The Eventide H910 Harmonizer was gorgeously made, with crazily spot-on accurate pitch shifting for its time, transposing within +/- 1 cent. “They knew what they were doing,” says Jack Deville of Mr. Black Pedals. Photo courtesy of Arthur Stone
Jack Deville, Mr. Black Pedals – Eventide H910 Harmonizer
There are two groups of technically savvy people in our niche industry: Those who frequently have to be the “doctor” in the room, and those who really should be the doctor in the room. My friend Jack Deville is the latter. In addition to his own work at Mr. Black, Jack has been a valuable contributor to a number of other companies’ products. I had high hopes that the designer of the Shepard’s End Infinite Flanger—“the world’s first barber pole through-zero flanger”—would have a good story to tell about something that caught his attention. He did not disappoint.
“Have you ever looked inside an Eventide H910?” he asked. I was completely confused. I’d heard of the H3000—a legendarily expensive device from the 1980s that purportedly contained all the Steve Vai magic that you wouldn’t be able to acquire by practicing—but I was unfamiliar with the H910. Naturally, I consulted the magic network that my wife used to purchase my cardboard tremolo from a gang of socialists.
“It’s eye-opening, man—nuts,” Jack continued. “Gorgeously made, crazily spot-on accurate pitch shifting for its time. Transposing within +/- 1 cent. They knew what they were doing. It was a total wake-up call. These things cost crazy money back in the day—roughly $1,500 at release, which would be about $6,000 or $7,000 now if you adjusted for inflation. But studios had to have them.”
Jack was asked to work on a H910 by a friend who’d only found one other person willing to do so—and at a steep price. When he opened it up, he was startled by the craftsmanship and design. “There are better A/D converters in here than in a CD player,” he explains. “There’s MIDI capability with an external keyboard control. There’s a dual-sided, plated-through circuit board—that’s NASA-level shit for its time! There’s also an LED readout, a terrific layout with smart uses of ribbon connectors, and separate digital and analog power and grounds. And here’s the kicker: This is from 1975. It’s better made than stuff we regularly see today—over 40 years later!”
The H910’s effect on Jack was profound. “I’d been working on the Mod Zero pedal and I was feeling pretty good about it, but then I cracked this thing open and was just, like, ‘Fuck—why even do this [line of work] at all? This thing is a computer, and I’m making this dumb little flanger.’ It made me think about learning a process, learning a system, and how I apply that to my own work.”
How can you resist a video with a 1950s-style propaganda voice intoning, “Today we are going to learn about the many wonders of CMOS logic and the many ways it can frighten and confuse us”?