The best designed and most enjoyable effects unit ever: Eventide H3000 UltraHarmonizer

Letter Brian Eno wrote to Eventide in 1992

When one of the most influential and well regarded electronic musicians praises your effects unit as the best it should really hold some weight. Not only did Brian Eno love his Eventide H3000, but he loved it so much that he took the time to actually write to Eventide to congratulate them on designing it.

Eventide started out of the basement of the Sound Exchange, a recording studio located in midtown Manhattan. Their control room wasn’t big enough to fit a tape op so studio owner Steven Katz commissioned Richard Factor to create a device that would allow him to locate the tape to a specific time. Eventide was born.

In 1974 they developed the H910 Harmonizer, one of their most notable products, which was the first digital pitch shifting device.  From the H910, the H3000 would be born. Interestingly enough, the H910 Harmonizer was first used to speed up the dialog of older sitcoms, like I Love Lucy, without changing the pitch of the voice.

In 1986, Eventide released the H3000. But what really makes it so special? Before this unit if you wanted to speed up time, you also had to speed up the pitch. This one major advancement inevitably leads to tools that are paramount to modern recording like Auto Tune, Melodyne, time stretching, etc.  I think to truly grasp the full magnitude, you have to consider the time period during which it was released. Up until that time every effect that anyone ever heard was produced through hardware. There were no plug ins. The majority of the time there was one piece of hardware that did one specific effect.

If you could design the most perfectly laid out effects unit, with what seems like unlimited capabilities, the H3000 would be it. With only 7 buttons, a jog wheel and number pad, finding and altering your favorite presets is quick and easy for even the most novice engineer. The H3000 could not have been more well received and It wasn’t long before every studio had an H3000 in their rack. The H3000 was the first unit to offer true diatonic shifting or shifting that stays in key but other features include*:

  • Dual Shift –  Two separate pitch shifters
  • Layered Shift – Two pitch shifts from one input
  • Stereo Shift – Mono-compatible stereo pitch shifting (maintains stereo imaging)
  • Reverse Shift – Backwards-talking pitch shift
  • Swept Combs – Six sweepable delay lines, with stereo panning
  • Swept Revere – A dense reverb with smooth sweep capability
  • Reverb Factory – A full-featured reverb with EQ and flexible gating
  • Ultra-Tap – Twelve delay taps with full control over panning, level, and delay, Includes a diffuser to generate dense gated reverb effects.
  • Dual Digiplex – A stereo delay with smooth delay change
  • Long Digiplex – A 1.5 second delay with smooth delay control
  • Patch Factory  – A “modular” effects program which lets you design your own effect. “Patch” together delay lines, filters and pitch shifting to create never-heard-before effects.
  • Stutter – Get that st..st..stutter sound – effortlessly
  • Dense Room – Our densest reverb, with unique front/back position control
  • Vocoder – This is our version of the classic vocoding effect
  • Multi-Shift – Two six-octave pitch shifters, two delays, panning and patchable feedback paths make this program incredibly useful.
  • Band Delay  – A multi-tap delay line feeding eight resonant bandpass filters make for some sounds like you’ve never heard.
  • String Modeller – This program lets the H3000 double as an extra voice in your MIDI rack
  • Phaser – A wonderfirlly thick, smooth, phase-shifting effect that is hard to beat

*List source: Vintage Digital

It’s over 30 years after the release, but the H3000 is still found in countless studios across the world. Through all the changes in technology the unit and its effects not only hold up, but many would argue still surpass anything that has been made in the modern era.

Eventide has given engineers a cheaper option– they released the H3000 plug-in for $350. I can’t vouch for how good it sounds or how it compares with the real unit, but you can download the demo here and try it for yourself.

Below are samples I’ve recorded of vocals going through our H3000:

Dry (no H3000)

Dual Shift

Stereo Shift

Flanger

Pitch Quantize

DigiPlex

Big Vocal Plate

Tight Room

David Silverstein

David Silverstein began engineering at the age of 14 when he purchased a Fostex four track cassette recorder. After high school he enrolled at Five Towns College where he graduated with a Bachelors of Professional Studies in Business with a concentration in Audio Recording Technology. He has worked under renowned engineers and producers Jim Sabella (Marcy Playground, Nine Days, and Public Enemy) and Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Spacehog, The Ramones and The Lemonheads). David currently works out of Sabella Studios in Long Island, NY.