Anthology X makes many of Eventide’s signature effects available in native plug–in formats for the first time. Was it worth the wait?
It’s hard to think of a bigger name in the world of hardware effects than Eventide. Their original H910 Harmonizer was the first commercially successful pitch–shifter, and one of the first digital effects units to reach the market. It was the start of a lineage that would bring us the classic H3000 multi–effects — a staple of any self–respecting studio in the ’80s — and which includes current models like the Eclipse, H8000FW and H7600. Nor should we neglect analogue processors such as the Instant Phaser and Flanger, which many still consider the benchmark for those particular effects.
Eventide first ventured into the world of plug–ins some 12 years ago with their Clockworks Legacy bundle. Available only for Pro Tools TDM systems (remember them?), it comprised accurate emulations of five vintage Eventide processors: the original H910 and its slightly more sophisticated successor, the H949, the Instant Flanger and Phaser, and the Omnipressor compressor. The Clockworks Legacy package was reviewed on its launch in SOS September 2003, and you can read that review online at www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep03/articles/clockworks.htm.
A couple of years after the Clockworks Legacy bundle was launched, Eventide built on it to create the Anthology and Anthology II collections. Anthology II, which was reviewed in SOS July 2006 (www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul06/articles/anthology.htm), included no fewer than 15 separate plug–ins. To the original Clockworks Legacy suite it added two plug–ins derived from algorithms used in the H3000, called Band Delays and H3000 Factory, along with reverb and vocal harmony processors derived from the more recent Orville hardware unit, emulations of a pair of old Urei equalisers, two channel strip plug–ins, and a couple of neat utility processors for nudging audio forward or backward in very small time increments.
Like its predecessor, Anthology II was a TDM–only package. A few of its constituent plug–ins have been ported to native formats over the years, and Eventide have also developed a couple of newer reverb plug–ins that are native–only, but it’s only now, with the launch of the new Anthology X, that the complete Eventide plug–in range is offered for native platforms.
Authorised using the iLok system and available in AAX, VST and Audio Units formats for Windows and Mac OS X, Anthology X is basically a complete native port of the Anthology II collection. In fact, nearly all of the plug–ins are faithful recreations of the TDM originals, so I’ll refer readers to the two previous reviews mentioned above for detailed descriptions and comment.
In case you’re wondering whether those older plug–ins might seem outdated a decade after their launch, though, let me reassure you that that is very much not so. The two vintage Harmonizers still drip with glitchy, lo–fi digital character, Omnipressor remains perhaps the most vicious compressor ever made (if you can negotiate its idiosyncratic input and output gain arrangements), and a particular highlight for me is having access to Instant Flanger again. Even after all these years, it’s still by far my favourite plug–in implementation of this classic effect.
The reason why the Anthology X plug–in count totals 17 to Anthology II’s 15 is down to the inclusion of two new variants on the H910 and H949 plug–ins. Both the original hardware and the TDM versions of these were strictly mono, but many of the most well–known applications for them required the use of two units, hard–panned to create stereo effects. So with the native port, Eventide have not only completely rewritten both plug–ins, but have added extra features to create new ones called H910 Dual and H949 Dual.
As well as making the delay times continuously variable, these allow channel parameters to be linked in various different ways, and introduce a ‘cross feedback’ path allowing the left channel’s output to be returned to the right channel’s input and vice versa. This is a really effective idea which breathes new life into these old workhorses, opening up new realms of weird and wonderful effectery. A comprehensive range of new presets runs the gamut from subtle widening and thickening to bizarre filtered delays and sci–fi noises. Some of these, such as the ‘Crystals’ bank in H949 Dual, explore ideas that were implemented in later Eventide hardware units such as the H3000, but with a grungy charm that’s all their own.
Though some might be disappointed that Eventide still haven’t made all of the algorithms from later Harmonizers available in plug–in format, I think that both H3000 Factory and Band Delays offer more than enough depth for most people. The former, in particular, is almost like the effects equivalent of a modular synth, and a full exploration of its powers would require quite an investment of time. Rejoice, then, that it comes with a comprehensive selection of over 500 presets, many of them highly usable out of the box or ideal as jumping–off points for further experimentation. Among these are more than 100 of the original H3000 hardware presets, some very familiar from hits of the ’80s and ’90s!
Ultra Reverb is a powerful and versatile plug–in that includes nine of the reverb algorithms from Eventide’s current H8000 flagship processor. These are paired not only with the usual EQ and modulation stages, but more unusually, with a stereo delay line, compressor and ‘lo–fi’ option. I often apply these processes to reverb feeds using separate plug–ins, so their inclusion here is very welcome.
