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VST Host: The 7 Most Impressive VST Hosts of 2024 (All Free!)

VSTs, or Virtual Studio Technologies, are the building blocks of modern music production.

 

They enable musicians and producers (like yourself) to add various effects and instruments to their DAWs. 

 

But not everyone needs or wants to invest in a full DAW to utilize these powerful plugins. 

 

That’s where VST hosts come in handy. 

 

Being familiar with the best free VST hosts can dramatically enhance your audio editing experience 一 providing a streamlined platform to run your favorite VST plugins without any unnecessary overhead.

 

In today’s article, we’ll be breaking down:

 

  • What a VST Host is
  • Why you might need one
  • The 7 best free VST hosts of 2023
  • Capabilities and limitations of VST hosts
  • Key features to look for
  • General recommendations
  • Much more

 

By the end of this article, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of VST hosts and their capabilities. 

 

Whether you’re a seasoned producer looking for a more streamlined setup or a beginner exploring the world of VST plugins, you’ll find a free VST host that suits your unique needs. 

 

And of course, we’ll detail the 7 best free VST hosts of 2023 to help you make the most informed choice. 

 

So, let’s dive in…

 

What is a VST Host?

 

What is a VST host - Unison

 

A VST host is the foundation for managing and running VST plugins, acting as a bridge between your computer’s operating system and the plugins themselves. 

 

In essence, it’s the environment where all the sound magic happens.

 

It allows you to utilize VST plugins for: 

 

 

This is crucial because, without a compatible VST host, even the most advanced VST plugins are virtually useless.

 

The role of a VST host extends beyond mere plugin support. 

 

It facilitates the routing of audio and MIDI signals, ensuring that your favorite virtual instruments and effects work harmoniously. 

 

NOTE: Some VST hosts are built into digital audio workstations, but standalone VST host applications also exist.

 

They offer specialized features for live performance or specific sound manipulation tasks.

 

Standalone VST host applications are especially useful when you don’t require a digital audio workstation’s full suite of capabilities. 

 

These applications are lightweight, less resource-intensive, and often easier to navigate. 

 

The streamlined nature of standalone VST hosts makes them ideal for live performances 一 where quick adjustments and real-time effects manipulation are often essential.

 

Whether embedded in a DAW or as a standalone application, the VST host allows for the intricate utilization and management of various VST plugins.

 

They offer versatility in sound design and performance capabilities.

 

To summarize, a VST host is an indispensable component in your music production chain. 

 

How Does a VST Differ From My Digital Audio Workstation?

 

DAWs 2023 - Unison

 

While both VST plugins and digital audio workstations are essential tools in music production, their roles and capabilities are distinct. 

 

A digital audio workstation (DAW) is the central hub for all your music production needs, offering:

 

  • Multi-track recording
  • Editing
  • Mixing & mastering capabilities

 

Basically, it’s comprehensive software for constructing and polishing your own songs.

 

VST plugins, on the other hand, are smaller software components that add specific functionalities to your DAW or standalone VST host. 

 

Whether it’s a virtual instrument, an audio effect, or a unique sound processor, a VST plugin performs specific tasks that your DAW alone cannot accomplish.

 

The integration between a VST plugin and a digital audio workstation is facilitated by the VST host.

 

It’s either built into the DAW itself or as a standalone version. 

 

The VST host program handles the loading, managing, and parameter tweaking of a VST plugin (expanding the creative possibilities of your DAW). 

 

For producers focused on specific genres like hip-hop, a VST plugin can offer: 

 

  • Specialized sounds
  • Effects
  • Sampling capabilities to elevate the production value of your tracks

 

While your digital audio workstation provides the canvas and basic tools for your musical artwork, VST plugins offer specialized brushes and colors. 

 

The VST host serves as the palette, allowing you to integrate these particular elements seamlessly. 

 

This symbiotic relationship enables producers to push the boundaries of musical creativity, particularly in genre-specific contexts such as hip-hop and trap.

