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Eventide H3000 Factory
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Eventide’s H3000 is a legendary studio effects processor, heard on thousands of records from the ‘80s through today. It delivered the crème de le crème of delay, pitch and almost anything related to spatial, time and pitch-based effects. In some ways, it’s the granddaddy of multi-effects processors. And in other ways, it’s nothing like that at all. But if you have been on a quest for “the sound” that has graced so many top recordings from the last 30 years, search no further. That sonic goodness is now available to the average project studio thanks to the H3000 Factory plug-in, the subject of this review.
The Eventide H3000 Factory can quickly serve up rich harmonies, repeats, depth, modulation, and air with its numerous presets, or you can lose yourself for months in a monastic trance of creativity as you dive down the rabbit hole of the H3000’s programmability (the H3000 was one of those classic studio devices that helped coin the term “programming” as it related to rack gear).
Whether preset or programmed, though, you won’t be disappointed. Prepare to be wowed and humbled by this stellar, spot-on, virtual re-creation of the vintage hardware. Throw it on your instrument tracks. Throw it on your vocals. The H3000 Factory native plug in compromises nothing in terms of features or sonic quality. If you have always wanted an H3000 but couldn’t justify the expense, or you simply prefer to do your mixing in the box, welcome to Nirvana.
The H3000 Factory is packed with features that have been and continue to be industry standard when it comes to delay, pitch, frequency, and spacial field modification. Moreover, the customization abilities make it perfect for sound design as well.
Specifically, the H3000 Factory boasts twenty-seven effects blocks that deliver fourteen different effect types including:
The 64-bit plug-in supports VST, AU, AAX, and Audio Suite for Pro Tools formats.
All of the features can be used individually or stacked with other effects. As a result, adding width, depth, space, and sometimes bizarre sounds, is where the H3000 Factory really shines. The H3000 retains its popularity today precisely because of its seemingly inexhaustible feature set and signature sound… and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say this thing can sound like nearly anything it wants to sound like.
The H3000 Factory is so multi-faceted it can seem daunting to get your head around initially. However, the many supplied factory and legacy presets provide a good starting point—really an essential one—for familiarization before diving into the vast complexities and creative opportunities that await.
To be more specific, the way that the H3000 creates effects is really where one begins to understand the magnitude and power of the feature set. It helps to think of it this way: does the H3000 have chorus, flanger, delay, phaser and tremolo effects? Yes, it does; however, it does not come with a suite of effect emulations like a CE-1 or PS-1 emulation. Instead, it uses the delay, pitch shift, LFO, high- and low-pass filter algorithms to create each of these effects. Moreover, not only can the effects be created, they can be modified and re-routed to a level of granularity and detail that nearly defies comprehension.
If you’re a tone connoisseur who routinely seeks out boutique effects pedals, for example, the H3000 is like a sound design tool that lets you design your own effects pedals. You could create 100 different modulation effects, for example, that function in similar ways but have underlying subtleties that distinguish one effect from another.
For instance, take a look at the preset called Trem Chorus, which has the sonic bliss that is classic Eventide tremolo and chorus. This effect is actually created via an amp mod, two LFOs, two delays, two pitch shift functions, and two filters. This sound can be further modified with two scale functions and two envelope controllers.
To dial in even further, each of the effects components can be re-routed to taste via a virtual patch panel. Think of it as having a huge array of effects pedals for your instrument with the option to re-sequence the effects order at lightning speed instead of having to un-plug and move things around. The patch bay graphic is very user friendly and makes perfect sense to any engineers used to re-routing hardware in the studio.
To drive the concept home completely, the customization can get even more detailed considering each feature has its own array of options. Take the delay feature for example: you can select from 0-600ms delay time, delay feedback, the modulation amount of the delay, lo cut from 20hz-20khz, and whether or not to make it tempo based (which you can program to change throughout a song). Next, you can choose multiple signal routing options as well as the way in which the delay is triggered. Specifically, delays can be triggered by the :
• Function generator
Now imagine each of the effects having the same customization abilities including all of the aforementioned global customizations. It doesn’t take long to realize that the H3000 is far more than an effects processor. In fact, if sound design is something you are into, the H3000 Factory can achieve some unbelievable things that you would more likely expect to find in an application-specific virtual instrument. If you took a basic, single-oscillator analog synth sound and ran it through the H3000 Factory plug-in, you could create a myriad of new synth sounds just by manipulating your base tone through this plug-in. And if you start with a more complex sound source… you get the idea. This thing goes deep.
We tested the Eventide H3000 Factory in a Pro Tools 11 HD Native environment as a plug-in on our studio’s custom-built Windows PC with an Intel Xeon 10-core 2.6 GHz processor. Installation was a no brainer, and the plug-in authorized via our iLok 2 (but does not require an iLok if you prefer not to use one). The H3000 Factory plug-in performed exceptionally well, never caused a crash, and was very light on CPU usage. This proved to be very exciting due to the temptation to use the H3000 on many tracks and effects busses!
