Using AU and VST plug-ins on Mac

  • Live Versions: All
  • Operating System: macOS

AU or VST?

Live on Mac supports both the Audio Unit (AU) and VST2 and VST3 (10.1 and later) formats. 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 VST. The VST format is cross platform. Provided the other user is using the same version of the plug-in, they'll be able to open the set and the plug-ins will be available. 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 different plugin formats (AU, VST, VST3) of the same plug-in in a Live set.

How to install VST or AU plug-ins on Mac

When used on an Apple Silicon computer, the Universal build of Live 11.1 and above only recognises VST2 and VST3 plug-ins natively compiled for Apple Silicon. Please note that some specific AU involve Intel-compiled processes, and that these will require Live to be run as an intel application via Rosetta 2. You can find more information here.

Note: Make sure that your plug-in folders do no contain any other files than the plug-ins with their respective extensions (.au, .vst, .vst3)

1. Download the latest installer file from the plug-in manufacturer's website and run it.

2. Most plug-ins will install themselves to the default system folders, others might simply need to be moved to the correct folder. Here are the default system folders:

  • Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/ (AU .component file extension)
  • Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST/ (VST 2 .vst file extension)
  • Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3/ (VST 3 .vst3 file extension)


Certain plug-ins may instead install themselves to the Library within the <user> folder, which 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 2)
  • Macintosh HD:/Users/[Your Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3/ (VST 3)

3. You can instead install your plug-ins to a custom folder if you prefer (VST 2 and VST 3 only)

4. Once installed, launch Live.

5. Open Live's Preferences → Plug-ins (Live 10.1 and later)/File Folder (all Live versions until 10.1) → Plug-In Sources.


6. Activate the Audio units folder, and/or VST2/VST3 folders as required. 

7. If you've installed the plug-in correctly but it's still not appearing in Live, see our dedicated article: VST/AU plug-in doesn't appear in Live.

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: