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The SWAM platform

All Samplemodeling™ Virtual Instruments of the Brass family have been developed on the Kontakt™ platform produced by Native Instruments. The Trumpet and Trombone, as well as the French Horn and Tuba, exploit the Harmonic Alignment Technology, developed by Giorgio Tommasini, for real time building of articulations.

The Sax Brothers use an alternative approach, the Synchronous Wave Triggering conceived by Stefano Lucato. This latter technique is less suited to the Kontakt engine, due to some technical limitations, including jitter and fixed interpolation.

swam engineThat's why Stefano, working with Lele Parravicini and Luigi Felici, elected to develop an independent platform, built on the specifications of his technology. Development of the SWAM engine (Synchronous Wavelength Acoustic Modeling) required about two years of hard work. But it was worth the effort. While sample-based, it exploits advanced technical solutions derived from physical modeling. Thus, a new line of products, based on the SWAM engine, was added to the "classic" Samplemodeling Instruments. This resulted in speeding up the development of new instruments, as requested by all our customers wishing to have at hand an entire Samplemodeling orchestra.

SWAM Instruments

Created by Stefano Lucato and Emanuele Parravicini

in collaboration with Peter Siedlaczek & Giorgio Tommasini

Realistic, expressive, real time playable virtual instruments?

Yes. All these instruments exploit a new technology on a proprietary platform, the SWAM Engine. The acronym stands for Synchronous Wavelength Acoustic Modeling, conceived by Stefano Lucato.

They use samples as a base material, chromatically performed by a professional player over a very wide dynamic range. But the analogy with a sample based library ends here. The underlying, proprietary technology allows continuous interpolation among different vectors like time, dynamics, pitch and formants. Advanced real time processing techniques yield realistic legato/portamento, vibrato, squeak, overblow, ornamentations & trills, pitchbends, formant shifts, subharmonics, growl and flutter tongue to be performed in real time.

Virtual instruments? No additional software needed?

Differently from other Samplemodeling instruments running on NI Kontakt, SWAM instruments are supplied only as plugins running on virtually any host. They run on PC and Mac and have been extensively tested on most common sequencers, like Cubase, Logic, Digital Performer, ProTools etc. Standalone mode on a PC requires a suitable VST host (see below). Mac users do not need a VST Host, since they may directly load any Swam plugin in the built-in DAW GarageBand.

What are the differences between SWAM and Kontakt-based instruments?

Both families share the following principles:

  1. These are not conventional libraries, but virtual instruments, where no pre-recorded, sample-based articulations are used. Virtually any articulation can be shaped, even in realtime, using a keyboard or a windcontroller.
  2. Both allow continuous control of the dynamics across the entire range. This means that any type of seamless crescendo-decrescendo without phase artifacts can be shaped using a single expression controller.
  3. Both allow to reproduce virtually any type of legato/portamento by simply overlapping start and destination notes.
  4. Both allow continuous control of the intensity and frequency of vibrato.
  5. Both are ready to play even "out of the box".

There are, however, substantial differences, due to technical aspects and background philosophy.

Kontakt-based instruments exploit the powerful features of a renowned engine, including sophisticated scripting, flexible equalizers and filters, efficient use of convolution and pristine sound quality.

All samples have been recorded in an anechoic chamber, using top professional musicians and state of the art, multi microphone recording techniques. Sample processing has been carried out using the Harmonic Alignment technology, which allows seamless crossfade between dynamics while maintaining the timbral quality of the original samples. The instruments are programmed according to an adaptive model, based on the performance “fingerprints” of the real instrument, aimed at minimizing the differences between the real phrases and those played by the virtual instrument.

Velocity and expression rescaling, advanced timbral control acting on the individual harmonics, virtual stage postioning, and creation of realistic ensembles from individual instruments are also unique features of Kontakt-based instruments.

Artificial intelligence techniques are used to reproduce the natural imperfections of a real player. Articulations too difficult to achieve in realtime using several controllers are easily carried out by using a series of keyswitches.

SWAM-based instruments use the SWAM proprietary engine, rock solid, and running as as plugin on virtually any host.

While not strictly anechoic, all samples have been recorded in a dry environment, and processed according to a technique conceived by Stefano Lucato & Emanuele Parravicini, which allows seamless crossfade between adjacent dynamics and notes, yielding technically perfect pitch sweeps. They feature a user friendly interface giving access to many tweakable parameters, yielding some timbral control, including realtime formant shift.

Simplicity of installation and authorization procedures, along with very easy management of updates, are characteristics of SWAM-based instruments.

Differently from Kontakt instruments using two level keyswitches, SWAM instruments require more direct control by the user to shape each articulation. In fact, the highest priorities, in SWAM philosophy, are realtime playability and responsiveness to the input in a physically oriented sense, rather than accurate reproduction of the performance of an experienced musician.

the graphical interface

Background philosophy

Stefano's idea is to create realistic virtual instruments. They must be played as real instruments, using a keyboard or a wind controller, plus three or four midi controllers, including an expression pedal or breath controller. All articulations are easily shaped by the player, even in real time, using just velocity, pitchwheel, modwheel, an expression pedal or breath controller, a sustain pedal, plus some optional CCs to control growl and flutter tongue, squeak/overblow, subharmonic and formants. Virtually any wind controller can be used to play these instruments.

Actual development

Every musical instrument has distinctive properties, involving timbre, dynamics, response to transients, articulations, vibrato and so forth. As a consequence, the development of each virtual instrument requires an individualized approach. The traditional, Kontakt-based Samplemodeling Brass employ an adaptive model, based on the performance "fingerprints" of the real instrument to minimize the differences between the real phrases and those played by the virtual instruments. This is not the case for SWAM-based instruments, which primary aim is realtime playability and physically oriented response to the input.

