The Evolution of the Eventide Harmonizer

In the early 1980s, New Wave music was all the rage. It blended the explosive, edgy sound of punk rock with the computerized sounds of electronic drum machines and synthesizers. Artists used digital effects to achieve futuristic, otherworldly sounds — many of which were created with the Eventide H910 Harmonizer.

Eventide has continued to build on the Harmonizer in the years since and with the H9000 now available for pre-order, we wanted to take a more in-depth look at what this piece of gear has done for the music world. Continue on to learn more about the history of the Eventide Harmonizer and the hot new features included on the H9000.

H910 Harmonizer
In 1975, Eventide released the world’s first commercially available digital pitch-shifting unit, the H910 Harmonizer. Designed by engineer Tony Agnello as a tool for pitch shifting, delay and feedback regeneration, it originally sold for $1,600, which is about $7,500 by today’s standards. Although it was originally designed for studio use, the very first person to purchase the H910 was New York City’s Channel 5.

At the time, Channel 5 was speeding up reruns of I Love Lucy so they could run more ads. Of course, this also raised the pitch of the audio, which made everyone's voice sound obnoxious and screechy. Channel 5 used the H910 Harmonizer to shift the vocals back down to their original pitch, which allowed them to run the additional ads without driving viewers away.

For the first time, audio engineers were able to alter the pitch of a sound without affecting the duration — or vice versa. Although it was originally intended for vocalists to create their own harmonies while performing, the H910 was capable of so much more. Musicians began using it to manipulate sound in a whole new way.

A New Era of Signal Processing
During a pre-production meeting for David Bowie’s 1977 LP Low, producer Tony Visconti described the H910 Harmonizer as digital processor that “f*cks with the fabric of time.” Bowie was sold, and used the H910 on multiple songs, including “Breaking Glass” for the iconic snare sound.

The H910 was used to fatten up vocals on The Grateful Dead’s 1976 live LP Steal Your Face, and the opening riff to AC/DC’s "Back In Black.” It was used to achieve the steel drum effect on Led Zeppelin’s “Bonzo’s Montreux.” It can be heard on Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes, Patti Smith’s “Because The Night,” and pretty much everything U2 did in the 1980s.

Although the H910 was intended for studio use, Frank Zappa used it in his guitar processing rig, and Elton John and Laurie Anderson used for vocal processing in their live shows. Eddie Van Halen created his signature guitar sound by running two H910s, each slightly detuned with a short delay, which came to be known as the “twin Harmonizer effect.”

The H910 Harmonizer was so well received, it was recognized by the Audio Engineering Society with a TECnology Hall of Fame award in 1976 (and again in 2007).

Evolution
As the first commercially available digital signal processor, there were bound to be a few hiccups with the H910. Occasionally, it would create digital artifacts or “glitches," which some engineers actually loved, as it helped simulate the quirkiness of analog gear.

In 1977, Eventide released the H949, which introduced fine-tuning controls for pitch-modification, as well as a “de-glitch” option. This feature helped reduce digital artifacts. However, many engineers found that they missed the color and character that the glitches added to their productions.

Although we think of plug-ins as a modern concept, Eventide began experimenting with the idea back in 1981 with their SP2016 Effects Processor Reverb. The unit included "delays, reverbs, digital filtering and EQ, gain control, chorusing, flanging, and signal analysis,” but the most notable feature was the 11 ROM chip sockets, where users could install additional chips for new algorithms.

In the mid 1980s, Eventide released a successor to the SP2016 — a suped-up Ultra-Harmonizer® known as the H3000, which was described as "multi-purpose programmable, digital audio signal processor."

The following decade, Eventide shifted their focus to devices with DSP capabilities, and in 1994 they released the Eventide DSP4000 Ultra-Harmonizer — "a multi-purpose programmable digital audio signal processor with pitch change capability.”

Eventide continued to produce units in the DSP series until 2001, when they unveiled the Orville — "a programmable, multi-channel, multi-purpose, dual digital signal processor, 24 bit digital audio signal processor with UltraShifter™ capability” for up to 8 channels. Four years later, Eventide released the successor to the Orville, the H8000, with even more processing power.

Eventide H9000 - The Next Generation Harmonizer
Recently announced at NAMM 2018, the H9000 continues Eventide's unbroken tradition of delivering industry-leading signal processing power to the pro audio community. The culmination of a multi-year development cycle, the H9000 features eight times the processing power of the H8000 and a huge array of I/O options, as well as network capability.

The H9000 features four quad core ARM processors, which work as 16 separate DSP engines. Connectivity is a breeze with eight channels of pristine analog audio I/O, as well as options for AES/EBU and ADAT, and up to 16 channels of USB audio. Three expansion slots provide an optional audio network connection for MADI, Dante, Ravenna and more.

With options for advanced signal routing and customizable algorithms, creating new and unique effects has never been easier. The H9000 allows users to connect any set of four effects with a flexible routing system called FX Chains.

And for those engineers who prefer working “in the box,” the H900 offers a free remote control application called Emote, which can be used as a stand-alone application for Mac and PC, or as a plug-in for Pro Tools.

What unfamiliar effects await us in this new generation of signal processing? Maybe we’ll see a new wave of New Wave. Maybe we’ll see a return to experimentation and innovation in music. One thing is for sure, the Eventide H9000 will be leading the way.

If you're interested in pre-ordering the Eventide H9000, please head over to our product page or contact one of our Audio Consultants via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.  

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