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Software, Windows, Mac OSX, Linux
Cardinal Rack v22.04 VST2 VST3 AU x64 x86 ARM WiN macOS LiN [FREE] screenshot
FREE | 7 May 2022 | 1.24 GB
Cardinal is a free and open-source virtual modular synthesizer plugin, available as JACK standalone and AU, LV2, VST2 and VST3 audio plugin for FreeBSD, Linux, macOS and Windows.
It is based on the popular VCV Rack but with a focus on being a fully self-contained plugin version.

More specifically, this is a DPF-based plugin wrapper around VCV Rack, using its code directly instead of forking the project, with the target of having a proper, self-contained, fully free and open-source plugin version of Rack.
See the why section below for the reasons Cardinal exists, also for frequently asked questions check this FAQ document.

Cardinal contains Rack, some 3rd-party modules and a few internal utilities all in a single binary.
All "Core" modules from Rack have been replaced by Cardinal equivalents, simplified to better work for an audio plugin.

Cardinal does not load external modules and does not connect to the official Rack library/store.
All VCV branding has been removed (to the best of our knowledge) in order to avoid any trademark issues.

The VST3 version is in progress, already part of the build but still experimental.

Stable release
Cardinal releases have official builds for Linux, macOS and Windows.
There are Linux builds for various architectures (armhf, arm64, i686 and x86_64), macOS "universal" (arm64 + intel) and Windows 32 and 64bit builds. Both macOS and Windows builds have an installer.

Plugin variants
Cardinal provides 3 plugin variants - "main", Synth and FX.
They are all equivalent in performance and behaviour, with only the IO and metadata that changes.
This is because some hosts are very strict on which plugins are allowed as instruments vs FX, so separate variants of the same plugin are needed.

FX and Synth variants both have 2 audio outputs, while "main" has 8.
All variants have MIDI input and output support.

This variant provides 8 audio inputs and outputs and 10 CV inputs and outputs.

NOTE: Due to AU and VST2 formats not supporting CV ports, this variant is not available for those formats.

This variant provides 2 audio outputs but no audio inputs or CV ports.
Plugin type is set as "instrument".

This variant provides 2 audio inputs and outputs, but no CV ports.
Plugin type is set as regular "effect".

Included modules
At the moment the following 3rd-party modules are provided:

A feature comparison between Cardinal and Rack Pro can be seen here

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  Contributor 11.10.2014 2339 8300
Rapidgator | KatFile
  Member 21.06.2018 14 3040
Single Link or Parts
  Resident 22.01.2014 228
Amazing tnx
  Member 23.12.2021 37
Oh, nice! THX for the info that this exist!
  Resident 8.07.2021 441
A 100% liberated VCV equivalent! At least!

...And with a free VST2/VST3/AU version! At least!

Thank you dev and Hidera!

And unlike VCV, it never "phones home" nor connects to internet!

No external modules are allowed, all available modules are nicely integrated by the dev itself => less bugs.
I'm alive!!! :D Isn't it astounding??? ;)
  Member 7.08.2014 72
Thanks for this! I'm having problems getting it to work with Logic X and Live though - the AU keeps failing validation. Does anyone have any ideas what I might be doing wrong?
  Resident 8.07.2021 441
That's the problem for now: none of these plugs are signed.

You should try to sign the AU yourself:

1. First, you have to be sure it have not been quarantined: in Terminal, type:
xattr -r -d /PATH/TO/PLUGIN

(replace /PATH/TO/PLUGIN with the complete path to the not recognized plug, normally it is there: /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/)

2. Now try to sign the plug yourself: in Terminal, type:
sudo codesign -f -s - /PATH/TO/PLUGIN

(Don't forget to copy the hyphen (minus sign -) between "-s" and the path! Then, it's recommended to reboot before testing the plug in Logic.)

3. Now launch Logic Pro X, see if the plug is recognized. If it still isn't in the list, try this, always in Terminal:
sudo codesign --force --deep --sign - /PATH/TO/PLUGIN

(Reboot again before testing.)

