Too real, or not too real, that is the question

All the official new product / update announcements from the Samplemodeling team
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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by Maddcow » Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:05 pm

Hi all, a very late reply in this thread but below are the reasons I was certain about my answers being correct in this contest.

SM is pretty close with the saxes. Most of the little "tells" I heard wouldn't be picked up by non-sax players. The most obvious "tell" is the tone of certain notes and the note attack (see my last point below). An alto sax middle "D" and "E" in the 4th line/5th space of the treble staff (concert F &G) has a distinctive sound that almost always coincides with key noise and a slight "bump"/emphasis due to the player moving from the octave below and the resulting physical movement. It's not just about the tone but about the timbre change with those notes. Have a listen to the alto's middle B's middle to the middle E's in the first section of demo can't miss the slight emphasis and key bump as the player moves from the B's to the E's. Another note on a sax (any model) is middle Eb - it has a "fatter" sound than any other note in the mid-register. You can especially hear this Eb in the middle section of demo 4.

In a similar manner, an alto's middle C# (concert E) has a slightly nasal quality that I've never heard replicated in a virtual instrument. The opening of the demo melody uses both middle E's and C#'s and then moves to middle D's, B's before finishing on a low A (sax pitch). The vast majority of sax players are slightly flat on middle C's and C#'s but slightly sharp on middle B and A. Again, I've never heard this replicated because who'd want to buy a product that's out of tune? But those "tells" give away the real sax.

Another factor is the's way too consistent with the virtual saxes in both speed and depth. A real sax player is consistently changing both aspects to suit the current style and that's not happening with the SWAM saxes. Demo 2 is a good example of this. Whoever played it was trying to be clever with expression and vibrato but what really happened was swells, not authentic vibrato. I always teach my students there are 3 things with vibrato: speed, depth and delay. Very, very few contemporary players introduce vibrato to a note immediately these days. You can really hear the difference in vibrato speed/depth between demo 2 and demos 3 & 4.

The original Chatterbox demos were interesting. The biggest "tell" was the slight increase of vibrato and air when the player executed a turn (mordent) at one particular spot. This was very evident with the real sax but the virtual sax just couldn't do it. I really don't think this sort of thing is even possible to replicate because it's executed more as a state of mind by the player as they head into the turn rather than a conscious, technical undertaking. However, if SM nails this they'd be well on their way to fooling a lot of sax-playing listeners!

Another "tell" is the "spit" noise in the mouthpiece, especially near the beginning of demo 4. Having an option to include breath noise is great but if SM wants a realistic virtual sax, they need to include an option for a little "spit" noise that will only be evident with soft notes and usually in the mid range i.e. low G to middle D. I was listening to Candy Dulfer, Brandon Fields, Dave Sanborn and Gerald Albight at different times during this past week and every single one of these players have a little bit of "spit" sound in certain songs and always with soft, mid-range notes.

Another "tell" and one of the most obvious is the attack on the virtual sax: the attack is never "clean" at all i.e. there is always a slight fade-in. When tonguing notes on sax (or any reed instrument for that matter), you'll always get a certain degree of initial impact noise as the tongue contacts the reed. This simply isn't there with the virtual saxes and to me, this is probably the biggest issue with the SWAM saxes. Listen to and play with "The Trumpet" and you'll immediately notice the varying degrees of note attack evident in this instrument. I don't own "The Trombone" but from what I've heard, it's the same. If I were Stefano, I'd be looking at fixing this with the SWAM saxes because at the moment, the notes are all essentially fading in which is completely unrealistic.
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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by Plougot » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:58 am

Very interesting comment Maddcow. Obviously, your very well trained ear has catched way more things than mine ;)
Apart from your last comment (about note attacks), sounds like the next step in virtual instruments should be... Virtual players. As we can't know all these fine details if we don't play the instrument ourselves, it could be great to have another "layer", which could mimick all those things you are talking about.

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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by zenasium » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:34 am

May i ask what sound was use for the vst tracks ?


Peter Siedlaczek
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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by Peter Siedlaczek » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:53 am

what sound was use for the vst tracks ?
Not sure if I understand... "Sound"? Do you mean the "Instrument" loaded on the GUI? It was the default setting "Sax 0 Flat".


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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by zenasium » Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:25 pm

Thanks ! it was about the instrument selection. ok

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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by dstong » Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:57 am

A delightful challenge to all listeners.

I did not know about the contest but I made my choices and found it very hard to tell the differences between the 5 examples timbre wise, so I focused most on the vibrato.
I find it surprising that only Madcow made a note of the vibrato as useful cue.

Using this single criterion I got 3 of the 5 correct (samples 2, 3, and 4).

On the my fairly decent computer speakers I did not hear any spit noise or taking breaths (which I can hear on my own playing if I record with a microphone), but perhaps that's just a poor excuse :) . I listened only once to each sample, then went back and listened to part of one sample once more.

I think we can easily conclude that the samplemodeling virtual instruments, and the Sax in particular as shown by this test, is damned good, and if people were not told ahead of time that some were real and some were virtual then hardly anyone would notice.

Based on using the Saxes, rather than comparing the samples in this test I would also add that the virtual instrument voice decays far faster than a real Sax. I have to make an effort to keep the air flowing very deliberately for a sustained note, otherwise it decays faster than I would like.


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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by artinro » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:14 am

The first post on this thread from back in early February included this:

"Which instruments? Most likely the double reeds (oboe, english horn, bassoon.. ).

When will they be available? Most likely a question of a few months

Giorgio & Peter"

Any update on these new instruments? Would love to hear some snippets and more details ;-)

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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by leleswam » Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:26 pm

We are working hard on double reeds, they will be available in a month or two. We have to drive some technical issues and then fine tuning the instruments. We want that they sounds real and amazing as all the Samplemodeling instruments do. We will post a demo really soon.
We appreciate your patience.

Emanuele & the SWAM engine team

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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by Perry » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:27 pm

Awesome. :D


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Re: Too real, or not too real, that is the question

Post by soundtracker » Sun Jun 23, 2013 8:17 pm


Any information you are allowed to share in advance?

Will the double reeds be one product or single instruments (maybe available in a bundle)?
Will English Horn and Contrabassoon also be included?

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