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 matter, but bridging 10 or more plugins definitely will waste a lot of CPU. Bridging is automatic, you don't need to do anything special to make it happen, one reason you should keep an eye on it. The Wrapper Settings Tab will show if a plugin is bridged and its Bit version. NOTE: It's usually possible to install both 32 and 64 Bit versions of a plugin if they are available. Many older, free VST plugins you can find online, will only be 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 > Deep / slow scan 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 Deep / slow scan gathers unique identification codes for each plugin that allows FL Studio load plugins even if the file name has been changed. In addition, the Deep / slow scan identifies plugins as Generators (Instruments) or Effects, simplifying plugin management, so we strongly recommend you use the Deep Scan 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 your Options > General
> VST plugins extra search folder. NOTE: When plugins have an installer you can choose to use the default installation folder
or to install to your VST plugins extra search folder. VST installers usually ask you to select the install location during the process. If you don't
set a custom VST folder, FL Studio will usually find the default VST location.
You can also set an unlimited number of additional VST search locations using the 'Refresh plugin list > Deep/slow scan > FL Studio VST scan tool > Add path.
- Scan for installed plugins - After installing the VST plugin, use the 'Browser menu > Tools > Refresh plugin list' option OR click Options > General > Refresh plugin list
(as shown above). Plugins found in the default VST folder locations and your optional VST plugins extra search folder,
are added to the Browser > Plugin database > Installed. The default 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'. You can categorize them with the 'Favorite' process as shown
below. Alternatively you can run the Deep / slow scan that will categorize your plugins.
- 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 to the category and folder where you would like it to be placed and select 'Add to plugin database (flag as favorite)' from the plugin wrapper menu, as shown below. NOTES: 1. Alternatively you can 'favorite' plugins from a list using the FL Studio Plugin Scanner tool, if you are not interested in creating plugin thumbnails. 2. The plugin database is a standard folder on your disk. Feel free to reorganize and or create/delete categories using any file manager (right-click 'Plugin database' 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 folder set as the Extra search path in the File settings window (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 VST plugins extra search folder AND OR
- Set an unlimited number of additional search locations using the 'Refresh plugin list > Deep/slow scan > FL Studio VST scan tool > Add path.
NOTE: If you use the default installation location suggested by the installer you should have no problems.
VST plugins extra search folder
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 VST plugins extra search folder field. 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.