The Electro-Harmonix Synth9

Vintage Guitar, December 2017

For 40 years, guitar synthesizers have come and gone, but the Electro-Harmonix Synth9 looks to be a game-changer for several reasons.

First, you don’t need an external pickup to make it work. Rather, the Synth9 is a traditional guitar pedal – just plug it into your chain and get stomping. Second, the box is completely intuitive – no banks, MIDI controls, or menus. Again, it works like any other stompbox. The controls include two Volumes, one for pure guitar (Dry) and one for effect (Synth). These are key tools to achieve precise balance between the buffered, unaffected signal and the Synth9 tone. The CTRL 1 and CTRL 2 knobs offer different sonic functions depending on the position of the big white Presets knob.

Now, the fun begins.

Turn the Preset knob to any detent to find cool and useful analog synthesizer emulations; these are labeled to indicate classic keyboards from Moog, Oberheim, Sequential Circuits, Arp, and Korg. The Profit V has a gated effect bringing mind fusion-era Jan Hammer, while OBX is a massive polyphonic sound – think of Van Halen’s “Jump” or Rush’s “Subdivisions.” The Mini Mood and Mood Bass positions are high and low Moog sounds, while String Synth delivers Arp strings.

For best results, use your bridge pickup with the Volume all the way up, and bring the Tone knob down, as the presets are bright and powerful. As for that all-important “tracking” (the traditional term for glitched notes on guitar-synths), balancing the “guitar” and “synth” voices will deliver the best results, but in general, the Synth9 will track fine for most players.

Bottom line? Players who’ve been using guit-synth technology for years will marvel at the Synth9’s ease of use and powerful tones. Newer players will be happy they’re living in the 21st century!

– Pete Prown

EHX SYNTH9 Demo by Bill Ruppert