Thursday, July 13, 2006
VST is a popular format for Virtual Synthesizer applications. The format was originally designed by Steinberg, the maker of Cubase. The format has become very popular and there are a wide variety of synthesizers (sometimes free): from classic analog emulations (Moog's, ARP's) to computer chiptunes (C64 SID, NES) to samplers, cell phone tones and much much more. The shere variety and innovation is pretty spectacular, even among the free ones.
This format was previously limited to Windows and Mac users. Indeed, the format goes somewhat against the philosophy of opensource and free software. Richard Stallman, "the" free software advocate, would probably not like you using VST's.
However, unless you're really adamant about that sort of thing, you probably just want to use cool software in Linux. Yes, you might lose some of your freedom (freedom to the source code, to make modifications, etc.), but there are some excellent synths out there (QuadraSID, for example).
There are currently several methods for using VST's under Linux. Before getting started, as with any Linux audio app, you may want to have realtime patches for your kernel that allow the synth to run with maximum performance (I'll cover this on a later post).
You will probably find that VST support does not come standard with most Linux distributions. This is because the source headers from Steinberg are necessary for this and they are not free/open source, though you can download them freely. You will need to get them before you can use any of these methods (probably).
This program, once compiled and running, must first have "lashd" setup and running. Once this is accomplished, a synth can be loaded like: fst filename.dll
Once installed and running, use this: vsthost filename.dll
Compile your software with VST Support
LMMS supports this and Ardour has this feature upcoming in Version 2.0.
There are varying degrees of compatibilty between the three methods. Try all of them for the method that works best with your synth. Note that if you can't get your VST's working, or you just don't want to use them, all is not lost! There are a number of great Linux open source synths available that we'll be taking a look at soon!
Links to some of the Great Free VST's pictured above:
Arppe2600 (ARP 2600 Clone, works in Linux) Here
Syntendo (NES Sound Chip Clone, works in Linux) Here
* Not Free * Wavesphere (Part of the SynthStudio pack - VERY affordable!)