Category Archives: Effect Pedals

Eventide H9 Review

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.

New Eventide H9 on the Pedaltrain Mini (with a modded Nose expression pedal)

EQ pedals….and the Fromel Shape EQ (mini review)

I’ve never been an EQ person.  Don’t they seem sort of superfluous as your guitar, amp, and other pedals already have tone controls?  A while back I added a Xotic EP Booster to the Pedaltrain Mini. Rather than use the EP for boost, I leave the gain on zero and just use it for that shimmer and clarity it adds back to the guitar signal’s high frequencies.  I started thinking – if the EP seems to do something special that my other tones controls can’t do….what could other EQ pedals do?

I first picked up a Danelectro Fish-n-Chips graphic EQ pedal.  Used, this was less than $40, is dead quiet, and does a great job. (I highly recommend the F-n-C for a budget EQ)  Primarily, I wanted something to put in the effects loop of the Budda Superdrive to take down the level for apartment practice.  The F-n-C is great for that purpose and lets you add back the bass frequencies that become attenuated when the volume levels are low.  I then tried using the F-n-C to tweak the Budda to dial in some of those upper-mid crunchies that my Marshall JCM 800 4210 does so well.  No dice.  It seems the discrete frequency sliders of the F-n-C are set too far apart to selectively boost the right frequencies for those tones.  I needed something more tweakable.

After much online reading, I settled on trying out the Fromel Shape EQ.  This is a very interesting pedal.  It’s a twist on a regular parametric EQ pedal where, in addition to selectively dialing in the mid frequencies, it also has bass and treble controls.  Like a standard parametric EQ, the mid controls allow you to select the mid frequency, adjust the width of the frequencies that will be affected, and pick the amount of boost or cut.  There’s no labels on the uniquely finished aged metal case. According to the designer, the controls are obvious and I agree.  It also has a switch to engage a high quality buffer or act in true bypass mode.  The buffer is exceptionally quiet.  I’ve also decided that this will be my single buffered pedal for the pedalboard (see the book’s chapter on True Bypass for more on the way to use true bypass pedals in your rig).

The big surprise is that the Shape is a lot like the Xotic EP in that it seems to magically pop exactly the right frequencies to clear up your tone.  While the EP does this for the highs, the Shape works its magic on the mids.  It’s incredibly easy to use.  I’ve used parametric EQs before and they can be frustrating as their effect is very surgical…they only affect a selectable, band of frequencies.  The Shape does the same thing but also lets you push/cut the bass and treble frequencies of your guitar’s tone.  Like the EP, the result is that turned on…your guitar tone pops!….turned off, it sounds dull….on-pop….off-dull.

With the shape, I’ve been able to tweak the Budda’s mids for a JCM 800 crunch, adjust the mids on my Rivera-era Fender SuperChamp for a thicker lead tone, fatten up the single coils on my tele, or even thin down the humbuckers on my Les Paul for a nice clean tone.  The number of ways this pedal can be used are infinite and it would be a great addition to almost any rig.

Fromel Shape EQ

Ditto…..and about my love of loopers

I’ve been a long time fan of phrase loopers. Not only are they a great practice tool, they can add an entirely new dimension to a jam session with friends or a live band setting. Most importantly, they are fun. My first looper was an original Boomerang. This was a monster-size device that was designed to be completely controlled with the feet. I still consider it to be a great looper. After the Boomerang, I’ve tried different versions of Digitech Jammans and Boss RC loopers. While fun and capable, I never quite bonded with either the Digitech and Boss loopers even though they were clearly technically superior to the Boomerang. Finally, I purchased a Boomerang 3. I was in heaven. The Boomerang 3 is clearly the easiest and most powerful looper on the market; however, it is limited by not having the ability to store loops, play prerecorded samples or drum patters. As I’ve never found the need to store loops, I’ve never considered this to be a negative.

Recently, TC Electronic released their entry into the looper market, the Ditto. This one knob, one button, tiny pedal is the smallest, simplest looper on the market. Because of its small size, it can be easily fit on any pedal board. Best of all, the Ditto is completely transparent sounding. Even though I had the Boomerang 3, I felt compelled to try the Ditto. After living with it for three weeks, I highly recommend the Ditto for any guitarist that wants to dabble in looping. With only a single foot switch and a volume knob, any player should be able to come up to speed in no time. My intention was to attach the Ditto to my Pedaltrain Mini as an always available looper.

After the three weeks, I’ve decided to return the Ditto. There’s nothing wrong with the Ditto, it’s just that the Boomerang 3 has features that I considered essential. With the Ditto, you can create a single loop and you can overdub on top of that loop almost infinitely (or until the loop is just a sonic smear). With the Boomerang’s three independent loops, you can easily add, delete, and layer loops. The Boomerang has the unique ability to record a single measure rhythm and then automatically multiply/expand the single measure as you add layers. Also. the Boomerang has an adjustable decay so that your earlier loops fade away are you add new layers of loops. Other than the fact that both the Ditto and Boomerang both allow you to create loops, they are hardly comparable. The Ditto is analogous to a one shot Derringer and the Boomerang is like a revolver.

While any looper is a fun and useful tool, unless you’re willing to shell out the coin for a Boomerang 3, the Ditto is probably a great best bet and value for most players.


Pedal Tape

Here’s an interesting product…a dual sided tape to secure effect pedals to the pedal board. Velcro is the usual method but unfortunately can pull stickers and paint off the back of a pedal. This tape sticks and then releases with a twist. The tape is part of a Kickstarter project for Blackbird’s new Stealth pedalboard design.

Link to the Blackbird Kickstarter project:
Link to the project

Tape video
Pedal board tape

Conceptually, this is a good idea. I believe the assumption is that you’d use this with a flat board rather than a slotted Pedaltrain design. It might work with a Pedaltrain design if there is enough contact area. Probably the biggest advantage is that this tape would work great with the typical do-it-yourself pedalboard made from a sheet of plywood.

The Best….

The guitar forum posts I truly loath are “What’s the best…?”. I fully intended to leave any mention of “best” out of this book. The fact is, there’s just no best of anything. But, after seeing a post asking for “The best amp for a MIM Strat” I almost screamed out loud. The fact that a guitar is made in Mexico has zero relevance to an amp. But, it’s a forum and these questions get asked. After seeing that aggravating question, I posted this:

Title: “Ban the word ‘Best’ for title threads

I’m being somewhat facetious, but scroll down and look at some of these threads… “best amp”, “best speaker”. These threads are just a list of whatever gear the repliers have that they think is so great. And given that it’s TGP…it’s whatever the think is great this week…because next week, you know they’ll be quietly dumping their best in the emporium and buying the next….best.

There’s no best anything. Although, I have to say that Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream is about as close as you can get. (Or was it Phish Food?)

/rant

But, one reply to my rant made me think. Their suggestion was that I should think of these threads as a naive way of asking “What are your recommendations?” OK, I can deal with that question.

For high end and boutique gear, recommendations are too subjective and depend on way too many variables. But, for entry level equipment, there actually are a number of tried and true recommendations for guitars, amplifiers, pedals, and accessories. So…why not? I’m going to try to tackle this. And….I’m sure this will probably be the most controversial part of the book.