This Article Was Originally Published On: December 15, 2015 #Issue 17.
My first experience with Eventide came in the late ’80s, when my band won some studio time in a high-end studio as part of a battle of the bands prize. We were pretty much in awe to begin with, but the rack with several Eventide Harmonizers had us all drooling. Later on, the guitar player in that same band (BGM‘s very own Technical Editor, Tom Lees) picked up some fantastic-sounding Eventide pedals, and let me tell you, I was jealous!
Fast forward to the 2013 Summer NAMM Show, and Doug Whimbish is bending my ear hard, telling me that I have to check out this cool new pedal from Eventide. At Doug’s urging, I stopped by the Eventide booth and was impressed with what I saw. So much so, in fact, that we ended up giving Eventide a Best of Show Award for the H9 that year. Since then, we have been able to spend a good bit of time with the H9, and it continues to impress.
The first round of stompboxes which Eventide put out were very impressive, with a lot of processing horsepower, and they were broken down by effects type. The ModFactor, PitchFactor, TimeFactor and Space pedals were on the large size, but packed some of the pest studio rack gear into a convenient, live-gigging package. When I first saw the diminutive (compared to its predecessors) H9 and learned that it packed all the options of Eventides’ prior pedals – and more – into a single unit, I was immediately intrigued. Then, I noticed that they were controlling this pedal with an iPad. What’s that all about? Oh, nuthin’ but a game-changer…
We have seen different manufacturer’s take numerous paths in regards to how to integrate smartphones, tablets and other iOS devices into the live performance scenario. In fact, we have had several installments by Tom Lees looking at different interfaces. To date, though, I think that Eventide’s H9 Control app, which connects to the pedal via Bluetooth, is the most impressive pairing of these devices we’ve seen.
The Nuts and Bolts
The pedal, itself, has a very clean, professional look. The white enclosure features a big black knob in the middle. In fact, it’s called the “Knob” (and, sometimes, the “Encoder”), and it’s encircled by a ring of red LEDs, called the “LightRing.” The Knob works in two ways: it spins/rotates, and it can also be pressed in, as a switch. It is used to select and load presets, adjust parameter values, dial-in tempo, name presets, control/adjust system settings, select the function of the right footswitch, and can also act as an on-board expression pedal. Above the Knob are five illuminated “radio buttons,” labeled “Hotknob,” “X,” “Y,” “Z” and “Presets.” These buttons are used to select the action of the Knob. Above the buttons is the display, which has a six-character LED section, and four indicator LEDs (Bluetooth On status, Bluetooth Paired status, Signal Present and Peak/Clip).
When you press one of the radio buttons, it lights up, the display indicates the parameter or preset name, and the Knob becomes active. The X, Y and Z buttons are used select preset parameters, which can then be adjusted using the Knob. The LightRing indicates the relative value of the parameter being adjusted. If you press on the Knob, it will display the exact value of that parameter. While you can also select and control individual parameters in a live setting using the H9 Control app, the X, Y and Z buttons let you quickly select and adjust up to three selected parameters on the fly. In “normal” mode, those three parameters are pre-determined by Eventide, with an eye for selecting the “most important” parameters for that particular preset. In “expert” mode – which is engaged by pressing and holding one of the buttons – you can step through all of the parameters for the current preset and choose which parameter that button will control. The selection of normal or expert mode can be made on a button-by-button basis. Very cool. But wait, it gets better…
The Hotknob button functions as a parameter patch, allowing you to control any combination of parameters, simultaneously, using the Knob. If you press and hold the Hotknob button for two seconds, the Hotknob LED blinks slowly, and you can then use the X, Y and Z buttons to select the parameters you wish to assign to the Hotknob patch. You can also set specific minimum and maximum values of the various parameters to be assigned to and controlled by the Hotknob patch. If this reminds you of assigning parameters to an expression pedal patch, then you get a gold star, because these functions (Hotknob and expression pedal) work in parallel on the H9, and the patches are identical. If you press the Preset button, then the Knob can be used to select and load a preset. If you press the Preset button again, the H9 shifts to algorithm-selection mode. Presets can be saved by pressing and holding the Preset button.
