Eventide H90 review: Bringing the classic H9 into the 2020s
A decade on from changing the compact multi-effects pedal game, Eventide is back with an overhauled take on the H9 that promises to offer all your harmonising needs.
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Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen the technological and auditory advances in multi-effect pedals become as ubiquitous as they are innovative. Be honest, in the early 2000s, how many of you ever imagined that you’d be able to create and store pedal presets on your mobile phone? Exactly. We live in the future.
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If it’s easy to forget how good we effects fans have it these days, it’s even easier to forget that Eventide played a significant role in getting us to where we are today. The original H9 Harmonizer laid much of the groundwork for the modern multi-effects renaissance we’re currently enjoying, by somehow condensing a huge number of high-quality sounds into a form factor that was not much bigger than a normal stompbox.
But a decade is a long time in tech, and in the years since, Eventide has seen competition from upstart brands like Neural DSP, and heavyweights like Line 6 and Boss make the original H9’s offering seem a little tame by comparison.
So how does a revered effects brand like Eventide respond to the challenge? Well, easy really – you take the studio-quality sounds of the venerable H9000 rackmount unit, scale it down to a size just a little bigger than the original H9, but rebuild everything from the ground up using modern ARM processing architecture and an OLED display. Then you just add in a plethora of new sounds and routing options, enhance the existing algorithms with new features, then throw in the ability to use two separate algorithms in unison – hello H90.
To talk specifics, we get 10 new effect algorithms – including the wonderfully named Weedwacker, Bouquet Delay and Prism Shift – and a new low-latency polyphonic pitch shift called SIFT (Spectral Instantaneous Frequency Tracking) that gives a new and more responsive means of pitch shifting.
As mentioned you can run two algorithms per program (either two mono inserts or one stereo insert), and in dual mode you get the facility to process two independent stereo signals at once. If you’re also very excited at the prospect of the last point there, welcome to the Ethereal Soundscape Lovers Club: meetings are every Thursday night and nobody makes eye contact because we’re all too busy looking at our pedalboards. Let’s dive in.
If we’re gonna get shoegaze-y with this thing, then where better to start than by sitting the H90 between a new Fender American Vintage II Jazzmaster and a Matchless Nighthawk 15? If you’ve used a H9 before, the H90’s controls are immediately intuitive, and even if you’re a newbie it’s still very easy to navigate.
How good are the sounds? Well they’re so good that it took us a little while to even get past the first preset ‘Clean Ambient’ – strumming a few chords we’re enamoured with how rich and detailed it sounds. Remember when you first watched a movie in 4k having got used to plain old 1080p? This is the pedal equivalent – making things seem more vivid and interesting in quite subtle but definitely noticeable ways.
We couldn’t very well skip over the ‘Shoegazer’ preset either, and this offers a more intense example of what the H90 is capable of, providing a gloriously distorted wall of sound mixed with ethereal, airy ambience. We’re not sure how Kevin Shields or Rachel Goswell would feel about having their meticulous analogue walls of sounds distilled to digital emulations, but the quality of Eventide’s recreation is further proof that the gap between the two is narrowing all the time.
The story is repeated with all of the new algorithms, but the magic truly happens when you create your own preset and pair two of these algorithms together – being able to come up with new combinations without the need for two H9 might be H90s biggest selling point.
For instance, pairing one of the brand new algorithms like Wormhole with an old favourite like Crystals yields a lush tonal ambience that would make Sigur Rós blush.
On the other end of the spectrum, combining different pitch based effects with a TS-style drive algorithm like Weedwacker allows you to channel your inner Will Swan (Dance Gavin Dance) all the way through to Yvette Young.
The 80s-inspired modulated sounds of bands like The War On Drugs are fertile ground for these effects pairings, and the H90 excels at replicating the sonic complexity of Adam Granduciel’s guitar sound – pairing the push and push and warble of a well worn vintage blue box chorus with another vintage big box delay pedal takes us straight to I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore territory.
A multi-effects unit lives and dies on the strength of its navigation, and in that regard the H90 is a clear improvement over the H9 – the three modes (select, bank and perform) are easy to get to grips with, and the general interface and controls feel like they’ve been deliberately designed to get out of the way and allow you to focus on playing. This is especially true when using the pedal in performance mode, where rather than having to navigate through menus to alter parameters or presets, you can access them on the fly with a quick turn of a knob.
If the H9 was Eventide’s Infinity War then the H90 is most definitely its Endgame – a bigger, more bombastic sequel that more than sticks the landing. The H90 succeeds in bringing the H9’s brilliance into the modern effects era, while retaining the accessibility and pedalboard friendly implementation that made the original such a smash. A worth successor indeed.
- PRICE $899
- DESCRIPTION Multiple I/0, Dual algorithms, multi-fx unit
- CONTROLS Front panel revamped with 5 push knobs, 7 LEDs, and NON-touchscreen OLED display.
- FEATURES The H90 features 62 effects with a comprehensive I/O and flexible routing for a wide array of sounds.
- DIMENSIONS 6.5 x 5.25 x 2.5″ / 16.5 x 13.34 x 6.3 cm
- CONTACT www.eventideaudio.com