- - -
Note 1: After the first line in terminal, you will be asked to type your password blindly (nothing appears in the window as you type it, it's a security measure) then hit enter to perform the action.

Note 2: Often, It's necessary to REBOOT before the plug is recognized, this is often the case with AU plugs and Logic.

Note 3: For beginners: to avoid typing the PATH yourself, there's a well-known trick with Terminal:

a. First copy-paste the command line, followed by one and only space, but without the path.

(Reminder: don't forget to copy the hyphen (-, or minus sign) at the end of certain commands!)

b. Then take the plugin file (*.component) with your mouse, and drop it on the Terminal window: you will see the path auto-magically typed for you!

(Delete the last space after the path, then hit 'Return' to execute the command line)
I'm alive!!! :D Isn't it astounding??? ;)
  Member 7.08.2014 72
Thanks for that very detailed explanation Earth33 - Mothers Day here so rather busy but I shall try that in the morning when I get a chance!
  Member 7.08.2014 72
Thanks again for your help, Earth33 but I can't get it to work unfortunately - says AU validated in Logic X but then fails after updating properties.
  Member 8.05.2022 5
quote by hideraRapidgator | KatFile

Is it possible to automate various parameters inside Ableton Live?

For example, can you automate the Frequency knob of Audible Instruments Macro Oscillator 2 with automation lane inside ableton live? Here it doesn't seem to recognize any knob movements to be able to map them to automatable parameter .

Would be really awesome if automation works for this, beyond the proprietary Cardinal Host Automation module .
  Resident 8.07.2021 441
Hello, if you read the documentation on github, and in particular this, you'll see that there is specific modules who allow communication of CC and MIDI parameters to and from the host, so it seems to me that automation should be possible.

In the README, there is this phrase:

"Additionally Cardinal provides its own modules for DAW/Host automation, time position and internal plugin hosting."

In any case, you can always write to the dev and ask any question direcly here.
I'm alive!!! :D Isn't it astounding??? ;)
  Member 8.05.2022 5
Thanks for help. Will ask on github :)
  Resident 26.11.2015 1059
it's not as fast to setup automating the module's parameters as with the vcv pro paid for version.. but in cardinal, there are two modules under the "distrho" brand: 'host params' & 'host midi cc map'. host params you can use the 24 exposed parameters on the plugin to modulate other modules via cv cables. the host midi cc map module let's you link any knob or slider in cardinal to a midi cc. personally i use the the 'host midi cc map' most all the time and in reaper just automate a midi cc slider. or in ableton, i use a max for live patch that lets me automate midi ccs on the timeline (of course you can also automate ccs in clips in ableton).
make music, not walls.
  Member 12.08.2018 24
When I install the new version, my loans no longer load, they are not recognized, can someone help me?
  Resident 8.07.2021 441
You should ask the question here. Unfortunately, I'm not savvy enough to answer...
I'm alive!!! :D Isn't it astounding??? ;)
  Member 6.04.2018 103
This is wonderful, and I have to commend this board for its helpfulness and generosity. Tons of people see your posts and you're making them very happy. Fixed problems, taught things, gave a tip, helped pick software... I really don't see many inquirers go unanswered here, even the ones a little later to threads. Some of you have been doing this for years and years-- making sure everyone gets a chance to try it out. And when I consider this operation in its totality I'm actually in awe.

I lurk more than I post, and I tend to be the late one coming to a more dormant thread, but I see your work and I benefit from it greatly. Thank you very much!
  Resident 26.11.2015 1059
excited just read that the next release of cardinal (22.05) will feature again the vcv fundamental modules (reskinned due to licensing issues) - which is great since many of those modules are super easy to use and sound really great (the vcf, wto and delay especially imho)

i think the only drawback w cardinal is that it may cause r2r or other teams to lower priority for getting a proper vcv pro crack to you all. i already own vcv pro however i do feel he's charging way too much for the plugin (as i feel this is the case for so many plugins anymore) given that the greatness of vcv comes from really all the other free modules that coders donated 1000's of hours of their free time to. just imho course.
make music, not walls.
  Member 7.08.2014 72
Thank you once again for your help, Earth33 - sadly it doesn't seem to like my system as I keep getting the following after following those steps, rebooting and trying to Reset and Rescan Selection in Logic X -

"validating Audio Unit CardinalSynth by DISTRHO:

validation result: successfully validated

updating properties of AU CardinalSynth by DISTRHO…FAILED!"

