Eventide Blackhole Review
A popular and particularly versatile mode from the Space and H9 processors is now an easy-to-use stompbox all its own.
Unusual, even organic, expansive reverb sounds. Well-designed, easy-to-use interface. Smart streamlined feature set. Intuitive, creative feel. Dedicated secondary function switch.
Ease of Use:
Reviewing Eventide's Space reverb back in 2011, I was impressed with how many shades of ambience had been stuffed into one box. But I also distinctly remember spending more time in the Blackhole mode than any other. I was happy that the Blackhole settings sounded fantastically, cosmically expansive without relying on some of the more overt “shimmer" tricks that can be a big-reverb cliché. Later, out in the wider world, I started running into engineers that were using the Blackhole mode in the studio and even in live settings to add ambience to mixes.
So the fact that Eventide elected to give the Blackhole a dedicated stompbox of its own is no surprise. What is striking is how functionally streamlined the Blackhole is compared to the Space and H9 processors that are also home to Blackhole-mode sounds. Thanks to a well-conceived control interface, Blackhole isn't much more complicated than, say, a Boss pedal. But it's still very powerful, and its features have been distilled to a functional, practical group that facilitates intuitive, creative experimentation, reveals tremendous textural range, and is easy and super fun to use.
The Heart of the 'Hole
Any player that has messed with the Space—or Eventide's other larger-form stomps—will recognize the basic functionality of the Blackhole's control set. Each knob has two functions, and secondary functions are accessed via a small, LED-illuminated push button at the upper right of the pedal. Most are self-explanatory and common. Others, like “Gravity" (which regulates the level of reverse reverb) and “Q" (which controls the resonance of frequencies emphasized with the EQ ), are less-common reverb functions, but shape the reverb color profoundly. Other practical features include a freeze footswitch, stereo output capabilities, and a guitar/line level switch. You can also save and recall five presets via a sequence of footswitch and push-button maneuvers, though as many as 127 presets are available via midi.
Outer Limits, Dark Corners
Though you can get many pristine, soaring, and seemingly infinite reverb tones from Blackhole, its most appealing attribute might be its ability to generate organic, cloudy, diffuse, and complex ambience. For instance, adding quick delay and using the powerful EQ creatively along with reverse or long feedback settings can yield all kinds of artifacts and reverberative collisions that you may rationally recognize as digital in origin, but which sound deeply mysterious and relatively unpolluted by the hard-clipping, sterile tones, harmonics, and artifacts that make many big digital reverbs sound cheesy.
My Bloody Valentine fans—especially those who chase the deep, slow-reverse warpage of “To Here Knows When" or “Moon Song"—will find immersive and addictive approximations of Kevin Shields' reverse reverb settings when the gravity is set about half-way to its deepest reverse position, the pre-delay is fast, and the mix is set to aggressive, if not 100 percent, wet mix settings. Even if you aren't a disciple of Shields, you may find a whole new way of relating to your instrument in those modes, and create unexpected sound worlds that can become the foundation for entire songs or melodic hooks.
Reverbs that suggest interstellar expanses and submarine environments are far from the only ones on tap. Smaller size settings, lower feedback, and careful EQ can generate awesome garage-y reverbs that sound a lot like a spring reverb amp recorded to tape and mic'd at a distance in a big, reverberative studio. If I was a engineer aiming for the mood and color of a mid-'60s studio guitar sound rather than perfect spring-reverb-in-an-amp authenticity, I might be inclined to use this setting instead of the finest spring reverb emulation. And though the Blackhole has clearly been optimized for performing players with overflowing pedalboards, it's easy to see the Blackhole finding favor in studio production situations—just as its big brother Space did.
Eventide's Blackhole reverb is a fantastic creative tool. There are reverbs, even within the Eventide family, that deliver more conventional, familiar, and accurate cosmic-scale, shimmer, and cathedral-style reverbs. But while Blackhole can generate many such sounds, its strengths—indeed, its heart—is its capacity for organic, tarnished, dusty, patina'd, reversed, and unfamiliar reverb voices that spur new creative vectors. That it's now available in such a simple, easy-to-navigate, and feature-rich compact stompbox marks a beautiful convergence of adventurous sound design and prosaic concerns for space and convenience. At $279 it's not cheap. But the musical ideas and directions Blackhole can inspire are harder to put a price on.
Be sure to watch our First Look demo of the Eventide Blackhole:
“Clean platform” may be the current buzzword in guitar amplification, but the truth is, we’ve been here before.
Much has been written about how Fender and Marshall contributed to the early development of guitar amplification. As in every industry, there are pioneers and innovators who get the ball rolling, followed by inventors and entrepreneurs who seize on opportunities the originators may have overlooked. For instance, both Fender and Marshall were very late to the party on adopting increased gain and the master volume.
