3:18 am
Really? I usually decide for myself which plugin format I want to use...
Why so offended? It was always and will be always your own choice
I'm not offended. :) I just wonder about the questions some users ask.

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You can add "event system not ambiguous", which only has a "no" at AU and VST3, "yes" at all others. If people ever wonder why the same MIDI track plays different in softsynths on different hosts or platforms. Not fault of the softsynth, systemic fault of plug-in formats that transform MIDI into high level events - except for CLAP, where this issue is solved elegantly (unified event queue).

(ugh, I should get my support team to dig up the incidences where people reported this as bug, when in fact it wasn't)

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Urs wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 3:51 am You can add "event system not ambiguous", which only has a "no" at AU and VST3, "yes" at all others.
What does this mean in practice? That AU and VST 3 always do something ‘wrong’ in this regard or that developers like you and Markus can code in solutions?

(I genuinely don’t know what it means or what behaviour it leads to, beyond ‘different to VST 3 and clap’.)
I lost my heart in Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

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revvy wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 2:42 am “a neutral point of view “

😉
First please note the fact that our plugins are available in several formats. So we don't care what you use.
It seems that you didnt't even take a look at the comparison. Otherwise you'd have noticed that it is just a summary of well known and not so well-known facts. Some of these facts are only known by developers. That's why I created this webpage with information.
We're not involved in the CLAP format development, related to Steinberg, Apple, AVID or get paid by anyone of these companies.
What does this mean in practice? That AU and VST 3 always do something ‘wrong’ in this regard or that developers like you and Markus can code in solutions?
VST3:
Unlike all other plugin formats VST3 does not come with proper Midi support. We, U-he and many other companies were forced to program ugly hacks as a workaround to properly support Midi learn in VST3. That's why the VST3 versions of many plugins expose hunderts of dummy Midi parameters to the DAW as fake-automation-parameters.

AudioUnit:
We deveopers are forced to use an ugly hack to make AudioUnits (v2) validate. A postflight script is necessary for the installers. Otherwise the user needs to reboot the machine to make the plugin appear in the DAW. AudioUnit is the only plugin format that suffers from this.
Since BigSur it is not longer possible to easily debug auval ( the audiounit validation), which makes things try&error some time.

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Markus Krause wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 4:05 am
revvy wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 2:42 am “a neutral point of view “

😉
It seems that you didnt't even take a look at the comparison.
Of course I looked, weird non-sequitur.

I’ve been following Tone2 from afar ever since I started and then had to stop using the wonderful BiFilter on my Macs.

You’re a talented developer but you’re not neutral. Nothing to argue about really, none of us truly are.

Anyway, no point in arguing this point more, I might as well have written “you’re human”.
I lost my heart in Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu

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Urs wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 3:51 am You can add "event system not ambiguous", which only has a "no" at AU and VST3, "yes" at all others. If people ever wonder why the same MIDI track plays different in softsynths on different hosts or platforms. Not fault of the softsynth, systemic fault of plug-in formats that transform MIDI into high level events - except for CLAP, where this issue is solved elegantly (unified event queue).

(ugh, I should get my support team to dig up the incidences where people reported this as bug, when in fact it wasn't)
Thanks. I'll add this.

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revvy wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 4:02 am
Urs wrote: Fri Nov 18, 2022 3:51 am You can add "event system not ambiguous", which only has a "no" at AU and VST3, "yes" at all others.
What does this mean in practice? That AU and VST 3 always do something ‘wrong’ in this regard or that developers like you and Markus can code in solutions?

(I genuinely don’t know what it means or what behaviour it leads to, beyond ‘different to VST 3 and clap’.)
I've written some details here:

https://cleveraudio.org/1-feature-overv ... -ambiguity

Basically, high level event systems split events into different kinds that reach the plug-in in different ways. Once that happens, the order of events that coincide at the same timestamp can not be determined anymore. The plug-in can only guess, e.g. "Was the hold pedal first or was it the note event?" or "Did the controller modulate envelope attack before the note was pressed or after?". This e.g. forces users to do micro-edits in the DAW in order to get the intended behaviour. Or, they simply assume it's a bug and switch to an instrument that guesses the other way round, which may then not work in the next situation of that kind.

In any case, ambiguity of order of events is bad. It might actually be solved for AU as well, I would have to look. It's definitely an issue of VST3 though, where MIDI events are abstracted into different kinds of high level events (Notes, Parameters).

Arguably, most people won't notice any issue. But some do, and whenever that's the case, it can bind support staff and developers for several days to figure out why something works in unexpected ways.

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