Gear Review: Eventide Harmonizer H9
Five pedals in one: XLR8R explores the versatile new multi-effects processor from Eventide.
Ever since the 1970’s, Eventide has been a name strongly associated with high quality and innovative studio effects. The known classics—namely the H910, H949, H3000, or the more modern H8000FW multi-effect processor—are all highly desirable for every gear nerd, but you have to reach deep into your pockets to acquire them, too deep for many of us. Luckily, however, Eventide recently released a series of more affordable effects units aimed primarily at guitarists, and it was only logical that these units—such as the Eventide Space, Timefactor and Modfactor—have made their way into many studios and live set-ups. As a result, in the space of just a few years, Eventide has evolved from a studio-effects heavyweight into one of the most important and innovative manufacturers of stomp box effects units. This alone gives us plenty of reason to be excited about the release of the Harmonizer H9, a much-anticipated unit that is supposed to combine the strengths of many of these aforementioned units.
How it looks
It’s fair to say that the stomp box has an unexpected look with its shiny white touch and big centred rotary wheel. This is especially true when compared to its ancestors, including those in the classically-designed Factor series. The spaced LED indicator gives it a sort of sci-fi feel, meaning that it certainly won’t be misplaced between your synths and your controllers. With this particular design/interface and the accompanying software, it’s clear that Eventide is taking a big step forward in the development of stomp boxes. But more on this later.
As is to be expected, the build is rugged and sturdy, meaning it is likely to survive many travels at the bottom of your bag. To avoid scratches, it comes with a specially-designed fabric travel bag.
How it works
The interface is minimalist, with only one (albeit giant) rotary in the middle of the unit, flanked by just a few tiny buttons, and two foot-switches at the bottom of the unit. The main rotary is used to control parameters which can be selected with the the smaller buttons, marked X, Y, and Z.
The Harmonizer H9 comes with the most popular algorithms from the much-praised Factor and Time series, as well as two algorithms exclusive for this particular unit. In total, therefore, you are given a total of 10 algorithms covering the range of delay, reverb, modulation, pitch-shifting and any combination between those. In simple terms, you get five remarkably high-quality effects processors wrapped into one shiny white box.
One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of the Eventide H9 Harmonizer is its compatibility with Apple’s iOS and touchscreen devices, such as the iPhone and the iPad. This offers an incredible level of control for creating and organising presets and controlling parameters. The interface allows you to select and edit presets on the fly, and newly released presets and algorithms can be downloaded or purchased with ease. This alone sets the H9 far apart from just a regular stomp box limited to just five rotary controls.
The problem with many multi-effects units is that they are often bulky due to the number of knobs and controllers that are required to secure versatility. Often, too, the interface is counter-intuitive, forcing you to dive into sub-menu after sub-menu to make just the simplest of edits. Eventide has solved this problem by creating this very intuitive and user-friendly application that allows you complete control over the unit. To get the most out of the unit, you are advised to use it in conjunction with the software.
Opening the application, you can first choose one of the effect units (Timefactor, Modfactor, Pitchfactor, Space or H9) with which you want to be working by choosing either a pre-set or algorithm. With a single click, the application will send that chosen pre-set to the actual effect unit from where it can then be controlled simultaneously. In the application, the interface of the chosen effect unit is shown, with the others available as presets on the left side. This way you can easily edit the preset using the displayed rotaries, just as you would with the physical unit.
In other sub-menus, you can purchase new algorithms or organise your presets.
Presets and parameters can also be edited from the device itself using the big rotary in the middle of the device. The most important controls (according to Eventide) are set under the X, Y and Z buttons.
You can simply click the desired button and start adjusting the parameter while the LED screen shows which parameter has been selected. Typically the Dry/Wet and the Feedback are routed to these buttons in factory settings, but they can also be rerouted to your own preference. The digital editor is remarkably intuitive, and opens up a world of possibilities, although a few more controls on the actual device would certainly have been welcomed, at least for the old-school knob-turners.
How it sounds
Due to the fact that the Harmonizer is, in effect, five multi-functional stomp boxes in one, it is not feasible to write an in-depth section on its sound. For detailed reviews of the four previously released Eventide effect units, it is best to read specialist reviews on these particular pieces of kit.
The H9 also comes with a set of exclusive algorithms: The Ultratap and Resonator section.
The Ultratap unit is capable of generating up to 64 delay taps that can move organically by fading in or out. This allows you to create incredible and complex reverb/delay tails that sounds surprisingly organic. This makes the Ultratap unit really interesting for creating complex sound textures, ambience and effects. It allows you to quickly and easily turn a single note into a bittersweet-sounding string or dark ambience.
The Resonator section is built up with four delay taps, each of which is passed through its own resonator filter that can be tuned to any chosen musical note. The section comes with some hauntingly beautiful presets with names such as “Transcendental Dolphin” and “Andy Warhol on the Run.” It’s funny how Eventide even managed to add a little bit of humour into what really is a serious piece of studio equipment.
The Harmonizer H9 sounds absolutely phenomenal on every level. Even on its own, it has enough on board to keep you busy for many months while more algorithms become available. The unit really works best on patches with sound sculpting qualities, such as long intense combined reverb/delay patches (i.e. “Doom Chamber” or “Shimmer”). These effects fit so perfectly into a techno, ambient or drone curriculum that it is hard to believe that this pedal was initially made for guitar players. This goes to prove that good sound really is good sound, and that it can be applied in different context, especially with a machine as versatile as this one.
On first impressions, €600 might appear quite steep for a stomp box—but XLR8R would argue that the Eventide Harmonizer H9 is worth every cent. On the assumption that you do not mind turning some digital rotary’s or rerouting some parameters, you can, in effect, pick up five high-quality pedals for the price of one.