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22 October 2010


There comes a time in everybody’s life when Cubase is not enough. To make things right, there comes a time when we need to ask for help, when our VST plugins get lost. Let me be your tech support. I’ll take the pain for you when the user guide is not on your side... Celine! Enough about running Cubase 5.5.1 as a 64-bit app on Windows 7 already! Yup, I’ve been shimmying around the interweb forums and one theme that recurs is the nightmare of lost VST plugins.

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Being something of the early adopter, my sleep has also been disturbed by the deployment of Windows 7 and the very latest copy of Cubase, which is not as straightforward as one would like when it comes to integrating third-party plugs. There was a time when Cubase VST on XP or [shudder] Vista would just scan the VST plugins folder and present, say, soft synths via Devices > VST Instruments. Or by pressing F11, provided the key wasn’t already assigned to something else. Very neat, but things have gone a bit bonkers with the advent of Windows 7 and the latest, greatest Cubase.

Plugins are dynamic link libraries (or DLLs, as they’re known in geek-speak) and I’ll give you two examples: Toontrack's Superior Drummer.dll and Native Instruments' Reaktor5.dll. You’d expect them to be in C:\Program files\VstPlugins, but no. On booting Cubase 5.5.1 on a 64-bit Windows 7 PC, having spent an age loading the five-DVD install of Superior Drummer 2 (snooze), neither plugin was to be found listed in VST Instruments. Sure enough, Steinberg’s stuff appeared, including such VST3 gadgets as LoopMash and Groove Agent ONE, but third-party plugs? Hmph. It’s a tad weird in that Ableton’s Live 8.2.1 has no problem finding plugins - just click the appropriate icon at the left of the interface and there they are, ready for dragging and dropping onto a free MIDI track.

With Cubase 5.5.1, the hunt was on. I ran a search for reaktor*.dll and up it came, nestled in the ample bosoms of C:\Program Files (x86)\Vstplugins. How many VST plugin folders and sub-folders does Cubase need these days? A fair number, it seems, because Superior Drummer.dll, the software having been updated to the latest version, shows up in C:\Program Files\VstPlugins\Toontrack\64bit. Rather than confusing the issue by copying the DLLs to the common VST plugs folder, the following strategy suggests itself. In Cubase, go to the Devices menu, scroll to Plug-in Information and, making sure you’ve the VST Plug-ins tab selected, click on VST 2.x Plug-in Paths. That’s right, we’re going to point Cubase at the DLLs’ default locations.

Click Add and navigate to wheresoever doth reside the DLL of the software instrument you’re after - in this case, our dynamically linked duo appear thusly: C:\Program Files\VstPlugins\Toontrack\64bit\Superior Drummer.dll and C:\Program Files (x86)\Vstplugins\Reaktor5.dll. Restart Cubase, just to be on the safe side, and there they be in the VST Instruments list arranged by vendor, which is an option that can be set via File > Preferences... > VST > Plug-ins. At least, it’s an option I prefer over having a ruddy great long list of software instruments through which to scroll when seeking a synth.

And that, my lovelies, is how you get Cubase 5.5.1, running on Windows 7, to stop twatting about and to behave itself when working with non-Steinbergian Virtual Studio Technology technology. Anyone else got salient sequencer smarts to share? Do comment below...

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