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Real-World Review: Eventide H9000 Multi-Effects Processor

By Russ Long. The H9000 Harmonizer is a significant leap forward from 2006’s eight-channel H8000FW.

Eventide’s H9000 flagship multi-effects processor redefines how much unadulterated processing power can be squeezed into a 2U box. As a longtime Eventide fan (the studio where I cut my teeth had both Eventide H910 and H949 processors, and I’ve never looked back!), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new Eventide H9000.

The H9000 Harmonizer is a significant leap forward from 2006’s eight-channel H8000FW. Instead of 24-bit fixed-point digital signal processing, the H9000 is built on an entirely new platform that encompasses four quad-core, 32-bit floating-point ARM processors. These processors are mounted on removable cards, ensuring an easy upgrade when more powerful processors become available. It’s always nice when a manufacturer designs gear to withstand the test of time.

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The H9000 is internally structured as 16 virtual DSP engines, meaning it can simultaneously run up to 16 independent effects algorithms processing up to 32 channels at any given time. Rather than having an insane number of processors running independently, the H9000 incorporates a feature called FX Chains. Four chains, each with up to four effects algorithms processing up to eight channels of audio input and output, are available at any given time. The effects algorithms can be connected in a wide range of series/parallel configurations, providing the user with significant creative control and the ability to create virtually any conceivable processing structure.

The rear panel of the fan-cooled H9000 incorporates comprehensive I/O architecture, including eight channels of analog, AES3 and ADAT I/O. It also incorporates a 16 I/O USB 2.0, allowing easy integration with a DAW. The rear panel also includes three expansion slots, allowing up to three of the optional expansion cards to be added to the configuration. During my review period, only MADI and Dante cards were available—I had one of each in my review unit—but Ravenna and AES67 cards are slated for release in the near future. Each expansion card supports up to 32 channels of I/O; this means a fully loaded H9000 can access up to 128 channels, and since the unit is networkable, multiple users, each working in different studios in the same complex, or a FOH and monitor engineer in live concert scenario, can simultaneously utilize the same processor. A decade ago, I never dreamed that would be possible.

There are two variations of the H9000: the H9000 ($6,999) and the H9000R ($4,999). The H9000 incorporates a front-panel UI, and the H9000R has a blank front panel. The units are identical internally, but the H9000R must be controlled via Eventide’s emote application. The app, the only option for remote control of the H9000, is a free download from the Eventide website. It operates as a standalone Mac/Windows application or as an AAX, AU or VST plug-in. Computer/H9000 connectivity is via USB, LAN or Wi-Fi (a Wi-Fi dongle is included). If the user decides to connect via LAN and the network is online, software updates can be downloaded and installed directly from Eventide’s servers.

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In addition to controlling the H9000R, emote is ideal for users working in the box or over an audio network, or who simply want to make critical processor adjustments while listening in the sweet spot. emote is well designed, straightforward and intuitive. The series of tabs at the bottom of the emote window (Devices, Sessions, FX Chains, Algorithms, Parameters) allow users to view properties and make changes. There are also dedicated Tap (tempo), Mute and Bypass buttons. The emote window mimics the front panel’s workflow, making it easy to move between the two. After spending significant time with the H9000, I’ve found myself more comfortable using emote than the front panel’s UI. When used as a plug-in, all of emote’s parameters can be automated via the DAW, which adds an entirely new level of creative control. All of this processing power and connectivity would be useless if the device didn’t deliver stellar sound, but the H9000 does that indeed.

Working with the H9000 is a pleasure. The front panel’s layout—the numerical keypad and encoder wheel in particular—immediately feel familiar. Between these controls, the display screen, and cursor and menu buttons, navigation is wonderfully intuitive. My only complaint is that I’ve become so accustomed to interacting with touchscreens that when I encounter a screen this large, I automatically find myself trying to navigate by touching the screen; in this instance, nothing happens. (Sadly, I keep trying, though!)

A full boot-up takes a sluggish 2 minutes and 15 seconds, but that’s not a huge surprise based on the complexity of the device. I’ve been using the box for several weeks and have never had an issue that caused me to have to reboot. (I have had to restart the emote app a couple of times, though.)

At this point, the H9000 supports sample rates only up to 96 kHz. I say “at this point” because the hardware will support 192 kHz but the software will not, though an update is planned. Users operating at sample rates higher than 96 kHz will need to use the analog I/O.

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Since so many guitar players have gravitated to Eventide Harmonizers in the past, it’s worth mentioning that the H9000 doesn’t accept instrument-level input. The H9000’s digital inputs don’t have sample rate conversion, so the unit must clock off the selected digital input. This likely won’t be an issue in broadcast facilities or live sound situations where there is a common clock, but in music production studios where engineers in multiple rooms are working on unrelated projects, it is unlikely they are all working at the same sample rate, so sharing H9000 processing in those instances might not be possible.

As crazy as it sounds, there are literally hundreds of factory presets and well over 1,000 effects algorithms. Eventide has taken on the painstaking task of porting all of the presets from previous Harmonizers to the H9000 format. This includes the H3000, DSP4000 and H8000FW, as well as the algorithms from the classic H9 stomp box. Presets are organized into nearly four dozen descriptive categories (from Chorus and Crystals to Undulator and Vibrato) that, considering the number of options, make it simple and relatively fast to track down the right effect for a specific situation. And if the exact effect doesn’t exist, users can tweak one of the presets into exactly what they desire.

While I don’t anticipate the H9000 to be purchased solely for its quality of conversion, I was thoroughly impressed with the sound of the analog I/O. The box sounds stunningly good and is easily able to hold its own against the top-tier multichannel conversion boxes available today.

The H9000 is fan cooled, which always raises a red flag for me for a piece of gear that is going to live in the control room. The fan is fairly quiet, though, and while noticeable when the unit is sitting on the counter, it is barely detectible when the unit is mounted in a rack. Since emote is such a strong application, if I end up purchasing the H9000 (I hope I will), I’d go straight to the H9000R, as I don’t see a need for the front-panel UI.

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As with previous Eventide devices, the H9000 is a creative machine, almost an instrument in itself, and Eventide has given users tons of flexibility in how to be creative with the box. In addition to the ability to automate every effect parameter within a DAW, Eventide has provided a host of additional control options. MIDI control is via MIDI In, Out and Thru ports. A pair of 1/4” TRS inputs allow up to four pedals, four auxiliary switches or any combination of the two. Four USB ports (two on the front panel and two on the back) allow USB MIDI controllers to be used to control the device, presets to be saved and restored via a USB thumb drive, and Wi-Fi control via the included Wi-Fi dongle.

The H9000 is an impressive device that makes me excited to be working in the current age of audio. The box is the perfect blend of immense power, configurability, connectivity and extreme creativity. At first glance, the price tag seems a bit steep, but once you consider the networking capabilities and sound quality, it is actually a bargain.

Eventide • www.eventideaudio.com

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