Using AU and VST plug-ins on macOS

On macOS, Ableton Live supports Audio Unit (AU), VST2, and VST3 plug-in formats. As of Live 11.3, AUv3 and AUv2 are both supported. AUv3 is not supported on macOS 10.13 - 10.14.

AU or VST?

Which plug-in 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 Live 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.
  • To learn more about available formats and features of a specific third-party plug-in, check the support pages for the developer of the device. 

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

VST-Devices-macOS.gif

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.

Plug-InSources.png

6. Activate the Audio Units folders, and/or VST2/VST3 folders as needed. 

7. If you've installed a plug-in and configured your Preferences as needed but a device is still missing in Live, see our dedicated articles: VST/AU plug-in doesn't appear in Live and Plug-ins Tips and Troubleshooting.

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: