Guitar effects pedals are magical, wonderful things that truly make an already wonderful guitar shine. Hell, they can even help a terrible one sound half-decent. When it comes to multi-effects pedals, very few manufacturers get it right.
I had a Line 6 Spider amp for 10 years, and while its 600 presets gave me myriad tones to play with, the modeled effects didn't track for attack or any amount of subtlety in my playing. With the H9 Max, Eventide has sought to create a one-stop shop for guitarists — "a complete pedalboard in one stompbox" — and it has succeeded tenfold. And once you figure out how to use it and then spend the rest of your life chasing tones, you'll agree it's worth the steep price.
- 99 presets out of the box and more through updates
- Gorgeous all-white design with LED display
- Tap tempo and expression pedal input
- Stereo in/out
- Real-time MIDI control
- Expensive (especially in Canada)
- A distinctly "Eventide" tone
Eventide H9 Max What I love
I've only really been immersed in the world of guitar effects pedals for a couple years now, having had the aforementioned Line 6 amp for so long, but I've come to amass a solid little collection, and I've been very picky in my selections thus far. I'm not a total tone snob, and I like to experiment to find new sounds (yeah, like every player).
So when I was offered the H9 Max to review, my brain exploded, and then I rushed to YouTube to watch demos. And there was Pete Thorn, one of the most underrated players around, talking about how he tours with two of these on his pedal board. So I sat down and went to work experimenting and simply running through all of the presets and trying them out. It took 4 hours.
Where a lot of my time went was to the cleverly named presets that are there for specific songs. For example, there's a "Streets" preset, which is modeled after The Edge's multi-head delay in "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2. You better believe I sat and learned that whole song just to use that delay effect, and it is absolutely spot on. There's also a tremolo preset called "I Walk Alone," which Green Day fans will recognize as the theme from the opening of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." It's all these delightful little touches that go into making an already great pedal incredible.
That's the best part about the Eventide H9: if you don't feel like mucking about with every preset, you don't have to. There is so much you can do with what's built in, and if you want to tweak the mix or decay or feedback or whatever for each preset, you can do it all right on the pedal. It'd take ages just to go through each one and play with the settings until you're satisfied, and all the while you'd find new sounds you weren't looking for to begin with.
The Android app, however, is where this baby really shines, and it's also where the overwhelming nature of the H9 Max takes over. In real time, you can toy with the algorithms until you're satisfied, though you'll never be, because there's so much to do.
The interface for each preset is like a two-faced stompbox, and the settings will vary by effect, though you can often control the speed, depth, decay, feedback, volume, and lots more. And the tap tempo in the app works in real time as well, instantly. What a time to be alive.
I also have to mention the design of the H9 Max. I'll admit, when I first pulled it out of the box, I thought it looked generic since it's all white with a big black knob. Then I turned it on and the multicolor LEDs came to life, and I was most pleasantly surprised. It's a work of art. It's also built to last, made of solid (I'm assuming) aluminum and weighing in at over 1.5 pounds.
Eventide H9 Max What I don't love
This list is small, since there's very little about this pedal I don't love, and there is so much I have yet to explore after using it for a week and a half. My main beef is what I'm calling the "Eventide tone." And this isn't even a bad thing, but it is noticeable — so many of these presets sound like more of the same. I mean, there's only so much you can do with a set number of effects.
Similarly to Electro-Harmonix pedals, the H9 has a distinct tone that colors your sound ever so slightly. I actually kind of like it, but my tone snob of a buddy doesn't like it much. It'll depend on your personal taste at the end of the day.
This is really nitpicky, and if you're buying this pedal with your own money, it won't be an issue because it's what you want, but the H9 Max is entirely overwhelming. There is just so much to unpack that it could literally take you months to map out tones you love and really get a handle on how to use the app and what every little dial does to every single sound. This pedal is truly for guitar scholars and may be better suited to the folks who make guitar their life.
For casual players or folks who just want to throw down and jam, you may just want to go for simpler stompboxes. But if you like to just sit and play for hours, never laying down the same lick twice and never using the same effect twice, then dive in, but be prepared to pay a premium.
Should you buy it? Yes, if…
As a tool for songwriters, this is the ultimate effects pedal. If you've ever written a tune and thought, "man, some gorgeous shimmer would go perfectly here," but you don't have a shimmer on your pedalboard, boom, turn the dial and you have some brilliant shimmer (better than the EHX Canyon, even). If you want to play with multi-delay effects, but you've only ever had a single delay pedal, this is the pedal for you.
If you're just getting started with guitar pedals, but you know quite a bit already, and you're not sure which other effects you'd like on your board, this may be the perfect jumping-off point (if money is no object). Though it is a very deep pool to jump into off the bat.
The Android app is excellent, and the real-time interface is incredible (the future is now!), with stompbox after stompbox right on your damn phone. Updating is a little finicky, and you may have to factory reset the pedal if you have tracking issues (like I did with the HotSawz update), but it's still brilliant. I actually like this even better than the Hotone Xtomp, because you can use the pedal on its own without every connecting to an app (though the Xtomp is half the price).
So if you're serious about effects, have a lot of time to devote to your sound, and want endless songwriting possibilities, then invest in the Eventide H9 Max. With firmware updates and effects for a lifetime, it's just that: an investment.