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How to install VSTs for TouchDesigner

One of the most exciting new features introduced in the latest experimental version of TouchDesigner is the native support of VST plugins. With so many plugins out there, there’s a vast amount of audio tools that can be experimented with, without having to use any external software! If you’re new to audio production or haven’t worked with VSTs before, you may be wondering what to do with the files once you’ve downloaded them. You also might have noticed that some files come with an installer and some do not.

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of installing VST3s, including where they should be installed and differences in installation procedure. Finally, we’ll actually walk through the process of installing the same VST3 plugin on Mac and Windows.

Plugin Support

One thing to note before we get started is that at this point, TouchDesigner only provides native support for VST3 plugins. There are a lot of great VST3 plugins out there, but not every plugin you run across will have a VST3 version available.

You might think this would leave a lot of plugins totally unusable within TouchDesigner, but as Elburz pointed out in the previous post Best Free VSTs for TouchDesigner, it is possible to use a plugin host such as Unify to enable the use of VST2 plugins. Although not free, Unify (Standard Edition) allows you to run VST3 and VST2 plugins side by side. For a project that calls for an unsupported plugin, this might be worth checking out.

VST3 Plugin Installation Path

VST3 plugins have a dedicated installation path, which makes it a lot easier to keep track of your plugin collection on your computer. The installation path is different depending on your operating system.

On macOS, VST3 plugins will be installed to: /Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST3

On Windows, VST3 plugins will be installed to: C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3

Installer (Sometimes) Included

Depending on the plugin and your operating system, the installation process can be different. Some plugins, regardless of operating system, will come with an installer that makes the process very straightforward — it will automatically move all of the plugin files to the installation path. In other cases, you will have to manually move the files to the installation folder yourself. If this is your first time installing a plugin, you may have to create the VST3 installation folder as well. These aren’t very difficult tasks, but it’s important to note that the process doesn’t always look the same between plugins and platforms.

Walkthrough: Installing Bucket Pops VST

For this example we’re going to use Bucket Pops, a plugin created by Full Bucket Music (who have a number of great free VST plugins – but only a few in the VST3 format). Bucket Pops is a cool recreation of a vintage drum machine from the 1960s. It’s also free, compatible with Mac and PC, and available in the VST3 format required for TouchDesigner.

Head to the Bucket Pops webpage by clicking this link: https://www.fullbucket.de/music/bucketpops.html. You should see the page in the image below.

From here the steps differ depending on your operating system. We’ll cover the steps for macOS first and then Windows.

Installing Bucket Pops on macOS

From the list of download options, select Download the Bucket Pops macOS VST2/VST3/AU Version 1.1.0 (PKG file). This will download a PKG installer file, which makes things pretty easy — it will automatically move the VST3 file to the correct location (which as we looked at above, is /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST3).

Once downloaded, open Finder and head to the Downloads folder. Right click on bucketpops_1_1_0_mac.pkg and click Open. This should open the Bucket Pops installer.

Next, you’ll click through a couple of pages (agreeing to terms and conditions, etc.). You’ll have the option to choose the install location, which should be the drive that macOS is installed on (usually called Macintosh HD by default). For most users, you can leave this at the default setting.

After choosing the destination, you’ll have the ability to choose the installation type. In this case, we don’t need the Audio Unit or VST2 version of the plugin, so you can deselect those two options. One thing to note here is that some installers don’t have the VST3 installation enabled by default, so it’s important to make sure you do have the VST3 option enabled.

After hitting continue a few more times and entering your password, the plugin should install and you should see the installation successful window below. Installation complete!

If you were to then check the VST3 installation folder (/Library/Audio/Plug-ins/VST3) you should see the BucketPops.vst3 file.

If you ever run into a VST3 plugin that doesn’t include an installer file, the process is as simple as dragging the .VST3 file into the above folder. If you don’t see the VST3 folder within /Library/Audio/Plug-ins/, you’ll need to create it first.

Installing Bucket Pops on Windows

From the list of download options, select Download the Bucket Pops Windows 10 VST2/VST3 Version 1.1.0 (ZIP file), which downloads a ZIP file. Unlike the Mac version, no installer is included. In this case, we’ll have to manually move the VST3 file to the correct location.

Before we unzip the plugin, we need to make sure that we actually have the destination folder created. Open Windows Explorer, head to C:\Program Files\Common Files\ and create a new folder with the title VST3.

Now that we’ve got the VST3 installation path set up, open the ZIP file we just downloaded with your favorite file archiving software. In this case, I used Windows Explorer.

Within the bucketpops_1_1_0 folder, find the file called bucketpops.vst3 and extract it to the C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3 folder we just created. Once you’ve done this, the Bucket Pops installation is complete!

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One Last Step: Opening the Plugin in TouchDesigner

Now that we’ve got Bucket Pops installed, it’s worth double checking that the plugin opens correctly in TouchDesigner.

Disclaimer: VST3 support is still in the experimental stage, so not every plugin may function correctly on your system (including Bucket Pops). macOS users might experience some trouble loading Bucket Pops. The VST Plugin Testing blog article on Derivative’s website can help give you an idea of what plugins have been tested and confirmed to work.

Start by opening TouchDesigner. Once the program is open, add an Audio VST CHOP to the network and click the plus button next to the File parameter. This should open a file browser window with the system’s VST3 dedicated installation folder open by default. Select bucketpops.vst3 and click Open.

Back in the Audio VST parameter window, click the Show button next to the Display Plugin GUI parameter title. You should now see the Bucket Pops interface in a separate window. Now that we’ve confirmed it has been correctly installed, you’re ready to hook up an Audio Device Out CHOP and start experimenting!

Wrap Up

With the addition of VST support in the latest experimental version of TouchDesigner, there’s a huge amount of audio tools that can be explored. For new users, getting VSTs installed can seem a bit confusing. If you’re just getting started in the world of audio, these tips should get you up and running with VST3 plugins in TouchDesigner quickly and easily!