Rounding out the top panel controls are the two footswitches. The left footswitch is used to bypass/enable the pedal or to load a cued preset. The right footswitch is used to step through the presets or to tap tempo. Pressing both footswitches enables the very excellent tuner.
Looking at the top/back panel, there are two 1/4″ Input jacks, and two 1/4″ Output jacks. Each pair is labeled “1” and “2,” with Input/Output 1 being the choice for mono operation. These inputs are optimized for instrument level, but will accommodate line-level signals up to 4dBU before clipping. Obviously, using both sets allows for stereo operation, but the H9 will detect which input and output jacks have cables plugged into them and routes the signals accordingly. Therefore, if you plug into Input 1, but take outputs from Output 1 and 2, the “dry” contribution for both outputs comes from Input 1.
Plugging into both inputs and using both outputs, the dry contribution from each input carries over to the corresponding output, preserving the original signal stereo image. To the right of the inputs/outputs, we have a 1/4″ EXP jack for an expression pedal or auxiliary switch.
When an expression pedal is plugged in, the H9 will automatically calibrate to the pedal, as you rock from full-heel to full-toe. As previously noted, the expression pedal works identically to using Hotknob patches, but it can also be used to control input and output level. This same EXP jack can also be used to support three independent momentary switches, using tip, ring and tip + ring (a stereo cable must be used, of course). These external switches work in conjunction with the left and right footswitches, and can be programmed to perform a variety of functions.
Rounding out the back panel features are the power supply input jack (9-12v, 4.5w) and the USB jack (type Mini B). The USB jack is used for software updates, as well as for connection to the H9 Control program (see below). In addition, it also handles MIDI duties, if connected. On the left of the unit, we have the MIDI In and MIDI Out/Thru jacks. These DIN5 jacks only control MIDI functions when the USB is not connected. The H9 allows for full MIDI implementation, and MIDI can control such functions as toggling active/passive mode, loading presets, toggling switch functions, changing parameter values, setting tempo from MIDI clock, using the H9 as a MIDI clock source, enabling the expression pedal or auxiliary switches to control other MIDI devices and backing up or restoring presets to/from a computer.
Eventide has done a remarkable job of providing the user with onboard hardware options for controlling the huge range of capabilities of the H9. The pedal itself allows a huge range of control from a relatively small number of buttons, knobs, and switches. But wait until you check out the app…
With the H9 Control app, Eventide really takes “control” to a new level. The H9 Control connects to either an iOS device (via Bluetooth) or to a Mac or PC desktop/laptop (via USB). You can dig deep into the control of the algorithms/presets with either a computer or an iOS device, but yet the interface is also friendly enough for live use (particularly on an iOS device). Eventide provides excellent, detailed manuals and other support through their webpage (and you should definitely check them out), but with the H9 Control, you can dig right in and start managing parameters, presets and settings intuitively, without having to RTFM first. The H9 Control can also be used to audition, purchase and manage your H9 algorithms through the Apple Store.
Eventide offers the H9 in three flavors. The H9 Core ($499 list) is loaded with the pitch and delay effects found on Eventide’s original studio harmonizers (H910 and H949), and features 25 factory presets. Moving up to the H9 ($579 list), you get nine algorithms and 99 presets, with contributions from the Space, PitchFactor, ModFactor and TimeFactor pedals, as well as the H9 exclusive UltraTap Delay. For this review, Eventide bumped our test unit up to the H9 Max ($799 list), which comes preloaded with all of the effect algorithms and associated presets from the other Eventide stompboxes, plus all current exclusive algorithms (UltraTap, Resonator, EQ Compressor, CrushStation) and all future algorithms created for the H9. When you factor in all of the available delay, chorus/modulation, pitch, reverb, overdrive/distortion, EQ/compression, and other effects available with the Max package, it is the clear winner in the bang-for-the-buck category. However, if you really only need a smaller subset of algorithms, then buying one of the lower-priced units and then picking up a few more algorithms at the Apple Store may be the way to go. You have the option of trying out each algorithm before buying, and most algorithms can be purchased for between $19.99 and $24.99.