 

Understanding the distinct roles of a VST, a digital audio workstation, and a VST host can significantly streamline your workflow and elevate the quality of your production. 

 

A well-chosen VST host empowers you to get the most out of your VST plugin, ensuring your tracks are as innovative and polished as possible.

 

The 7 Best Free VST Hosts of 2023

 

Now you’re acquainted with the fundamentals of VST hosts and their significance in the audio production landscape.

 

So, it’s time to explore some of the most efficient and user-friendly options available for free. 

 

We cover everything from intuitive interfaces designed for live performances to modular setups that let you tweak to your heart’s content.

 

Each of these VST hosts offers unique features to enhance your music-making experience. 

 

So, let’s dive in…

 

#1. LiveProfessor 2 by Audioström

 

Live Professor 1 - Unison

 

LiveProfessor 2 by Audioström is an exceptional VST host designed explicitly for live performances, theater productions, and broadcasting needs. 

 

This VST host was developed in collaboration with seasoned professionals in various audio industries, with a focus on:

 

  • Flexibility/Versatility
  • Efficiency
  • Ease of use 

 

Compatible with Windows and MacOS, LiveProfessor 2 allows users to construct portable and complex effects racks using VST plugins or AU plugins.

 

The software introduces a novel feature called “Signal Chains.”

 

These signal chains significantly streamline the organization and use of VST plugins. 

 

LiveProfessor Signal Chains - Unison

 

A chain is essentially a sequence of plugins connected in series, and these can be arranged based on specific tasks such as guitar or vocal processing

 

This arrangement offers two modes of organization: 

 

  1. Free-standing units
  2. The Signal Chains

 

If you’re facing issues with plugin latency, the chains can be time-aligned to each other, ensuring your live performance is seamless.

 

LiveProfessor 2 is visually appealing with a customizable, dark user interface. 

 

SnapShots Live Professor - Unison

 

It incorporates advanced snapshot automation 一 providing two types: Global Snapshots and Plugin Snapshots. 

 

While the former captures the entire setup, the latter focuses on settings for individual plugins. 

 

These snapshots can be efficiently managed through cue lists for on-the-fly changes during live performances.

 

Another significant feature is the hardware controllers system, designed to be versatile yet straightforward; each control can be customized. 

 

NOTE: This makes the software particularly useful for keyboardists who can take advantage of the Midi Modifiers like transpose, key-zone, and filter.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

LiveProfessor Cue Lists - Unison

 

  • Compatibility with both Windows and MacOS
  • “Signal Chains” for structured organization of plugins
  • Advanced snapshot automation with Global and Plugin Snapshots
  • Comprehensive hardware controllers system
  • Customizable, user-friendly dark interface
  • Performance oriented cue lists for seamless live performance transitions
  • NOTE: The free version is limited to 6 VST plugins per project, 2 inputs, 2 outputs, and 1 hardware controller.
  • The best VST host of 2023.

 

#2. NanoHost by Tone2

 

NanoHost 2 - Unison

 

NanoHost by Tone2 strips away the complexities to provide a minimalist VST host that focuses solely on:

 

  • Live performance
  • Sound design
  • Jam sessions
  • Plugin testing

 

Exclusively designed for Windows, this free DAW is not a synthesizer but a wrapper that converts VST synthesizers into standalone applications. 

 

NanoHost is also extremely portable.

 

It offers the convenience to run directly from a USB stick or CD, and requires no installation or registration.

 

The host impresses with its high performance due to low-level code optimization. 

 

NanoHost Programs - Unison

 

It operates with lower latency than conventional VST host applications 一 making it an excellent choice for real-time performance. 

 

The graphical editor interface refreshes at a staggering 120 Hz frame rate, providing smoother animations and graphics than typically seen in other VST hosts.

 

Unlike other free VST hosts where you often sacrifice screen space, NanoHost is designed to occupy minimal screen real estate.

 

This makes it more room for your plugin interfaces

 

This is crucial for musicians focusing on the plugin rather than managing a bulky host. 

 

NanoHost Configure - Unison

 

NanoHost also allows for individual sound card plugin settings 一 enabling optimized performance.