The controllers (CCs)

Real time control of most parameters can be accomplished via midi. All instruments exploit several MIDI controllers for optimal performance. The basic controllers are the Pitchwheel, CC11 (or CC7, or CC2) for the dynamics, CC1 (modwheel) for vibrato intensity, CC19 for vibrato rate. Legato time can be assigned either to the velocity of the overlapped note or to any CC. Special effects are Key noise (CC9), Breath Noise (CC25), Harmonic Structure (CC24), Subharmonic intensity (CC20), Growl (CC21), Flutter Tongue (CC23), Overblow (CC64), and :Formant shift (CC26). Channel aftertouch (CC129) can be used to control several parameters, such as vibrato intensity or rate, subharmonic, growl or flutter intensity.

The graphical interface (GUI)

Here you can modify the default settings for several parameters. You may vary timbre, harmonic structure and formants, choose type of attack, set the intensity of set the intensity of subharmonic, growl, flutter tongue, key noise, breath noise and overblow. You may control random pitch and dynamics fluctuations, pitch response to dynamic changes, overall resonance of the pipe, subharmonic intensity on transitions, release and legato time. You may also set transposition, master tune, pitchbend response, volume, pan, dynamic compression, intensity and decay of the built-in reverb. A downward fall can be triggered by pressing a button, as well as from a keyswitch or a MIDI controller.

Options page

Here you will find more advanced settings, allowing control of the transition between attack & sustain, shape of portamento, vibrato rate and random fluctuations, type of overblow, linear or log response to the expression controller, etc. A MIDI remapper page is also available, allowing remapping of many control parameters to any MIDI CC.

Microtuning

This feature copes with the requirements of musicians using non-tempered scales, so essential in, for example, Middle Eastern and Asian music. Our approach to microtuning yields maximal flexibility, allowing user-defined scales, where the extent of detuning (range +60/-60 cents can be precisely set for each note by means of a series of sliders.

In addition, selective detuning can be applied to individual notes in real time, using keyswitches activated by the sustain pedal or other controller. The currently detuned notes are displayed in the GUI.

AU / VSTSupported formats. All instruments developed on the new platform will be available only as plugins for PC (Windows 7, 8, 10, Vista or XP, 32 or 64 bit), supported formats VST2 and AAX 32 or 64 bit, Mac (Intel only, OSX 10.6.8 - 10.12), supported formats AU, VST2 and AAX 32 or 64 bit. VST3 is not supported yet.

Supported OSSystem requirements. The realism and expressiveness provided by the SWAM engine is demanding in terms of CPU load. An up-to-date computer with at least 1,6 GHz Core2Duo CPU is therefore recommended. Less powerful systems may also prove satisfactory, but may require larger buffer sizes, involving higher latency.

Audio Interface (Sound Card). A good quality audio interface (USB, FireWire, PCI, Thunderbolt) with suitable low latency drivers (like ASIO for the PC) is required. Accepted buffer size are 128-2048 samples (256-512 recommended). Excellent results will be obtained with any sample rate between 44.1 and 96 kHz.

MIDIMIDI devices. All instruments developed on the Swam engine, like our classic Kontakt-based instruments, create all the effects and articulations in real time, using a set of midi controllers. Although they can be used without any additional hardware (except the audio interface) by drawing the controller curves and inserting the notes directly in the host sequencer, best results, especially for real time playing, will be obtained using external MIDI devices.
Minimum requirements are:
keyboarda) A MIDI keyboard with at least 5 octaves, Modwheel & Pitchbend, connected to the computer via USB or an external MIDI interface, equipped with a set of physical continuous MIDI controllers (usually knobs or sliders) to control effects like overblow, subharmonic, growl, etc.

expression pedalan expression pedal, or a breath controller (Yamaha BC3, or TEControl USB), mapped to CC11 or CC2, respectively, to control the dynamics, allowing continuous transition from pp to ff. Please note that the instruments will not work if neither CC is received. Although other physical midi controllers, assigned to either CC11 or CC2 might do, this is not recommended, mainly due to the shortage of suitable limbs. :-)

wxb) As an alternative to the MIDI keyboard, a Wind Controller like Yamaha WX5 or EWI (USB or 4000S) will provide excellent results.

Standalone use. Standalone mode on a PC requires a suitable VST host. We tested the free SaviHost by Hermann Seib and Cantabile Lite, with excellent results. Other VST Hosts, albeit not necessarily free, can be found on http://www.kvraudio.com/get.php. Mac users do not need a VST Host, since they may use the GarageBand belonging to the system.

Copy Protection and Activation. A simple, but effective, copy protection mechanism has been implemented in the SWAM platform. A simplified activation procedure has been developed, using the License Key provided with the download link to simultaneously activate all the instruments of the family. Both a straightforward online activation, and an interactive email-based offline activation are provided.

copy protectionLicense Policy. We provide two license keys. How to use them is a customer's choice. One can elect to install the instrument on two different systems, if both belong to him, and are not used simultaneously. Or, one can spare one license for a future installation. Please note that operating system, or hard drive changes do not affect instrument activation. However, major hardware upgrades, or installation of the instrument on a new computer require a new activation. In this case, deactivation of a previous license is required in order to free the license for a new installation. This is easily accomplished by sending us a deactivation request per e-mail. Sharing unused license keys is strictly forbidden. Please note that all license keys are personalized, and that your email address will be displayed on the instrument GUI.