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Knowledge base > Getting started

Neural DSP plugin quick start guide

If you're new to using plugins and wondering how to get started, we’ve written this guide for you.

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    What you need to get started with plugins

    Getting set up is very simple, but there are a few things you’ll need before you begin.

    1. A guitar or bass and an instrument cable

    The instrument you wish to use the plugin with, and an instrument cable. You probably already have these.

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    2. A computer

    Any Windows PC or Apple Mac that’s not more than 5 or 6 years old. Make sure your machine meets the minimum required specifications.

    An Internet connection is required to activate your license through iLok License Manager. 80 - 400 MB of free hard disc space is required per plugin you install.


    Minimum requirements
    • Intel Core i3 Processor (i3-4130 / i5-2500 or higher)

    • 8 GB of RAM

    • macOS 10.14 (Mojave)

    Recommended requirements
    • Intel Core i5 Processor (i5-6600 or higher)

    • 8 GB of RAM or more

    • macOS 11 (Big Sur)


    Minimum requirements
    • AMD Quad-Core Processor (R3 2200G or higher) / Intel Core i3 Processor (i3-4130 / i5-2500 or higher)

    • 8 GB of RAM

    • Windows 7

    Recommended requirements
    • AMD Ryzen 5 Processor (R5 1600 or higher) / Intel Core i5 Processor (i5-6600 or higher)

    • 8 GB of RAM or more

    • Windows 10

    3. An audio interface

    A piece of hardware that connects your guitar or bass to a computer.

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    4. Studio monitors or headphones

    Once you have your guitar signal going into your computer and it is being processed by the plugin, you need to hear it. Having this sound come out of your computer’s speakers is not a great option, so at the very least you’ll want a good pair of headphones. Better still, a great pair of studio monitors.

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    5. iLok account and iLok License Manager software

    iLok License Manager is a free piece of software that you run on your computer to manage your licenses for our plugins. It is simple to sign up and install, and it protects your license ensuring that nobody can steal it, and nobody can pirate our plugins.

    Create a free iLok account here and download iLok License Manager here.

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    Getting started with plugins

    Once you've connected your audio interface to your computer, created an iLok account, and installed iLok License Manager, it’s time to install a plugin.

    How to download, install, and activate a free trial

    All of our guitar and bass plugins have a 14-day free trial, giving you plenty of time to explore their features before committing to a license purchase.

    Step 1 - Downloading and installing a plugin

    Head over to the plugins page and click the “Free trial” button for the plugin you wish to try. Download the appropriate installer for your operating system (macOS or Windows).

    Install the plugin by launching the downloaded installer file and following the on-screen instructions.

    Step 2 - Activating your 14-day free trial

    After installing the plugin, run it by opening the standalone version or loading it within a DAW. When the plugin interface opens, click on the "Try" button.

    You will then be asked to log in to your iLok account. After logging in, your 14-day trial will be added to your iLok account automatically.

    How to download, install, and activate a purchased license

    Step 1 - Create a Neural DSP account

    You can create a Neural DSP account here. Fill out the registration form with a username, your email address, and a strong password and then click “Create”. 

    Once you've created your account, log in using your email address and password.

    Step 2 - Link your iLok account to your Neural DSP account

    Link your iLok account to your Neural DSP account by inputting your iLok account ID in the form under your account settings.

    You'll then receive an email asking you to confirm your iLok username. Click "Verify Your iLok Username" in the email to confirm your account.

    After confirmation, your iLok account will be linked to your Neural DSP profile.

    Step 3 - Purchase a license

    Before purchasing a license, make sure your iLok account is created and linked to your Neural DSP account. Additionally, make sure you have installed iLok License Manager on your computer.

    Purchase a license by visiting the product page of the plugin you want to buy, adding it to your cart (or pressing “Buy now”), and completing the steps for purchasing.

    The purchased license will be deposited to your iLok account automatically after the checkout.

    Step 4 -  Download and install the plugin

    After checkout you will be redirected to an order confirmation page with links to download the plugin installer file. Download the appropriate installer for your operating system (macOS or Windows).

    Install the plugin by launching the downloaded installer file and following the on-screen instructions.

    If you purchased a plugin you have already tried and have installed, you do not need to re-download the plugin.

    Step 5 - Activate your license

    After installing the plugin, run it by opening the standalone version or loading it within a DAW. When the plugin interface opens, click on the "Activate" button.

    Press “Skip” when presented with the Activation Code Entry screen.

    Log in to your iLok account when prompted and activate the license on your machine.

    Your license will then be activated.

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    Setting up your plugin

    Once you've installed and activated your plugin, it's time to set it up and start using it.

    To get started, launch the standalone version of the plugin and click the settings button (the gearbox icon) at the bottom-left corner of the plugin interface.

    Note: the settings menu within the plugin interface is only visible in the standalone version. To set up audio settings for plugins within a DAW, open the audio settings section of your DAW's preferences menu. From there, you can select your audio interface, set the input and output channels, and adjust the sample rate and buffer size. 

    Use the following settings to optimize your plugin's performance and get the best possible sound out of it.

    Audio output device

    This should be set to your audio interface. When you select your interface you will be able to specify the output(s) to route your signal to depending on the interface you have.

