A review of the Eventide H90…
You remember the first time you looked at a smartphone and realized the game had changed? You looked into your bag that had a cell phone (Moto Razr for life, fam!), a camera, an iPod, etc.. and realized that the thing you held in your hand rendered everything else redundant.
Folks, it’s with that in mind that I introduce you to the H90, the next generation of harmonizers from Eventide. And, while I feel the term is overused, the H90 is truly worthy of being called a game changer.
This isn’t a review on the amazing algorithms that Eventide offers. As the original 52 algos from the H9 are included in the H90, we’re already familiar. Plus, we know the new 10 algos will kill, hands down, and they deserve a separate forthcoming review.
This review is about the new features and how the H90 got me to cut my pedalboard in half and achieve more flexibility with it.
THE PRE-H90 PEDALBOARD – Pedaltrain Novo 16
My pre-H90 board contained two H9s, a handful of analog pedals, a MIDI controller, an expression pedal and a whole lot of cords. The H9 allows you to run effects pre/post in an effects loop, which was handy, although I’ll admit that it got confusing sometimes figuring out WHERE the best placement was. That said, I spent a lot of time wiring everything up to the point where I felt I was the operator on a switchboard back when my folks were growing up and wanted to place a phone call.
Typical setup was H9 running a distortion into a tube preamp into another H9 for chorus/ambient effects out into the Rose Delay, or the MicroPitch. The MIDI controller was the “stage manager,” using its hours of programming to make sure everything changed at once. It also allowed me the option of momentary switching, so I could turn on effects just for a second or two, without needing to stomp on/off.
All that was about to change.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE
First thing you’ll notice about the H90 is its size. Only about 2” wider than the H9 (other measurements are the same), it also supports the use of two algorithms simultaneously. And with the addition of 10 brand new algos (including some iconic additions), you’ve got so much more to dive into and explore. This was that first “aha” moment when I realized that perhaps I didn’t need two H9s anymore. A moment that my wife, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist herself, was eager to capitalize on as she grabbed one off my board.
The H90 has four ins/outs on the back of the unit, allowing you several external routing options, one of which is two inserts for external pedals. I threw the tube preamp into INSERT ONE and checked into putting it between effects.
And this is where it got fun.
The effects in the H90 themselves can be routed in series or parallel. That automatically opens up the options past the two H9s on my board. It also gives you plenty of new options for routing the effect inserts. If you choose parallel, you can choose pre/post effect 1, effect 2, or master. OR, run the insert parallel with the other effects.
I could set it up in series operation (like the current board) but found out parallel with the tube preamp running post on only the dirt channel was a clearer tone. The distortion was still slamming into the tube pre, but now the chorus sound was running independently. This allowed me a much clearer sound that retained all the character from my old setup but sounded better, cleaner, more precise.
ALL THE STOMP BUTTONS!
What also helps in the navigation is the Select/Perform buttons on the top. By holding down the Select button for two seconds, the stomp switches turn into your typical bank up/down (hold both to tune) and active/bypass. If you hit the Perform button, you now have access to 6 user-determined commands. Use a tap-tempo, set up different hot switches, turn one of the effects into a momentary pedal, you name it. It even offers you the option of turning on/off the different inserts.
So many options at your feet that while the H90 is fully MIDI programmable, you might not need a controller for this. It’s going to handle the “stage manager” role just fine.
Another great organizational feature is Bank Mode. Your program settings are grouped in threes, in a bank. If you don’t need a specific hot switch to press during a song chorus or a momentary switch that you need, you can call up the Bank Mode and then tap between the three programs in the bank, although you can go from Bank Mode to Perform Mode and back with ease.
I didn’t realize how nice this option was until I was in the theatre pit for Footloose. I had three different programs set up and was scrolling back/forth between them. Just doing this was easy enough, but by utilizing the Bank Mode I was able to much more quickly go between the programs with just one tap.
At the time of writing, there is no Bluetooth app for Android/iOS (it’s forthcoming) but I did get familiar with the desktop software. I organized my effects, rebuilt my signal chain, played with some of the new algorithms (I’m digging the Weedwacker), and so on.
The usability of the program is very intuitive and made it easy for me to figure out how to set up banks, save presets, recreate some of my former H9 presets and organize it in a simple way. The H90 has a USB-C out, which is the new standard and I’m happy to see it.
Even the Quickstart Guide was easy. I can only imagine that Eventide spent an exhaustive amount of time making sure the H90 was more user-friendly than its predecessor (which was still very easy). Within five minutes of reading the guide, I felt I had a firm grasp on how to start using the H90. In fact, I felt like I knew more about the pedal than the H9s that I’d been using for years.
THE POST-H90 PEDALBOARD – Pedaltrain Metro 16
It still needs some tweaking, but I have the H90, my tube pre and the Rose Delay (another Eventide masterpiece) running into the Inserts of the H90. I’ve spent enough time with the desktop app to have all my old effect chains running digitally, without the need of extraneous cords or pedals.
That’s why it’s a game-changer. I can do more with less.
With all the features that the H90 offers, it is much more than just two H9s put together; it is your control center for the entire pedalboard chain, which can change at the press of a footswitch. I’m looking forward to diving into more of the new algorithms (stay tuned!), as I search out new and interesting ways to make sounds.