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Eventide H9 Harmonizer

April 20, 2014

Eventide Stompoxes were introduced in 2007, beginning with the TimeFactor delay pedal, followed by the ModFactor, PitchFactor, and Space pedals (reviewed in the 12/07, 8/08, 9/09, and 9/11 issues of GP respectively). These four pedals boast effects algorithms derived from those found in the company’s high-end studio processors, making dozens of delay, modulation, pitch, and reverb effects—and hundreds of presets based on them—available to musicians in a less-expensive and pedalboard-friendly form. The caveat, of course, is that to have all four collections of effects, you must acquire four pedals, which requires an appreciable investment both in terms of cash and ’board real estate.

The H9 Harmonizer ($579 retail/$499 street) provides an elegant and ingenious alternative. Smaller and lighter than its siblings (even its external power supply is considerably less bulky than those supplied with Eventide’s other pedals), yet packed with equivalent processing power and some great new features, the H9 comes loaded with eight effects algorithms culled from the three Factors and Space plus the new UltraTap Delay algorithm exclusive to the H9. (Note: a second exclusive H9 algorithm, Resonator, was released moments before press time, and is being offered free until the end of 2013.) You get Tape Echo and Vintage Delay (from TimeFactor), H910/H949 and Crystals (from PitchFactor), Four types of Chorus and two types of Tremolo (from ModFactor), and Hall and Shimmer (from Space)—and a Tuner algorithm is also included. Dozens of additional algorithms may be purchased online for about $20 each, and you get the first one free. The algorithms provide the core engines for crafting specific effects, which are then saved as presets. Currently the H9 can accommodate 100 factory and/or user presets.

The H9 also differs from previous Eventide pedals in that it communicates with iOS devices wirelessly via Bluetooth (Android support is in the works), allowing you to interact with it in various ways using Eventide’s free H9 Control application. There’s also a version of H9 Control that runs on your Mac or PC, which you connect to via USB (more on this later).

The H9’s front panel controls are streamlined yet powerful. There are two standard footswitches, a large encoder knob with a light ring (that also functions as a switch), and five buttons that control what the knob does. Additionally, there’s a six-character LED, which displays (abbreviated) preset names, parameter values, and other information, along with LEDs for Signal Present, Signal Clip, Preset Edited, and Bluetooth status.

On the H9’s rear panel you’ll find stereo inputs and outputs (that automatically switch between mono and stereo depending on what cables are connected), an expression pedal (or triple-footswitch) jack, a mini-USB jack, and a connector for the included power supply. MIDI In and Out/Thru jacks reside on the side of the pedal.

There are two ways to select and load a preset. You can press the Presets button and use the knob to scroll through the preset menu until you locate the one you want, and it will immediately load and become active. Alternatively, you can use the right footswitch to step through the presets incrementally, without automatically loading them, and once you get to the one you want, stepping on the left footswitch loads it. Then, once the preset is loaded, stepping on the left footswitch again toggles between Active and Bypass status. If you would like the right footswitch to step through the presets decrementally, press the knob and it changes direction. Additionally, you can set the range of selectable presets. For example, if you’ll only need the first ten presets on a gig, simply set the H9 to cycle through presets 1-10, and ignore the other 90.

Once a preset has been loaded, pressing the Hotknob button transforms the knob into the equivalent of an onboard expression pedal, and it sweeps the range of whichever parameter was pre-assigned to the optional external expression pedal. Similarly, pressing the X, Y, or Z buttons accesses three more pre-assigned parameters. Of course, any of these assignments may be changed if you’d prefer to access a different parameter or parameters. Additionally, holding down the two footswitches simultaneously puts the H9 into Tuner mode. Both the LED display and the light ring indicate whether you are sharp or flat, and the light ring goes dark when you are in tune. (The Tuner is also available in the H9 Control application.)

As you might imagine, there’s a lot more concealed under the H9’s hood, and detailing its many features is beyond the scope of this review—but they include adjustable input and output levels (with up to 18dB of gain on the inputs), a choice of three types of Bypass, a Killdry setting for using the H9 in a parallel effects loop, a versatile Tempo function (including Global Tempo), and relatively robust MIDI implementation (including transmitting and slaving to MIDI clock).

I tested two versions of H9 Control: the Mac version on my Mac Pro desktop, and the iOS application on my iPhone 4. The Mac version is a thing of beauty, allowing easy access to algorithms, presets, and individual effects parameters, along with all pedal programming functions, and a few nice extra touches, such as the X/Y Pad controller (sort of like other popular control “Pads”) and a Randomize Parameters function that pulls wild sonic rabbits out of the algorithmic hats. The iOS version is essentially identical, just reconfigured for the iPhone’s smaller screen and touch-screen capabilities. I found it to be a tad cramped but still workable, and I’m sure that it would be the perfect size on an iPad. H9 Control also includes a user-friendly store where you can audition and purchase additional algorithms.

H9 Control’s user interface in either version resembles that of the Eventide Blackhole plugin (reviewed in the 10/12 issue of GP). There is an array of virtual knobs, buttons, switches, and a Ribbon Controller that functions like an expression pedal for your finger (or mouse if you are using the Mac/PC version). Navigating the numerous features—which also include preset librarian and effects management functions—is fast and intuitive. Edited presets may be saved to either the library or the pedal, and the brilliant Preset Lists function allows you to save collections of presets for specific uses. For example, if you play in a jazz-fusion band, a Beatles cover band, and an acoustic trio, you can save unique collections of, say, ten presets for each type of gig, and load them into the H9 before each show or rehearsal via your computer or iSO device.

As for how the H9 sounds, suffice to say that the audio quality is superb, and the effects from the Factor and Space pedals sound every bit as spectacular within it as they do in those pedals (see the individual reviews for specifics). The new UltraTap Delay algorithm is fabulous, providing up to 64 taps and parameters such as Slurm, Spread, Taper, and Chop. Its 20 associated presets have names such as Ghosthunter, Ultraswell, and Glitchtrigger, so use your imagination. Resonator looks equally intriguing, combining multi-tap delays, reverb, and tunable resonances—though I wasn’t able to hear it in time for this review.

The H9 is a unique and fantastic-sounding device that’s chockablock with forward-thinking features, and the ability to program and control it remotely opens up nearly unlimited performance possibilities. Naturally, it receives an Editors’ Pick Award.

Kudos Super-flexible architecture. Superb sound. Excellent H9 Control wireless/USB software.
Concerns Can get expensive if you purchase lots of algorithms.

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