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24-Nov-2017

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Plugin formats

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Author: admin
Date: 03-Aug-03

[dancetech database recompiled in 1999 - some articles listed April '99 are older]


Plugins exist in many types of s/ware industry from video & image editing s/w to audio.... Plugins for audio now come in amy shapes and sizes, so here's just a little page to give a quick lowdown... You can glean more info if you like on the www via a search engine.



Plugins have two elements... The streaming of the audio from the processing or instrument plugin into the host application & between the host sequencer programme & the audio card inputs & outputs... For this movement of audio streams there are several types - These are the most common now:




Direct-X or DX
Used by applications such as Sonar, Soundforge & Acid & using Windows Direct-x core media... The recent addition of WDM (Windows Driver Model) in Windows 2000 & Windows XP means now Direct-X can work in very low latencies allowing realtime use because the new WDM protocol allows direct bridging between the PCI card 'hardware-ring' & the application 'software-ring' levels without the need for a driver to link the two... So in other words, whereas with the older DOS-based Win 95/98/ME the sequencer had to talk to the card via an 'interpreter', with Win2000/WinXP the sequencer talks to the card direct allowing for very low latencies.

ASIO
Steinberg created open system for Mac & Windows. ASIO (Asyncronous Input/Output) was the first Low latency streaming audio protocol for Mac & Windows generic processors (realtime processing done by CPU and not by plugin DSP cards) - Released with Cubase VST back in the mid 90's, it quickly became the defacto standard for low latency drivers & s/w processing & instrument internal audio streaming between plugin & host. There is now a miriad of free VST effects & instruments on the www for download as a consequence.

DirectConnect
DirectConnect is the streaming protocol for Pro Tools or other Digidesign DAE hosts. DirectConnect allows up to 32 separate audio channel outputs from software synthesizers, samplers etc, to be independently routed, recorded, processed and mixed within the Pro Tools TDM mixing environment. DirectConnect works with Pro Tools 5.01 LE and later, 5.01 FREE, and TDM Mix systems running 5.01 or later.

Core-Audio
Core-Audio is the new Mac OSX equivilent of Windows Direct-Media... an OS core low latency streaming protocol which allows movement & communication of audio streams between cards/devices & programmes & between programmes & plugins... Core-Audio is like Mac's version of WDM for Win2000/XP or ASIO






In the beginning...

Pro-Tools... we've all heard of it, and it's been around alongtime, establishing itself back in the 80's before fast generic Mac or IBM machines could cope with providing realtime or even fast offline processing of effects with their own CPU.... Digidesign started life in software with their Sound Designer stereo editing programme and expanded to the multi-track based product Pro-Tools.

Pro-Tools systems used (and still use) physical cards which plug in to the PC (Now PCI cards)... These cards had/have DSP chips on-board which process real fast due to the fact they are risc processors dedicated to the particular process they are required to do... TDM cards do the processing of effects in Pro-Tools TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) equipt systems ... Digidesign made TDM an open standard and thus 3rd party plugins appeared and all this paved the way for host-dependant plugins in a way... Nowadays you can get things like Access Virus synth as a TDM plugin, which means the Access Virus OS all loads into the chips on the DSP card and is played from there rather than the Host CPU making it function like with the sort of host-based s/w plugin synths such as FM7...

The basic TDM based 'Pro-Tools' is Pro-Tools 24 Pro Tools 24 which is a 24-bit version of the earlier 16-bit TDM system & consists of the Pro Tools software programme, a PCI card that handles playback and record of 32 tracks, and a 'DSP Farm' card that takes care of mixing and processing ... You might have heard of 'Amp Farm' a well known guitar amp/cab sim software which loads into the TDM 'DSP FARM' card... We know this product better as the Line-6 Pod which is basicaly a stand-alone version of Amp-farm as far as I know....

Anyways - Digidesign ruled the roost for years... IBM & Mac machines didn't have the grunt back in the mid 80's or frankly even up until the last 3 or 4 years to even think about processing hi-quality realtime effects, so these DSP based plugin system ruled supreme, and Pro-Tools went on to become the 'standard' in the industry...

Nowadays with really fast budget PC's costing as little as a cheap but decent multi-fx hardware unit, this perception is starting to be challenged and Pro-Tools themselves offer host CPU based plugins as well as their traditional DSP PCI-card solutions... and of course we've moved on to see today that software instruments have become the norm... Good times for the home-studio basicaly!... Pro-tools TDM can be controlled by most major audio/midi sequencers now... so you don't have to use the Pro-Tools software... For the newbies this lets you see that the actual card which does the INPUTS/OUTUTS & the DSP-FARM card which hold the plugin processing s/w and process the effects & mixing are seperate from the actual Pro-Tools software... There is actualy a FREE version of Pro-Tools anyone can download and use from Digidesign's website.

