CLAP Audio Plugin Format: Will It Join The Current Industry Standards?


When we talk about plugin formats, we’re talking about AU, VST, and AAX, but there’s a new kid on the block: CLAP.

CLAP is the brainchild of Bitwig (Bitwig Studio) and U-He (Zebra 2, Diva, Repro), and both developers recently gave creators some insight into the potential of the new format.

The new format offers a few exciting features that could enhance performance and expand creative limits.

Whatever system we are running, we always want to work at optimal performance, and we often fall short of that for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that our system could be dated or just not well-equipped to run the stuff we want to run smoothly. It’s also possible to have a powerful system that isn’t working in the most efficient way.

By providing an interface between DAWs and plugins that aims to make the most of multi-core CPUs, you should get closer to optimal efficiency/performance.

CLAP also comes with a new metadata system (making plugin scans faster) and an extension that allows plugin data to be saved straight to the project file. These features might not read like the most exciting concepts, but they enhance performance, improve your workflow, letting you focus on creativity with fewer problems and less waiting time.

Going further into the creative side of things, CLAP supports MIDI 2.0 with per-note modulation and automation options. This particular feature should be music to the ears of polyphonic virtual instrument developers.

Bitwig and U-He have made CLAP future-proof by ensuring easy implementation of new standards.

Of course, compatibility is key; Whether it’s a new OS not supporting third-party products or missing out on a macOS/Windows-only plugin, we’ve all encountered compatibility problems. So, ultimately, CLAP will only be as good as the compatibility it can offer.

It’s still early days, and some of the most prominent players aren’t yet on board (Native Instruments, iZotope, Spectrasonics, Ableton, etc.), but there is much to be optimistic about already.

While some huge names are still on the fence, others are already interested, like DAW developers Avid, Image-Line, Cockos, and PreSonus. The list of interested parties also includes some giants of the plugin world, such as Arturia, ValhallaDSP, and Fabfilter.

I’m not a Bitwig Studio user, but I know it has some hardcore fans, and I’m a big fan of U-He; I love their virtual synths, and they also make some of the best FREE synths available.

Free CLAP Plugins

Since this is BPB, let’s mention some of the currently available CLAP plugins.

We recently featured a free FM synthesizer called Fluctus, available both as a CLAP plugin and an FL Studio add-on. One of the best free virtual instruments, the Surge XT synthesizer, is also available as a CLAP plugin. Full Bucket Music also offers their fantastic freeware synths like ModulAir and FB-7999 in CLAP format (thanks to BPB reader Igor for the tip).

But CLAP is not all about synthesizers. Chowdhury DSP offers several freeware audio effects in CLAP format, including the popular BYOD and CHOW Tape Model plugins.

Early days, but exciting things to come, I’m sure.

More info: CLAP Plugin Format

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James is a musician and writer from Scotland. An avid synth fan, sound designer, and coffee drinker. Sometimes found wandering around Europe with an MPC in hand.


  1. Thanks for information on the subject :-)
    One thing the devs might have forgot when naming the format is that “clap” is a well known slang for “gonorrhea”.
    When Commodore launched VIC-20 in Germany back in the day it had to be renamed VC-20 for similar reasons ;-)

    • Huh. I just think “clap” as in the percussion sound type haha. I’ve never heard “clap” refer to something as wildly different as gonorrhea, but I’m not European.

      • Lot of updates there. Almost all plugins have VST3 version. And CLAP versions have been appearing lately.

        One correction ModulAir still doesn’t have Clap version, as a matter of fact it is now in BETA version, obviously adapting to new formats is not so easy.

        Worth mentioning is the new version of The scrooo a Spectral Formant Synthesizer with new user interface that makes easier making that 50’s and 60’s synth sound.

        • Lol.. 50’s and 60’s synth sound.. Bob Moogs Thermin was around in the early 60’s, the first commercial synth didn’t become available until 1964. I don’t go back back as far as the 60’s, but the sound seemed to me to be a lot of Organ, im thinking of The Doors, procol harum, type of thing, but if anyone knows better, I’m happy to be corrected. I’m definitely with you on the Full Bucket though, I’d never heard of Clap until Björn’s Full Bucket updates. Imo, the guy doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit, much like Tom and the team at BPB, he never seems to stop working, consistently updating and creating new software and all of it free. Just incredible, the guy deserves a developer highlight post all to himself, him and the legendary Chris from Air Windows. Rant over! Big respect to all the devs offering software for free and paid (at bedroom producer rates). Peace!
          Oh yeah Clap! Interesting, call me cynical but my worry is its another excuse for the larger companies to re-sell updates to plugins we already own. Just sayin’

          • Basically, the organ was a kind of synthesizer that imitated the sounds of other instruments by combining different tones generated by pipes.

            Theremin was first shown to the public at the Moscow Industrial Fair in 1920.

            First polyphonic synthesizer Warbo Formant Orgel was made in 1937 by Harald Bode, later known for Bode Frequency Shifter that was a module on Moog Modular.

            And full history of Electronic Music can be found here


    • Calf is not a plugin standard/format – it’s a plugin suite on Linux with multiple formats (VST2/LADSPA/LV2). LADSPA is ancient, it’s been succeeded by LV2 but a lot of dev said that developing a LV2 plugin is harder than, say, a VST2/3 plugin, it has a steep learning curve. Thus CLAP.

  2. I think it will because it allows thing that are otherwise not possible e.g. real proper modulation of parameters without actually changing them. With Bitwig this means I can use third party plugins in the same way as internal devices which is a huge win. Also it is not true that there are no big names on board. E.g. Arturia is on the list. And especially NI and Isotope are late with everything. NI even after 2 years can’t properly support Apple M chips whereas one man hobby projects like FullBucket Music can do it.

  3. U-he and Bitwig was kinda late, even it is created last months, but it will took slowly, maybe abandon it, or it will be revolutionary.

  4. I really hope it will become a new standard. Both customers and developers will benefit greatly in an open-source development platform for plug-ins. There has been a lot of great devs that have just quit making plug-ins because they don’t see eye-to-eye with Steinberg over the VST SDK, so if CLAP already had been the industry standard we could have had many of those developers still with us.

    Just imagine a world where there is no complaints about a plug-in not supporting a certain format!

  5. Yorgui Hartmann


    lolz. the derailer army is already here too. bringing the desperately argument of an old slang term, noone would even use anymore today. like “OH the whole thing is totally UNUSABLE now, lets crawl back to steinbergs vst”

  6. Unfortunately, I use Cubase as my main DAW. It’s creator, Steinberg, also develops the VST(3) platform, so I don’t expect, they’ll ever support their main competitor :-/

    • Maybe not from Steinberg themselves, tho they might have to at some point. But you will have third party wrappers (converters), and in most cases, at least in the commercial world, VST2 or 3 will stay for a long while. And then VST4, probably.
      In the case of u-he, I read that their goal was to use CLAP as their main target, because it’s their baby, it’s tailored to their needs, and then wrap to VSTx and AU. Time will tell if others are finding this way the best approach.

    • Yorgui Hartmann


      yea, their problem is, that there is no competition.
      the clap format is free for all AND it is by far the better solution.

      the only thing left is acting like a drug dealer whos clients run away for the free and better drug

  7. I’m ALWAYS excited about new innovations in the plug-in space, and I’m STOKED to hear Image-Line and PreSonus are already on board. Since “FL Studio” and “Studio One” are my DAWs of choice, this is great news.

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