We found the workflow within Pro Tools to be straightforward on the surface with easy access to presets, which enabled us to get in and start experimenting!
Modification of the presets was simple in terms of wet/dry mixing of signals and signal routing was handled via a virtual recreation of the hardware’s patch bay. Anyone who ever used Reason and its virtual mix rack, or virtual modular synths, will feel right at home.
However, this is where the simplicity comes to a screeching halt (depending on your perspective) and the fun really begins (we’re smiling). For example, we found the Program tab, Expert tab, and Function tab each contain sub-menus for even further detail and customization. Once you wrap your head around this, the creative possibilities are nearly endless. As Spider Man meant to say, with great depth comes steep learning curve.
For example, we started to delve into modification of some of the presets. The first one under the guitar menu (MICROPITCSHIFT) was used on a clean electric guitar track.
Within this preset we were able to modify thirty different parameters on the Expert tab alone, and that wasn’t counting the different LFO choices that included sine, square, saw tooth, triangle, Exp saw, Exp triangle, triggered sine, triggered saw, triggered tri, triggered Exp saw, Exp triggered tri, toggled Lin, toggled Exp. We spent three hours modifying this preset alone!!! Admittedly, we loved it and found getting lost in the process quite easy. Nevertheless, when a client is sitting next to you during an attended mix, delving into the finer details of the H3000 Factory may not be appreciated as much.
Which brings us to some practical considerations with the usability of the H3000 Factory. Although there is no doubt this device is marvelous in its intricacies, and is glorious for creative purposes, busy musicians, engineers, and those that just don’t like to “tweak” will be satisfied with the presets, but you’ll miss out on much of the H3000 Factory’s abilities.
The only disappointing aspect of the H3000 Factory, which is due to the fact that this is a replica of older hardware, is the plug-in’s limitations when it comes to harmony creation—particularly for vocal harmonies. It’s just not designed for you to select specific voices and musical key signatures. For engineers expecting this capability (due to “ultra-harmonizer” in the name), you will be disappointed by the complexity, and should look to other vocal harmony processing plug-ins for that particular task. We’re happy to mention that Eventide does have a few plug-ins in currently in development (Octavox and Quadravox) that that offer updated diatonic harmony capabilities, and those should be available sometime in Fall 2015.
It comes as no surprise that the Eventide H3000 Factory has a sound that is one of kind and beyond reproach. Simply put, this thing sounds incredible, and has unique tonal and sonic properties that stand the test of time. The H3000 Factory’s sound is deeply ingrained in the psyche of music lovers, musicians, and engineers worldwide whether they even realize it or not.
Admittedly, the “it” factor is difficult to describe, but once you hear this plug-in on your own recordings you will understand. For example, when we used any of the delays on guitars—either through an amp, half stack, or straight in, there was a richness, depth, and clarity that comes from the H3000 Factory even when used sparingly. Furthermore, we found that using simple doubling and pitch modification on background vocals, guitars, keyboards and almost everything else just makes you say “ah” as if quoting a famous soft drink commercial.
Still, a more concrete and practical description may be acquired by comparing the H3000 Factory plug-in to other iterations—specifically, the older TDM version and an actual H3000 hardware unit.
We found the native plug-in version and the TDM version to be basically identical in their auditory qualities. Both are deep, clean, and clear but not synthetic or “digital” sounding. By comparison, the hardware unit (yes, we’re doubly blessed) is slightly darker and warmer to our ears. However, this difference is extremely subtle, and unless you are specifically listening for it in the studio, you won’t hear a difference. Nevertheless, for those still wanting to make sure the vintage sound is duplicated, we found that reducing about .5 db in the 8-14K range did the trick, as well as using tape emulation and/or console emulation if the mix is remaining entirely in the box (we didn’t need the latter in our studio since final processing was done through an analog master bus processor).
Regardless of the recording technique or level of saturation, we found the sonic quality in the H3000 Factory to be impeccable. Whether we used the plug-in on a mono channel and use the mix feature or ran the H3000 Factory completely wet on an effects buss, the classic Eventide sound was always there. As often as we reach for other plug-in “standards” in our studio, Eventide’s H3000 Factory has already joined that short list.
Demo of the Eventide H3000 Factory plug-in courtesy of Eventide.
Documentation and Product Support
Like most companies, Eventide has extensive online documentation, an in-depth user manual, and links to useful videos. Moreover, the user forums are a great resource, especially for working professionals. In fact, the user forums were one of the most useful areas to visit while getting to know this plug-in.
The Eventide H3000 Factory sells for $349, which is a solid value for any commercial studio in need of some Eventide goodness, and it’s still within easy reach for the project studio looking to deliver big studio mixes. Whether you’re a working mix engineer or a serious guitar player making tracks in the project studio, the H3000 Factory will easily become an indispensable part of your plug-in collection.
James Linton, owner of Soundwaves Productions and Soundwaves Recording Studio in Gilbert, Arizona, is a noted producer, mix engineer, and recording artist with many independent, national and international credits. Contact him via www.soundwavesrecordingstudio.com or www.facebook.com/soundwavesaz.
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