Why do so many people call Rack plugins "packs"?

I’m genuinely curious. Is it because you often use Ableton “packs” or because you’re referring to collection of samples, often called “sample packs”? I know of no other sources of that terminology in the audio software industry.

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maybe because to me a plugin is a single module, but, if I add a “plugin” from the library, at the end of the day I’m adding a suite of plugins (=pack)…just guessing…

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Perhaps influenced by experience with VSTs, I find it non-intuitive to conceptualize a single plugin consisting of separate software components that can be loaded and unloaded separately. From a meta-perspective a Rack plugin (pack) is loaded and unloaded as a single unit, but it is the individual modules that are being “plugged in” to a patch on a regular basis.

“Plugin” feels to me like another name for “software module”, and here I feel that would most intuitively apply to the individual modules contained within a Rack “plugin pack”.

Put yet another way, Rack plugins are software bundles and I’d never ordinarily think to consider a bundle to be a single plugin.

Here are some examples of “plugin pack” used in the context of the audio software industry.

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In my mind, a “plugin” is something that, not by denotation but by connotation:

  • Is mostly for power users
  • Should become an official part of the core program when it’s very popular
  • Focuses on one specific task that is often a pain point with the original program
  • Extends the main program’s functionality in unexpected and non-standard ways
  • Often implements its functionality in a slightly adversarial way to bypass host limitations
  • Often creates incompatibilities and conflitcts

In VCV Rack:

  • The collection of free modules is the main appeal. You almost never see someone post songs using Fundamental only, everyone uses third party modules
  • Third party modules have no vocation to become “canonized” and adopted into the VCV core, no matter how popular
  • A plugin is not focused on a specific task but on a single author, it’s the convention to bundle everything you’ve made together for everyone’s convenience
  • Plugins provide neat little well-behaved programs you can arrange in a tidy grid
  • The program emulates a well-understood hardware metaphor to the extent it can integrate with it easily, and the API was created with the knowledge of the history of that hardware. You don’t have to fight against the host’s paradigm to do what you want
  • Modules go out of their way to be a good citizen of their environment

So it makes sense you’d think of them by a different word than the official terminology.


I think just in software in general, any set of tools that are used separately but come as a collection is a “pack”. Games, utilities, multimedia samples - if they’re useful individually but distributed in groups then those groups are packs.


I find the ‘plugin’ terminology counter intuitive and understand why people might use it interchangeably with ‘module’ rather than its usage here.

If the ability arrives to only select the installation of certain modules within a plugin I think that adds to the confusion.

‘Bundle’ would be a clearer alternative. I’ve never been inclined to thinking of ‘packs’ but understand why others might.

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Coming from the VST (and likely also graphics) world…

Plugin = Singular, one GUI, one entry in the browser/list

Pack, Bundle, etc. = Plural, a collection of plugins, multiple entries in the browser

So for VCV to say “Plugin can be a collection of one module, or a collection of many modules” that can be confusing because you’re taking a common term “plugin” and asking users to redefine it in their minds from a single module, to this more nebulous “collection” of one or many modules.

If it were me, and I were giving you advice, where VCV currently uses the term “Plugin” I’d replace that with “Collection” or “Pack.” Maybe there’s an even better term that would imply “it could just be one module in there.” But I’d definitely recommend calling individual modules, “VCV modules” and only use the word “Plugin” when referring to “Rack for DAWs.” Example: “to get the Rack for DAWs plugin to receive automation from host make sure you…”

Otherwise, it’ll feel like Rack is using mixed terms. “VCV Rack for DAWS is a plugin…” and “Stoermelder Pack One is a plugin [for VCV].” The definition of plugin seems to change there depending on the context. The former is what users are used to hearing, the latter usage is not.


short version of plugin package, pack / packs

I agree this is curious. All the commenters correctly point out that what we call a plugin is seen by most as a collection of modules. Makes sense. But why call a collection a “pack”. I’m more used the hearing that called a “bundle” or a “collection”.

Obviously it’s not important, but I agree with @Vortico that it is just a little surprising/interesting.

The curious part, and the root cause of the confusion, is why Vortico opted to take a “Collection” or “Bundle” or a “Pack” of modules, and name it a “Plugin.” Users are accustomed to thinking module=plugin, and a collection of modules = pack/bundle/collection. What users do not instinctively think is that plugin=collection/bundle/pack.

The nomenclature is confusing in that regard. I get why it’s called plugin, but that doesn’t make it not confusing.

EDIT: What would be most clear for everyone and easy to market/explain/etc. would be:

VCV module = Module

Collection of Modules = Collection

VCV Rack for DAWS = Plugin

  • plugin - plug-in module or plug-in software
  • pack - items contained within it
  • package - wrapped in or packed
  • bundle - tied or wrapped up together
  • collection - collecting someone or something

Package / pack has gift like qualities and sounds mysterious.

Well Rackheadz, It is really a question conformity and what are the social norms. Sociology, a very interesting subject!

Find who called them packs first and you will see the behavioural pattern develop, because groups of people will always look up to someone as a leader figure, in this case the socially accepted terms. As people always want to fall into groups based on there own personality, likes / dislikes the behaviour of a group as a whole becomes the appropriate socially accepted conduct.

examples: animated green arrows placed into gif’s on imgur portraying approval, or the cat / dog tax on the end of long posts on imgur.

I think of things like “Chronoblob” as a plugin and “Alright Devices” as a pack or collection of plugins. I know the definitions around here differ and I just kind of translate in my head when I read.

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Why do so many people call Rack plugins “packs”?

They’re referring to the collection or bundle of “plugins” from an author or company.

Has to be some way to specify, and package or bundle seems as good as any…

“Plug-in” usually refers to a singular instance of something.

From a users perspective the Bog Audio or Vult collections consist of multiple independent modules.

I would guess the same as @ehdyn in regard to “packs”.

I personally don’t understand why people call modules plugins. The term plugin will be even more confusing when VCV releases the plugin version of Rack. To me, Rack is a virtual modular Rack, this is true for the DAW/standalone and the plugin version of Rack, so it holds modules. I never heard/read the term plugin in conjunction with real hardware modular systems.

More then one module is a set, collection, pack, bundle of modules.

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Okay, thanks all. It seems that the answers here are mostly consistent with each other.

I urge everyone who reads this to make an effort to use the correct terminology:

  • module: A rectangle with components that you can add to your rack. e.g. Valley Dexter
  • plugin: A unit of software that provides modules for VCV Rack. e.g. Valley

It occurred to me that, unless I missed it, there isn’t any place in the on-boarding process where new users are told exactly what a plugin is. Even the manual jumps straight to describing the process of installing plugins before defining the term and what Rack plugins provide.

I can recall arriving at the Library for the first time and being unsure whether I was in the right place. In my mind I was looking for modules, not plugins.

It might be helpful to add a welcome message to the Library, maybe only displayed on first visit, which explains that plugins are units of software that provide modules for VCV Rack. This could help to start users off on the right foot in using the correct terminology.


I really like how Reason represents missing REs:

If Rack eventually ships with demo patches it’d be cool to have a placeholder “click here to download/buy” for missing modules to help people figure it out.

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this right here,.