Featured Eventide Anthology X by diogo_c
- Product: Anthology X
- Developer: Eventide
- Format: VST, AU, AAX for Mac and Windows
- DRM: iLok Software or optional USB dongle
- Price: MSRP $1195
Anthology X is not only a walk through Eventide’s rich heritage of amazing effects, it's also a journey through the history of modern music itself. In order to preserve its legacy and set its foot in our immensely crowded contemporary plugin, Eventide updates and repackages its iconic Anthology suite of plugins to current-day native formats, delivering an extremely diversified package of seventeen plugins, including its flagship Harmonizers and a complete set of mixing tools. I’ll give each plugin a brief look then assess how Anthology X stands in today’s crowded digital effects market - and it has to be said that this is a segment which Eventide pioneered and always held to very high standards.
Here it goes, Anthology X, in chronological order*:
*Chronology is a bit tricky to establish here since there are both hardware and software releases to be accounted for, so for all purposes I’m going to consider when a given piece first appeared to the world regardless of its form (hardware or software) i.e. the E45/E65 are the oldest products dating back to the late 1960s/early 1970s while 2014’s UltraReverb is the latest. One other complicating factor is that I decided to group some plugin such as QuadraVox and OctaVox due to their very similar scope, which distorts a bit the timeline. Besides those bumps it’s safe to say that it was possible to draw a reasonable timeline for the purposes of this review, but I truly recommend everybody to do their own research if establishing a chronology that is 100% correct is desired. Feel free to private message me to discuss any issues in this regard, as a historian I’d love to have that conversation!
OK, enough of this chitty-chat and let’s get down to the Anthology X!
E45 Parametric EQ and E65 Filter Set : Emulations of two exotic equalizers from the late and famous UREI brand, the one behind the original 1176 FET Compressor. The E45 is based on the UREI 545 and features four overlapping (low/mid-low/mid-high/high) bands of parametric equalization, each band with an operational range from -15 to +15 of gain and it’s on bandwidth control ranging from one quarter to two octaves. Wrapping it up there’s a set of low and high pass 12db/octave filters. The E45 is surprisingly nice to use and can be a good tool for broad tonal changes or things that don’t require the extreme precision of a contemporary digital EQ. The E65 is more restricted, with the same LP/HP filters from the E45 but only features a couple of bands that can go all the way from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with six bandwidth options for peaking or bandpass filters for cuts that go up 150 dbs (!) of attenuation - it was called “The Little Dipper” back in the day but there’s nothing little about it! It’s really a great tool for finding out problematic resonances and sounds very smooth even on deep cuts. Overall I like both EQs, the E65 being the more versatile but the E45 being the better sounding to my ears even though it’s bound to one specific task (cutting). Although they’re not something I’d expect from Eventide these plugins can offer some good alternatives and are interesting to explore - if that’s your case then I recommend you to read the UAD blog articles (#1 here and #2 here) written by Will Shanks on the UREI EQs for further info on these pieces. Strangely enough the original pieces don’t sell for obscene money and aren’t impossible to find...maybe that will change now!
Omnipressor: This is quite a unique comp with its own idiosyncrasies, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Omnipressor as I don’t really associate Eventide with compressors - I’m sure many out there feel the same, but the Omnipressor is here to remind us that these guys are good basically everywhere! Grabby, bold and characterful is how I would describe this one, but it operates in a very particular way. It’s capable of doing many things, ranging from utter dynamic range squash to subtle peak and volume control. Omnipressor can also be used as an expander and a limiter, although not the digital brickwall-type, and gating and limiting are good sounding on their own right. There’s a character here that’s kind of odd to my 2015 ears, the resulting envelopes are mostly kind of wild when you start tweaking it and it really takes some time to get acquainted with it, but nonetheless it’s definitely an interesting piece to explore and a rewarding one once you understand what’s going on. I struggled a bit to gain stage it correctly, especially when setting output levels, but once that’s surpassed (by a simple fader move or another plug down the chain) I could get some very good sounds out of it, mostly on the punchy side of things due to its strong footprint.
H910 Harmonizer: This is where the harmonizer legend begins to unravel, although this was not Eventide first created piece ever - that honor belongs to the 1745 Delay Line (and here is some hoping this eventually lands on our screens) but the H910 Harmonizer gets the milestone of being the first digital audio processor to be commercially available, being instantly adopted by the forward-thinking minds of the time. This iconic piece features a dark, gritty and distinctive sound that gets aggravated as your dial in the pitch changes. This is a very simple piece to use, with only a handful of parameters to control pitch and delay, the latter can be isolated if no pitch changes are wanted, which is pretty cool since the delay itself has a sound of its own which is cool. Even cooler is that Eventide took advantage of the flexible that comes along with plugins and added some extra features that were not present in the hardware to make our life easier, such as dry/wet and stereo width sliders, which definitely helps to further the use of the H910. It also comes in mono, dual-mono and stereo versions, which is a nice touch. The pitch changes can also be controlled by MIDI for accurate (and fun) tracking. Given its bold and unsettling sound, this is a tool that immediately jumps out when placed on a lead voice or lead instrument of a song and it’s great for double tracking and unsubtle stereo widening.
