Quick question regarding VST and MacOS


I’ve written an audio plugin with C++ and Juce and it’s kind of in an early beta stage. Now I run Windows 10 and my project compiles an VST file that I simply copy into the right folder and my DAW loads the plugin just fine. I’m still run the “Debug” mode.

I gave the VST file my friend who uses a Mac and he says he can’t install the plugin, it’s “empty”. So my quick question: Is there something else I must do, or is it required on Mac to build a package like described here? ttps://docs.juce.com/master/tutorial_app_plugin_packaging.html

Maybe I just missing one thing, so I’d would be nice if someone could show me what it is :slight_smile:

Thank you in advance

P.S: Sorry, I have no experience with Mac products at all :see_no_evil:

You will need to build the plugin on macOS, using the Windows file will not work.

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Thanks for your reply.

So that means I need a Mac machine, install the IDE and everything, compile it and the resulting VST file is for Mac?



Ok, I’ve installed Mac OS Catalina 64x in a virtual machine - and it’s working. I was able to setup XCode and Juce and to compile my audio plugin without error. It generated an output folder for the VST3 plugin, and it looks like this:

  • *.vst3 file with only 2kb
  • *.component file with only 2kb
  • *.a file which is bigger, looks like the content is here

I only try to build a VST3, no other format (AU, AAX etc.).

Now under Windows 10, I simply can “install” the VST3 file (put it in the right folder) and my DAW can read it and it works fine. Under Mac, it seems like that approach does not work. I’ve even sent those 3 files to my buddy with macOS and he can’t get it to run with that. So is there an additional step for macOS?

I thought it’s optional to build a package / installer --> https://docs.juce.com/master/tutorial_app_plugin_packaging.html
At least under Windows it’s not required. Is this step required for MacOS, even when it’s just a debug / closed beta version for testing? Or what else I’m missing?

Thanks in advance

P.S. Sorry I have zero experience with Mac. I’m home at Windows and Linux.

The “plugins” in the build/Debug folder are links to the actual files.

You will find the actual files in ~/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/<Components/VST3>

To send to your friend s/he can manually install them by copying to either ~/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/<Components/VST3> (this is for current user only) or system wide in /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/<Components/VST3>

In newer versions of macOS it may require a reboot before the AU is registered by the system (there is some Terminal magic that can be invoked, but easier for the uninitiated to just reboot).

Ok. I had no idea, thank you.

Actually there might still be an additional hurdle for the very latest macOS : code signing

I wanted to use Signalizer plugin on Catalina and the downloaded binary refused to work until I signed it myself with my Apple code signing certificate. :confused:

With your help it worked, my tester with the Mac was able to install the audio plugin. Thank you for that.

After all tests and when I have a (first) “final” version, I’d like to publish the plugin. Do i need a certificate now?

I know for AAX I’d need special licence and certificate, but I thought I can publish a VST3 plugin for Windows and mac without any signing/certificate.

Where can I find more information about this? :slight_smile:

For macOS it’s kind of becoming mandatory to sign things if you want them to work with Catalina, but most importantly it presents a more professional face. To sign AAX on Windows you need a Code Signing Certificate (you can find them for about $75 for a year), and this will also let you sign your installer. On macOS you can use the certificate you can get by being on the Developer Program ($99/year), and this will also let you sign your binaries and get a separate certificate from Apple to sign your installer (all included in the $99 fee). You will also need to be subscribed to that in order to “notarise” your installer so that it can be used on Catalina (there are a bunch of posts about this on the forum, it’s a bit of long winded and painful process to get right at first! :joy: Definitely worth automating). You’ll also need to get an iLok dongle for AAX signing in addition to getting the license from them (which at least is free!).

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And don’t forget to request a VST3 License from Steinberg!


You should get enrolled to the Apple developer program and then download your certificate and install it on your keychain. Xcode will see your certification and then you can choose automated signing for your apps / plugins. This is mandatory to be able to distribute your binary and also get the notarisation from Apple. If you want to do iLOK wrapping, then little bit more complicated, you have to fullfill the extra entitements when wrapping your code. It is a good amount of hurdle. Definitely Windows case is much easier right now.

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Thanks for the hints. Yeah that will be a thing… because at the moment I’m not sure if there’s a market for my audio plugin (I mean enough revenue that makes all that worth). A completely different discipline than writing a good plugin (or app in general): monetarize, marketing, selling etc.

First I wanted to focus on VST3 (Windows and Mac). It looked like it’s easy or even only a formality to get the Steinberg licence. All without costs. Ok for Mac maybe only with that certificate, as I learned now.

AAX looked like a whole different story to me… not only a certificate, but also you as developer have to pass a test and all kind of stuff, all without real transparency, and I have not found a hint about how much all that costs actually. In some random forum I found prices 4-figure. I would be happy to make 4-figure revenue on that plugin :smiley: So AAX is maybe someting for a “second step” in case there’s enough interest in the plugin.

Well, I wrote a first beta version and have a few testers. Depending on the result I’ll continue, make the product nice and search for a way to bring it on the market, but that sounds like a long way and if marketing is wrong, there could be way more cost than income. I maybe should partner with someone. Sorry for the offtopic^^ :slight_smile: Is there also space for this topic in this forum?

P.S. I have to say, this is a nice little community here :wink: thanks for the support guys

AU + VST3 should be enough to test the market success of your plugin, maybe you won’t need AAX at all.

By the way:
Do you sign the installer package or the VSTs? (Apple)

If you want to notarise the installer package (which is necessary for maximum friction reduction) then you need to sign the plugin binaries (with application certificate) before packaging into installer and then signing that (with installer certificate, the distinction is obvious when getting them from Apple Developer account).

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