I’ve been watching the Youtubes on the H9 for a while…and the demos have been cool but mostly gimmicky to me. I won’t bore you with what the H9 is…..essentially, it’s all of Eventide’s pedals in a single small enclosure. Those pedals include the Timefactor, Modfactor, Pitchfactor, Space, and a couple of H9 unique sounds. I’ve owned a Timefactor (replaced by an Strymon El Capistan) and thought the Timeline was an excellent delay regardless. The current board had an El Cap tape delay and a Flint trem/reverb but I wanted to make things even simpler but was GASing for other pedals. I figured the H9 should cover almost anything except dirt as I rarely use more than one effect at a time. So, I sold the Flint to partially fund it (kept the El Cap as it’s still my favorite delay pedal ever).
Out of the box, the H9 sounded wild as I expected. Flipping through the presets, I found them mostly over the top. 99 presets of stuff that was fun but not very usable for jamming or gigging. All the presets were mixed way too high with too much other “stuff” that showcased the capabilities of the algorithms.
I installed the iPad app to control the H9 and linked up via Bluetooth. It immediately and seamlessly downloaded and installed the latest H9 firmware. Using the iPad, I dragged tape delay, tremolo, and vibe patches into the first preset slots and got to work. Luckily, the app makes tweaking a breeze and within minutes I had tones that were more like my El Cap and Flint.
The important part first – the sound quality is jaw dropping. Really. Zeroing out any effect and A/Bing the H9 with a straight signal (in true bypass mode) shows that your tone is completely intact…no alternation whatsoever. Dialing up the mix on delay just adds the delayed notes but the straight signal is unaffected. Every effect is like that – your tone is still there and every nuance of the amp and guitar are preserved. It’s truly studio quality. Plugged into the JCM 800, Rivera-era Superchamp, and Swart STR….all sounded great. Surprisingly, the delays worked much better in front of the JCM 800’s lead channel than the El Cap. The H9 also solved one of the quirks of the Swart STR…at bedroom volume, the STR’s reverb is way too saturated….I just turned it off and used an H9 spring reverb effect.
As a stomp box, the interface is pretty simple. Moving from patch to patch is a quick – step on the up/down button and then hit the activate button. You set the range of patches that are cycled through….I picked 10. Patch changes are instantaneous – zero delay and no glitches. Once in a patch, you can bend down and adjust three of the most important parameters for the effect…..or more likely, just twist the H9’s giant knob that can change any of a number of parameters simultaneously (usually just mix). So, using the H9 live is really like using any other stomp box.
To add some fun, I pulled out an M-Audio expression pedal and plugged it in. I was able to quickly tweak the parameters that the expression pedal altered. Heel down, I set things to straight guitar signal…toe down the full effect but not over the top. That allowed a blend of any amount of effect as needed. On the tremolo and vibe, I set the expression pedal to adjust the speed. All very cool except that M-Audio pedal was too big for the Pedaltrain mini. I tried my tiny Nose expression knob but quickly realized it wouldn’t work as it had a mono ¼” plug rather than the required Tip-Ring-Sleeve stereo plug. A quick Google search showed that it was just a matter of swapping out the Nose’s jack for a stereo jack and pot for a 10K. Two minutes later with the soldering iron and the Nose was controlling the H9…and it fit on the PT mini.
Important H9 point: it *appears* that the H9 can only do one effect at a time….that’s not true. Many of the algorithms do multiple effects simultaneously. For example, there’s a ModEchoVerb that can do any mixture of chorus/flange+Delay+Reverb. Or…the TremoloVerb…or ModDelay. There’s a DynaVerb that has a studio quality compressor/limiter and a reverb – turn off the reverb and you have a compressor! Anyway, I hate to say “never” but because of the multi-effect algorithms I can see this as the last mod, delay, etc. pedal anyone would really need.
That said…..this pedal is an expensive investment. I used the Guitar Center $100 coupon to pick it up for $400. Yes, it can literally replace every pedal on your board other than the dirt. In the grand scheme of things, for a pedal hound, the H9 could save money. The unit comes with a ton of algorithms – enough to keep most people satisfied for quite a while. Eventide charges $20 a pop for the other algorithms in the catalog. While that may sound expensive to some, I think $20 is pretty cheap for a new “pedal”. With the app, you can also live demo all of the functions of any algorithm for five minutes to see if it’s worth buying. I ended up buying a couple of the Space algorithms (including ModEchoVerb) and the Univibe.
Is the H9 for everyone? No. If you aren’t a tweaker…this is NOT a pedal for you. Those that just want discrete knobs will find the H9 too complex. Also, without a computer or IOS device (Android is coming) tweaking would quickly become annoying. However, if you like effects and get GAS for different sounds….and can appreciate studio quality sound, the H9 is amazing.
Will the H9 replace any effect? I guess that depends. The Strymon El Capistan is kinda magical….it seems to blend into your tone in a way that allows you to use a fairly high mix without sounding over the top or getting in the way of your playing. I’m still working on getting the H9 to sound like the El Cap. It’s close but not there yet. But, the El Cap is pretty limited compared to the H9. On the Strymon Flint, the harmonic tremolo setting (like an early 60’s Fender) was amazing and reacted to pick attack. The trems on the H9 are amazing but there’s no algorithm for harmonic trems (yet?). It’s probably just a matter of time until Eventide comes out with algorithms that can do some of these sounds. BTW – they’re working on a H9 looper according to the support forums.