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Over the last couple of years, Eventide’s stompbox series—the TimeFactor, ModFactor, PitchFactor, and Space—received wide acclaim for putting the company’s legendary studio effects within range of the average guitarist’s budget. And then the New Jersey-based outfit upped the ante again earlier this year with the introduction the H9 Harmonizer, a cutting-edge effects unit two–and–a–half years in the making. The H9 can produce the sounds of all the Eventide stompboxes, as well as unique H9-only sounds such as Ultra Tap and Resonator. It can also interface with iPhones and iPad via Bluetooth, and Mac computers via USB. (The free iOS H9 Control app is available from Eventide’s website.)
Housed in a futuristic white enclosure, the H9 features a sleek looking form factor that may seem eerily stark to analog-minded players. Under the LED display is a row of buttons with intentionally vague, potentially daunting labels: hotknob, x, y, and z (plus presets). Hotknob’s role varies from preset to preset, while x, y, and z address the top three parameters in a given preset. Centered beneath the buttons is a big, multi-function encoder knob used for such tasks as scrolling through presets and manipulating hotknob’s expression settings. A ring of LEDs encircles the encoder, indicating the current value. Rounding out the control panel are two footswitches: active and tap. There’s also a built-in tuner.
It’s possible to manipulate the H9 via its built-in controls, but if you hate scrolling through screens on a typical multi-effect unit, working with the H9’s 6-character display will really test your patience. However, once you pair the H9 with its Control app—which lets you see all the virtual knobs and other interface options—the editing process becomes quite intuitive.
Though my first couple of tries at pairing my iPhone 4 timed out, I succeeded after a couple more. The H9’s accompanying documentation doesn’t list iOS system requirements, but when we mentioned the connection issues to Eventide we determined my problems were because my iOS wasn’t up to date. The H9 is compatible all the way back to the iPhone 3GS, as long as the device is running iOS 5 or greater (it also works via USB with OS X 10.5 or later, and Windows machines running XP or later).
Things got quite fun after connecting my phone. It was pretty sick to be able to tap in a tempo from a remote touch screen, though maneuvering the virtual knobs does take some getting used to. (This remote accessibility could open new doors for techs who manipulate guitar effects from offstage.) I later connected to an iPad, where all the controls were visible on a single screen. While initial setup may take some time, once you’ve got what you need in place, you don’t necessarily need the H9 to be connected to any devices at a gig.
The H9 can store 99 presets, more than you’re likely to need in one setting. Additionally, you can save a practically infinite number of presets to your iOS device and load them as needed, exponentially increasing the H9’s usefulness. For example, you might have groups of presets programmed for different bands, and you could then swap them in and out of the H9 itself as needed.
Algorithms at the App Store
Although the H9 can produce all of the sounds of Eventide’s stompbox line, the purchase price doesn’t include all those sounds. Each of the four stompboxes in the series includes approximately 10 algorithms, and the H9 comes with nine of the 40 or so. Each algorithm includes 10–30 presets. You can buy additional algorithms to upload for $19.99 each, with five minutes to audition each one before you buy. (Note: the TimeFactor’s looper function is currently not available on the H9.)
You can use only one algorithm at a time, but an algorithm can contain multiple effects, so that isn’t as limiting as it might sound. For example, the ModEchoVerb [Modeko] preset contains delay, chorus/flanger, and reverb, all of which can be used simultaneously or individually.
Eventide helped set the gold standard for ambient and time-based effects, so I wasn’t surprised by the H9’s killer sounds. However, the cynic in me worried that the H9 might offer “lite” versions of the individual stompbox effects. Just to be sure, I convinced a friend to lend me his Eventide pedal collection. I couldn’t hear any sonic difference between the algorithms.
Included H9 effects such as Shimmer and the U2-inspired Streets delay are among the H9’s incredibly rich and three-dimensional sounds—you’d be very hard-pressed to find better-sounding reverbs and delays. The H9 is also capable of esoteric outer-space effects. Ultra Tap is a 64-tap delay that allows you to distribute the taps across a roughly four-second time span, with results varying from percussive repeats to ethereal cinematic textures.
The Eventide H9 produces glorious sounds that, until recently, required bulky processors costing thousands of dollars. Considering this, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this diminutive wonder also offers such seemingly infinite possibilities that it can easily become overwhelming. This review only scratches the surface of what the H9 can do. You could twiddle its knobs for years and still find groundbreaking discoveries to take your music to the next dimension.