Are there any open-source alternatives to VST/AU/RTAS that work across multiple OSs and can be used in host-programs such as Ableton's Live that are either in development or fully functional?

  • Fixed the title. - Cross-platform plugins is something that is very rare, if not unavailable at all. Waves for instance creates plugins that run on OS X and Windows, but they use different builds for their plug-ins, i.e. you are not using the same plugin. So: could you please say something about why you are looking for these plug-ins?
    – Pelle ten Cate
    Commented Jan 3, 2011 at 9:44
  • Is it a problem that the API isn't "open source"? Do you have to pay license fees to use the API's, or? Commented Jan 3, 2011 at 11:26
  • @Lennart - the VST API isn't "open source", but you don't have to pay any license fees
    – Mark Heath
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:19
  • Well as long as it's published and can be used for free I don't see the problem. Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:30

6 Answers 6


Unfortunately, no. Programs like Ableton Live only host certain kinds of plugins. In the case of Live, these are VST and AU. So even if someone had come up with another format for plugins, your host program wouldn't be able to load them.


Audio Units is an API which is compatible with Open Source Software licenses. There can, in theory, be open source plugins released in AU format. In practice, there are not a lot of high quality ones available (that I know of), but here are some that I found:

Of course, AU is not cross platform, so maybe those won't work for you. VST and RTAS, on the other hand, seem to be incompatible with OSS licenses. :(

  • The fact that you can have open-source plugins in these formats is an excellent point. +1! Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 7:06
  • it is simply not true that VST plugins can't be OSS. the only issue is that you can't distribute the VST SDK. So to compile them you have to get your own copy of the SDK, which is not too hard to do.
    – Mark Heath
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:18

There are at least 2 open-source standards for audio plugins in the Linux world, LADSPA and its erstwhile successor LV2. They were designed for Linux, but at least LADSPA has been ported to Windows and Mac OS, and there are cross-platform hosts such as Audacity that support LADSPA plugins on all 3 platforms.

If you aren't stuck on a particular DAW platform (I don't think any of the commercial ones support LADSPA plugins), you might look into it. There are a lot of good free plugins for dynamics and EQ; the reverb options are limited but there are several good ones; and if you prefer "bang" over "bling" in your plugins you will find a very high bang/bling ratio in the open source world.


There are a many open source VST plugins. Many of these can be compiled cross-platform. Here's a few of them:

  • discoDSP Highlife Sampler (Bliss) is a commercial plugin now.
    – Rokit
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:16
  • Actually, this looks like the open source version, but there are no releases. It looks like you have to compile everything yourself: github.com/AlbertJean/highlife
    – Rokit
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:28

Your question does not specify if you want to distribute your work as open source or closed source.

The VST3 SDK allows distributing your plugin as opensource as long as you comply with the usage guidelines.

The Licensing section of the FAQ is pretty clear about what you can do.


Don't know if that is what you want, but it may be pertinent: Juce http://www.rawmaterialsoftware.com/juce.php which allows parallel development of plugins for AU, VST, RTAS... (if you already have VST, RTAS [...] SDKs).

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