When I first used the H9 Control, I used my iPad4, and the screen size makes it very easy to not only select algorithms, but to manipulate the various virtual controls. Any change made to the H9 Control shows up on the pedal, and any changes made on the H9 pedal, directly, show up on the H9 Control. Slick! Next, I tried pairing the H9 to my iPhone 6. The smaller screen of the phone works just fine, and the screens/controls in the H9 Control app adjust themselves nicely to fit the screen size. I can see where a smaller screen, like on my old 4s, might make things a bit tight, but I could easily gig with my iPhone 6, instead of the iPad, if need be.
On the “General Settings” screen, the H9 Control lets you adjust such things as bypass mode (bypass the DSP only, employ a hard-wire true bypass, or choose DSP + FX bypass mode, which sends the audio at the DSP’s inputs directly to the outputs, with the decaying “tail” of the current effect mixed in) or “kill dry audio.” When enabled, the “kill dry” mode removes the dry signal from the output, passing only the effected signal (this mode is intended to be used when the H9 is inserted in an effects loop). Other factors controlled on this screen include Global Tempo, Global Mix, Preset Range, Routing (normal, pre/post, and wet//dry), choice of expression pedal, aux switch or both, and Source Instrument (with choices for guitar, bass, synth lead and synth bass).
The Tuner function is really slick. Both the H9 Control display and the pedal’s display (and LightRing) indicate relative tuning. The note name is displayed, and if you are sharp or flat, both the app and the pedal give you both a rotary graphic display, as well as a numerical indicator of + or – how many cents you are off.
Between the H9 Control app, the on-pedal controls, and the optional use of an expression pedal (or auxiliary switches), the H9 is a super-powerful, supremely flexible, but yet easy to use live system.
Big Tones in a Small Package
I am inherently skeptical of any pedal, effect or whatever that is “designed to work with both guitar and bass.” Many times in the past, I would get sucked in by the lure of a really cool fuzz, flange, phaser, or whatever, only to find that when I tried to use it on my bass, I lost a bunch of low end. Another beef is with pedals that track well on guitar, but really only work on bass when you are playing above the 12th fret. To my great pleasure, my time spent with the H9 has allayed such fears. The majority of the algorithms sound very full, and do not truncate the lower register of the bass. Those which do cut back the low end are intentionally designed to do just that (and of course, there are many tweakable parameters for each algorithm, so you can usually dial the lows back in, if you so desire). In addition, tracking was as good as any pedal I have tried, and far better than most. Setting the source instrument to bass, and then tweaking the input signal level, made things even better.
With the Max package, you have access to a staggering number of effects. While many of them aren’t really designed with bass in mind, I was shocked by how many of them worked very well on bass. Some of them will have very limited use, for sure, but if you do feel the need to introduce some ambient or unique sounds, you certainly have a lot of options. In fact, there are far too many options for me to discuss them all, here, even briefly. But I will try to hit some of the highlights.
There are a ton of really good choruses in this thing. In fact, they are some of the best choruses I have ever heard on bass. The WARMTH algorithm occupies the F1 slot in the Chorus bank, and it’s a fine place to start. You have a ton of variables to tweak, but this patch gets it right, in my opinion. Between the various delay options offered under the TimeFactor and Space banks of algorithms, you can dial in literally any type of delay effect you could ever ask for. And they all kick butt. The looping options available are full-featured, and then some. If it can be done with a delay, reverb or gate, the H9 can do it. And yes, you can dial in a phaser and not lose your low end! Same thing with flangers. I liked BARREL ROLL a lot. Even the wahs are surprisingly useful. The VIBRAPHASYWAH algorithm is pretty nice.
The Quadravox™ family of algo’s presents some neat options. BANJO STRUMMER is fun. It turns single notes into (you guessed it!) banjo strums. The HEAVY QUAD OCTAV tracks really nicely. Many of the HarModulator™ algorithms are not super useful for bass, but those which are make for a lot of fun! ELEC12STRING ROO actually works pretty well. BASSGUITSOLO basically turns your bass into a guitar (works best on single notes, not chords). Get your Flash Gordon on with PHOTON PISTOL (or try the PHOTON BEAM algo in the H910 H949 bank). The MicroPitch set of algorithms has some more nice chorus options. The Synthonizer™ bank only has five options, but BASSIC SYNTH can do a lot, and TROMBONEFACTOR is highly amusing.