Not sure what I'm doing wrong as it seems to see it but just won't work. I did look at the developers site on Github but that is way above me! Do I need to install something else with it? Any suggestions of how I can get it working will be very welcome.
  Resident 12.12.2008 36
I also spent a tremendous amount of time trying to get it to pass AU test in Logic. Eventually I gave up and just checked the box in Plugin Manager and both the instrument and FX are working fine. It does put up a warning when I boot up logic but it is one click and then everything runs fine.
For now I will live with it like this.
Good luck.
  Member 7.08.2014 72
Sadly I can't even get it to do that! Usually I can get things working but this one just doesn't seem to work for me - it would be nice to get it to open.
  Member 8.05.2022 5
quote by juxtaphonit's not as fast to setup automating the module's parameters as with the vcv pro paid for version.. but in cardinal, there are two modules under the "distrho" brand: 'host params' & 'host midi cc map'. host params you can use the 24 exposed parameters on the plugin to modulate other modules via cv cables. the host midi cc map module let's you link any knob or slider in cardinal to a midi cc. personally i use the the 'host midi cc map' most all the time and in reaper just automate a midi cc slider. or in ableton, i use a max for live patch that lets me automate midi ccs on the timeline (of course you can also automate ccs in clips in ableton).

Hey, this is really awesome news!

Could you please elaborate on what m4l device are you using for this and how do you go for the whole process - mappings , tracks and assignments ?

How do you link your m4l device to Cardinal cc ?

Will be very greatful to you if you do shed some light on that!
Best regards!
  Resident 26.11.2015 1059
oka in ableton this is the only way i know to do it:
1. you need an m4l device that has midi ccs as knobs. do a search on - the device "Midi CC Controller - Sustain in Midi Clips 1.0" is one such device that exposes midi ccs as knobs. the recent "Ableton Orchestra Template 1.0" device post also has a similar m4l device that turns the knobs into ccs.
2. place the m4l midi device directly to the left of cardinal
3. in cardinal, load up the module "host midi cc map" (it's under the distrho brand filter)
4. click on the host midi module where it says "click here to map"
5. move one of the cc knobs on the m4l device. the host midi map module should pick up/link to that cc
6. click on a knob or slider on a module inside cardinal
7. notice the host midi map module now shows the name of the knob/slider you just clicked on and the knob/slider should move according to the midi cc knob on the m4l device
8. right click on the host midi map module where it says 'mapping' in cardinal to stop the mapping process. otherwise you can map many knobs/sliders in cardinal in a row to the same midi cc. scareful, if you right click on what you just mapped/linked, you will erase it.

thats the only way i know to do it. perhaps there's an easier way? hope that helps!
make music, not walls.
  Member 8.05.2022 5
hey, @juxtaphon , i am really thankful for your detailed description of the whole process!

last night i was playing around and came up with somewhat similar approach.
i tried couple of midi cc m4l devices.
For me the tricky part was finding out that one must first make some adjustments with the desired knob on the m4l device so that the 'host midi cc map' module in cardinal would recognize it with the corresponding / selected cc value. But i found it out today and you describe it pretty well
And the other tricky part is that after doing the mapping of a knob or parameter inside the cardinal rack, one must press the 'mapping' button again in order for it to be saved with that associated parameter only.

This program brings worlds of possibilities in sound design!! One can come up with really unique and strange sounds!

I appreciate your detailed description and helping me out!

Best regards!
  Moderator 21.01.2012 1741 13905
How is it possible to program polyphonic presets.
Have you done it?
  Member 8.05.2022 5
i ususally reffer to this guy's channel - very dedicated to vcv rack in-depth tutorials

Here's a video on polyphony :

My Webpage
  Moderator 21.01.2012 1741 13905
Great reference!! Thank you

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