MIDI Plugins for DAWs
Add Plugins to Your DAW
Plugins have opened up a whole new world in the realm of the digital audio workstation. Virtual instruments and processors put the tools of professional engineers right at our fingertips. Anything from a simple limiter to a vintage Moog synthesizer are now only a few clicks away.
Plugins are available in different formats, so make sure they're compatible with your DAW. Some current formats include RTAS, VST, TDM, Audio Units, DirectX, and AAX. In some cases there are "wrapper" programs available to translate a plugin's format to allow cross-platform plugin compatibility.
MIDI Plugin Listing Site
The Versatility of Plugins
One of the major advantages of plugins over external hardware is that you aren't limited to the number of "instances" the plugin can be used. For example, with a hardware reverb, you're limited in the number of places you can use it simultaneously. With a plugin, you can load up the reverb into as many tracks as your computer can handle. And saving your plugin settings is as simple as saving your session.
It's amazing how realistic the sound of virtual instruments has become. Any instrument imaginable is available at a fraction of the cost. And, sample libraries sound really good. Most of us can't afford to hire an orchestra to accompany us on our latest creative endeavor, but there are hundreds of ultra-realistic sample libraries that can.
The reason these sound so real is because they are. Sample libraries are audio files of recorded instruments, available to you in your DAW. With a MIDI controller, you can control the subtle nuances of a performance, such as velocity and articulation, just as you would a real instrument. Other virtual instruments emulate vintage analog synths as well as re-creations of digital instruments.
Just like virtual instruments, virtual processors are designed to emulate the real thing. Have you ever wondered what your favorite axe would sound like through a Fender '65 Twin Reverb and vintage Neve EQ? With the wide range of "modeling" plugins available, anything is possible and affordable.
Whether you're looking to control pitch with Auto-Tune or just need to tame some transients with compression, virtual processor plugins are reaching the point where they can accomplish anything.
Plugins and Your Computer
Some plugins require large amounts of computer processing. The amount depends on the plugin and how hard and often it's working. There's a constant give and take relationship with plugins and your computer, but there are many different ways to get the results you're looking for, without crashing your session.
For example, you can route multiple tracks to one "instance" of a plugin instead of loading the plugin onto each track separately. Or, you can always expand your computer's memory with more RAM, allowing for more plugin capacity.
But, if you're really looking to run some hungry plugins, you may need to take the load off your CPU entirely. If so, there are DSP expansion cards and devices that handle effects processing independently, outside of your computer.