 

Ease of use is another forte of NanoHost, as it includes context-sensitive help and allows you to enlarge the interface of all VST host plugins, even those that do not have a resizable graphical interface. 

 

The software is efficient, takes up very little hard disk space, and loads instantaneously, making it a lead contender for free VST hosts.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

NanoHost Chorus and Reverb - Unison

 

  • Designed exclusively for Windows
  • Minimalist and portable, requiring no installation or registration
  • Low latency and high-performance optimization
  • 120 Hz GUI refresh rate
  • Individual sound card settings for each plugin
  • Capability to convert VST synthesizers into standalone applications
  • Supports 64-bit and very old 32-bit plugins
  • NOTE: It is resource-efficient and compatible with older computers.
  • One of the best VST hosts of 2023.

 

#3. Niall Moody Pedalboard2

 

PedalBoard - Unison

 

Niall Moody Pedalboard2 is an open-source VST and AudioUnit plugin host primarily designed for live performances. 

 

Developed based on the JUCE ‘audio plugin host’ code, Pedalboard2 has been heavily modified to cater better to live musicians (particularly guitarists and bassists). 

 

The software enables modular patching, where all plugin parameters can be manipulated in real time via:

 

  • MIDI CCs (Control Change messages)
  • Open Sound Control messages

 

The utility of this feature is immense for live performers, as it allows for seamless interaction with the effects chain during a live performance.

 

This VST host is built to be intuitive and highly customizable 一 providing a drag-and-drop interface for creating effects chains.

 

PedalBoard 2 - Unison

 

It supports a wide array of VST plugins and is compatible with major MIDI controllers.

 

This makes it a versatile tool for musicians across multiple genres, from rock and pop to jazz and blues

 

Users can also save and recall custom pedalboard setups, which allows for easy experimentation with various VST effects combinations.

 

Pedalboard2 is not just limited to guitarists and bassists.

 

Its comprehensive MIDI editor enables users to create and edit MIDI patterns, expanding its applicability to other musicians and producers. 

 

PedalBoard Plugin List e1695248824940 - Unison

 

The initial setup is straightforward: users can specify folders commonly used in their DAWs for plugins or prepare a separate folder. 

 

NOTE: Most VST plugins can be moved by copying the DLL, although some new VST plugins with strong protection may cause an error.

 

Overall, it’s better than most host VST plugins in the game today.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

PedalBoard Scan For New or Updated VST Plugins - Unison

 

  • Modular patching system for real-time control via MIDI messages (CCs) or Open Sound Control.
  • Drag-and-drop system for creating effects chains.
  • Compatibility with all major VST plugins and a wide range of MIDI controllers (map MIDI devices).
  • Features a streamlined interface and a library of pre-made rigs.
  • Includes a MIDI editor for creating & editing MIDI patterns.
  • Open-source under GPL v3 license.
  • One of the best free VST hosts of 2023; great for a live performance.

 

#4. VSTHost by Hermann Seib

 

VSTHost - Unison

 

VSTHost by Hermann Seib is a flexible and versatile utility tool.

 

It’s designed with the primary function of: 

 

  • Loading VST effects
  • Parameterizing and editing them
  • Routing MIDI input and output

 

Initially developed as an aid for understanding and debugging a VST plugin, VSTHost has evolved into a versatile and reliable software package

 

While it may not win any awards for its interface design, what it lacks in visual flair, it more than makes up for in functionality. 

 

This makes it an excellent choice for keyboard artists in a live setup.

 

NOTE: The software allows users to load and save .fxb/.fxp files, catering to a broad spectrum of sound design capabilities

 

Its I/O functionality is robust, offering compatibility with either Windows MME or ASIO drivers. 

 

VSTHost DelayReverb - Unison

 

Additionally, it features a wave player/recorder and a MIDI player 一 rounding out its utility as a comprehensive VST host. 

 

VSTHost can operate in 32 or 64-bit and supports VST2 and VST3 plugins.

