While most plugin developers and modern computers use 64-bit systems, there are still tons of great plugins that never got updated from a 32-bit architecture (these are mostly free plugins).
JBridge is a great tool when you want to bridge your 32-bit VST plugins into a 64-bit DAW. At $10, JBridge isn't expensive at all, but sometimes you don't even have $10 to spend.
We'll be looking into what free & paid JBridge alternatives are available to you for both Windows and Mac.
Which DAWs Support 32-bit Plugins?
Before we start looking into VST bridging software more in-depth, we need to talk about the DAWs that have native support for 32-bit plugins.
If you have one of these DAWs installed, you don't need to bridge your plugins:
- FL Studio
DAWs like Reaper have the bridging apps built-in so well, that all of your 32-bit plugins just work normally, as they would if they were 64-bit. In fact, the 32-bit version of Reaper comes with a 64-bit bridge and vice versa, so no matter what your system architecture is, you should be able to use your VST Plugins seamlessly.
A lot of DAWs offer similar functionality, but of the built-in bit bridge selection, Reaper is much higher above the rest!
How Can I Convert 32-bit Plugins To 64-bit?
You can convert 32-bit plugins to 64-bit by using bridging software. The best bridging software to use for this is either JBridge (for Windows), or 32-lives (for Mac). You can get free software on both operating systems that can bridge your plugins.
Bridging apps usually create new files called “bridge” files, and you'll need to create a separate folder for these. With JBridge, you select your host architecture, in our case that's 64-bit, set your directories, and boom, you're done.
For some apps, you'll need to set the path of your bridge files within the VST Host, to get them to appear!
Does Bridging Work on M1 Macbooks?
Bridging doesn't work for M1 Macbooks. The software used for bridging only works with Intel-based Macbooks and up to macOS 10.15. There is currently no software that will bridge 32-bit plugins on an M1 Mac.
Although the chips are much faster than Intel, this may be important information to know before purchasing your Mac. If you have a lot of 32-bit plugins you still use, get an Intel over an M1.
Can You Use VSTs on Mac?
You are able to use VST on Mac, using a bridging software called NetVST. This allows you to bridge VSTs over a LAN network, using Wine for an emulation environment.
This can however be extremely difficult to set up and there's not much information online about how to do so. If you're not very technical, then it's most likely not even worth the headache.
The 4 Best J-Bridge Alternatives
There are reasons why JBridge wouldn't work for you. First of all, while JBridge works extremely well, sometimes it doesn't do what you want. Worse yet, some DAWs don't support JBridge at all. So whether you just don't want to spend the $10, or are looking for an alternative –
Here are the 5 best JBridge alternatives:
Compatibility: Windows, macOS ( up to 10.15 ), Linux, 32-bit/64-bit
Possibly the only real free alternative to JBridge on Mac, NetVST is an open-source bridging software that can allow you to bridge plugins on a LAN network.
Fortunately you can use it to bridge plugins locally too, just select the “loopback” network option within NetVSTHost.
Additionally, NetVST also allows you to bridge 32-bit VST plugins on Macs because of its compatibility with Wine.
Being open-source, there are a few apps built on the NetVST architecture, such as TBridge, but none of the NetVST versions really stand up to JBridge.
Don't get us wrong, NetVST is a good free alternative to JBridge, but there will inevitably be some plugins that will just not work with NetVST. And, as the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for”.
Compatibility: Windows, 32-bit/64-bit
Just like the Reaper bridging software, BitBridge is natively built into a DAW, in this case, Cakewalk. Originally made as a standalone bridging app, BitBridge was bought and integrated into Sonar, which has now turned into Cakewalk.
Cakewalk is easily one of the best free DAWs on the market, and the BitBridge software is one of the best bridging apps out there. While the compatibility isn't as great as it is with JBridge or Reaper, BitBridge works wonders.
Even the most temperamental plugins never crashed Cakewalk (after doing so multiple times with JBridge), so if you need something free and consistent, BitBridge can be a life-saver.
However you'll have to pick up a new DAW environment (which is free), but if you're not wanting to change DAW, this probably won't be the best option for you.
Compatibility: Windows, macOS ( up to 10.15 ), 32-bit/64-bit
When it comes to JBridge alternatives, Bridgewize is probably the best out there. It's more expensive than JBridge, but for that, you get a much better user interface and a greater set of features.
Bridgewize is one of the rare bridging software that works with both VST and AU plugins on Windows and macOS (up to Catalina 10.15), so this is already a big step up from JBridge.
Add to that the awesome Interface which makes wrapping and unwrapping your potential 32-bit plugin candidates extremely easy and fast.
With zero latency, a seamless plugin host and negligible CPU usage, Bridgewize is easily the best bridging app out there and it doesn't crash.
Is it worth paying triple the price of JBridge? Yes. With the added functionality and better CPU usage, added with the fact that it doesn't crash anywhere near as much – if you use 32-bit plugins a lot, then Bridgewize is a solid investment.
4. 32 Lives
Compatibility: macOS ( up to 10.15 ), 32-bit/64-bit
32 Lives is another great alternative to JBridge, but again, it's close to 10x as pricey. Unlike JBridge though, 32Lives lets you work with both AU and VST plugins on macOS (again, intel-only, up to Catalina 10.15)
So what do you get for the $100? Well, unlike every other bridging software on our list, 32 Lives does not have a plugin host.
Instead, 32 Lives creates 64-bit adapter plugins, that you can open just like any other plugin. This means that once you have it set up, you won't even notice that 32Lives is running. Probably the best way to revive an old project with outdated plugins, 32 Lives is an awesome bridging application, if, a little expensive.
How Do I Use 32-bit Plugins on Mac?
To bridge AU plugins from 32-bit on Mac you can use NetVST, 32-Lives or Bridgewize. With NetVST you can bridge VST plugins from a Windows environment using Wine. There is also a version of JBridge for Mac that can be used to convert plugins.
That being said, bridging sadly is not possible with the M1 Macbooks. All the briding apps we researched for this list only work with Intel-based Macbooks, up to Catalina OSX 10.15.
While these apps could get updates to work on M1 Mac devices, the wildly different architecture of the processing units means that it's going to take way more work than before! So if you're on a newer, M1 mac device, you're sadly out of luck!
To recap, here's the complete list of J-Bridge alternatives:
Whether you're looking to revive your old projects or explore what outdated plugins can offer, a good Bridging application can be quite a necessity. Between free options, cheap options and expensive options, the world of VST Bridging apps can be confusing as hell, and you'd be forgiven to be lost!
Hopefully, we've cleared up the important things and gotten you on the way to getting your old plugins working again!