Plugin format acronyms can generally be confusing, with the most common being VST, AU, and AAX.
AAX is Avid’s own audio plugin format and is a successor to their previous “Real Time AudioSuite” (RTAS) plugin standard. If you’re a Pro Tools user, you probably already use these plugins without realizing.
In this article, we’ll explain what AAX plugins are and what makes them different to other plugin formats like VST and AU.
AAX (Avid Audio eXtension) is a plug-in format developed by Avid technologies in 2011, the company behind Pro Tools.
AAX is Avid’s own plugin format for use in Pro Tools and other Avid media software. AAX plugins can be instruments or effects, just like AU or VST plugins.
However, these plugins can run on DSP acceleration hardware as well as natively on your computer (but not always both, it depends on the plugin).
The AAX format combines the best of both worlds from Avid’s prior plug-in formats: RTAS and TDM.
If you’re not a Pro Tools user, you do not need to worry about AAX plugins.
How Do I Use AAX Plugins?
The only thing that matters is that AAX plugins only work in Pro Tools.
For many, this is a real pain. Thankfully, Pro Tools lovers are used to pain and most dedicated users will not care. Because Pro Tools remains the industry standard for digital audio recording and mixing, most major plugin manufacturers offer AAX versions of their products.
To be fair to Avid, Apple also has an “exclusive plugin format” in the form of Audio Units (or AU plugins). But AU plugins are not exclusive to Apple’s DAWs, just their operating system. However, AAX plugins work on Windows and Mac.
Pro Tools provides everything you need to compose, record, edit, and mix music and audio. Create without bounds and work at the speed of your creativity, so you can take on the most demanding sessions and deliver the best sounding mixes possible.
According to Paul, AAX was born out of the need for a plug-in format that worked with both native and DSP systems (like an external DSP processor).
Dave stated that AU–being a Mac-only format left Windows users with no option but to use VSTs, creating the need for a format that wasn’t limited to native applications.
He also stated that VSTs don’t work as well with very large sessions, due to the way they handle automation. Plus, being able to design your own plugin format for your own DAW has obvious performance benefits.
Is Pro Tools AAX Or VST?
Pro Tools uses AAX plugins exclusively. Unfortunately, Avid Technologies make it so you cannot use VST plugins with Pro Tools. There are some workarounds, but native support is not provided.
All of their plugins have to be approved, and a license fee must be paid for AAX plugins “in certain cases.” If you have VST plugins that don’t have AAX versions (after 2013/Pro Tools 10.38), or RTAS/TDM versions(before 2013), you can’t use them in Pro Tools.
How Do I Open Pro Tools Without Plugins?
With no active plugins, Pro Tools loads much faster than a DAW with active plug-ins, especially with larger sessions.
To load a session with plug-ins inactive, go to the Open Session command (or hit command+O [Mac]/control+O [Windows]).
Select the session you want to open, then hold the shift key while clicking the Open button.
You can also hold the shift key while double-clicking on the session you’d like to open, or select the desired session, then hold the shift key while hitting the return key to select Open.
If a dialogue box opens asking about whether to save an open session or not, continue to hold the shift key while closing out the dialogue.
Can Pro Tools 10 Run 64-bit Plugins?
No, Pro Tools 10 only runs 32-bit plugins and uses the previous plugin-format RTAS or TDM.
Pro Tools versions after 10.38(which was released in 2013) use exclusively 64-bit plugins in AAX format.
What Is The Difference Between AAX And VST?
AAX and VST are simply two different plugin formats that work with different DAWs.
They both sound the same, and the design of the plugin windows is just about the same, but VST works in a wider variety of DAWs including Ableton, FL Studio, Cubase, and more. But AAX only works in Pro Tools versions after 10.38. (2013)
What Are The Two Different Versions of AAX?
There are two versions of AAX: AAX Native and AAX DSP. The difference between them is that Native is compatible with every version of Pro Tools, while DSP specifically requires Avid HDX hardware.