H949 Harmonizer: Following the H910 trail comes the H949 Harmonizer, which further extends the functionality and brings some new treats such as the flanger and reverse modes, more delay options and high/low frequency controls. The sound is definitely reminiscent of its older brother, but the 949 definitely has its own vibe and unique signature, although it’s slightly cleaner it also boasts a fair amount of grit when looked with 2015 eyes. Just as the 910, the 949 also gets the plugin-goodies such as dry/wet slider, dual-mono and stereo versions and MIDI control. This is a plugin that I particularly love on guitars, probably because my taste for Led Zeppelin has something to do with this as Page is known to have used the hardware back in the day. I also like it on vocals, and when the context is right it’s “track-making” when spreading out vocals is required. One other cool trick that I enjoy is to have it on a parallel drum bus fed with select drum pieces like overhead, snare and room - crank down the pitch for some unexpected mojo and a grungy stereoizer.
H3000 Factory: The legendary H3000 Harmonizer was a pinnacle of digital processing back when it was released in 1986, and undoubtedly this is Anthology X’s crown jewel and arguably its biggest landmark in the plugin world. This is the closest you’ll get with plugin to the iconic hardware box used on so many productions over the last couple of decades, and it’s quite close - maybe even too close to call in terms of sound. Workflow-use it feels a bit different and the plugin fares better as expected and does a better job of displaying and organizing things on the screen than a cramped LCD on a 19” rack. Regardless of any comparisons, the H3000 Factory plugin stands on its own as one of the most spectacular effect units out there. Its modular architecture really deepens what can be done over a signal, and a huge number of possibilities are at the user’s hands here. Made of eighteen blocks that are assembled on a modular framework, the H3000 brings pitch shifting, filtering, delay and a ton of modulation choices through its set of envelopes, LFOs and a function generator with extensive wave shape options. According to Eventide there was some slight improvements to match the original algorithms from the hardware, and the H3000 Factory is now more accurate than ever to its source.
H3000 Band Delays: The Band Delays from the H3000 Ultra Harmonizer hardware displayed on a single plugin for our convenience - not as deep as the H3000 Factory yet complex enough on its own. This is a very fun delay with up to eight tape and each tap has its own time and can be placed on the stereo field and filtered with its exclusive high/low/bandpass filter...and basically anything involved in such operations can be modulated, leading to very interesting choices for your delay needs. It also features the function generator, soft-keys and wheel from the H3000 to provide modulation. The sound is also in the same ballpark as the H3000 Factory i.e. awesome but it also suffers a bit from the same problems i.e. small interface.
QuadraVox/OctaVox: As the names suggests, these are diatonic pitch shifters with four and eight voices respectively, both deriving from algorithms present in the H8000 hardware. The Quadra/Octavox are an interesting couple of processors with a unique sound thanks to Eventide’s signature, and once you start playing with it the sound is likely to be instantly recognizable by many - just like its Harmonizer cousins. The coolest thing about the Quadra/OctaVox is how easy it is to use it, with an intuitive interface that doesn’t hide anything and gives direct access to all functions. These two plugins also features 16 snapshots for quick-swapping presets. In terms of sound Quadra/OctaVox are more refined than the older harmonizers yet still very prominent. Using bigger harmonizations is quite nice since it holds up everything on the best possible tune thanks to Eventide’s proprietary pitch-tracking. The icing on the cake is the tap delay, which can spread out each voice over time, also very easy to use with the notation grid - which can also be used to set the pitch, so making harmonizations (and its delays) as easy as clicking and dragging to the desire pitch and time. One trick that I particularly like is to use them without any changes in the interval, just making a small change in the cents on each voice with a short delay time between them for instant spreading out, works great on hard panned guitars and are great to enrich backing vocals.
Precision Delay and Precision Time Align: Utilitarian plugins that are nice to have around when phase and/or micro time adjustments are required. These plugins can go very deep into sub-sample level of detail and can display information in different formats (metric/feet-inches, milliseconds, samples). They also provide a more elegant alternative to nudging audio events in your DAW and as a former Cubase user that migrated to Pro Tools they provided me with a straightforward negative/positive delay adjustments that Cubase has onboard of each track - something that Pro Tools doesn’t offer but which is covered with Precision Time Align.
