Published On: Wed, Jun 11th, 2014

Eventide H9 Harmonizer Review

It might be a bit pricey but hell, this pedal makes just about every pedal, apart from your distortion box, obsolete. Marcus Leadley takes on the manual…

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Description:  Multi-FX processor, designed in the USA, assembled in China.  
RRP: £489 inc. power unit
Contact: Source Distribution - 020 8962 5080 –  www.eventide.com

Founded in 1971, Eventide is well known for producing top end studio sound processing equipment. Today, the company also makes stompboxes – not many, though, and it sticks to doing what it knows best: reverbs, delays, pitchshifters and the like. Now we have the new H9, and what’s exciting about this pedal is that, while it comes loaded with nine algorithms and 99 presets, it can run any algorithm from any Eventide pedal, which can be purchased as downloads. This way you can pick and choose and make one personal ‘ultimate’ Eventide pedal for a lot less than buying all the individual units.

Despite looking a bit like something you might wake up next to in a hospital bed, the H9 is actually fairly simple to get the hang of. This is no small mercy as it’s an incredibly powerful unit. There is no question that you need to read the manual and learn how to use the multi-function controls – but you can get pretty clued up in just a couple of hours. On the top panel you have five buttons, a rotary encoder and two stomp switches. Connectivity is straightforward: mono/stereo ins and out are on the back panel, along with an expression pedal socket; MIDI in/out/thru are on the left-hand side. There a 9v power port and a USB connection – more about this in a minute.


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Starting out with basic standalone mode you connect the H9 between your guitar and your amp(s). The unit’s smart enough to detect if you’re running in mono or stereo. You can scroll forward through patches by hitting the Preset button and scrolling with the rotary, and the patches load automatically. Alternatively, for foot-friendly operation, click the right hand footswitch to advance though the patches; then you need to press the left footswitch to engage the patch. To scroll back, you have to click the rotary encoder to change the direction of travel for the right-hand footswitch. It’s a bit of a faff but fairly easy to get the hang of – but it doesn’t make for speedy changes on the fly, so do plan ahead.


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To alter presets, the rotary control can be set up like an expression pedal by hitting the Hotknob button. Hit the X, Y or Z buttons to tweak parameters and then use the rotary encoder to change them; the ‘light ring’ will tell you how much. Which parameter will change depending on the preset: for example, mix/feedback-A/feedback-B or intensity/depth/speed. Each preset comes with the most likely controllers ready-mapped to these knobs, but in Expert mode you can change to others – sometimes from as many as 10 options – so scope for customisation is extensive. Presets can be easily renamed.

There’s a tap tempo function so you can lock the speed of the effect to the tempo of your song; tapping the left footswitch with tempo mode off allows you to adjust in milliseconds. Press the right footswitch and the preset button at the same time to enter tempo mode, and here you can adjust multiple delays to different expressions of note values – they can tap in a BPM and all the delays will stay locked to your predetermined values. You can also adjust the input gain to ensure the best signal level for your pickups. Finally, in terms of basic features, the H9 has a built-in tuner which is very easy to use.

So much for the basics! There are also a whole raft of connectivity, control and editing possibilities that revolve around iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones, which can communicate wirelessly, via Bluetooth, with the pedal – in real time. The H9 Control app allows you to tweak parameters with onscreen knobs that appear more analogue than anything on the stompbox. There are some clever creative features, like the ability to randomise knob settings if you fancy a bit of sonic exploration. You can also map the iOS device as a controller and ‘swipe’ parameters on the fly. There’s a mad feature where you can take advantage of your phone’s motion-sensing capabilities and control parameters by waving it in the air – if the need should arise. Should you only have a laptop, you’ll need that USB port to access the same functions.


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In Use
Back in general operating mode, the basic presets sound fantastic. Whether it’s a simple slapback echo, a convoluted combination of delay and pitch-shifting or a dense but strangely understated atmosphere, the H9 totally delivers. Your underlying guitar signal is perfectly preserved and even close listening reveals a noise-free background. This unit is brilliant for home recording and capable of adding a professional sheen to the most basic parts. Some presets encourage creative play, while some just sound daft. The best of the denser presets conjure filmic or orchestral moods. There’s no rhyme or reason to the ordering of presets, so simple and complex sounds are all mixed up together.

This makes the unit in its factory-programmed form a little impractical, so the ease with which you can edit, archive, delete and restore patches is very useful. You could edit up, say, eight patches for live work and then make these the only ones available – and the MIDI options mean you could even run the changes from a sequencer.

Verdict
While the H9 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a complex multi-FX floor unit, it does its thing with professional finesse. Sure, it’s excellent as a basic tap tempo tremolo or delay, but you could save yourself a heap of money by shopping elsewhere; what it’s good for is selecting the Eventide sounds you really need. If you’re likely to go straight over to customising, you can buy the Core version which comes loaded with only one algorithm – pitch shift – for about £100 less; then it’s off to the Eventide online shop to load up with goodies.

Both versions of the H9 come with a coupon for one free algorithm, and then they cost £13.99 each. This is a great pedal for exploring the complexity of high-end digital guitar effects.




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