Using AU and VST plug-ins on macOS

Ableton Live supports Audio Unit (AU), VST2, and VST3 plug-in formats on macOS. For plug-ins on Windows, see our guide to using VST plug-ins on Windows.

  • As of Live 11.3, AUv3 and AUv2 are both supported.
  • AUv3 is not supported on macOS 10.13 - 10.14.

AU vs. VST
How to install AU or VST plug-ins on macOS
VST Custom Folders
How to activate plug-ins in Live
Apple Silicon compatibility

AU vs. VST

The plug-in format you choose, whether AU, VST2, or VST3, is a matter of preference. There is no "correct" format for Live; for the best performance, make sure plug-ins of all formats are up to date and correctly installed. To learn about available formats and features of a specific plug-in, check the developer's website. Here is a comparison of some of the differences:

Direct MIDI Output no yes yes
Cross platform macOS only macOS or Win macOS or Win
Waves supported in Live no yes recommended
Presets menu in Live device no yes no
File type .component .vst .vst3


Cross-platform compatibility: AU plug-ins are not compatible with Windows. When sharing projects between macOS and Windows computers, use VST. Make sure both computers have the same version of the plug-in installed. See our recommendations for transferring Live projects.

Presets: Some AU plug-ins may have different preset handling than the VST versions. Learn more about AU preset handling.

Midi output: AU plug-ins do not support direct MIDI out. To route MIDI from a plug-in, use the VST version. Learn more about how to access the MIDI outputs of a plug-in.

Note: For each plug-in, use the same format for all instances within the same Set. Avoid mixing different formats (AU, VST, VST3) of the same plug-in in one Set.

How to install VST or AU plug-ins on macOS

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

2. Most plug-ins will be installed automatically to the default system folders, listed below. Some devices may need to be moved to the correct folder after installation.

  • AU: Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/ 
  • VST2: Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST/ 
  • VST3: Macintosh HD:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3/ 


3. Certain plug-ins may instead install themselves to the Library within your macOS User folder, which is hidden by default. Visit this guide to learn how to access hidden folders. If you don't see a plug-in file in the system folders listed above, you can look in the following folders:

  • AU: Macintosh HD:/Users/[Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/ 
  • VST2: Macintosh HD:/Users/[Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST/ 
  • VST3: Macintosh HD:/Users/[Username]/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3/ 

VST Custom Folders

If you prefer, you can install VST2 and/or VST3 plug-ins to custom locations, with the following limitations:

  • Installing plug-ins to your system drive (internal hard drive) is recommended.
  • VST2 and VST3 plug-ins must be installed in separate, dedicated folders. Do not install different plug-in formats inside the same folder
  • Do not set the same Custom Folder for both VST2 and VST3 devices.
  • Do not select your VST2 or VST3 System Folder (listed above) as a Custom Folder.

How to activate plug-ins in Live

  1. After installing the plug-in, launch Live.
  2. Open Live's Preferences → Plug-Ins (Live 10.1 and later) or File / Folder (Live 10.1 and earlier)
  3. Activate Plug-In Sources for Audio Units, VST2, and/or VST3, as needed:


Apple Silicon compatibility

As of Live 11.1, on Apple Silicon computers the Universal build of Live only recognizes VST2 and VST3 plug-ins natively compiled for Apple Silicon. Certain Audio Units devices also include Intel-compiled processes that require running Live via Rosetta 2. Check the developer's website for compatibility of specific plug-ins. For more details, visit Plug-ins on Mac in Live 11.1 and above.


If you've installed and configured a plug-in as recommended but it doesn't appear in Live's Browser, check that it's up to date and supported in your version of Live and operating system.

To troubleshoot further, please follow the steps in these guides, which solve most plug-in issues:

To start Live with plug-ins scanning temporarily de-activated, hold down the [ALT/OPTION] key while launching Live.

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: