Education & Career

AES MATLAB Plugin Student Competition

Design a new kind of audio production VST plugin using MATLAB Software and your wits.

MathWorks and AES invite you to challenge both your signal processing skills and creativity! Design a new kind of audio production VST plugin using MATLAB Software and your wits.  

1st Prize: $1000 (Prizes generously donated by MathWorks.)

Next AES Matlab Plugin competition will take place on 147th Convention in New York, 2019.

There are many content production scenarios where monophonic and/or stereo audio signals are processed individually for aesthetic as well as technical reasons before being mixed together. (e.g., in music production, film sound, game sound, broadcasting, etc.) Identify a signal processing need in one of these production scenarios. 

  • Create VST plugin effect that meets an audio production need by offering content creators new technical and/or aesthetic possibilities or addresses existing technical and/or aesthetic limitations, either directly or by creating new mixing or processing possibilities further down the signal chain. 
  • Max 2 channels I/O
  • You may combine two commonly used effects, that interact in some useful way in your chosen scenario (e.g. Dynamic EQ or a better multiband compressor).
  • You may come up with an entirely new kind of effect. 

Challenge Details

How to Enter

  1. Check out the full details below
  2. Assemble your design team
  3. Visit the resources page on (and optionally have your team leader request a free copy of MATLAB to use for the competition)
  4. Design your plugin
  5. Create a video explaining your design process (more details on this below)
  6. Upload your MATLAB code to MATLAB Central File Exchange using the tag aescomp. (The MATLAB Central File Exchange is a public repository of code. All submissions will remain in the exchange after the competition ends — so your code will continue to inspire others.)
  7. Fill out the form on the AES competition page with your video file and a link to your submission on the MATLAB Central File Exchange by August 21, 2018.

Important Dates

  • 144th Convention of the AES (May 23-26, 2018 in Milan) – Live tutorial on creating audio plugins with MATLAB (Recording available shortly afterwards)
  • August 21, 2018 – Submission deadline 
  • September 7, 2018 – Top shortlist announced
  • 145th Convention of the AES (October 17-20, 2018 in New York City) – Winners announced. The leader of each shortlisted team/submission must register for the full convention program and be present at the convention to act as team representative.

Prizes for Winning Teams/Individuals

  • Your award-winning VST Plug-in released to the world via MATLAB Central File Exchange, will help the world sound better and make your resume even stronger.
  • All Prizes generously donated by MathWorks.
    • 1st Prize: $1000 
    • 2nd Prize: $500
    • 3rd Prize: $250
  • The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winning teams will receive (up to 5) licenses for MATLAB and the toolboxes used in the competition. The prize includes one license per team member for up to 5 members of the team. (A maximum of 5 licenses per team will be awarded.)  These licenses also cover the toolboxes made available for this competition.
  • Certificate for winners and copies of certificates for the students’ institutions.

The short-listed contestants/team leaders must be present at the 145th AES Convention in New York City to be eligible to win and collect any of the prizes. No exceptions can be made.


  • Contestants may participate as an individual or as a team. No distinction is made between individual or team submissions in judging. However, AES and MathWorks strongly encourage teamwork. If working in a team, at least 60% of your team must be current AES student members. So 2 out of 3, 3 out of 4, 3 out of 5, ... There is no size limit, but consider the efficiency of your working group.  
  • All contestants must currently be an enrolled student at a degree-granting institution at the time the of the submission deadline, August 15, 2018. 
  • Each team should designate exactly one AES Student member team leader as a point of contact. If the team is shortlisted, the team leader must must register for the full program of all four days of the 145 AES Convention in New York City and attend (Exhibits Plus access does not qualify). It is expected that the whole team will share the award. However, the designated leader will be the recipient on behalf of the team.
  • Contestants submitting as individuals, if short-listed, must register for the full program of all four days of the 145th AES Convention in New York City and attend (Exhibits Plus access does not qualify). 
  • Submissions must be in the form of a fully-readable MATLAB audio plugin, they must support the automatic generation of a VST plugin. The code should include a MATLAB class of type audioPlugin, which should run with no error when passed to validateAudioPlugin and generateAudioPlugin.
  • Testing on multiple machines is recommended.  
  • Submissions may be created using the version/license for MATLAB and toolboxes provided for the competition, a personal copy, or one provided by the students’ institutions. However, the competition (minimally) restricts the toolboxes that may be used for the competition. All submissions must comply with these restrictions. 
  • The allowed toolboxes are: 
    • Signal Processing Toolbox
    • DSP System Toolbox
    • Audio System Toolbox
    • Phased Array System Toolbox
    • Wavelet Toolbox
    • Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox
    • Neural Network Toolbox
  • All code must be clearly commented. These comments do not have to conform to any specific commenting guidelines. For general tips on good commenting practices, consider, for example, 
  • Participation is free.

