Eventide PitchFactor

September 1, 2009

THE PITCHFACTOR BRINGS TO PITCH SHIFTING what the TimeFactor and ModFactor pedals (reviewed in the December ’07 and August ’08 issues respectively) brought to delay and modulation. This is particularly exciting, as Eventide has long been venerated for its “harmonizer” effects—beginning with the model H910 and H949 Harmonizers introduced in the early ’70s—and the PitchFactor’s DSP engine and effects algorithms are nearly identical to those found in the company’s pricier studio processors.

Like its predecessors, the PitchFactor boasts ten finger-friendly knobs, an interactive “Billboard” display, true stereo operation with any combination of instrument or line-level signals, three Bypass modes including true bypass, assignable expression pedal and external footswitch control, tap-tempo capabilities, and extensive MIDI implementation. The number of preset slots has been upgraded to 100 from the previous 20, and the factory presets that ship with the unit may be replaced with user presets (all presets and system settings may be backed up to a MIDI sequencer or SysEx librarian program).

In addition to pitch shifting, most of the PitchFactor’s ten effects algorithms offer stereo delays up to 1,500ms, and some include reverb, modulation, arpeggiation, and even synth-type effects. There’s also a fast and accurate onboard tuner with a choice of graphic or numeric displays.

The PitchFactor operates in either Bank or Play mode. In Bank mode, you cycle up through the banks by tapping the right footswitch, and then toggle between the two presets in each bank using the left and center footswitches. You can also temporarily disable banks that you aren’t using, so you don’t have to cycle through all 50 of them to reach the one you want. In Play Mode, the footswitches control the currently loaded effect: The left footswitch toggles between Bypass/Active, the center footswitch either engages the Learn function or “Flexes” the pitch (we’ll get to those), and the right footswitch is for tap tempo.

In addition to the onboard controls, connecting an expression pedal immediately allows you to control a key parameter in each preset, and the pedal may be reassigned to one or more parameters of your choice. Connecting a triple footswitch defaults to duplicating the onboard switches, but may be assigned to other functions, including bank up/down, and toggling between two fixed parameters. MIDI provides even more control, allowing you to select banks and presets, switch individual functions on and off, and continuously vary nearly any parameter using CC messages.

Having individual knobs to control most key parameters is one the pedal’s strongest features, but given that the function of sev- eral knobs changes depending on the chosen algorithm, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the variations—though should you forget you can just move the knob slightly and the parameter name and current value will momentarily be displayed.

I tested the PitchFactor in mono using a Rivera Venus 6 combo—up front and in the amp’s effects loop—and in stereo within the effects loop of a Fractal Audio Axe-FX Ultra amp modeler. (I also tested it as an outboard processor in my studio). In all cases the pedal performed magnificently, and while the majority of the algorithms were designed to function optimally in stereo, most sounded surprisingly good in mono. Tracking was also generally quite good regardless of the input source, following string bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, and other playing techniques with ease.

While the 100 factory presets range from general purpose to highly specialized, and some are genuinely exceptional, they all derive from the PitchFactor’s ten Effects algorithms, which we’ll focus on here.

The Diatonic algorithm tracks the note you play and intelligently adds either one or two harmony notes. Dial in a key, a scale (Major, Minor, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Locrian, etc.), and the interval or intervals you want to hear (from two octaves below to two octaves above)—and out come harmony notes diatonic to your chosen key and scale. Want to change keys but keep the same intervals and scale? Press and hold the middle footswitch to activate the Learn function, play the root note of the key you want to change to, and a moment later voila! Each of the two harmony voices also has its own delay and feedback controls, facilitating everything from fattening the sound by offsetting the notes slightly, to using longer delay times to create rhythmic patterns. For example, setting the delays to 500ms and 1000ms, with one interval set very high and the other very low, produces cascading countermelodies above and below whatever notes you are playing. And they can be synced to the rhythm of the song using Tap Tempo.

