The best VST Effects Racks for digitally chaining your plugins

The magic of digital music is that it allows us to do what once would’ve cost thousands and required whole rooms worth of space. Huge effects racks? Just load one up mate.

If you’re into synths then no-doubt at one point or another you’ve seen glimpses of huge racks of times gone past when instruments and effects all plugged into huge inter-connected modules. If you found yourself drooling at the unattainable prospect then we may have some good news.

With the wonder of digital music production we can make our dreams come true with simply a computer and a screen. We’ve looked around and found what may be the best rack simulators that give you all of the fun and customising power with a fraction of the cost and entire-wall of space needed.

VCV Rack

If you are looking for a genuine simulation of the OCD nightmare that is the traditional racks of old with wires spread everywhere between multiple modules creating a visible chain – then say hello to VCV Rack.

It doesn’t get much more authentic than this Eurorack simulator. It’s also a free download! They have a huge library of plugins – many free and/or open source – to build your rack with and create the complex, chained sounds you’ve always dreamed of.

  • Polyphony. Use up to 16 voices with the full flexibility of modular patching. Cables automatically turn polyphonic when requested by MIDI modules, sequencers, etc.
  • MIDI output. Control MIDI hardware with Rack modules. New modules include CV-GATE for drum machines, CV-MIDI for desktop synths, and CV-CC for Eurorack interfaces.
  • MIDI mapping. Control knobs, buttons, and sliders directly from a MIDI controller. Using the new MIDI-MAP module, click a virtual parameter and move a hardware control to create a mapping.
  • Module Browser. Search, filter, and view modules in your collection. Click and drag to directly place modules in the rack.
  • Multi-core engine. Use multiple CPU threads to maximize the number of modules. Accelerated polyphonic engines on many VCV and third-party modules.

StudioRack

StudioRack allows you to create chains between your plugins to create complex and wacky racks and customise them with full chaining power. “Thinking in terms of chains – not individual processors – is a hallmark of the best producers and engineers,” say the plugins creators Waves.

Build up your sound profile in sequence with up to 8 plugins form a single DAW. You can save your chains to immediately load up the sequences you’ve produced that have made the sounds you’re after.

Now, this plugin is built with practicality in mind so that it makes sense to the modern musician and is simple to use. It is not a visual simulation in the way that VCV Rack is.

  • Parallel processing racks: Split your audio, from any point in any chain, into parallel mono, stereo and M/S racks – to add more punch, space, and presence to your signal, without having to create complex routings in your DAW.
  • Multiband split racks: Turn any Waves plugin into a multiband processor, with detailed control over your crossover points.
  • 8 macros per chain: Combine parameters from different plugins in your chain into quick-access macro controls – essentially enabling you to build your own ‘custom plugins.’
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