How to use RTAS plugins in Pro Tools

It’s always wise to refer to the documentation first; Chapter 27 in the PT Reference Guide, and all of chapter 5 in the DigiRack Plug-ins Guide deal with RTAS plugins in detail. Most of what I say here will be directly from these two sources. I am also assuming that you are using the LE version of ProTools.


This is a picture of a mono track from the mix window in ProTools. The 5 buttons at the top left are the Insert Selector buttons. (they look like this: ). Don’t confuse them with the Send Selector buttons which appear in the section below them and look exactly the same.When you click on one of these selectors, a menu of your RTAS plugins, and your i/o (inputs/outputs) appears.* We can get into the i/o option later, but for this example, select the plugins menu. Depending on how your preferences are set, you will either see a list of plugin categories, or see a list of all of the RTAS plugins that are installed and available on your system for the kind of track that you are using. Keep this in mind; some plugins are stereo only and don’t appear on mono tracks. There are 5 different types of insert formats: Mono, Stereo, Mono In/Stereo Out, Multi-Mono, and Multichannel. If you don’t see the plugin you are looking for in the list, it may be that you are trying to use it on the wrong format track.When you select a plugin, such as the digirack compressor, a window will appear containing the plugin, and your track will be effected. You can change the effects parameters by adjusting them on the onscreen window. Pretty simple, huh?

Remember, Inserts do not alter the original audio source files, but process audio in real time, during playback. You can permanently apply real-time effects to tracks by recording or bouncing the effect to disk, or by using the audiosuite equivalent of the plugin, if it has one, and processing the region(s). If the plugin has no audiosuite equivalent, you can either bus the output to another audio track, or solo the track, bounce it, and re-import it to a new (or even the same) audio track.

More advanced topics for plugins: (future help pages like this one)

  • Recording the plugin’s output
  • Using a plugins as a shared resource in a send-and-return arrangement
  • Automating the parameters of a plugin to alter it’s output in real time
  • moving or copying a plugin to another track, or location
  • Saving plugin settings in the session so that they come up everytime on every system

*On TDM systems, TDM plugins also appear, but I’m assuming those looking at this page are just using LE or MP and it doesn’t apply.