 

VSTHost is remarkably efficient regarding CPU usage, vital for live performances where stability and reliability are paramount. 

 

It also comes with detailed help documentation, making it accessible for users who may not be familiar with the intricacies of VST hosting.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

VSTHost Master e1695249032174 - Unison

 

  • Capability to load VST effects, parameterize, and edit them.
  • Robust MIDI routing.
  • Supports loading and saving of .fxb/.fxp files.
  • I/O through either Windows MME or ASIO drivers.
  • Includes a wave player/recorder and a MIDI player.
  • Operates in 32 or 64-bit and supports VST2 or VST3 plugins.
  • Low CPU usage and highly reliable performance.
  • One of the best VST host plugins of 2023.

 

#5. Element by Kushview

 

Elements - Unison

 

Element by Kushview is a modular host designed for AU, LV2, VST, and VST3 audio plugins.

 

It enables you, by linking various nodes together, to create intricate: 

 

  1. VST effects
  2. Racks
  3. Instruments

 

This incredibly versatile platform can operate either standalone or as a plugin within your digital audio workstation (DAW)

 

By leveraging standard protocols like MIDI, Element integrates smoothly with your existing hardware.

 

This makes it an attractive option for both studio work and live performances.

 

Element Session - Unison

 

One of Element’s standout features is its highly customizable routing capabilities. 

 

You can route audio and MIDI signals from anywhere to anywhere within the software, which gives you unparalleled control over your VST instruments and VST effects. 

 

Element offers a wide array of functionalities to make it happen, whether you’re looking to:

 

  • Play VST instruments and effects live
  • Create reusable instruments
  • Develop complex effect graphs
  • Everything in between

 

It even comes preloaded with specified plugin graphs that can help you to get started quickly.

 

Which I’ve personally have found to be extremely beneficial.

 

Element Graph MIDI Monitor - Unison

 

In addition to these features, Element offers a robust set of utilities like External Sync with MIDI Clock, multiple undo/redo options, and scripting.

 

As well as other innovative VST host applications.

 

The built-in virtual keyboard and custom keyboard shortcuts further enhance usability 一 making it one of the most comprehensive free VST hosts on the market.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

Element Audio File Player MIDI Out AMP Audio Router - Unison

 

  • Standalone version available, or can serve as a plugin within your DAW.
  • Modular node-based architecture for connecting various plugins.
  • Advanced routing capabilities for both audio devices & MIDI.
  • External Sync with MIDI Clock and MIDI Controller Mapping.
  • Preloaded plugin graphs and options for creating reusable virtual instruments & effect graphs.
  • Sub-Graphing feature allows nesting graphs within each other.
  • Built-in Virtual Keyboard and custom keyboard shortcuts.
  • Supports multiple undo/redo and scripting.
  • One of the best free VST hosts of 2023.

 

#6. vPlayer 3 by Digital Brain Instruments

 

vPlayer - Unison

 

vPlayer 3 by Digital Brain Instruments is a standalone software developed with simplicity and speed in mind. 

 

This high-performance VST host is useful for quickly testing new VST/AU instruments without requiring any DAW (so, if you’re a Mac user, this VST host is for you).

 

But that’s not all… 

 

vPlayer 3 can also serve as a fantastic tool for jam sessions.

 

It allows you to load and play up to four different instruments simultaneously (each controlled by its own MIDI keyboard).

 

vPlayer 2 e1695249995378 - Unison

 

The application offers a straight-to-the-point user interface for quick navigation and ease of use. 

 

You can load one VST/AU effect plugin on each instrument output 一 providing sound customization during your beat-making sessions or testing phases. 

 

The software is also designed to be highly compatible.

 

It accommodates up to four different MIDI keyboards simultaneously, each controlling a separate instrument.

 

vPlayer DubStation e1695250053143 - Unison

 

One particularly unique feature of vPlayer 3 is its impressive recording capability.

 

It allows users to capture their live performances or tests. 

 

NOTE: This can be particularly useful for artists, producers, and musicians who want to review their work or share it with others. 

