Has AAX Already Passed VST3 Plug-in Take Up?

10-28-2013 10:04 AM

We got a press release from Avid last week suggesting that AAX plug-ins had now exceeded 600 plug-ins. We do hope the counting did not include the somewhat odd claim that Avid made on their Facebook page of UVI now having over 40 plug-ins, as this actually meant the UVI Workstation engine that powers 40 libraries. If this is the case then you would have to count every Kontakt library in the same way, if everyone did that kind of counting then their plug-ins would now be in the thousands! The actual AAX count for UVI is 2 plug-ins, Workstation and Spark.
However the 600 AAX plug-in number was arrived at, if we do a like-for-like comparison using the KVR database then KVR suggest that there are 331 VST3 plug-ins and 410 AAX plug-ins, but they do not seem to show any Avid plug-ins such as Eleven or Boom, add these in and you get closer to the number we are at, around 500.
If the KVR numbers are close then AAX (announced October 2011) has already seen a faster and larger developer take-up than VST3 (announced 2008). VST3 offers a great deal of additional features than earlier VST versions, but it seems developers haven’t bitten the bullet with it in the same way that they have with AAX. VST is claimed to be the most used format of any plug-in, with many DAWs supporting the technology both on Windows and Mac.
There is of course the fact that Pro Tools users have no choice but to move to AAX 64 bit if they wish to use Pro Tools 11 and above, whereas VST plug-ins continue to work in most versions of your favourite DAW, unless of course that DAW happens to be Pro Tools. Making users switch to a new format so they can use the latest version of your DAW is a brave strategy, what if developers don’t support you, then you are screwed. However developers have supported AAX and the speed at which new AAX plug-ins arrive is accelerating every week - it is perhaps time for the AAX naysayers to find something else to predict failure for, I have no doubt they will.
A second factor why developers may be throwing their development money at AAX is that the security is built right into the AAX plug-ins using PACE technologies. Love or hate software protection if you are a developer it’s important to do all you can to protect your income stream from crackers. We are not sure if VST3 offers the same level of protection. A cursory Google of VST3 cracks and AAX cracks did give a seriously bigger VST3 crack list.
What some people fail to appreciate is that developers are not simply sitting on their hands waiting to port to new plug-ins formats, they have other competing priorities which are not always AAX. So setting aside the question mark over the AAX numbers, it’s no mean feat to get a plug-in format from a standing start to the kind of numbers we see for AAX. For Avid to have AAX seemingly pass the VST3 numbers by some margin and in half the time, is a seriously big achievement. Discuss.