The reverb plug–in included in Anthology II was called simply Reverb; at first glance, Ultra Reverb appears to be the same, but closer examination reveals a lot of minor enhancements. The early reflections generator is said to be improved, for example, while all the component elements of the plug–in can now be activated or deactivated individually, and you can route external signals to the compressor side–chain. The algorithms themselves sound excellent, and cover most of the ground that you need for standard mixing purposes, including halls, rooms, ambiences and plates; for more characterful effects, you might want to investigate Eventide’s separate Black Hole and 2016 Stereo Room plug–ins, which don’t form part of this bundle. There’s stiff competition in the market for reverb plug–ins, but Ultra Reverb makes a nice alternative to the plethora of Lexicon–alikes that’s out there.
Octavox and its CPU–light alternative Quadravox likewise feature numerous minor improvements over their Anthology II counterparts. Both are, again, derived from the H8000, and offer some lovely effects based on multiple pitch–shifted delay lines. Like the H3000 Factory, Octavox can do subtle stereo widening and so on, but its real USP is the way it lets you configure pitch and delay parameters using musical notation. This is the sort of plug–in where feeding in a couple of notes can produce an entirely new musical idea on which to build a track. There’s plenty of editing depth on offer if you need it, but equally, it’s possible to create some great sounds with a few clicks of the mouse.
Most of the channel strip plug–ins I’ve encountered in recent years have been recreations of vintage analogue hardware, but for the most part, Eventide’s Ultra Channel is an unashamedly digital affair, and thus very well featured. Unusually, it includes effects as well as EQ and dynamics, in the shape of a Harmonizer– derived ‘micro pitch shift’ widener and a stereo delay. You also get two compressors — a conventional one and a cut–down Omnipressor — and a de–esser, along with the option to emulate transformer saturation. It’s a very powerful processor indeed, and once again, has benefited from some enhancements compared to the Anthology II version. Perhaps ironically, though, whereas Eventide’s vintage emulations haven’t dated at all, the UltraChannel interface seems a bit crowded and button–heavy by modern standards.
The two Urei equalisers are slightly unexpected choices for software emulation. Neither the 545 parametric nor the 565 ‘filter set’ is up there with the Pultecs and Neves in the pantheon of sought–after vintage hardware, but in practice, I rather liked the EQ45. It’s more flexible than most old–school equalisers, yet has a pleasing smoothness and authority to its sound. I was initially nonplussed by the idea of using a vintage hardware emulation for boring surgical EQ tasks such as notching out feedback or nasty resonances, but Eventide say that the 565’s circuit can produce narrower notches than most digital equalisers, and it certainly does the job in a very non–invasive way.
Anthology X is a really substantial collection of plug–ins, then, most of which are new to the native world. It’s undeniably a premium product, and as you’d expect, that is reflected in a price which will put it beyond the reach of quite a few musicians. And while there’s very little criticism that could be levelled at any of the individual plug–ins, it might bother some people that the collection as a whole lacks a unifying functional or visual theme. It’s not a suite targeted at particular users or applications, and it cheerfully ignores the boundaries of categories like vintage and modern, creative and utility, effect and processor. So, not everyone will find every plug–in here equally useful — but you’ll never exhaust the capabilities of those you do use. Fortunately, a free 30–day trial is available, which should give most people time to explore some of the different avenues that Anthology X opens up before parting with their money. Whatever your approach to music and mixing, this is a suite that offers limitless possibilities.
There’s no individual plug–in collection I know of that covers all the same ground as Anthology X, and plug–ins such as H3000 Factory and Octavox are probably unique. If you’re looking for a suite of high–quality creative effects, the new SoundToys 5 bundle is definitely worth investigating, but doesn’t include utility processors such as reverb, EQ or channel strips. Alternatively, Waves offer plug–in collections to suit every taste and pocket.
A highlight of the Anthology X bundle that would be easy to overlook is Eventide’s humble Precision Time Align plug–in. I had not used this before, and very quickly found it indispensible. When I’m given any project to mix that includes multi–miked instruments, especially drums, a first stage is always to check the phase and timing relationships between the different mics. Very often I’ll end up not only reversing the polarity of some tracks, but also shifting them backwards or forwards in time by a few samples with respect to one another. Where possible I like to do this with a delay plug–in, as it doesn’t risk fouling up any edits later in the session, but some DAWs don’t include a sample–based delay and others can only apply positive delay values. The beauty of Precision Time Align is, first, that you can set the delay time in samples, milliseconds or in terms of the time taken by sound to travel a specific distance — which is a great help when conceptualising how much delay to apply — and second, that you can apply negative delays, which is perfect when, for example, you want to time–align a room mic with a close mic. Not only that, but the delay time can be dialled in to within one hundredth of a sample! Very neat.
- Makes nearly all of Eventide’s plug–ins available in native formats for the first time.
- New Dual versions of the Harmonizer plug–ins are brilliant.
- Fantastic selection of presets.
- Includes hidden gems such as Precision Time Align.
- You get a lot for your money, but it’s still not cheap.
- One or two of the plug–ins are showing their age.
- Most people won’t find a use for everything within such an eclectic collection.
Eventide’s plug–ins have been a long time coming to native platforms, but they still stand out. This might not be the most focused collection of effects and processors on the market, but it is definitely one of the most powerful and creative.
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