Back in December, developers U-He and Bitwig announced a new plug-in format under development called CLAP. The initial announcement is now followed up by a detailed presentation complete with a list of DAWs and developers supporting the project. The likes of Arturia, Avid, FabFilter, Image-Line, and Xfer Records back the efforts. With a strong start and rich functionality, CLAP will hopefully reach beyond niches and become a legitimate alternative to the established formats.
CLAP plug-in format: what’s happened so far
Plug-ins as we know them are a thing since 1996. So far, they keep coming in three established formats – VST, AU, and AAX. Each comes with its own set of functionality and licensing limitations which inevitably hinder some developers’ ambitions.
An open-source project called CLAP (Clever Audio Plug-in) began in 2013. Along the way, it acquired the support of Bitwig and U-he, among other well-known audio developers. The time has come for an official introduction along with a brief feature presentation.
As expected, CLAP is shaping up as a plug-in format ‘by developers, for developers’. CLAP is developed as an open-source standard and distributed under the MIT license. I believe in its potential to spark innovation.
This is what CLAP offers for developers and users
Feature-wise, CLAP provides an interface between DAWs and plug-ins which makes better use of multi-core CPUs. It also implements a new metadata system for faster plug-in scans. An extension which allows DAWs to save data used by the plug-in (such as samples and wavetables) directly in the project file. This can potentially solve problems with missing files after switching between storage drives, operating systems, computers and so on.
CLAP also supports MIDI 2.0 with per-note automation and modulation options. Developers of polyphonic virtual instruments can use that to modulate all per-voice parameters. Additionally, a simple expansion system facilitates easy integration of future standards.
Which developers are already interested?
There’s a long list of software developers interested in exploring CLAP as a new plug-in format. DAW makers such as Avid (Pro Tools), Cockos (Reaper), Image-Line (FL Studio) and Presonus (Studio One) are on it. On the plug-ins side, industry veterans like Arturia, Fabfilter, Expressive E, ValhallaDSP, VCV, Vital Audio, and Xfer Records (Serum) are present. Even Epic Games, the Unreal Engine and Fortnite developer, is among the interested parties.
However, the lack of several big names such as Ableton, iZotope, Native Instruments, Slate Digital, Spectrasonics, and Waves Audio is definitely noticeable. It remains to be seen whether, and how quickly these leading developers will follow suit.
At the time of writing, CLAP is already integrated into the latest Bitwig Studio 4.3 beta version. Beta versions of U-He plug-ins such as Ace, Diva, Hive, and MFM are ready for testing.
Learn more about CLAP
- u-he Hive 2.0: u-he