Moving on to todays date in the summer of 2003, things have come along way... Even a humble cheap Athlon 2400 (last of the pre-Barton chips) costing a measly £300 quid can easily run a full-on studio mix, with multiple instruments and a slew of effects all running in realtime... Plugins have advanced year in year out and now we have several common types of Plugin protocol & streaming audio protocols.... here's a simple look at the commonest types...












VSTi plugins



VSTi plugins came along and established themselves as the de-facto open format about 6 years ago.. At this time, Mac's & IBM PC's were just starting to get enuff grunt to process things like filter, delays, reverbs etc, but were still straining even with the latest P2 machines to rpovide any real grunt... BUT!.. at least you could apply fx in realtime to audio in your sequencer, and this was the birth of the widespread revolution for home music PC's... Adding more power over the last few years has just given us more processing ability. VSTi plugins run on Mac & IBM PC's...





DX plugins



DX instruments & Effects is a Windows PC native format for plugins - Microsoft 'Direct-X' plugins is what it means, which is the open standard for audio plug-ins on the Windows platform, hence it's restriction to Windows format... Recently we've seen the adition of Direct-X Instruments or DXi's driven mainly by Cakewalk for their SONAR flagship sequencer host, DXi's work like VSTi's allowing realtime low-latency processing/playing when used with a fast WDM Windows or ASIO audio-card driver

Many software houses, especialy the bigger names have released all their VST instruments & effects in this format to make them available to the widest possible potential user-base.... Some examples of well respected Direct-X ONLY effects would be WAVES plugins...



Audio-Units plugins



Audio-Units are the MAC OSX equivilent of Microsoft Direct-X... built into the core of OSX it is now being supported by all the major software houses with work going on at the date of this article by many of these s/w houses to convert older plugins to 'Audio-Unit' spec's....

Info on 'Core-Audio from Apple: http://www.apple.com/macosx/technologies/audio.html

Info on 'Audio-Units' from Apple: http://www.audio-units.com/home/effects.html



Pro-Tools TDM plugins

The original hardware based plugin format from Pro-Tools... the s/w sends audio to the fitted DSP card which processes the audio and returns it to the application... Also, s/w synths such as VIRUS are available for TDM in which case midi streams to the card & the card provides the synth engine & audio output which streams back to the host sequencer application & of course fx can be added to the synth output too via the TDM system.





Pro-Tools HTDM plugins

HTDM stands for "Host TDM" and was developed by Digidesign. HTDM Plug-Ins represent a hybrid of TDM and RTAS technologies. HTDM Plug-Ins provide all the logistical functionality of standard TDM Plug-Ins, but, like RTAS Plug-Ins, they allow for all the processing to be done on the host instead of the DSP chips found on your TDM hardware.



What is HTDM? HTDM stands for "Host TDM" and was developed by Digidesign. HTDM Plug-Ins represent a hybrid of TDM and RTAS technologies. HTDM Plug-Ins provide all the logistical functionality of standard TDM Plug-Ins, but, like RTAS Plug-Ins, they allow for all the processing to be done on the host instead of the DSP chips found on your TDM hardware. (Information provided by Digidesign)

What is special about HTDM Plug-Ins? HTDM Plug-Ins offer two primary benefits: The resources of the Pro Tools Core and/or Farm DSP chips remain available for other tasks, and, despite running on the host, HTDM Plug-Ins can be instantiated on any track, a characteristic previously confined to TDM Plug-Ins only. (Information provided by Digidesign)

Do HTDM Plug-Ins occupy the DSP chips? What is the difference between HTDM and RTAS Plug-Ins? From version 1.1 of the NI Pro Tools Edition on (now available for download), only one SRAM chip will be occupied to guarantee the data transfer between the host and the TDM bus necessary for the HTDM Plug-Ins. In this way up to 16 different HTDM Stereo Plug-Ins could be used without occupying more than one SRAM chip. RTAS Plug-Ins do not occupy the DSP chips at all. Thus RTAS Plug-Ins are applicable for all Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools Free systems, and in fact can be applied to all types of tracks (Disc-, Aux-, and Master-Tracks). Other than that there is no difference between RTAS and HTDM Plug-Ins in how they function.





Pro-Tools RTAS plugins



HTDM and RTAS Plug-Ins can be used with Pro Tools Mix (DAE 5.1 on) and Pro Tools|HD (DAE 5.3 on). The RTAS Plug-Ins can be used with Pro Tools LE (DAE 5.01 on) and Pro Tools Free.

