This page provides step by step instruction on installing VST instruments and effects. The following topics are covered:
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Virtual Studio Technology (VST) Plugins
VST is a software interface standard that allows you to load 3rd party software synthesizer and effect 'plugins' in FL Studio. VST is in addition to the FL Studio 'native' plugin format. VST plugins generally come in two types, instruments (VSTi) that are designed to make sound and effects (VST) that are designed to process sound, although some can do both. FL Studio categorizes VST instruments as 'Generators' because some also generate control or note data, rather than audio. VSTs are self-contained programs that 'plug-in' to FL Studio giving you access to a, virtually unlimited, source of new instruments and effects. VST plugins are provided in the 'dynamic link library'(*.dll) format file.
Important notes about 32 vs 64 Bit, GUI Scaling & Plugin Names
The computer music industry is in the process of changing from 32 to 64 Bit software. This has made things a little complicated, what's new :)
- Plugin compatibility - Just as FL Studio is available in 32 and 64 Bit editions, VST plugins can also come in 32 or 64 Bit format. This determines how much memory the plugin can access. It has nothing to do with 'audio quality', despite what some sleazy marketing guy may have said. We STRONGLY RECOMMEND using 64 Bit plugins in FL Studio 64 Bit and 32 Bit plugins in FL Studio 32 Bit. If you load 64 Bit plugins in FL Studio 32 Bit or 32 Bit plugins in FL Studio 64 Bit, a 'bit bridge' will be used and this consumes about 2% extra CPU, per plugin. Certainly, a few bridged plugins won't normally matter, but bridging 10 or more plugins definitely will waste CPU capacity. Bridging is automatic, you don't need to do anything special to make it happen, one reason to pay attention to what plugins you are using. The Wrapper Settings Tab will show if a plugin is bridged and its Bit version. NOTE: You can install both 32 and 64 Bit versions of a plugin, if available. Many older, free VST plugins you can find online, are only available in 32 Bit.
- Project compatibility - You can load projects made with FL Studio 32 Bit in FL Studio 64 Bit and vice versa. When you load a FL Studio 32 Bit project in FL Studio 64 Bit, all plugins are automatically loaded with 64 Bit versions, if the 64 Bit version exists. When loading 64 Bit projects in the FL Studio 32 Bit the reverse is also true, FL Studio will try to find 32 Bit versions of all plugins. If the bit-equivalent plugin is not available, then the bit-original plugin is loaded and bridged (see the point above).
- More Bit related information - Click here to see the FL Studio 32 vs 64 Bit FAQ online.
- VST GUI Scaling - High resolution monitors will shrink VST plugin interfaces. See the section on Rescaling VST Plugins to fix this. NOTE: Native plugins use a different scaling system, see here.
- VST plugin names - Unless you set the File Settings > Manage plugins > Verify plugins switch, FL Studio will perform a 'fast scan'. Fast scans only identify plugins by the name of the VST's .dll file (which is the VST plugin). If the plugin name is changed, either by you or the manufacturer, FL Studio won't find it when loading projects using the plugin. The Verify plugins option gathers unique identification codes for each plugin that allows FL Studio load plugins even if the file name has been changed. In addition, the Verify plugins scan identifies plugins as Generators (Instruments) or Effects, simplifying plugin management, so we strongly recommend you use the Verify plugins setting.
How to Install VST Plugins (Instruments & Effects)
- Install the plugin - Run the VSTs own installer OR for plugins without an installer, copy the files including the *.dll file to the appropriate Options > General > Manage plugins > Plugin search path. NOTE: When plugins have an installer they usually ask you to select the install location during the process. If you don't set a custom VST folder, the plugin will usually end up in one of the default VST locations. You can use the Plugin Manager to add any number of additional VST install and search locations as needed.
- Scan for installed plugins - After installing the VST plugin/s, we recommend the 'Options > Files > Manage plugins > Start scan + Verify plugins' option as this correctly sorts plugins into their Installed > Effects or Generators category. This is important as this ensures only the correct plugin types are shown at the various 'add plugin' locations in FL Studio. E.g. the Channel Rack > Menu > Add one option, Channel Rack + button and Main menu > Add option, FX slot menu etc. For example, 'Verify plugins' avoids effects showing as load-options in the Channel Rack and synthesizers showing as load-options in the Mixer FX slots.
Alternatively, if you know what you are doing, you can (Right-click) the Plugin database category (as shown above) and use the 'Refresh plugins list (fast scan)'. NOTE: The fast scan does not identify plugins as instruments (generator) or effects, so newly scanned plugins will show under BOTH 'Browser > Plugin database > Installed > Effects > New' and 'Browser > Plugin database > Installed > Generators > New'. This is provided for advanced users to later categorize plugins using the 'Favoriting' process as shown below.
- Making favorites - To categorize a plugin (generator/effect) and make it a 'favorite', available in the Plugin database, Plugin picker & Plugin list menus, open the Browser > Plugin database > Effects or Browser > Plugin database > Generators category to the sub-folder where you would like to add the plugin and select 'Add to plugin database (flag as favorite)' from the plugin wrapper menu (shown below). NOTES: 1. Alternatively you can 'favorite' plugins from a list using the Plugin manager tool OR anywhere you see the 'More plugins...' option in menus. Use this if you are not interested in creating plugin thumbnails. 2. The plugin database is a standard folder on your disk so feel free to reorganize and or create/delete categories using any file manager (right-click 'Plugin database' category in the Browser and select 'Open').
- Removing plugins from the database - From the database right-click it in the Browser and select 'Delete file...' from the pop-up menu. NOTE: This does not delete the plugin
from your disk, it only removes the database entry.
- Using the plugin - Now the plugin is installed and can be used as a standard FL Studio instrument or effect.
- Creating and managing VST 'favorite' lists - See here for creating and managing favorites. Favorite VST plugins will show in drop-down menus and the Plugin picker.
VST Plugin Default Locations
Things have gotten a little complex, there are three VST standards (1, 2 and 3) plus 32 and 64 bit formats. Fear not, FL Studio searches for VST plugins in a number of default locations,
in addition to the extra VST search folder, including:
VST 1 and 2 plugins:
- The '..Plugins\VST' in the FL Studio installation folder (32 Bit plugins).
- The '..\Program Files\Common Files\VST2' (64 Bit plugins on a 64 Bit Windows only).
- The folders set as the Extra search path in the Plugin manager (32 Bit plugins).
VST 3 plugins:
- The '..\Program Files\Common Files\VST3' & '..\Program Files\VST3' folders (32 Bit plugins on 32 Bit Windows OR 64 Bit plugins on 64 Bit Windows).
- The '..\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\VST3' & '..\Program Files (x86)\VST3' folders (32 Bit plugins on Win 64 Bit Windows).
Custom VST Folders:
- You can set your own custom VST folders from the Plugin manager.
NOTE: If you use the default installation location suggested by the installer you should have no problems.
VST plugins custom search folders
As noted above, you have the option of installing VST (1 & 2) plugins into a folder of your choice. If you want to create your own VST plugin folder you must set its location in the (F10) File Settings and open the Plugin Manager. This can be a good way of keeping your VST plugins in a location you frequently back up. You can install VST3 & or 64 bit plugins here but FL Studio won't display information about the plugin type. The plugins should still function correctly as the wrapper detects bit-depth and plugin type on loading. Generally allow VST 3 plugin installers to go to their default location and FL Studio will find them automatically.