Recommendations for using AU and VST plug-ins on Mac

AU vs VST

Live on Mac supports both the AU and VST 2 formats. Most plug-in manufacturers will usually offer their plug-ins in both formats. In Live's preferences you can enable or disable the AU and VST system folders, and additionally choose to use a custom folder for the VSTs. AU plug-ins cannot be stored in a custom folder.

Which format you choose to use is up to you, bearing in mind the following tips:

  • If sharing projects with Windows users, it's better to use VSTs. If the other user also has that plug-in installed they should be able to open the project with no issues. See our recommendations for transferring Live projects.
  • Some AU plug-ins may have different preset handling than the VST, or vice versa. See our article on AU preset handling.
  • AU plug-ins do not support a direct MIDI out. If you wish to route MIDI from a plug-in you need to use the VST version instead. See this article for info on how to access the MIDI outputs of a plug-in.
  • Avoid using the AU and VST versions of the same plug-in in a Live set. Mixing AU and VST versions of different plug-ins should not be a problem however.

Installation

Some plug-ins may install themselves using an installer, others may not need to be installed but just downloaded and moved to the correct folder. AU plug-ins will have the extension .component. VST plug-ins will have the extension .vst and each needs to be installed/moved to their respective folders.

The following System folders are the default installation folders for plug-ins on Mac:

Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/ (AU)
Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST/ (VST)

Certain plug-ins may install themselves to the <user> folder. This folder is hidden by default, here's how to access hidden folders.

Macintosh HD:/Users/[Your Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/ (AU)
Macintosh HD:/Users/[Your Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST/ (VST)

You can then choose to enable or disable the System Folders for AU and VST in Live's preferences on the File/Folder tab. In addition to the System Folders you can also set a custom folder for your VST's. Enable the option to "Use VST Plug-in Custom Folder" and click browse to choose the custom folder location.

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Troubleshooting

  • 32-bit plug-ins will not show up in the 64-bit version of Live, and vice versa. This is the most common reason that an installed plug-in will not show up in Live. This usually only affects older versions of plug-ins as most modern updated plug-ins install in both 32 and 64-bit compatibility mode. Conversely, more and more plug-ins are now only available in 64-bit mode (like Kontakt 5).
  • VST 3 is not supported on Live - only VST 2. However there may be an AU version of the plug-in available instead.
  • Always install the latest update of a plug-in to ensure optimal stability.
  • If Live crashes at launch after installing a VST, you can press and hold the alt/option key while the splash screen is shown when Live is launching. This will skip the VST scanning process and temporarily disable the VST folder. Note: AU Plug-ins are not scanned at launch and therefore cannot be bypassed. If an AU plug-in is causing a crash you should update or uninstall it temporarily and contact us with a status report to investigate.

Further Reading