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More about NetVSTHost

The NetVSTHost program is based on an older, open-source version of Hermann Seib's excellent and popular free Windows VST Host program, VSTHost. As such, it has some of that program's nice features, but not all of them. Unlike the full VSTHost:

  • NetVSTHost only handles VST2 plugins, not the newer VST3 standard
  • You can't mix and match 32-bit and 64-bit plugins in a single NetVSTHost instance.

Once you have configured your network IP address and port number in the Network Parameters dialog, NetVSTHost will save them in the Windows Registry and come up ready to receive network connections each time you start it. (Unless there is a network error, e.g., if you removed a network adapter. Just open the Network Parameters dialog again and re-configure, and you should be good to go.)

Adding a plugin

NetVSTHost can open any number of VST plugins at once. To add a plugin, do one of the following:

  • Click on the “page” icon just below the File menu.
  • Open the File menu and select *New Effect…“
  • Type CTRL+N on the PC keyboard

All three of these will have the same effect, which is to open a standard Windows file-selection dialog. Here you have to navigate to wherever your desired plugin .DLL file is located, select it by clicking on it, and then click the Open button.

  • There appears to be no standard location for VST plugins under Windows. If you use a Windows DAW, it may have its own preferred location.
  • C:\Program Files\Vstplugins is commonly used. On 32-bit Windows systems, this will contain 32-bit VST plugins. On 64-bit systems, this would contain only 64-bit VSTs; 32-bit VSTs would go in C:\Program Files (x86)\Vstplugins instead.

Once you select a VST plugin and open it, a small window will appear, with some information about the plugin. For example, here is the description window for TubeOhm's T-FM synthesizer VST:

The Audio/Network switch (loudspeaker icon) lets you switch between sending sound to the computer's own audio output or across the network. For network operation, this button should NOT be pushed in.

Once you have opened at least one plugin (effect or synth), several of the buttons on the NetVSTHost toolbar will appear, and you can use them as shown below.

Chaining VSTs

As soon as you open more than one VST, you need to define how they are to be “chained” together, so audio flows from one into the next. Suppose you open one synth plugin and one effect plugin, e.g. a delay or reverb. By default, both plugins are set up to accept input from the network (this does not make sense for synths, and you may hear a nasty noise) and send their output back to the network. Conceptually, they are connected in parallel like this:

To rearrange this parallel structure into a chain, where the effect follows the synth, do the following:

  1. Select the information window for the effect by clicking on it (its title bar will become highlighted), or by selecting it from the Window menu.
  2. From the Effect menu, select Chain After…. A small dialog will appear, containing a list of all of the VST plugins you have opened, except for the selected effect. Click on the one you want your effect to follow in the signal chain.

Now your two plugins will be arranged in series, like this:

Note that NetVSTHost's internal mixer is still present, even though it now only has one input. This is the key to how you can stack multiple signal chains, e.g. to play two synth VSTs at once. If you now open a second synth VST, it will initially be set up in its own one-element “chain” in parallel with the one you just made:

If you want, you could then chain additional effect plugins after this one.

Synthesizer vs. Effect plugins

The diagrams and discussion above concentrated on synthesizers, and in this respect the diagrams are a little misleading. The words “PCM audio from network” should really be “MIDI event data from network”, because synthesizers accept MIDI events and produce audio. Effect plugins, in contrast, accept unprocessed audio and produce processed audio.

When you have configured your system of VST chains to act like a synthesizer, use the NetSynth plugin in your regular DAW to access it. As long as you configure NetSynth with the same IP address and port number as the NetVSTHost instance containing your chain, you should be able to send out MIDI and hear/record the resulting sound.

When you set up a system of VST chains to act like one large effect, taking in audio and returning processed audio, use the NetFilter plugin in your DAW. As with NetSynth, you must configure NetFilter with the same IP address and port number as the NetVSTHost instance containing your effect chain.

Using multiple NetVSTHost instances on one PC

Each running instance of NetVSTHost has one input and one output (both stereo). If you need a more complex arrangement, you can simply run NetVSTHost more than once, making sure to set up each one with a different port number. (You will normally use the same IP address for all of them, when all are on the same PC.)

Another use of multiple instances would be to run one 32-bit NetVSTHost instance containing 32-bit VST plugins, side by side with a 64-bit instance containing 64-bit plugins.

Using multiple PCs

If you have more than one PC on your NetVST network, you can run NetVSTHost on each of them. In this case, each PC will have a distinct IP address, and you need only assign distinct port numbers if you run more than one NetVSTHost instance on any one PC.

The main reason to want to do this is to gain access to additional CPU power. If you have, say, two different synthesizer VSTs, each of which is a real CPU hog, then if you have the necessary hardware you could run each one on its own PC, and perhaps run your DAW on a third computer.

Using Virtual PCs on a Macintosh

See next section for a simpler approach.

Virtual PC software such as VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop allows running an instance of Microsoft Windows as an application program on your Mac. These systems install a virtual local-area network (VLAN) on your Mac, in which each virtual PC, and your Mac itself, appear to have a separate network adapter, all connected by a virtual network hub.

It's perfectly possible for you to run NetVSTHost on a virtual PC on your Mac, in order to use Windows-only VST plugins from within your Mac DAW, without having to use a separate PC or a physical network at all. Since your virtual PC program itself uses up some of your CPU power and memory, this is not quite as efficient as running with a separate PC, but it works fairly well if you only need to use one or a few VST plugins at a time.

Each virtual PC program has its own way of setting up VLANs, so you may have to consult your system's documentation to really understand what's going on. With VMWare Fusion, for example, each VLAN will have its own distinct range of IP addresses, of the form “192.168.X.Y” where X and Y are numbers less than 255. All nodes on the network (all virtual PCs plus your Mac) will be assigned the same value of X and different values of Y.

Using NetVSTHost for Macintosh

The new Mac NetVSTHost app provides a simpler and cleaner way to run Windows-only VSTs on a Mac.

Virtualization solutions like VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop eat up a lot of RAM and CPU power, because they have to run a full Windows operating system as well as NetVSTHost.exe. The Mac version of NetVSTHost uses Wine to implement only a few of the most critical parts of Windows, which is more efficient.

Some VST plugins might require additional Windows components (DLLs) which are not included in the Mac NetVSTHost app bundle, and hence might fail to load, or might not run correctly. In such cases, a full virtualization solution (or using a separate PC) may be your only choice.

Running NetVSTHost on the same Mac as your DAW is a way to use Windows-only VST plugins inside a Mac DAW like Logic Pro X, but using a separate Windows PC is a better way, for two reasons:

  1. Running under a full Windows installation means your plugins will always work
  2. Running plugins on a separate PC reduces the CPU and memory load on your DAW machine (in this case, your Mac)
more_about_netvsthost.txt · Last modified: 2017/12/12 20:34 by shane