 

Coupled with its Master EQ and the ability to load and save presets, vPlayer 3 offers a simplified experience amateurs and professionals alike.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

vPlayer Recording. Mono Stereo Master Out - Unison

 

  • Standalone versions only; operation for quick VST/AU testing without a DAW.
  • Supports up to 4 VST/AU instruments played simultaneously; great for Windows users and Mac users alike.
  • Ability to use up to 4 different MIDI keyboards.
  • Load one VST/AU effect plugin on each instrument output.
  • Built-in Master EQ for sound customization.
  • Offers load and save sound presets for future use.
  • Recording capability for capturing performances or tests.
  • One of the best VST hosts of 2023.

 

#7. SAVIHost

 

SaviHost 3 - Unison

 

SAVIHost stands out as a unique solution in the realm of free VST hosts.

 

It’s designed specifically for those who want to run a single VSTi (Virtual Studio Technology instrument) as a standalone app program. 

 

NOTE: Unlike other VST hosts, which aim for versatility by allowing you to load multiple plugins (as opposed to just one plugin), SAVIHost zeroes in on simplicity and minimalism. 

 

If you’ve ever wished to use just one specific plugin (not load plugins, plural) without launching a full-fledged DAW, SAVIHost is the tool for you.

 

The operational concept behind SAVIHost is remarkably simple yet ingenious. 

 

All that’s required is to rename the ‘savihost.exe’ file to match the name of your VSTi’s DLL file. 

 

For instance, if your plugin is named ‘UnisonAudioMaster.dll,’ you’d rename ‘savihost.exe’ to ‘UnisonAudioMaster.dll.’

 

SaviHost - Unison

 

By doing so, launching this newly renamed executable file will automatically load your chosen VSTi.

 

Meaning that you can run it independently of any other software

 

This level of specialization eliminates the need for large sequencer packages, streamlining the process down to a mere double-click.

 

Another handy feature is the built-in keyboard bar 一 designed to aid in testing different plugins that rely on external MIDI input. 

 

This addition makes it a breeze to run initial tests or perform using the plugin, all without any additional MIDI devices/setup. 

 

With SAVIHost, you can turn any VSTi into a standalone application without the overhead or complexity often associated with DAWs (like Ableton Live or FL Studio).

 

So, even without the ability to load multiple plugins, this VST host is great to have in your arsenal.

 

Key Features of This Free VST Host:

 

SaviHost Keyboard - Unison

 

  • Designed specifically to run a single VSTi as a standalone program.
  • Simple setup by renaming savihost.exe to match the VSTi’s DLL file name.
  • Automatic loading of the selected VSTi upon launch.
  • Built-in keyboard bar for testing or performing with plugins that require external MIDI input.
  • Minimalist approach eliminates the need for complex sequencer packages or DAWs.
  • Ideal for users looking for a quick and easy way to run a specific VSTi without additional software.
  • One of the best free VST hosts of 2023.

 

VST Host: Final Thoughts

 

The world of VSTs is an ever-expanding universe of possibilities.

 

They allows musicians and producers to experiment, innovate, and refine their craft.

 

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of the 7 best free VST hosts of 2023, your musical toolbox is significantly enriched.

 

You’ll be able to seamlessly integrate different plugins, navigate through interfaces like a pro, and unleash your full creative potential.

 

Speaking of adding unique flavors to your music, you’ll need the best VST plugins to use with your new VST host…

 

That’s where Zen Master, the new, free, highly renowned VST plugin comes into play.

 

This free VST plugin is a game-changer when it comes to imparting that lo-fi, warm, and vintage character to your sounds.

 

Within just three seconds, you can transform any sound into a textured masterpiece saying goodbye to boring, monotonous mixes forever.

 

Its user-friendly interface (consisting of just 5 knobs) allows for an effortless fine-tuning process that ensures the most pristine sound quality.

 

So go ahead; experiment with these incredible VST hosts and elevate your compositions to a whole new level.

 

With tools like these at your disposal, the only limit is your imagination.

 

Until next time…

 

 

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