It might be an exaggeration to say that the Eventide H3000 multi-effects processor is amongst the most important pieces of studio hardware ever designed; after all, the music technology industry is littered with seminal boxes. However, as exaggerations go, it's by no means a big one. Developed by Ken Bodganowicz, Bob Belcher (both now of SoundToys fame) and Dave Derr (who founded Empirical Labs and designed, among other things, the Distressor), it grew up in an era when companies like Lexicon realized that the future of effects processing was "chaining." If you could develop hardware which offered an almost modular approach to effects processing, so that artists and producers could bring different effects types together in musically interesting ways, they'd be hooked.
And so it proved. Among the early adopters of the H3000 was Brian Eno, who so loved the unit, he wrote Eventide a letter congratulating them on their design, which was pinned to the office wall as a trophy. The H3000 was expensive though, and while its core technology has endured through several upgrades, so has its price tag which runs to several thousand pounds. So, it's with excitement that we can hail the arrival of the H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer Native Plug-In, which brings much of the functionality of the original hardware to the software platform of your choice, at a mere fraction of that cost. Until now, only Pro Tools TDM users have had software access to these goodies but, so long as you're in possession of an iLok 2 key, the Native version brings the H3000 methodology to AAX, VST and AU compatible DAWs in 64-bit. An unlimited 2-week demo is available via the Eventide site.
The architecture of the hardware H3000 remains in place for the plug-in, with a rich list of presets available, including many designed by a celebrated list of producers. However, the advantages of being able to show many more parameters at once than the original hardware could are immediately evident here, with each program fully configurable through a patchbay. This section, in the bottom left-hand corner of the main page, allows you to patch together the effects modules you want to use from a combination of 18 separate effects blocks, with restriction over which items can be wired together.
Those blocks are: delays (1 and 2), pitch shift (1 and 2; the famous Eventide processors which can be used here in full pitch shift or detune modes), filter (1 and 2), Ampmod (1 and 2), Scale (1 and 2), LFO (1 and 2), envelope (1 and 2) and mixer (1, 2, 3 and 4). To create a program, start with the outputs from the left and right sides of an audio or software instrument source, which feature on the left-hand side of this patchbay. For example, you could chain the left output to Delay 1's input (immediately to the right) before chaining the delay output to the main left output on the patchbay's far right, before following suit with the right output via Delay 2. This would give you a chance to create a basic stereo delay effect and you can configure the specific settings for each delay by clicking on each block's name, bringing up the available parameters over to the right. The delays, for example, feature an intuitive grid for tempo-based effects, where you move a red cross into the position of your choice to create tempo-sync'd offsets.
However, things can get much more complicated if you like. For instance, you could chain the outputs of the delays into the twin filter modules, on their way to the outputs, to give you a chance to create tonal offsets for each delay tap. Again, clicking the filter modules allows you to select from low, band and hi-pass options, cutoff frequency, resonance (Q) amount and so on. The filters, along with all other effects types, offer modulation routing, where it's possible to set the soft keys, modulation and pitch wheels, expression pedals and a number of other sources to particular parameters, so sounds can be controlled on the fly.
However, you don't have to rely on external inputs to get things moving. The twin LFO modules allow you to choose from a number of shapes, including several triggered ones, and can be patched in as modulation sources to any effects blocks you want to "interrupt" this way. One obvious example would be to use the LFOs to control the filter's cutoff frequencies. Again, LFOs can be tempo-sync'd, left to run free or triggered to produce "spot" moments of involvement. The envelopes allow you to bring bite to effects, shaping the fronts of filter treatments, for example, while the mixer modules allow you to create "sub-mixes" of effects, either to prevent some parts moving through an entire effects chain, or simply to bring many elements together before sending them somewhere else "as one." It sounds complicated and, indeed, it can be, but a few hours of playing and you'll get a huge insight into the capabilities here.
All of this means, of course, that you're soon likely to build programs with patch cables strewn everywhere. Even this process has been considered by Eventide, as it's possible to reorder modules simply by dragging them around. This is hugely helpful, not just for ordering the way the plug-in looks as you build effects but also because it prevents you always approaching the order of effects the same way. The Expert tab parameters for the delay, pitch shift, LFO, filter and envelope stages are in long lists of numbers to save you jumping from page to page. MIDI control functionality offered by the plug-in is perhaps most easily assigned under the Function tab. Like Expert, this page offers a multi-parameter view at a glance and usefully, when parameters are being controlled externally, their numeric values show red, helping to keep tabs on your assignments. The functions keep coming, with a white noise generator available to you for grittier treatments and, for AAX and AU users, the option to route in a side-chain signal for additional modulation possibilities.
The H3000 Factory plug-in compares very favourably to the original hardware and to the TDM version released for Pro Tools previously. It's a joy to have these effects available to users of a wider range of DAWs and at a price point which brings it within reach of even moderately serious users. I expect Eventide to shift this plug-in by the bucket-load.