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Field Test: Eventide H8000 Multichannel Effects System


Eventide’s new flagship multi-effects processor, the H8000, resembles its Orville processor on steroids, employing more powerful DSPs that also run at higher clock speeds. The H8000 uses two independent processors — each with eight ins and outs — that can be chained in various series or parallel configurations for either stereo or surround applications.

Most of the H8000’s effects programs can be loaded into either or both DSPs. And, unlike any of Eventide’s previous models, the H8000 can also combine the power of its two DSPs to run highly complex monolithic programs (mostly 88.2/96kHz and multichannel algorithms). Also new to the H8000 is Flash memory support.

The 2RU, steel-encased H8000 provides a whopping 1,588 of Eventide’s best algorithms (as of Version 4.5 software), including more than 80 presets for 5.1. Of special note is the inclusion of Eventide’s UltraShifter, a formant-corrected pitch shifter/corrector that is optimized for voice. Also notable are nearly three minutes of mono sample time (87 seconds of phase-locked stereo) and up to 87 seconds of mono delay.

Rear panel I/O connections include eight AES/EBU, eight ADAT, two S/PDIF and two balanced analog (20 ins and outs total). The analog ins are on XLR/TRS combo jacks, while analog outs are on XLRs; all AD/DAs are 24-bit. All analog I/O can accept unbalanced lines if the cold (pin 3 or ring) signal is shunted to ground, making the H8000 plug-and-play with instrument inputs. (The H8000 can accommodate both line and instrument levels via its pre-A/D boost/cut capability of +30 dB/-90 dB.) Eventide offers the H8000A for more analog I/O, providing four channels each of analog and AES/EBU I/O, eight channels of ADAT and two channels of S/PDIF I/O.

You can only select eight H8000 inputs for use at any given time, but all outputs are simultaneously hot. Sound reinforcement engineers will be happy to note that all audio inputs, with the exception of ¼-inch analog inputs, are directly routed to their corresponding outputs when power is interrupted. (There are no ¼-inch analog outputs.)

The H8000 can operate at any standard sampling rate from 44.1 to 96 kHz and sync to either internal crystal, word clock (I/O on BNCs are provided) or clock embedded in a digital audio stream. The rear panel RS232 serial port can be used for data transfers to/from a PC running Eventide’s VSIG graphic editor. An Eve/Net remote-controller jack is also provided. Eve/Net is a proprietary LAN that links up to four remote controllers with up to four Eve/Net-compatible processors. As the H8000 is an 8-channel processor, Eve/Net users need to specify (from the H8000’s front panel) which of the processor’s four channels they wish to display on the LAN. (Eve/Net is limited to viewing four level meters at once.) Also on the rear panel are two ¼-inch TRS foot pedal/foot switch jacks; MIDI In, Out and Thru jacks; and a TRS phone jack serving two relays. These can all be used to modulate effect and setup parameters or load programs.

On the front panel, menus and editable effects parameters (the latter shown for only one processor at a time) are viewed on the large display. Navigation and editing are facilitated by four soft keys, four cursor keys, a large parameter knob, numeric keypad and other similar controls. Eight nine-segment, multicolored, peak-hold LED level meters on the far-left side of the front panel alternately show your choice of various internal I/O levels or levels at the unit’s output connectors. A front panel Bypass button provides system-wide mute or bypass (programmable in software). Numerous status LEDs keep you apprised of current operating conditions. A slot is provided for a memory card, which is used to load and store programs and routing configurations; compatible card formats include PCMCIA type-1 ATA, PCMCIA type-1 SRAM (up to 4 MB) and Compact Flash ATA. The unit ships with a flash memory adaptor and 16MB card.

The HD8000’s I/O — both from physical and virtual (DSP-block) connections — can be routed in just about any way imaginable. That flexibility would make initial setup overly complicated if it were not for the menu of 13 practical routing configuration presets provided. Pushing a few buttons was all it took for me to mult both analog inputs to the H8000’s two DSPs — arranged in parallel configuration — and sum the first two outputs of each DSP before sending them to the analog outputs.

Just as easily, I routed the first four ADAT inputs to the unit’s first DSP and patched that DSP’s four outputs to the first four ADAT outputs, while simultaneously routing ADAT inputs 5 through 8 through the H8000’s second DSP and on to correspondingly numbered ADAT outputs. Using this multichannel ADAT configuration with two discrete effects assigned to each DSP (using the H8000’s Dual Machines presets), I ran four discrete stereo effects simultaneously from one H8000!

A huge part of the H8000’s allure lies in the staggering number of effects algorithms, with powerful search and sort utilities. For example, I searched for stereo delay programs suitable for guitar and sorted the resulting list by bank-related preset number. Alternatively, I searched for 5.1 reverbs that sounded good on drums and produced an alphabetical list of programs. When I found a program I liked, I stored it in a user group for the current project or for a specific application, enabling lickety-split recall at a later date.

I found many of the H8000’s presets to be immediately useful. I loved how drums sounded on various presets, such as UK Ambience, Masterverb Hall 1, Nonlinear #1, Tight Snare Verb and Boston Chamber. Electric guitars sounded awesome on presets that offered chorused delay taps or distortion. And the H8000’s Auto-Pitch Correction preset did wonders to sweeten a slightly off-pitch lead vocal track, while chorused delays tastefully fattened up background vocals.

The H8000 is the most versatile effects box I’ve used, and many of its programs have that certain “it” factor I found instantly useful and exciting. My complaints with the H8000 have no impact on sound quality. Although each DSP can be independently muted, it takes several button pushes to do so and the setting is volatile with power cycling. (Eventide says it will fix the volatility issue.) I wish there were dedicated mute buttons for each DSP on the front panel. Naming custom programs and user groups is fairly tedious (though intuitive). The parameter wheel’s responsiveness is annoyingly inconsistent (alternately being too sensitive or not sensitive enough). The manual’s documentation of some of the more arcane algorithms is so vague — sometimes offering just shorthand notes — that I could only guess at what they did.

But most importantly, a lot of the H8000’s programs sound awesome and are easy to work with. Many of the LFOs, delays and even reverb decays can be synched to MIDI clock or a specified bpm tempo (either typed or tapped in), and synched parameters can be adjusted in musical terms. There are a number of weird special effects — such as reverbs with wildly modulating resonant filters — that are probably of use only to sound designers, but most of the programs are highly applicable to music production.

The bottom line is that this outstanding product offers a gourmet smorgasbord of effects for the engineer who is hungry for both standard and exotic fare. Price: $5,995.

Eventide, 201/641-1200,