E-Channel: Bread and butter channel strip with gate, compression and equalizer, complemented with external side-chain for the gate and compressor, a de-essing function that replaces regular compression and transformer saturation at the output. Each module can be dragged and put in their desired position in the chain. E-Channel sounds very “vanilla”, not really a plugin intended for “mojo” despite having the transformer saturation which can add some extra edge to the signal. It feels mostly like a necessary plugin to make the Anthology X bundle a complete mixing solution, but I feel like that argument loses some of its power when we think about the current situation of the contemporary DAW user - someone who at this point in time is likely committed to his EQ/Comp combo of choice. If that’s not your particular case, then E-Channel makes a lot more sense and can be an alternative to your DAW’s stock tools. One thing that annoyed me a bit was that the interface feels a bit too small and I struggled a bit to find the compressor’s working range, so there would a bit of learning curve to be dealt with. Overall the E-Channel sounds "correct" (i.e. a pure digital EQ) and a little "un-Eventide-ish" in terms of not doing anything particularly unique like the rest of its bundled companions, but it can be a good alternative to the basic channel strip needs or if you’re bored by what you already have. Just for the sake of the argument, you can build a “Eventide Console” with E-Channel on all channels and it’s totally safe to say that a great sounding mix can definitely be obtained.
UltraChannel: This is what a Eventide channel strip really looks like! Besides all the features from E-Channel, UltraChannel adds an implementation of the Omnipressor, micro pitch shift and a stereo delay with good side-chain and ducking options. The micro pitch shift is definitely a reminiscent of their past algorithms, with its signature wide sound and a good set of controls (size, width, depth and dry/wet mix). Omnipressor also sounds good here even though it doesn’t get as gritty as the standalone plug. Overall this is a complete channel strip with some nice twists that makes it much more attractive than the E-Channel and if processing power is not an issue then it makes little sense to not use the UltraChannel all around a mix. Eventide offered this plugin for free (!) when it was released, which is crazy in hindsight given how good it is - even if that means good as an “effects unit” rather than a console-esque “channel strip”. Nonetheless, UltraChannel is a much more meaningful alternative to what you already own or your DAW’s stock plugins than its small brother E-Channel, it’s genuinely a plugin with interesting possibilities because of the delay and the micro pitch shift and will likely serve some good creative use.
UltraReverb: The latest development in Eventide’s plugin department is the UltraReverb, a very interesting plugin that brings some of the legendary mojo along with some fresh new ideas. First thing to notice is that for the first time Eventide created a dedicated reverb. Some of their most recent units from the H3000 and forward have reverb algorithms, but UltraReverb takes it to the next levels with nine reverb options (Hall 1&2, Chamber 1&2, Room 1&2, Plate 1&2 and Ambience), a stereo delay, compression and EQs for the reverb (low/high shelving), pre/post reverb and for the delay’s feedback (low/high shelving and peaking). UltraReverb is immensely versatile and can do a bunch of things. The reverbs have a good set of controls and can cover vast territories and will surely offer very interesting space options regardless of reverb size or type. Wrapping up there’s a snapshot system like the on H3000 for quick preset recalls. Definitely one of the best plugins in the Anthology and part of that is because Eventide improved on the layout and UltraReverb’s uncluttered interface is great to use.
Breaking down the scores
Sound quality - 5/5: Taken as a whole the Anthology bundle is an excellent set of tools with great sounding quality. It might face some insane competition on the mixing department since everybody is likely to be invested in their own choices but the effect plugins are just outstanding and hard (if possible) to rival. Having the chance to use these glorious, era-defining effects in the convenience of our DAWs is just awesome. The H3000 Factory, UltraReverb and the H910-949 harmonizers are just remarkable plugins that have their spots secured in any top-choice of effects list one can make - there’s just a huge wide variety of effects possible with those pieces alone and they likely cover most delay, pitch shifting, filtering and space needs one might have, and most of all it’s not only about quantity but about quality above all. These are industry-proven tools and there’s arguably nothing more established than Eventide when it comes to sound effects.
