Audio Modeling has been on the forefront of using acoustic modeling for virtual instruments for quite a while. The SWAM instrument series has developed over time into a sophisticated set of tools for re-creating the natural behaviors of instruments, how they respond to musicians, and how to re-create these sounds in a computerized environment. This results in virtual instruments that are significantly smaller (no huge sample libraries to store) as well as aiming for a more realistic and authentic sound. Version 3 of the SWAM engine updates most of the instruments with a new interface and some great new features.
SWAM stands for Synchronous Waves Acoustic Modeling and is a proprietary technology developed by Audio Modeling under the direction of Stefano Lucato. By modeling the physical behavior of instruments, all of the nuances of an instrument can be continually changed while you play to bring a level of realism that is quite stunning. Imagine being able to change things like the pressure of a violin bow, the amount of breath you push through a mouthpiece, or the location where you bow a stringed instrument all while you play a phrase. This all happens when you play a real physical instrument, so being able to control them while playing a virtual one helps get you closer to ‘the real thing’.
The one hiccup when moving from a sample library over to an acoustically modeled instrument is that there’s a lot to control. If you want to get the most out of a virtual violin, you’ve got to adjust the strength at which you play a note, you’ve got to virtually place the bow in the right place, you have to decide how much pressure to put on the bow… and more! It’s a lot to think about, and it can be a lot to configure to get everything ‘just right’ with your MIDI controller.
One of the biggest upgrades in the 3rd generation of the SWAM engine is that these elements are quickly and easily mappable. The screens are laid out much more cleanly, and the MIDI assignment paradigm is as simple as clicking ‘assign’ and then moving a MIDI controller to ‘learn’ the assignment. The new mapping setup is a welcome addition, and took a lot of the ‘mystery’ out of learning to control everything or mapping manually.
The presets are also front and center, and it’s now significantly easier to load up a control preset for an alternative instrument like a Seaboard or Electronic Wind Controller.
Graphically, the plugins are much cleaner to look at that version 2. Everything has been not only modernized, but ergonomically considered. The most common things you need to modulate are front and center, and you can get to them all quickly.
The sound of the SWAM instruments has always been stunning, but with the interface and ergonomic changes, you can now control so much more a heck of a lot easier. This makes for much more realistic sounds, and it makes ‘getting the most’ out of your instrument a much more reasonable reality. I was a big fan of the upgrade to version 3, and my only complaint would be that we don’t have the brass engine updates yet, just woodwinds and strings. I know Audio Modeling is hard at work, though, and I’m sure we’ll see Brass V3 quite soon!
It’s an extremely worthy update, and now is the perfect time to check out SWAM if you haven’t yet!
This SWAM Authorized course by Matt Vanacoro shows you everything you need to know to make the SWAM instruments come alive. He even brings in live musicians who show you actual playing techniques you need to know to make the most of these amazing, plugin instruments.