The PitchFlex™ bank of effects offers a ton of harmony options. I had a lot of fun playing around with the Octaver™ bank. You can call up just about any kind of octave sound you want (natural-sounding, to synthy, to fuzzy, etc.), and they all track amazingly well. I wasn’t sure what to do with most of the options in the Crystals™ bank, and I am probably not going to use the HarPeggiator™ effects very often – though FAKE SHREDDING is hilarious, and INTELLIVISION would certainly get the audience’s attention. I have to say, though, the wild effects I was getting with the MACHINES algorithm were strangely entrancing. I couldn’t stop playing with it, and pretty soon, I found myself coming up with little riffs and hooks that I would never have dreamed up without this effect. Speaking of space-filling, trippy tones, the H9 exclusive Resonator bank of algorithms offer such mind-bending options as TRANCENDENTAL DOLPHIN and SCARY GHOST. This pedal will definitely expand your palette of available sounds/tones, and it will inspire you to try things you’ve never done before. That is worth the price of admission, right there.
This pedal would be highly worthy, in my estimation, based only up on the options to be found under the EQ Compressor bank of algorithms. While many of these options are dedicated to guitar (and vocals?), there are a number of bass-dedicated algo’s, like BassPre (1, 2 and 3), DubBass, BassyBass, SlapBass (1 and 2), PaulsBass (1 and 2), Bassonex, Bootyshaker and Walkingbass (1 and 2). These are all based around a similar “preamp” layout, with controls for Bass and Treble, two separate bands of parametric EQ. The first band offers a selection of frequencies from 30Hz to 1,500Hz, a variable “width” (1-10), and +12/-18 dB gain (this seems to be the gain range offered for all bands of EQ). The second band offers similar gain and width controls, but offers a choice of center frequency from 1,000Hz to 9,999Hz. A noise gate (on/off), a two-control Compressor/Trim, and an output level control round out each preset. I was very impressed with the factory presets. PaulsBass1 gives fingerstyle playing a very “muted pick” feel. Nice!
So, after playing around like a kid in a candy shop, and being wowed by all of the cool effects which the H9 has to offer, I started thinking that this pedal, plus the overdrive/distortion pedal of my choice, would be all that I would really need for any of my gigs. And then I discovered what the CrushStation bank of algo’s had to offer. Right out of the gate, the Fra Diavolo and Bisque presets had me rockin’ and rippin. These are some of the best overdrives I have head. Cliff Burton would have loved this pedal!
When I wrapped up my first round of testing, looking over my notes, I found that I kept writing something along the lines of “one of the best [insert effect type] I have heard.” After revisiting each of these effects several times, I stand by these assessments. Eventide didn’t just knock one effect out of the park. They put on a home run derby! The only drawback I can think of is that the H9 is a single-effect, only affair. So, if you want to use multiple effects at once (and I’m sure many of us will), you will need multiple H9 units. Fortunately, you only have to buy a given algorithm once.
The Bottom Line
Eventide Didn’t just knock one effect out of the park. They put on a home run derby!
Eventide H9 Max Effects Pedal
1 Alsan Way
Little Ferry NJ 07643
United States of America
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Origin:||2014|
|Price as Tested:||$699.00|
|Accessories:||9VDC power adapter|
|Dates:||November 2014-August 2015|
|Test Gear (in-hand review):||Sadowsky WL-4, Sadowsky P/J-5, Fodera E5S, ’74 Fender Jazz Bass, ’75 Fender Precision Bass, Ampeg Micro-VR, Ampeg SVT-210AV, GK MB800, GK Neo212-II, MTD 535|
1-5 (unacceptable to impeccable)
|Ease of Use:||4.5|
In-hand Score 4.67average
EDM-1 SONIC PROFILE:
Low: Full, deep lows, even with effects that often lose low end
Mids: Massive range of tones available; can be quite neutral
Highs: Varies patch to patch
The H9 can pretty much do anything that you’d want an effects unit to do, and then some. It is super powerful, easy to use, and just flat-out sounds great.