Lesson learned — again. Working on assembling your leap second compositions in Apple Soundtrack Pro, I hit repeated kernel panics, the rare but reboot-forcingy Mac equivalent of the Windows Blue Screen of Death. (More info: Kernel Panic FAQ; BSOD History.) Sounds like a Soundtrack Pro problem, right? Wrong: I removed some suspect plug-ins in my Library > Audio > Plug-ins folder, and the problem disappeared.

Countless times, I’ve had some bizarre, repeated crash in an audio app, only to fix it by disabling plugins. If you’re a plug-in lover and have ever thrown up your hands at a crashing app, it’s time to employ better plug-in disabling habits.

My strategy when trouble-shooting is to remove everything, test once, then add in a set of trusted and beloved plug-ins, leaving out new downloads and “experimental” plugs, and test again. There’s no reason to abandon plug-ins altogether: most work very well. I keep a set of plug-ins I don’t want to be without, which for me means things like Reaktor, Akoustik Piano, Lounge Lizard, and others, which I also use on the road. Then, for individual projects, I temporarily add in more experimental, specific plug-ins — and remove them when the job is done.

The easiest way to do this on Mac is to create “disabled” component (Audio Unit) and VST plug-ins in your Library folder, a trick I describe in the chapter on optimizing your computer in my book. (Yes, there are specific apps for the job, but this method is simpler and works with all plug-in formats.) Here’s the problem: this technique works just fine for Windows VSTs, but not Windows DirectX plug-ins, since the latter are DLLs that load from anywhere on your hard drive. Has anyone come up with a good plug-in management system for Windows? If you have, I’ll be sure to add you as an online addendum to the book!

  • cacealian

    I've had this same problem many times in Sonar, but it only happens if you have loaded the suspect plugin into the track. Therefore it's only a matter of deleting the plugins one by one until you've isolated the bad one. Simply having a bad plugin in your plugin directory has never caused a problem for me.

  • rlainhart

    I'm unfamiliar with Sonar, but both Final Cut Pro and Soundtrack Pro automatically load, or try to load, every AU plugin in your Components folder on startup, well before their use or non-use in a track. Many other apps work the same way – perhaps this is just the way the AU spec intends the plugins to be used.

    This can cause problems even with otherwise-viable plugins. For example, Pluggo, which I use successfully in many other apps in both VST and AU versions, has some defect in its AU component that will make both FCP and STP quit on startup. Cycling '74, Pluggo's developers, are aware of the problem, but can't fix it until Apple gives them copies of the software (they're a small company, I take it.) Since AUs can't be disabled on an app-by-app basis, you have to physically remove the Pluggo Component from the Components folder to even launch FCP or STP, which then makes Pluggo unavailable to all apps that don't use VSTs, like Digital Performer. Grrrr….

  • admin

    Thanks for the comments, Richard.

    As for SONAR, yes, the folks at Cakewalk were smart enough to have plugin handling set up so that you don't have this issue. But every Mac app I've used, and many x-platform apps, load everything automatically — therein lies the trouble. Logic Pro, DP, and others have plugin verifiers (DP was first with this) to correct some problems, but I don't know if that catches everything — and many apps don't have any verification at all.

    As for Final Cut Studio and Pluggo, though, I'm surprised. This must not be the Pluggo engine, which I'm using with FCP and STP (it drives my own custom Max/MSP plugs and the Hipno library). Maybe it's a specific component in the Pluggo bundle (the boxed plugins from Cycling '74, not the underlying engine of the same name)?

    Also, I wasn't getting crashes on startup; I was getting them after loading STP.

    So now we've made everything as clear as mud. But yes, it's a problem, and there's no one app to point fingers at. This may be something good to ask any of the engineers roaming around NAMM later this month. 🙂

  • foosnark

    But every Mac app I've used, and many x-platform apps, load everything automatically — therein lies the trouble.

    Seriously? :eek

    I have literally hundreds of plugins; it's a good thing FLStudio on PC doesn't try to load them all!

  • rlainhart

    I'm not in my studio right now, and I don't recall the exact specifics, but I believe there's a single file called Pluggo.component, which I think is a kind of shell that allows the Pluggo VSTs to run in AU environments, rather than individual Pluggo AUs. I do recall that I couldn't launch either app until I pulled that Pluggo.component file from the Components folder, and that it's a known problem.

    Obviously this is a different problem than what you experienced.

  • admin

    That's what I thought you were saying, Richard, so I think that is your issue. I have Pluggo.component in my Library folder, at the root level (i.e., not in the user Library folder). It's working fine on my setup: Mac OS X 10.4.3 + Soundtrack 1.02 + Final Cut Pro 5.0.4. Maybe you're using a different version of Pluggo? (mine is the current release) Have you tried asking Cycling '74 about this?

    Oh, and Fooshark: Yes. Seriously. They're not actively loaded, but they could potentially cause issues on startup without instantiating them on a track, etc.


  • atariboy

    I always just zip them singly, (not multiples in 1 zip), then deleted the .dll. If I wanted to load it again, just unzip it!

    Lovely and simple.

  • kaden

    AnalogX (http://www.analogx.com/) has an outstanding DirectX plugin manager (and a shitload of other useful audio utilities as well)

    STRONGLY recommended


  • audiotap

    Hi, With regards to the Pluggo comments, I found that the recent Pluggo 3.5.3 and friends fixed all of the problems with Final Cut Pro and other AU apps…


  • rlainhart

    You're right – I didn't have the latest version installed, and when I installed it and tried it last night, STP and FCP opened just fine, thankfully.

    Someone donated a copy of the apps to Cycling, perhaps….

  • andrewlogan

    a while back (back in 10.3.8) my iTunes kept crashing because I had visualizer plug-ins!