Video Documentation 

All contestants must submit a video that documents their project. 

  • The video must be between three and five minutes in length. 
  • Please record at as high a quality as possible. Use of iOS devices is certainly acceptable, but, DSLR cameras or better with outboard microphones is desirable.
  • Audio should peak between -1.25dBfs and 0.5dBfs 
  • Please submit a link to a publicly accessible video on Youtube or Vimeo; or submit a link to a file sharing service which doesn’t require the recipient to log in, such as Dropbox or WeTransfer. However, that link should remain active until the semi-finalists are announced on September 7. Links must be included in the space provided on the submission form. 
  • Alternatively, video files under 250 MB may be uploaded directly to the AES submission page, as MOV or MP4. 

Videos will not be judged for their production value or sophistication (i.e., they can be recorded with a phone or webcam as long as the audio is intelligible). Videos may be animated and include text and graphics.

Video Content

The video should cover the following.

  • Explain or demonstrate the intended application scenario.
  • Explain or demonstrate the aim and purpose of the plugin. It should very clearly explain the plugin’s expected utility, and how it fulfils a technical and/or creative need in audio production. 
  • Describe your concept development process (e.g., how you researched and worked up the idea).
  • Explain how you approached implementation, testing and refinements.
  • As applicable, describe the collaborative process. 
  • Copyrighted content is not allowed in your video without permission of the copyright owners. 

Some test and demo audio with suitable licenses can be found on the Open Multitrack Testbed. If licenses require the authors or copyright owners to be acknowledged, the video credits can be used for that. 

Open Source

All submitted code will be made publicly available at the MATLAB Central File Exchange. All contestants are welcome (and encouraged) to further develop their ideas after the competition, perhaps as commercial products. However, the code submitted to the competition will remain permanently as part of the MATLAB Central File Exchange which is a publicly accessible repository. 

All submissions to MATLAB Central will be licensed under the BSD license, as indicated in the MATLAB Central Terms of Use and the MATLAB Central File Exchange Licensing FAQ.

The full text of the BSD license is available on the Open Source Initiative site.

Use of Documentation and Video

By entering the competition, you agree to let AES and MathWorks use your submission materials, including the video, as educational resources and to promote future competitions. 

Travel Grants for Short-Listed Contestants

Limited travel grants are available to partially cover travel-related costs for the one person representing the submission/team at the award ceremony. Travel grants will be awarded at the sole discretion of judges. Short listed contestants/teams are not guaranteed travel support. If the submission was created by a team, it is up to the team to determine amongst themselves how to utilize the grant.  

Forming Your Design Team

Though contestants are allowed to design their plugins individually, if they feel they personally possess all the requisite knowledge, AES and MathWorks strongly recommend working in teams. The right interdisciplinary team— with some coding expertise, signal processing expertise and production expertise— will make your plugin rock. A musician or sound designer on the team might be nice too…

Technical Resources

Judging Criteria

  • All entries will be judged by a panel of judges who together represent a range of production, signal processing and coding expertise. Submissions will be evaluated on a 100-point scale using the criteria explained below.
  • Depending on the plugin’s intended utility, as it is explained in the video documentation, the judges will—at their discretion— apply one of the following three judging rubrics.
    • Technical Utility: Technical value of algorithm used and depth of signal processing knowledge demonstrated 
    • Artistic/Creative Utility: Artistic value and creative vision demonstrated  
    • Technical & Artistic/Creative Utility: Technical value of algorithm used and depth of signal processing knowledge demonstrated AND artistic value and creative vision demonstrated 
  • All entries will also be evaluated by the following criteria.
    • Ease of use and choice of exposed parameters
    • Robustness of the code and submission on File Exchange
    • The clarity and depth of the explanations in the accompanying video
    • Quality of code commenting
  • And the X Factors…
    • Elegance of the solution, for example, the plugins computational efficiency or potential for integration into real-world production workflows
    • Originality
  • If two or more submissions receive the same winning score, those two submissions will go through a second round of judging. The criterion for this second round will be the plugin shows potential for application in multiple audio production scenarios.
  • Decisions by the judges are final.


AES - Audio Engineering Society