Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Plug-ins

7. Basics

Most plug-ins are designed to run within a host program such as an audio editor or other music production software, and cannot be run as standalone programs.

Multiple effects plug-ins can normally be run simultaneously by a host program, and most plug-ins support multiple ‘instantiations’ (the same plug-in being used on more than one track with different settings) - the limiting factor is usually only the speed of the computer.

Plug-ins communicate with their host programs by utilising one or more software interfaces conforming to standards created by the host software developers. Amongst the most well-known companies, Steinberg invented the VST (Virtual Studio Technology) interface for use in its line of products such as Nuendo and Cubase, whereas Apple came up with the AU (Audio Units) format, and Digidesign use both RTAS and TDM depending on whether the processing is being done by the computer’s CPU, or by DSP chips on one of their interface cards. Make sure that any plug-in you buy supports the correct format, as some products are not cross-platform compatible.

Digital reproduction of Universal Audio’s famous 1176 compressor

The scalable nature of plug-ins can demand a great deal from your DAW - if you’re planning on running many plug-ins simultaneously, you may want to consider taking the load off your processor by adding a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) device. Connected via FireWire, USB or fitted internally in a PCI slot, a DSP card uses its own processing power to take the strain off your CPU, and also frees up RAM. Most DSP devices are manufactured by plug-in producers - the TC Electronic Powercore and Universal Audio UAD-1 for example - and as such often come bundled with several plug-ins. Be aware though that DSP cards all use proprietary formats, and so can only use plug-ins that have been specially written for them, rather than for some of the more common standards mentioned above.

Although some plug-ins offer frighteningly accurate representations of their hardware relatives, for the purist there will always be slight sonic differences which means that plug-ins are unlikely to completely replace their hardware relatives in the near future. Interestingly, the release of a new plug-in ‘reproduction’, often causes a revival of the old classic, and in some cases the original hardware versions have even gone back into production.

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Plug-ins overview

Line6 Helix HX Effects Epiphone Joe Bonamassa 1958 "Amos" Fender SQ Jaguar Special SS IL CAR Zoom F1-LP Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB Warm Audio WA73-EQ Presonus Faderport 16 Bose QC 35 II Wireless BK Yamaha DXS15 MKII Palmer PWT 12 MK 2 Zoom F1-SP Fun Generation PL 15 Sub A
Line6 Helix HX Effects

Multi effect pedal More than 100 HX effects, Of which up to 9 effects can be used simultaneously, Import of own Impulse Responses (IRS), Parallel stereo signal paths, Inputs can be switched between line / instrument level, Two assignable...

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Epiphone Joe Bonamassa 1958 "Amos"

Electric Guitar Joe Bonamassa model, Body and neck: Korina, Fretboard: Certified blackwood, Neck profile: 1958 Rounded C, 22 Medium jumbo frets, Pickups: Epiphone Probucker 2 (neck) and Epiphone Probucker 3 (bridge), Lock Tone ABR-1 Tuneomatic bridge, Including case, certificate,...

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Fender SQ Jaguar Special SS IL CAR

Electric Bass Body: Agathis, Neck: Maple, Fretboard: Indian Laurel (Laurel), Neck profile: C, 20 Frets, Scale: 762 mm (30"/ Short Scale), Nut width 38 mm, Pickups: 1 J-Style and 1 Split single coil, Black 3-ply pickguard, Colour: Candy Apple...

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Zoom F1-LP

Field Recorder and Lavalier Microphone Set Two-channel audio recorder, Compatible with zoom microphone capsules, Supports WAV formats up to 24bit / 96kHz or MP3 formats on microSD / microSDHC card (up to 32GB), USB audio interface for PC and...

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Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB

USB 2.0 audio interface 24-bit / 192 kHz, 18 inputs and 20 outputs, 8 Clarett mic preamps with Air mode model and the classic ISA mic preamp sound, Low noise (-128dB ON), Up to 118 dB dynamic range, Switchable...

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Warm Audio WA73-EQ

Warm Audio WA73-EQ; 1-channel Mic-Preamp; British 1073-style; fully discrete Class A; Carnhill Transformers; 80dB of Gain (stepped gain switch); Tone Button (changes input transformer impedance); Polarity switch; +48v phantom power; Inductor based 3 band EQ: Low Band Boost/Cut (35, 60,...

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Presonus Faderport 16

16-Channel DAW Production Controller 16 Professional, touch-sensitive 100 mm motor faders (Dual-Servo Drive Belt), High fader resolution: 10 Bits/1,024 steps, 85 Background and status illuminated buttons, 104 Controllable functions, 16 High-resolution LC displays as digital labeling fields, Timecode and...

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Bose QC 35 II Wireless BK

Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II Wireless Black Noise Cancelling headphone - Acoustic Noise Cancelling, around-ear design, swiveling ear cups, volume optimized EQ, Google Assistant, up to 20 h running time, includes audio cable, USB charging cable and etui, colour: black

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Yamaha DXS15 MKII

Active Subwoofer Equipped with: 1x 15" woofer, 1020 Watt Class-D power amp, Frequency range: 40 - 150 Hz, Maximum output level: 135 dB, Black plywood housing with speaker grille that protects entire front and the front edges, XLR inputs/outputs,...

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Palmer PWT 12 MK 2

Multi power supply for effect pedals 4 Outputs - adjustable from 9 to 18V, 2 Can be interconnected with the supplied Y-cable and deliver up to 36 V output voltage, The maximum capacity of the 9 V outputs is...

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Zoom F1-SP

Field Recorder and Shotgun Microphone Two-channel audio recorder, Compatible with zoom microphone capsules, Supports WAV formats up to 24bit / 96kHz or MP3 formats on microSD / microSDHC card (up to 32GB), USB audio interface for PC and Mac...

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Fun Generation PL 15 Sub A

Active subwoofer Speaker assembly: 15" woofer, Power: 250 W RMS / 1000 W peak, Max. SPL: 125 dB, Frequency range: 40 - 250 Hz, Adjustable low-pass filter from 40 - 150 Hz, Inputs: XLR (L + R), XLR (L...

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