Hands-On Review:DigiTech HM2 HarmonyMan Intelligent Pitch Shifter

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The world's first intelligent three-part harmony generator for guitar!

By Darius Van Rhuehl
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer


I’m not sure what ethical violations have occurred, but I for one am  glad that DigiTech cloned Brian May (of Queen), miniaturized the clones,  and put them in an effects pedal so that guitar players everywhere can  generate instant, intelligently harmonized guitar solos. Okay, I know  the whole Brian May clone thing sounds a bit creepy, but it’s the best  analogy I could come up in extolling the capabilities of this amazing  pedal. In fact, this is the pedal every potential Brian May has been  waiting for.


Welcome to harmony central


The DigiTech HarmonyMan is the world’s first guitar pedal that generates harmonies based on chord progressions in real time. HarmonyMan lets you combine up to two distinct voices in any combination to  accompany your solo part. It features four types of pitch shifting:  Triad-Centered Shifting, which creates harmonies based on root, 3rd,  5th, and inversions; Scalic Shifting to create harmonies in the current  key; Fixed Chromatic Shifting, which applies the same shift to a note  regardless of key; and Detune Shifting, which applies a small amount of  pitch shifting (up or down) to produce a thicker sound.


HarmonyMan has the solid build-quality of a boutique stompbox. Its rugged and  attractive casing finished in metallic maroon protects a brain with a  very high IQ—musIQ, that is, the intelligent harmony-generating  algorithm that has made DigiTech’s new line of vocal processors some  real jaw-droppers. The top of the unit has two pedals, a “Circle of  Fifths” key signature display (major and relative minor) with LED  indicators, musIQ and preset store switches, plus a rotary mix knob for  blending voices. For the temperamental tone snobs among us (you know who  you are), the pedal features a true analog bypass, so your signal  remains clean and pure as the driven snow, untouched by human hands.


The left pedal is the Harmony on/off switch and holding it down  grants access to the onboard tuner. There are two knobs over the left  pedal labeled Voice 1 and Voice 2 that let you dial through the  pitch-shifting options to create your presets, which you can store in up  to four memory locations. The right footswitch steps between presets in  its normal operating mode, and lets you set the key signature. Above  the right pedal are the musIQ and Store buttons, plus a Mix knob that  lets you blend voices. Back-panel I/O is all 1/4" and includes Clean  Input, Distortion Send/Return, Sidechain In/Thru, and L/R stereo  outputs.


Holding down the right pedal and strumming a chord or progression  will set the key signature. Or your rhythm guitarist can connect to the  Sidechain input for realtime chord recognition and use the Thru output  to send signal back to his amp. The HarmonyMan will read the chord changes and select the appropriate harmonies while  you play. This is the best way to go since most chord progressions in  rock are really momentary key changes. Also, DigiTech has thoughtfully  included a ground-lift switch on the Sidechain section to eliminate  possible ground loops.


Harmony man-handling


Here at “Studio Van Rhuehl” we have one Rhule that we live by; never  read the manual. Real men don’t read manuals. Manuals are for boy-men.  If we real men can’t get a good sound out of a box without reading the  manual, it sits on a shelf, never to be heard from again. Needless to  say, I’ve yet to read the HarmonyMan manual, but that hasn’t stopped me from having hours of fun with it. My  first discovery was the detuned pitch shifting—this was a real find for  me. Just prior to testing it, I was at a studio in Nashville where we  used a preset from a $12,000 studio effects system to give a clean,  arpeggiated guitar track a wider stereo field. I was wondering how I  would duplicate that effect without dropping $12K. Enter the HarmonyMan detuned pitch shift. It gave me a beautiful chorus effect that filled  the stereo field. All I needed to do to emulate the aforementioned  high-end preset entirely was to add an 11ms delay to the left channel  (you need a separate delay unit for this). For me, that detuned pitch  shift alone was enough to sell me on the unit (particularly since it  saves me $11,695). But wait kids, there’s more—much more! It was time to  put the musIQ intelligent harmony generator to the test.


If he were to hear the HarmonyMan in action, I think Brian May might be persuaded to abandon his  complicated setup of delays that reproduce his three-part studio  harmonies live. To emulate the May sound, I used the distortion send and  return connected to my DigiTech RP350 set to the “Woman” preset (any  smooth distortion sound will do), and voilá, instant Brian May. With the  ability to switch between unison and harmonies, another three-part solo  I found mind-bogglingly simple to pull off was the one from Boston’s  “More Than A Feeling.” Cover stuff aside, I also used the pedal to come  up with some muy-cool sounds of my own. For example, an 18-string  guitar; a doubled guitar with pseudo Nashville Tuning (set Voice 1 for  Detune 1 or 2, and set Voice 2 up an octave); for power chord  reinforcement, I set Voice 1 an octave down and Voice 2 up a fourth (or  fifth, depending). Of course, that’s just for starters. There are loads  of options to explore.


DigiTech strikes a chord


If you’ve always wanted to do cool harmonies on guitar but are the  band’s only guitar player or are a little short on music theory, your  day has come. With a HarmonyMan,  classic rock bands with two guitarists can add songs to their  repertoire that they might normally shy away from—and without spending  countless hours rehearsing or trying to figure out harmonies. As for me,  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of DigiTech, which in  and of itself says something, because I am very hard to impress. (It’s a  skill we learn at Juilliard.) After playing with the HarmonyMan, I’m thinking that I may as well just set up a DigiTech auto-pay on my bank account and call it a day.


Features & Specs

  • Cutting–edge pitch detection engine delivers fast, accurate shifting
  • Plug-and-play 3–part guitar harmony, no music theory required
  • Intelligent harmony voicing, fixed chromatic voicing, and detune voice settings
  • Edit, store, and recall 4 memory presets
  • Sidechain connection lets you solo while your rhythm guitarist provides the recognition source
  • Built-in guitar tuner
  • Pre-harmony Distortion loop