Education & Career

AES Student Competition: MATLAB plugin

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: $1500 (Prizes generously donated by MathWorks.)
Next AES MATLAB plugin Student Competition will take place at the 149th Convention in New York, 2020.
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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 26, 2020.
Important Dates
  • 26th  August, 2020 – Submission deadline 
  • 16th September, 2020 – Top shortlist announced
  • 149th Convention of the AES (October 2020) – 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: $1500 
    • 2nd Prize: $1000
    • 3rd Prize: $750
  • The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winning teams will receive (up to 5) licenses for MATLAB and the toolboxes used in the competition. 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 149th AES Convention in New York City to be eligible to win and collect any of the prizes. No exceptions can be made.

Teams and Individual Submissions
  • Contestants may participate as an individual or as a team. In terms of judging and prizes, no distinction is made between individual or team submissions. Winning teams split the prizes. The prizes are 1500USD, 1000USD and 750USD for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place respectively regardless of whether the winning submissions were submitted by an individual or team. AES and MathWorks strongly encourage teamwork in any case.
  • If working in a team:
    • At least 60% of your team must be AES student members at the time of the submission deadline, and student or non-student members at the time of the convention. 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 be an enrolled student at a degree-granting institution at the time the of the submission deadline
    • Each team should designate one AES student member team leader as a point of contact. If the team is shortlisted, the team leader must register for the full program and attend all four days of the 149th AES Convention in New York City (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:
    • Must be an AES student memberat the time of the submission deadline, and student or non-student members at the time of the convention.
    • Must be an enrolled student at a degree-granting institution at the time the of the submission deadline.
    • If short-listed, must register for the full program of all four days of the 149th AES Convention in New York City and attend (Exhibits Plus access does not qualify).
Submission Details
  • Submissions must be in the form of a fully-readable MATLAB audio plugin, and 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 Toolbox
    • Phased Array System Toolbox
    • Wavelet Toolbox
    • Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox
    • Deep Learning 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, 
  • There is no entry fee to participate in the competition. 
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 mobile devices is certainly acceptable, but DSLR cameras or higher quality with outboard microphones is desirable.
  • Please submit a link to a publicly accessible video on YouTube. Videos must remain accessible up to the end of the 149th AES Convention. Ideally, teams should ensure their videos remain active indefinitely and they are encouraged to reference it from their MATLAB Central submission. Links must be included in the space provided on the submission form. 
Video Content
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.
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 the AES competition organizers. 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 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 the algorithm(s) used, and depth of signal processing knowledge demonstrated
    • Artistic/Creative Utility: Artistic value and creative vision demonstrated
    • Technical & Artistic/Creative Utility: Technical value of the algorithm(s) 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 (including choice, ranges and scaling of exposed parameters)
    • Robustness of the code, computational efficiency and overall quality of submission on File Exchange, including code comments
    • Clarity and depth of explanations in the accompanying video
    • Originality
  • Decisions by the judges are final.
Demoing at the Convention
  • Short listed contestants/teams will demo their plugins live at the 149th AES convention in NYC, in front of the competition judges and other convention attendees.
  • The final format of the finals will be announced at least 2 weeks before the convention. Authors should prepare to deliver a short (10-15 minute) presentation, to include a high-level technical explanation of the algorithm(s) used, a practical demonstration of the plugin, and an overview of its potential applications


AES - Audio Engineering Society