Ease of use - 5/5: Most plugins in the Anthology X bundle are easy and intuitive enough to use and most users will get a lot of them right from the start, therefore I’m awarding top score, but there are some inherent complications when dealing with something complex as the H3000s. Besides its inherent complexity the interface doesn’t do it any favors. It feels cool to use when you’re putting the blocks together, but the numeric menus are a bit cramped and hard to visualize. I’m not sure a bigger interface would be enough but a 120% interface mode is something I would use when programming more intricate patches. In that regard, Ultra/E-Channels also suffers a bit when compared to similar entries in the category. The other plugins are mostly fine in terms of interface - Quadra/Octavox, H910/949 and UltraReverb all have good interfaces that won’t get in the way and are capable of providing a good working pace. I should also say that there has been some problems with retrocompatibility, but since Eventide was porting most of these plugins from the aging (and agonizing) TDM format that was something bound to happen. In that regard, a decision has been made to further develop and optimize the plugins, and I must say that was a good call to keep the Anthology package in line with the significant developments that have been made in the plugin universe over the last years. In order to mitigate the damage Eventide offers not-for-resale licenses of the old Anthology II TDM for those who decide to upgrade but may need to recall an older session, which is always a kind gesture to make. Last but not least, Eventide offers some good documentation for all these plugins - and I personally love the typewriter aspect of their user manuals.
Features - 5/5: Anthology X is a very well rounded collection with a complete set of effect processors and mixing tools that are totally capable of delivering highest-quality results. They’re all very efficient plugins, with low CPU and (mostly zero) latency figures. It also needs to be said that Eventide does a great job on supporting these plugins, and provides patches and updates on a frequent basis and are very responsive to the reports. Those who might fear that Anthology end up overlapping their current options might have an argument, but only to some extent as most of the plugins are pretty unique. I can’t really think of alternatives to most of them - I can think of plugins that might be close, but not entirely replaceable given Eventide’s quite unique choices for the feature set of each plugin. In that regard, plugins such as the UltraReverb and the H3000 Factory are just brilliant with a rich set of options within them. As a bundle the Anthology X also stands out as interesting and comprehensive, with good options everywhere you look. It should be noted that along with the format porting Eventide has made some tweaks in most plugins present in this bundle and overall I think these were good changes despite the compatibility dramas mentioned above - please take a look at the changelog kindly posted by Eventide’s Dan Gillespie and to see the complete list of updates introduced for this release.
Bang for buck - 4/5: Here comes the hard part, at least for most digital audio workstation dwellers. The current asking price is definitely steep for many and puts the investment required at the same level of a good set of monitors or soundcard with preamps and everything. I’m giving it 4/5 not because the lack of bang, but because the bucks required are a tad too high. One thing that could be made to mitigate the financial impact is breaking up the Anthology X into smaller and specific bundles i.e. “Vintage Harmonizer Bundle” with H910 and H949 or an “Ultra Bundle” with UltraReverb, UltraChannel and the H300s. Adding the 2016 Room and Blackhole reverb would also help to justify the high investment. Another option would be to have all the plugins sold on its own with progressive discounts for previous owners or when purchasing multiple plugins. Once past the budget barriers, Anthology X is definitely one of the best plugin bundles in the market and plugins such as the H3000s, H910/1949, Quadra/OctaVox and the UltraReverb are amongst the best effects out there and there’s definitely an “aura” around some of them - Eventide’s impact on how we work with effects is just indelible and they’re still at the highest level of the game, and to have 40 years of their sonic excellence distilled in plugins for the convenience of our DAW life is nothing short of awesome.
Recommended for: Anyone producing and mixing modern music and anyone interested in sound effects in general. Electronic musicians will also find a great deal of joy here and mixing engineers will find a complete set of tools to work with and a stellar effect palette. In 2015 the “overlapping question” has to be asked i.e. does it overlap with what one already owns. In that regard I strongly think that Eventide is relevant as it ever was. They might not be the only guys in the town - far from it - but they’re still a force to be reckoned with and it’s very hard to think of replacements for many of the plugins included in the Anthology X bundle, some are just that unique! The other question that might inevitably arise is the Soundtoys question, which resonates from the overlapping issue. As someone who reviewed both bundles I can safely that they complement each other quite nicely i.e. there are many things one does that the other doesn’t, it’s awesome to have both around and if you’re in such a fortunate position slap yourself the next time you think of buying another effect plugin!
*Superb sounding with enormous sonic possibilities.
*Well-rounded and diversified, with useful mixing tools besides the legendary effects.
*Easy on CPU consumption and mostly latency-free.
*H3000 Factory and UltraReverb are two of the coolest effect plugins ever made!
*Some interfaces are showing signs of age.
*Faces fierce competition in areas such as reverb, equalization and compression.
*Not exactly affordable.
*I’d really love a H3000 “Complete” Harmonizer, combining the Factory and Band Delay plugins into a single interface.
*Port the Space Station plugin and emulate the remaining Eventide hardware such as the first Delay Lines to the Anthology X standards.
Click below for screenshots of the entire Anthology X bundle.