In Depth: Audio Plugins and Formats for Video Professionals

In Depth: Audio Plugins and Formats for Video Professionals

You may think of Toolfarm as a place for just visual effects plug-ins and video tools, but we also know a bit about audio plugins. Did you know that many NLEs support audio plug-ins? This is a guide that explains the difference between Native and DSP-based audio plug-ins. Find out which format works with your system, whether you’re using ProTools, Cubase, Media Composer, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Vegas or Final Cut Pro X.

Updated: November 2021 with a total overhaul!


When I was at the University, I received a BA in Communication, with a major in Film & Video and a minor in Audio Production. Those audio production classes were a lot of fun, especially the MIDI class I took where we learned Cakewalk.

Although I don’t do a lot of audio production these days, my husband does. He has a pretty impressive home studio and is a musician in his own right. He’s on Spotify and a bunch of other music sites, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s more of a songwriter than a singer.  See photos of his studio

I often have a need in my video work to fix audio. I’ve had to time stretch audio to fit the length of the video. How is that done without shifting the pitch? I’m sure you’ve had to remove buzz or echo from your audio. Once I had to remove a squawking bird that was in the background of some training I was editing. I ended up taking the video into Adobe Audition to remove the squawking and buzz, but, if you don’t want to use a full-blown audio production tool, some of these plugins will work in your NLE.

The vast array of audio plugins available is mind-blowing, and they come with all sorts of formats that you may not be familiar with if you mainly work with video. Toolfarm carries a number of audio tools and plugins and our selections are growing every day. Many of the plugins support multiple formats, so it gets a bit confusing. Native, AAX, AU, RTAS, TDM, and VST… what do all of these acronyms mean?  Let’s break it down simply!

Native Format vs. DSP-based Audio Plugins

First, lets split these into two categories: Native Format vs. DSP-based Plugins

Native plugins work with the computer’s CPU. In other words, they do not require any special dedicated hardware, such as DSP chips. Native plugins are mainly programmed with C++, making them usable over multiple platforms. There are a lot of native plugins on the market and are available for free. The downside: If you have a lot of plugins running at once, like with any NLE, your computer will start to slow down, and may grind to a halt.

DSP-based plugins rely on DSP chips, or Digital Signal Processor chips, which are third-party cards, which can get pretty expensive. Plugins for DSP-based systems are also more expensive, however, users love the quality. If you have a DSP system, Native plugins still work. Some systems even allow users to switch back and forth between the DSP and Native versions of the same plugin. Avid published an article in 2020 that explains more about DSP setups.



This is the new Avid Audio eXtension plugin format for ProTools, available for both native and DSP-based ProTools systems.

  • AAX DSP – DSP-accelerated 32-bit plugin platform for Pro Tools|HDX systems running Pro Tools HD 10 software
  • AAX DSP 64  – Latest DSP-accelerated 64-bit plugin platform for Pro Tools|HDX systems running Pro Tools HD 11 software
  • AAX Native/AAX AudioSuite – Native 32-bit plugin platform for host-based systems running Pro Tools 10, Pro Tools HD 10, or Pro Tools Express
  • AAX Native 64 – Latest native 64-bit plugin platform for host-based systems running Pro Tools 11 or Pro Tools HD 11

AAX Plugins are supported in Pro Tools|HDX and host-based systems running Pro Tools 10, Pro Tools HD 10, or Pro Tools Express.

VSTVST – Native

VST (Virtual Studio Technology) is a native framework that was developed by Steinberg. The plugins come in three types: VST Instruments, VST effects, and VST MIDI effects.  VST 3.5, which came out in 2011, is the current version. The majority of plugins are Windows only due to competing Audio Unit, which is built into the Mac OS.

Some VST Host Support VST Compatible plugins
  • Nuendo

RTASRTAS/Real Time AudioSuite

RTAS is a DSP-Based Format and stands for Real-Time AudioSuite. It was developed by Digidesign, which was acquired by Avid in 1994. As of April 2013, it is now obsolete but supports ProTools up to version 10.

RTAS plugins are supported in Pro Tools, Pro Tools HD, Pro Tools Express, Pro Tools MP, Media Composer, Symphony, and NewsCutter software.


TDM is a DSP-Based Format. Apple has a Logic Pro 9 TDM guide that you can view to learn more about the standard.


Apple Audio UnitsAU – Apple’s Audio Units

Audio Units is a proprietary audio format that is part of the Core Audio architecture of the Mac OS. AU is used by Apple software such as Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, Soundtrack Pro and others.

Direct X

DirectX plugin

A processing component for audio creation from Microsoft and is available for Windows only.

Hosts that support DirectX include ACID Pro, Adobe Audition, Sony Vegas, Sound Forge, Cakewalk Sonar, Wavelab, Nuendo and Cubase, and others.


Waves SoundgridWaves SoundGrid

SoundGrid was developed by Waves. A SoundGrid System requires a server, a Mac or Windows computer, and an I/O. SoundGrid can only use SoundGrid compatible plugins, which tend to cost a lot more than native plugins. SoundGrid supported platforms include Avid TDM, Avid Venu, and MultiRack SoundGrid.

Audio plugins in your Video NLE

Did you know that several plugins that work in audio programs like Pro Tools are also compatible with Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, and Magix Vegas? It’s a fact, Jack.

Final Cut Pro X Plugins

Waves have several plugins that work in Final Cut Pro X

iZotope RX works in FCP X. The video below is for iZotope RX2 Audio Noise Reduction in FCP X but it all still applies.

SmartSound Sonicfire Pro for Final Cut Pro X – SmartSound provides Final Cut Pro users with thousands of music selections that can be automatically edited to fit any length of media and dropped into your Final Cut Pro timeline in THREE simple and easy steps. Below is an older video but it shows the same process.

Zynaptiq Unveil is close to magic – 3rd-Party Plugins for Final Cut Pro X (webinar preview) with Larry Jordan

Adobe Plug-ins

iZotope – The video below is the first look at iZotope RX3, which works in Premiere Pro.

SmartSound Sonicfire Pro for Premiere Pro – When you install SmartSound’s plugin for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.x, 6.0, CC you can quickly access a soundtrack that is customized to your needs. See the video under After Effects plugins.

SmartSound Sonicfire Pro for After Effects – SmartSound’s entire library of quality royalty free music now seamlessly integrates with Adobe After Effects. Take your motion graphics project to a whole new level with this Sonicfire Pro plugin. The video below is for Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6, but it works the same in CC.

Avid Media Composer

Several iZotope plugins work in Media Composer.

Many Waves plugins also work in Media Composer.

SmartSound Sonicfire Pro for Avid / Pinnacle Studio – Avid’s Pinnacle Studio v15 users can enjoy unmatched music soundtrack control right inside their video editing software with the new Pinnacle Studio v15 Plugin for Sonicfire Pro. Sonicfire Pro and Studio work together to create Hollywood quality soundtracks on an Indie budget. Upgrade today!

Magix Vegas Plugins

How to use VST Plugins in Sony Vegas

Some iZotope Products work in Vegas.

Many Waves plugins also work in Vegas.

Sound Effects and Music

Just a quick pitch for an often overlooked section of our site. Check out our Stock Media section for Sound Effects and Music Libraries from Sonic Reality, LME, and Video Copilot!


There are plenty of options out there for any video editor working with audio. Hopefully, this article opened up a whole new world to you. If you are in need of an audio plugin that works in your NLE, there may be something available to suit your need. Feel free to contact us with questions!

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Posted by Michele Yamazaki