    Audio input device

    This should also be set to your audio interface. Select the input you have plugged your instrument into.

    Note: On Windows computers, you need to select “ASIO” as the audio device type for the plugin to function correctly.

    Sample rate

    Set it to 48000 Hz (unless you specifically require a different sample rate).

    Audio buffer size

    Set it to 128 samples or lower. Increase the buffer size to 256 samples if you have an older computer.

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    Installing plugins to your DAW (optional)

    All Neural DSP plugins come with a standalone version, meaning that you don’t need a DAW to run them. However, if you’re planning on recording your playing, you’ll need to install your plugins to your DAW.

    A Complete installation will automatically install all the different plugin formats Neural DSP plugins come in (VST, VST3, AU, AAX).

    You can also perform a ‘Custom install’, where you can install only the format(s) you need.

    Most DAWs automatically scan for new plugins when you launch them. This means that after installing your plugin, it may be available within your DAW without any additional steps.

    However, if you can't find the plugin in your DAW’s plugin list, you can manually rescan your plugin folder to locate it and make it available for use.

    Once your plugin is available in your DAW, create a new project, insert a new audio track, arm it for recording, and load the plugin onto the track. After that you’re ready to start using your plugin within your DAW.

    It's important to note that the specific steps for installing and using plugins in a DAW varies depending on the DAW you're using.

    For detailed instructions, refer to our guide on installing plugins to your DAW.

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    Tips for using your plugin

    Now that everything is set up, it's time to explore the different sections of your plugin. Use your mouse to control knobs and switches within the user interface of the plugin.

    Plugin modules

    Familiarize yourself with the user interface, which is broken down into different sections accessible by icons at the top and bottom of the plugin window.

    1. Stompbox section

    This section consists of three or four pedals in series, which can be used separately or combined. Pedals in this section vary across different plugins, but typically include a compressor, overdrive, distortion, and time-based effects like modulation or pre-delay.

    2. Amplifier section

    This section contains the main amp model(s) included in the plugin. Most plugins follow a progressively hotter gain structure, meaning that the amps move from low gain to high as you move from left to right.

    3. Cabsim section

    A comprehensive cabinet simulation module that features virtual microphones which can be positioned around the speakers. This module can also serve as a standard loader for your favorite impulse responses (IRs).

    4. EQ section

    Depending on the plugin, the EQ section includes either a 9-band graphic equalizer or a 4-band semi-parametric equalizer, giving you precise control over different frequency ranges.

    5. Post-effects section

    This section consists of time-based pedals in series, which can either be used separately or combined. Pedals in this section vary across different plugins, but generally include a delay and a reverb.

    Global features (top menu)

    The global features menu has various features and settings that allow you to customize your sound.

    1. Input

    The input knob adjusts the level of the signal being fed into the plugin. If your guitar has a low output, you can increase the input to get a little more level to drive the amp. Alternatively, if your guitar is driving the amp too hard, dial the input down to get a cleaner tone.

    2. Gate

    The noise gate helps to reduce unwanted noise or hum in your audio signal. If you have any hum or hiss in your signal, dial up the noise gate to reduce it. Additionally, you can use the noise gate to tighten up your sound by creating a more defined and articulate tone, especially when playing high-gain tones.

    Please note that if the threshold is set too high, sustained notes may be prematurely cut off, resulting in shorter sustain. The threshold should be set to a level that cuts out the noise you want to eliminate, but doesn’t affect the tone or feel of your playing.

    3. Transpose

    Transposes the signal up or down in pitch by a constant interval (+12/-12 semitones). Use this to easily change the tuning of your instrument.

    4. Input mode

    With the Stereo switch, you are able to process a stereo input signal.

    5. Doubler

    Engages the doubler effect, which projects your signal to a simulated stereo field. The Spread knob determines how many milliseconds the signal copy is delayed. The doubler is disabled in stereo mode.

    6. Presets

    All of our plugins come with presets that have been made by our team and artists, giving you a shortcut to a great sounding tone.

    7. Output

    The output will affect how much signal the plugin will feed out.

    Global features (bottom menu)

    1. Audio settings menu (standalone only)

    You can select the audio interface to use, set the input/output channels, modify sample rate, buffer size and MIDI devices.

    2. MIDI mappings

    Opens the MIDI Mappings window that lets you map any external devices to control the plugin.

    3. Tuner

    Click to activate the built-in tuner.

    4. Metronome (standalone only)

    Opens the metronome interface. Right-click on it to start/stop the metronome playback 

    5. Tap tempo  (standalone only)

    Controls the plugin's global tempo by clicking it.

    6. Tempo value

    Adjust the plugin’s global tempo by clicking the arrows. Double-click on it to enter a numerical value.

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    Next steps

    Now that you're familiar with the basics of using plugins, it’s time to start exploring the vast world of tonal possibilities that Neural DSP plugins have to offer. We offer a 14-day free trial for all our plugins so you can test them out without any commitment.

    If you have any questions or need assistance, our support team is always here to help. You can contact us by emailing

    Guides for getting started with plugins

    All our plugins have a 14-day free trial

    Download a free trial of any of our guitar or bass plugins and take your tone to the next level.