RTAS plugins are a Pro-Tools format for plugins, but RTAS Plugins are run by by host computer CPU, not by DSP cards... Products like SPEKTRAL DELAY. & PRO-52 from Native-Instruments can be installed as RTAS versions... HTDM and RTAS Plugins can be used with Pro Tools Mix (DAE 5.1 on) and Pro Tools|HD (DAE 5.3 on), whereas the RTAS Plugin versions can be used with Pro Tools LE (DAE 5.01 on) and Pro Tools Free... So it's probably fair to say that RTAS , which is a recent development, while working with the higher-end Pro-Tools systems for compatibility are more like s/w plugins for the 'cheaper' versions of Pro-Tools, LE & Pro-Tools Free editions.

Here's the RTAS info page from Digidesign: http://www.digidesign.com/digizine/archive/digizine_june02/lebootcamp/










MOTU MAS plugins



Mark Of The Unicorn's MAS (MOTU Audio System) streaming protocol for Digital Performer...

Here's a great website section from MOTU where you can see their in-programme effects and hear/see examples of them in action: http://www.motu.com/english/software/dp/effect/composite3.html






Well, there's some basic info for newbies... The most common plugins are VST & DX because these are very cross-sequencer capable & have been around for several years since the late 90's... With the realse of OSX for mac, Audio-Unit plugins for OSX are starting to become available mainly with the bigger s/w houses as they all seek to release AU versions for the new Mac OS... RTAS & MAS versions for Digital Performer & Pro-Tools are also being added to the roster of plugins by most of the bigger name s/w houses... However, for our 'home-studio' purposes, most users tend to go for SONAR, VST/SX, LOGIC, ORION, FRUITY-LOOPS or FL-PRO host sequencers and all these support VST & Direct-X effects & they also support EITHER DX-instruments or VST-instruments... hence VST & DX is the most popular type of plugin right now.... Also, the 'SYNTHEDIT' software has been out a while now allowing people to build their own plugin effects & instruments, so we've seen a further tidal-wave of freeware plugins in the last year written by enthusiasts with the Synthedit programme....

Yup!... Plugins, along with the new breed of super-cheap but powerful PC's & Mac's have really brought the home-studio to a point now which could only have been dreamed about a few years ago!... ("Eeee, we used ot dreeeeeam of living in a corridor!")... Even the modest spender can achieve a computer based studio with high-quality effects and a range of superb instruments in software all of which can be free apart from the host sequencer programme & the actual PC & audio card... Even the free plugin reverbs around easily compete in quality & often better hardware budget reverb units costing 250-300 pounds from just a few years ago!... These are great days for the home studio... Long live the creativity!















COMMENTS FOR:

'Plugin formats'


There are a total:  8  comments posted to this page.


Name:  Oner AKSAKAL
Email: 
Activity:  Professional
Date:  01-Mar-05

I have a question? With the new MAC OSX will I still be needing a soundcard for low latency? if I connect a usb midi controller directly to a mac can I be able to use Reason without any latency issues?

Thanx

Öner

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Name:  Martin Ploeg
Email: 
Website?:  no
Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  10-May-05

Hello,

I am looking for VST instruments for Mac, but
all I find are pc instruments. Is it possible to
convert VST instruments from pc to Mac? I
read somewhere that you can use VSTi
plugins on both platforms, but I only see
dll.files. Can you help me?

Martin Ploeg
Netherlands

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Name:  gary shaver
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Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  16-Jun-05

can I get dll (DSP) audio effects to work through DirectX. I have a paticular media Player DSP program I would like to use through my directX plugin

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Name:  Chris goldsmith
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Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  20-Feb-06

can RTAS be used in any other programs other than pro-tools

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Name:  Bally
Email: 
Activity:  Professional
Date:  30-Aug-06

Hi,

I kinda like the FX & plug-ins in fruity loops the reverb, compressors etc...

All i wanna know is, can i use the Fx & plug-ins of fruity loops in Protools via Fxpansion's Vst-RTAS adapter.

I would be very grateful if you could email me back on the status concerning this issue.

Best Regards,

Bally.

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Name:  Tom Nottebaere
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Activity:  Hobby-ist
Date:  01-Mar-07

heye,
i work with protools le 5 together with
the digi 001 inputdidevice and the pci-card,i know this is an older system,but i was wondering if there are stil any RTAS plugins available for this prog.i am specifikly looking for a plugin to add harmonics to my guitartracks,any other pugin is ofcours welkom to.
thx Tom

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Name:  jaminjlo
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Activity:  Professional
Date:  22-Aug-07

Can tdm be used on anything other than protools system, or even transferible to use on another system like Digital Perfomer

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Last added comment

Name:  justin
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Activity:  Professional
Date:  18-May-08

abbreviation for TDM

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