Eventide has represented the pinnacle of effects processors to just about every musician I know for as long as I can remember. They’ve been in business since the early 1970s, and the sound of their processors has shaped the tone of countless records and live performances, beginning with their groundbreaking harmonizers, transitioning into state of the art reverb and multi-effects units, and most recently bringing their signature sound to software and effects pedals. A while ago, they introduced the H9, which housed algorithms and a “best of” set of programs from their popular TimeFactor, PitchFactor, ModFactor, and Space pedals. Now, they’ve unveiled the H9 Max, which is jam-packed with every algorithm and preset from all of those pedals, and a bunch more. I can’t wait to fire it up.
Externally, the H9 Max is no different physically from the original H9. The interface is centered around a six-character alphanumeric LED display and a large combo encoder/switch surrounded by a light collar that indicates values and settings. The encoder (which can be toggled between coarse and fine modes) is used to select, load and name presets, edit parameters and system settings, and can also act as an expression pedal if you don’t have one plugged in . . . but you really want to have an expression pedal plugged in! Menus are navigated using five small buttons labeled Hotknob, X, Y, Z, and Preset. The X, Y and Z buttons each load the most frequently used parameters of a preset into the encoder for quick real time adjustment. Each of these buttons can be set to Normal mode (only one preselected parameter), or an Expert mode that lets you step through all of a preset’s parameters by repeatedly pushing that button.
The Hotknob button provides access to any customizable combination of the parameters, and the Preset button does exactly what you’d expect: it lets you select and manage presets. Four LEDs to the right of the display indicate signal status (present and peak), as well as Bluetooth status (On and paired). The left footswitch bypasses/engages the unit and loads presets, while the right footswitch is used to tap tempo, increment presets, or toggle between modes. Stepping on both switches simultaneously engages the unit’s built-in tuner.
Lifting the Lid
The H9 Max is capable of so many things, I’m not even sure where to start. Obviously, any time-, modulation-, or filter-based effects you can think of are in there; a whole slew of reverbs include halls, rooms, plates, and even springs. A seemingly endless assortment of delays, including vintage bucket-brigade, tape echo, multi-tap, ping-pong, and the deeply trippy UltraTap algorithm (which can do up to 64 taps). Choruses, flangers, phasers, rotary, vibrato and tremolo effects, envelope filters, ring modulators, touch wahs—all present and accounted for.
On top of that, add Eventide’s world-famous Harmonizer algorithms that deliver all manner of pitch shifting and harmonies (up to four voices), classic Eventide model H910/H949 emulations, octave-dividing, dual 16-step arpeggiators, a really cool function called PitchFlex that lets you pitch bend the sound being processed (man, that’s fun with a Hammond or a Rhodes!), the ethereal Crystals effect, and a nasty little feature called Synthonizer that can track a tone and generate either an additive or subtractive synth tone.
But wait, there’s more! The Resonator algorithm adds motion and depth using four staggered resonant comb filters that can be set to ring out based on specific harmonic content. A compressor and EQ are available for leveling dynamics and sculpting tone. There’s even a Looper function that allows instantly captured audio loops to be heavily manipulated and mangled in real time. About the only thing the H9 max can’t do is cook dinner, but that’s okay, as you’ll be having so much fun exploring it effect that you’ll forget to eat..
I tried the H9 Max with a bunch of keyboard sounds—acoustic, electric and synthesized—as well as plugging one of my guitars and one of my basses into it (with the addition of a distortion pedal). I ran it both directly inline and patched in to in the effects buss of one of my keyboard submixers (engaging the H9’s “Kill Dry” parameter to get a 100-percent wet signal). While it seems pretty clear that the majority of sounds in the unit were programmed with and for stringed instruments, most of them work really well with keyboards, especially electromechanical sounds like organ, Rhodes, Wurly, and Clav. Synth sounds, especially those with a percussive attack, also take on a new dimension when pumped through the H9 Max.
Almost all the testing I did was in the studio. As a keyboard guy, almost all my live boards have effects programmed in that would have taken too much time to duplicate on the H9; but, when I plugged one of those boards into it in the studio and turned off the internal effects so I could hear it through the H9, I enjoyed it so much that I found myself wondering how long it would take me to reprogram all that stuff to replace my onboard effects. It even looks really cool sitting on the end of my keyboard.
I also brought it with me to a live jam, and at least two different grooves were started as a result of presets I called up on the H9. I have very little doubt that both the bass player and guitar player who were there that day are going to be adding one to their collections.
As mentioned earlier in the review, the use of an expression pedal is recommended with the H9 Max. Pretty much every program I dialed up had something interesting going you could control from a pedal, from obvious things like wah and filter sweeps to real-time control of pitch-shifting, increasing delays, fattening mod effects . . . you get the idea.
Looking to customize any of the H9 Max’s presets, or roll your own? Download the free H9 Control software (click image at left), which provides editing at the deepest level, program selection menus, librarian functions, and more. H9 Control can be run on any Mac or PC, and is also available as an iOS app.
If there’s a single stand-alone effects pedal on the planet with more capabilities than H9 Max, I have yet to find it. It’s easy enough to be used quickly and creatively by any beginner or intermediate player, while the deep feature set combined with the imaginative, interesting, and useful set of presets will certainly intrigue and inspire even the most serious tweaker. The flexibility and power of the H9 Max are formidable (especially when fully unlocked and presented graphically via the H9 Control app), and the high quality of its sonics make it worthy of use in the studio, not just for live applications. We happily award the H9 Max a Key Buy award.
Killer presets. Stellar sonics. Elegant interface. Deep control via desktop or iOS app.
Display can be a bit cryptic.
An amazingly powerful, fabulous sounding multi-effects pedal loaded with a ton of creative presets.
$799 list | $699 street | eventide.com