Eventide H9 MAX Guitar Multieffects
By Russ Loeffler |
Expert Review: Eventide H9 Max Guitar Multieffects
How to Do a Lot with (What Seems to Be) a Little
By Russ Loeffler
I began my evaluation of the Eventide H9 Max with some skepticism. Putting a programmable, multi-effects system into one pedal seems like too much. The classic Eventide pedals (like the Time Factor) have more than three footswitches and tons of knobs. So, how is this two-footswitch pedal supposed to give me more than that, with less? Well, it really comes down to the programming power and the multifunction operations of the pedal controls, which provides a surprising amount of control and flexibility. And, syncing the pedal via Bluetooth to a hand-held device or a computer takes the programming capabilities to another level.
The Effect Processors
Eventide offers three H9 Harmonizer effects processors; the H9 Core, the H9, and the H9 Max The pedals look identical, but only the H9 Max comes with 99 programmable presets and presets from all these popular Eventide stomp boxes:
Time Factor – 9 delay algorithms + looper
ModFactor – 10 modulation algorithms
Pitchfactor – 10 pitch + delay algorithms
Space – 12 reverb algorithms
H9 exclusive effects - UltraTap, Resonator, EQ Compressor, and CrushStation
I assume we can expect new algorithms from Eventide to expand the tonal capabilities of the H9 Max with future software and firmware updates.
The reverb, delay, modulation, pitch shifting, and compression sounds are truly studio quality, and especially impressive in stereo. The only effects processor that didn’t blow me away was the CrushStation. The more extreme sounds with lots of saturation and octave effects sounded good, but I would not replace my overdrive pedals (nor my tube amps) with the CrushStation low-to-medium overdrive sounds. Maybe the next generation of algorithms will deliver some warmer, smoother tones, but these are only “good enough,” whereas everything else is superb.
The pedal has a very clean look and the layout is well thought out. Taking time to understand the multifunction uses of the controls is essential.
- Top - Two footswitches, five push buttons, and a “hot” button that both clicks and rotates.
- Back – Stereo ¼” inputs and outputs, plus a ¼” input for the expression controller. There's also a mini-USB port to connect to a computer or other devices without Bluetooth capability.
- Side - One MIDI in and one MIDI out connection.
I plugged in my guitar, connected the H9 to my amp, and started playing. I understood the bypass button, hot button, and the X, Y, Z buttons immediately. However, the multi-function use of the tap switch and the buttons was not as obvious, and requires opening the manual and loading the H9 Controller App to grasp fully how it works.
If I was skeptical about the cramming too much into one pedal, I was even more skeptical that the H9 Controller Bluetooth app would prove to be a tool and not just a gimmick. However, it didn’t take long for me to see the beauty of the software and the control it offers over the pedal. I downloaded the H9 Controller app on my iPad and iPhone, and was able to sync both devices to the pedal without issue. The app's layout is very easy to follow, with the disadvantage going to the iPhone as some pedal configurations require that you toggle right and left to access all of the controls because of the smaller screen.
The iPad layout displays all of the controls on one screen and the tabs between screens are visible as well, which provides an experience akin to a comprehensive studio control center that provides everything you need to operate (and learn about) the Eventide H9 Max. I went to the “Help” tab on the screen and was soon watching H9 tutorials. I highly recommend the several short Eventide H9 tutorials...after 15 minutes of viewing, I had command of the entire system (pedal and Bluetooth app controller). You have the choice of programming directly with the pedal controls, but there's the advantage of the visual layout with the Bluetooth apps. It’s much more convenient than stepping up and down through the menus on the pedal.
The software allows for deeper programming than is possible with the classic Eventide stomp boxes. I won’t go into the general settings, ribbon controller, or X-Y controller pad functions available for most of the parameters, as they are best explained in the many demos available by Eventide and others on YouTube.
The H9 System
So, how does the system (I mean pedal) sound? Most of the presets are too exaggerated for my liking, as they were meant to stand out in a retail environment or demonstrate the pedal’s extremes. However, with the app controller it's very easy to adjust the preset parameters and dial in your sound. For many of the presets, al that took was dialing down the Mix. Extremeness aside, the presets are a great starting point for really understanding what the H9 Max can do. You can find some classic Pink Floyd and U2 patches and add them to straight to your favorite preset groups, or use the factory presets as a platform to dial in your own sounds.
I ran the H9 Max through these applications.
- Electric guitars though the pedal into a single amp or two amps for stereo
- Steel string and nylon-string acoustic guitars through the pedal to an acoustic guitar amp or PA
- Acoustic guitars through the H9 and direct into a recording deck
- Guitar Rig amp models through the H9 effects into recording tracks
Until you spend some time mapping out and programming your presets, there will be challenges. You don’t want to toggle up and down through 99 presets in a live situation, especially with a new piece of gear. Taking advantage of being able to store preset groups is essential to the live performer. With the H9 Controller app, it's very easy to organize and store preset groups on your iPhone or iPad. You can also limit the range of presets on the pedal. (For example, you can program the pedal to scroll only from preset 3 through preset 6). With some programming effort in the pedal or with the H9 Controller App, this single pedal can be used for multiple applications and performance situations. It's very convenient that you can store preset groups for your blues, rock, jazz, or acoustic gig.
There are also some challenges with the limit of two foot switches. The right footswitch requires a two-second hold to engage the tap function. I always use tap tempo with delay effects. Moving back and forth between tap mode and program switching requires some extra pedal dancing. I also like to stack my delay, chorus, and tremolo effects in different combinations on the fly rather than just turn on one effect at a time. I guess that’s why there are guitarists who actually have two H9 pedals on their boards.
The H9 Max may be even better suited for the studio than live performances. This is where you have time to dig into the programming and explore some of the extreme sound effects (which are amazing). The cool thing is that you can spend hours programming and storing effects and then bring the pedal to the studio with you. An iPad allows you to bring in your own live editing and programming station to a studio desk while the pedal sits on the floor. The MIDI functions will allow you to sync to recording drum tracks or loops.
The Bottom Line
At $700 (street price), this is an expensive pedal. However, with the proper investment in planning and programming it is a great value. You don’t have to be a studio engineer to work with the H9 Max, but you do need to invest some time before your drop it onto a pedalboard or take it into a studio. In fact, I recommend that you take some time to view some of the demos and tutorials for the Eventide H9 Max before you consider a purchase. I think you will be more impressed than intimidated when you see what this “little” pedal can do.
Russ Loeffler is a contributing editor to Harmony Central who covers trade shows and live events when he is not fine-tuning his guitar chops. He is also a gear head with a passion for good music, great tones, and music that is much easier to listen to than it is to play.