With the advent of the Marshall stack, guitarists experienced a major paradigm shift. Not only did this amp sound good and deliver on volume, it also offered an imposing visual announcement of intent. “We’re here to rock, so strap in and plug your ears!” In the beginning, this was more about coverage and clean power than circus theatrics. Onstage monitor systems were rudimentary at best, and sealed-back guitar cabs delivered beamy projection, which required several amps and cabs onstage to allow performers the freedom to move about. What started out as a matter of necessity ended up being an iconic statement of purpose.
Now, if you’ve ever played a full 100-watt stack—let alone two or three at once—you know you’re never going to need or even be able to use a fraction of that power, yet the mere presence of such an imposing backline was undeniable evidence that you meant business. And that leads to the long-held myth about big stacks—that they’re all dimed to the max and were the source of all the distortion. In fact, the opposite was true. The idea was maximum clean power and wide-area dispersion of sound.
Case in point: Pete Townshend decided early on that while Marshalls were certainly loud, there was something essential missing from the formula, thus setting the stage for his discovery of David Reeves and their mutual quest for the loudest, cleanest sound possible. While the dual 100-watt 4x12 stack remained the form factor of choice, Townshend’s quest led to the refinement of preamp tone and the ever-increasing power handling capacity of the speakers. Where the sealed-back Marshall cab made it possible to use lower-powered speakers, the original Sound City cabs, and later Hiwatt cabs, were vented in the back and loaded with progressively higher-powered cast-frame Fane speakers that featured high-temperature “glass fibre” voice-coil formers. A stiffer suspension allowed these speakers to withstand the punishing excursions that would easily destroy a typical Celestion of the period.
When Hendrix came to London, Townshend recommended he check out Sound City amps. Early on, Hendrix used both Marshall and Sound City, and there is plenty of archival evidence indicating this went on for about two years. Revisionist history now proposes that Hendrix used “the Marshall for distortion and the Sound City for clean.” While that may seem logical in hindsight, the facts suggest otherwise. It’s an accepted article of faith that most of the distortion in Hendrix’s live sound came courtesy of an Arbiter Fuzz Face, and between outbursts of sonic fury, his clean stage sound was gloriously deep and wide.
As bands became more popular, venue size increased, and the need to fill those venues with sound begat not only the need for more powerful and reliable guitar amplifiers, but also more powerful sound reinforcement systems to help singers and drummers keep up. And therein lies a tale of two competing philosophies of an otherwise similar engineering endgame: Power and reliability were the key imperatives for both guitar amps and sound systems, yet the latter needed to stay sonically pristine, while guitar amp designers had to embrace the expanding popularity of distortion and feedback.
With the current trend towards amps that provide a “clean platform” on which to sculpt unique and colorful soundscapes, it should be no surprise that this is really where it all started. What has changed is that sound systems have come a long way, baby. The live-sound engineer now has a lot of control over what the audience hears, as well as how much sound pressure level emanates directly from the stage.
Today, the big amp revolution is over as a practical matter, but there’s good reason many of us are not so quick to ditch the big rigs. The sense of power and dynamics at our fingertips is as undeniable as waiting at a stoplight in a ’69 Charger with a 440 Hemi. It feels ready to rip at the slightest touch. This sensation has come to be known as “footprint,” and big iron is the only way to get it.
Cross the bridge to a simple and effective guitar makeover by upgrading your axe’s string-supporting infrastructure.
It's been more than 60 years since the Tune-o-matic made its first appearance, but the ubiquitous guitar bridge design dreamed up by Gibson's Ted McCarty remains an important, revered, and much-copied hardware component on the electric guitar landscape. Lucky for us, we've got plenty of options—including these 10—when it's time for an upgrade
Fashioned after the classic Tune-o-matic, for guitars compatible with the ABR-1 standard, this bridge is crafted from aluminum for fast attack and flat frequency response.
Various vintage components were measured and inspected to craft these bridges with the same methods and materials that were used in the late 1950s.
This modern version of the Tune-o-matic is available in a variety of different finishes and is an attractively priced replacement option for an ABR-1-style bridge.
These bridges were designed to fit all Les Paul-style guitars, feature special retainer springs to prevent rattles and buzz, and come without pre-slotted saddles for custom string-spacing options.
This Nashville-style Tune-o-matic features “G Formula” notched saddles, which use a proprietary formula based on the nylon saddle material found on guitars from the ’50s and ’60s.
Babicz FCH Tune-O-Matic
Thanks to the elimination of unwanted space between the bottom of the bridge and the surface of the guitar, this design intends to offer added sustain, stability, and improved fullness and tone.
Outfitted with the company’s String Saver saddles, this triple-plated bridge has an exclusive locking feature that secures the unit magnetically, without the need for tools.
This bridge’s aircraft-grade aluminum construction offers increased sustain and tone, while its unique saddle design is intended to eliminate saddle rattle and more effectively transfer string energy.
This drop-in Nashville-style bridge delivers acoustic-like sounds thanks to its piezo-loaded design, and it can be run solo or in combination with a guitar’s existing pickups.
Radiused Tune-o-matic Bridge
This U.S.-milled bridge easily adapts from an 11" radius to either a 10" or 12" radius, and features a lightweight aluminum body, brass screws and saddles, and stainless-steel clips.