Eventide has long had legendary status in the audio world as a maker of stand-out digital effects processors. Its flagship effects have always been pricey, but in recent years Eventide started developing a range of products that deliver the Eventide sound at a more affordable price, now taking this one step further with the introduction of three new models: TimeFactor, ModFactor, and PitchFactor. They each deliver classic Eventide sounds in a rugged stomp-box package. For this review I received the PitchFactor Harmonizer(R); the TimeFactor and ModFactor were reviewed in our November 2008 issue.
The PitchFactor provides ten of Eventide's classic pitch-based effects: Diatonic, Pitch-Flex, Quadravox, Octaver, HarModulator, Chrystals, MicroPitch, HarPeggiator, H910/H949, and Synthonizer. Effects can have up to four pitch-shifted voices with a delay of up to 1.5 seconds and the musical scale can be set by a unique Learn function. The PitchFactor was designed to be versatile for use in the studio or on stage. It has both line level and guitar level ins and outs, in mono and in stereo, making it compatible with guitar or bass (and more—see below!). It incorporates a tuner.
Separate inputs for expression pedal and aux switch and three bypass modes (including a true analog bypass-see below) enhance that versatility-the owner's manual does a good job of suggesting various setups like straight-through stomp box, amp effects loop, outboard effects processor for the recording studio, etc.
Changing entire programs or individual program parameters on the fly can be achieved with an expression pedal, or over MIDI (via two MIDI ports-MIDI In and MIDI Out/Thru, or via USB), or with knobs on the unit. Another two options for such control: Tap tempo or MIDI clock sync. The USB (2.0) also allows for future software upgrades.
The PitchFactor comes with 100 factory presets that can be overwritten with user settings; they're in 50 banks of two patches at a time.
There are 11 knobs and 3 foot-switches on the PitchFactor that manipulate the selected effect, change memory locations and adjust utility functions.
The PitchFactor has two modes, Bank mode and Play mode, that change the operation of the foot-switches. To toggle between Bank and Play modes, press and hold the right foot-switch for two seconds. In Bank mode, the right switch is used to scroll through memory banks while the middle and left switches are used to select one of the two presets in each bank. In Play mode, the left switch is used to bypass the effect, the middle switch activates Flex or L earn mode, and the right switch provides tap tempo for delay.
The PitchFactor is a dual-voice processor with two Pitch and two Delay knobs (A & B) for each preset. Each effect can be adjusted using eight control knobs. Controls are provided for Pitch A, Pitch B, Delay A depth, Delay B depth, and Speed/Scale. Two separate knobs called Xnob and Ynob adjust different settings depending on which preset is selected. For some presets the X/Ynobs adjust delay feedback, for others they adjust pitch or other parameters. The remaining three knobs include dry/effect mix, pitch mix (A & B), and an encoder knob. The encoder knob, which also functions as a push button, is used to scroll through effects, set tempo, and change system settings.
Giving it a whirl
Being a guitar player, I was excited to give the PitchFactor a whirl in my rig. Making connections is straightforward and the PitchFactor accommodates straight-through and effects-loop configurations. It powers up in just a little over a second and its bright LED display comes to life to show the currently selected preset. As mentioned before, there are two modes of operation, and in Play mode the footswitches control bypass, Learn/Flex and tap tempo. This give the player all of the basics needed to customize a preset during performance.
The Learn/Flex switch is cool and deserves further explanation. When the Diatonic effect is used the Learn switch is used to set the key for the scale. Just press and hold the Learn button, play the base note, and voilà! The key is now set to the chosen note. In other effect modes the Learn/Flex switch offers a variation of the effect such as cranking up the delay feedback or restarting the arpeggiated sequence.
Learning the PitchFactor's capabilities does take some time, but once the basics are down making adjustments is a piece of cake. Anyone who's ever programmed an effects unit with menu systems or complex button sequences will appreciate the PitchFactor's simplicity. Changing a parameter is as easy as turning a knob. There are no sub-layers or menu systems. Tweaked presets can be saved to any of the 100 available slots for instant recall but changes do overwrite the factory patches. Presets can be saved with a tempo and adjusted on the fly with the tap tempo switch, or the tempo can be set universally for every patch (this disables tap tempo for individual presets).
