Using AU and VST plug-ins on Mac

AU or VST?

Live on Mac supports both the Audio Unit (AU) and VST2 and VST3 (10.1 and higher) 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 VSTs. If the other user also has that plug-in installed they should be able to open the project. 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.

Installing plug-ins

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 have the extension .component. VST 2 and 3 plug-ins have the extension .vst and .vst3 respectively.

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 2)
  • Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3/ (VST 3)

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 2)
  • Macintosh HD:/Users/[Your Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3/ (VST)

You can then choose to enable or disable the System Folders for AU, VST2 and VST3 in Live's preferences under the Plug-ins tab.


Using a custom folder for VST plug-ins

If you prefer to use a custom (non-system) folder to store your VST plug-ins, you can set this in your preferences:

  1. Open Live's Preferences to the Plug-ins tab.
  2. Under "Plug-In Sources" select a custom VST2 or VST3 folder.
  3. Then switch "Use VST2/VST3 Plug-In Custom Folder" On.

Note: The custom folder needs to be a separate folder from the system folder. It's not possible to create a custom AU folder.

A plug-in doesn't appear in Live

See our dedicated article: VST/AU plug-in doesn't appear in Live.

A plug-in doesn't function correctly in Live

  • Check the manufacturer's website to verify that there's a compatible version for your Operating System.
  • Check the manufacturer's website and make sure you have installed the latest version of the plug-in. If necessary re-install the plug-in completely.

A plug-in crashes Live

  • If Live crashes at launch after installing a VST plug-in, you can press and hold the alt/option key while launching Live. 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.
  • If the crashes continue, contact support with any available crash reports.
  • Selecting a whole drive, a system folder or your entire hard drive as a custom plug-in folder location can cause Live to crash at launch.
  • Make sure that your plug-in folder only contains VST and AU files and no other file types.

Video Tutorial

You can find more information about third-party plug-ins in this video tutorial:

Further Reading