Quadravox functions similarly to Diatonic, but provides up to four harmony voices. You can’t control the individual volume levels of each voice, but you can control the balance between pairs of voices A+C and B+D, which is nearly as useful. Unlike in other algorithms, however, the Delay A control determines the overall delay time, and playback of the four voices is staggered sequentially: First A, followed by B, C, and D. You can then use the Delay B control to select from more than 20 patterns that create rhythmic effects by altering the playback time between voices or causing two or more to sound simultaneously. Try assigning an expression pedal to Delay A or Delay B to create rhythmic harmonic mayhem.

The dual pitch-shifters in the Har- Modulator algorithm are chromatic rather than diatonic, covering an extended range from three octaves below to three octaves above—and their pitch can be modulated over four octaves at rates from very fast to very slow, kind of like a super vibrato. Modulation waveforms include Sine, Triangle, Square, Ramp-Up, Ramp-Down, and Envelope (playing dynamics), and independent delays expand the possibilities exponentially.

MicroPitch is similar to HarModulator, but Pitch A and Pitch B only sweep unison to +50 cents and unison to –50 cents respectively, the delays are limited to 500ms, and there’s a tone filter for darkening or adding sparkle to the sound. You can think of this algorithm as a sort of mega chorus or modulated double-doubler. It produces some of the most gorgeous sounds that the Pitch- Factor has to offer.

H910/H949 emulates the vibe and functionality of Eventide’s first Harmonizers, the “glitch-y” model H910 and the “de-glitched” model H949 (with a Modern setting thrown in for kicks). You can choose Normal (continuous), Micro (fine gradations around unison), or Chromatic pitch control, and delay times up to 2000ms. Delightfully quirky sounds abound.

To fully harness the PitchFlex algorithm’s potential you’ll need an expression pedal, though the Flex footswitch may be used to toggle between the extreme (heel and toe) settings. Imagine a Whammy pedal with two continuously variable harmonies instead of one, greater control over modulation “shape,” and a resonant low-pass filter for darkening the sound. Each of the four intervals (two in heel position and two in toe position) may be set independently, allowing for pedal-steel-like bends, pseudo dropped tunings, and complex polytonal cross-sweeps.

Octaver generates sub-harmonies one and two octaves down, and passes them through dual resonant filters with variable center frequencies, allowing you to craft huge and vibrant bass sounds, with or without fuzz.

Crystals is a classic Harmonizer effect. Technically, “twin reverse pitch changers with independently adjustable delays and feedback with added reverb,” it creates mesmerizing clusters of shifting sounds unlike anything you’ve probably ever heard (and nearly impossible to describe).

The HarPeggiator creates 16-step arpeggios by combining one of 27 pitch sequences with one of 21 rhythm/groove sequences and one of 25 effect sequences (filters, fuzzes, glitches, etc.), resulting in complex patterns that may be further tweaked for tempo and dynamic response. I spent hours exploring this mind-blowing algorithm, and just barely scratched the surface.

Synthonizer generates two synthesized tones that follow the pitch you are playing— one utilizing additive synthesis (sine, triangle, or sawtooth waveforms) and the other subtractive synthesis (unison, one octave up, or one octave down)—and lets you adjust the attack times and add reverb. Tracking can be tricky on some settings, largely depending on how cleanly you pick, but when it works it works really well. For example, I crafted a preset combining a flute-like high voice and a growling sax-like low voice that was incredibly seductive and musical.

As with its predecessors, my only gripe with the PitchFactor—other than its bulky wall-wart—is that you cannot name the presets. Rumor has it that Eventide is preparing to release a dedicated librarian program for the Stompbox series, and in a perfect world it allow you to name presets within the computer and port them into the pedal. Nonetheless, the PitchFactor does just about everything else you could hope for and more, sounds incredible, and has no peers in the marketplace—all of which qualify it for an Editors’ Pick Award.

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