The PitchFactor has three distinct bypass modes: DSP bypass, relay bypass, and DSP + FX bypass. Each mode is actually quite useful depending on the situation. DSP bypass simply cuts out the effects processing but leaves the pedal connected as an inline device. Relay bypass, or "true" bypass, physically disconnects the PitchFactor from the signal chain. This is useful when an effects switching system is used. Finally, DSP + FX bypass turns off effects processing without cutting off the "tail" of the current effect. This is great for situations where the PitchFactor must be smoothly transitioned out of the music.
With only three footswitches, the PitchFactor can feel a bit limited on the floor. In Play mode the switches are adequate, but in Bank mode I found myself wanting an additional switch to decrement banks since the bank switch only increments through banks. Accessing the tuner mode is also awkward since it requires simultaneously holding down two switches for over a second (a true test of balance).
Thanks to the PitchFactor's aux switch input, adding three additional switches is as easy as connecting an external set of switches wired to a TRS cable. External switches can be configured to control almost any parameter including bank controls, tuner access, and effect parameters. This expands the PitchFactor to a six-switch unit, which is a much more desirable layout for a pedal with this much power. An expression pedal can be used to make on-the-fly adjustments to single parameters or groups of parameters for endless creative fun. From a player's perspective the PitchFactor does a good job of striking a balance between usability "on the fly" and programmability. I strongly recommend budgeting for both the triple footswitch and the expression pedal to get the most out of this processor.
In use—going beyond guitars in the studio
The PitchFactor's full complement of I/O connectors makes it easily adaptable for studio use. I added the unit to my current rig as an external effects processor by connecting the stereo inputs and outputs in a send-return fashion. I also set up the PitchFactor to respond to MIDI control from my M-Audio Oxygen controller and sent MIDI time code from Pro Tools. This layout gave me full access to the PitchFactor as an effects box for any track in my DAW.
I was curious to see how the PitchFactor would perform on more than just guitar tracks and I tried it on just about anything I could think of, including drums, vocals, and other instruments. The quality of the effects held up beautifully and really set the PitchFactor apart from other guitar-oriented pitch/delay effects processors. Granted, the PitchFactor only loads one effect at a time and it's limited to the ten included effects, but there's enough adjustability in each effect to make the PitchFactor a very useful production tool. MIDI control allows the PitchFactor to be completely remote controlled, which is a nice convenience in a studio setting.
Saving presets is a fairly simple process of changing effect parameters and choosing the bank and location to save to. There are 50 banks with two presets per bank for a total of 100 presets which can be overwritten by user settings. In a performance setting 100 presets might be unmanageable or unnecessary. The PitchFactor is capable of disabling unneeded banks to help aid with navigation. Presets can be saved and loaded via MIDI—a somewhat mind-numbing chore (like most MIDI system tasks)—follow the manual and you'll succeed.
The PitchFactor supports control of parameter values and preset selections using MIDI Continuous Controller messages. In both stage and studio settings this can be really useful. With laptops and sequencers being the norm on stage, MIDI control of the PitchFactor can be a great tool for synchronizing patch changes and tempos to set lists and loops. In the studio, the PitchFactor can be entirely controlled from an external MIDI controller.
Ah yes—the sound!
Last but by no means least—the sound quality of the PitchFactor is on par with Eventide's flagship rack processors. Eventide has managed to pack this pedal full of gorgeous, detailed sounds that any guitar player or producer will love. The effects are lush and there's a harmonic detail and depth that can be missing from processors in this price range or category. As a guitar effect or as an outboard processor the PitchFactor shines in the fidelity department. The final quality of tracks in the mix with the PitchFactor is fantastic and the tonal flexibility is unmatched by most other pedal-style effects.
All things considered
It's hard not to fall in love with the PitchFactor after hearing what it can do. What's not to like? At first look, maybe the price—at $499, the PitchFactor is on the more expensive side of stomp-box effects. However, when you consider how much flexibility this pedal offers, the price tag is much easier to stomach. Then there is the learning curve of this pedal—much steeper than that of most stomp-boxes. Once the basics are learned it's easy enough to use the pedal, but keeping the manual nearby is definitely recommended. Even after several weeks with the PitchFactor I found myself going back to look up effect parameters and pitch sequences. But the effort is certainly worth it.
The PitchFactor is a winner in a big way. Guitar players, producers and tweakheads will all be happy with the PitchFactor's flexibility, programmability, and the supreme sonic quality that simply screams-"Eventide!"
Price: $499 street
More from: Eventide, www.eventide.com.
Nick Casares (email@example.com) is a recording musician, engineer, producer, and web designer, living and working in Colorado.