Having already been greatly impressed by the fast and responsive polyphonic tracking of the POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator, I had a feeling the Ravish Sitar was going to be something special. While its name gives away the source of inspiration for the creation of this pedal, the Ravish Sitar offers a whole new world of sound design possibilities beyond its obvious sitar-like effects.
Ravi Shankar to Ravish Sitar
Let me assure you that the Ravish Sitar is no one-trick-pony. Sure, a sitar emulator might be a cool idea for a song or two. It could even form the basis for an entire project or album. But sometimes us guitarists want to get a little more utility out of our guitar pedals than one type of sound. But while the focus of the Ravish is to provide a convincing emulation of a sitar that’s complete with resonating sympathetic strings and optional modulation for a tanpura-like drone, its range of timbres extends to include those reminiscent of cello, organ, synth-guitar sounds, and more. While its reign as the sultan of sitar synthesis is without question (as you’ll discover in the review), the bigger question is whether or not the Ravish Sitar is the best guitar synth pedal around.
Here’s a quick rundown of this pedal’s features before we seek sonic Shambhala in our Electro Harmonix Ravish Sitar review.
Independent Timbre controls for the Lead and Sympathetic tones.
Independent Volume controls for Dry, Lead, and Sympathetic voices.
Play in all 12 chromatic keys in major, minor, and exotic scales.
Create your own custom sympathetic scales; up to 17 notes, including microtones.
Freeze the sympathetic strings by holding down the Preset footswitch.
Fade and freeze the sympathetic strings with optional expression pedal.
Control the decay of the lead sitar notes.
Modulate the sympathetic notes to create movement similar to that of a tanpura.
Bend the pitch of the Lead voice from 1 semitone up to 1 octave with an optional expression pedal.
Separate outputs for main mix and sympathetic strings.
Selectable Q control on lead voice allows variation from organic to synthetic.
10 fully programmable presets.
Powered by included 9.6VDC 200mA power adapter.
Sound & Performance:
The Ravish Sitar is quite possibly one of the best kept secrets in guitar effects pedals. I can imagine that many guitarists look at it and either love it or loath it right away, depending on whether or not they have a taste for the exotic sounds of the instrument that it seeks to emulate. But there is much more to this pedal than meets the eye. While the Ravish will definitely please sitar enthusiasts and fans of traditional Indian music, it packs an incredibly diverse range of synth-like guitar tones that adventurous guitarists will appreciate.
While it’s often fun to just plug in a pedal and start strumming away, you’ll get a lot more out of the Ravish by taking a moment to become familiar with its controls and how they interact. When you first fire up the pedal and start hitting notes, you’ll get a cacophony of dissonant tones if you’re not playing in key with the tuning of the sympathetic strings in the various presets. The digital display indicates the selected preset and key signature, and 4 orange LEDs indicate the scale and whether or not the key signature is sharp. To use the Ravish Sitar’s sympathetic strings to the fullest extent, some basic knowledge of music theory and scales is helpful, but even if you’re just playing basic chord progressions and simple pentatonic scales, you can still get amazing sounding results.
The Ravish certainly captures the exotic vibe of the sitar, creating mesmerizing accompaniments to single notes and chords. It’s pretty incredible just how smooth the textures sound even with polyphonic chordal passages. Adding a bit of Modulation to the Sympathetic voice makes the surreal ambience even more hypnotic. You can also adjust the Decay of the Lead voice to affect the envelope filter style attack, creating the subtle metallic movement that completes the sitar-like vibe.
The Decay is part of how you really get the most out of your Lead voice. Using it in conjunction with the Lead Timbre knob allows you to make the Ravish sound like a sitar or a range of other instruments. With the Sympathetic and Dry Level knobs turned down, cutting the Lead Timbre knob fully counterclockwise produces a very woody tone that sounds reminiscent of a cello. Add a little palm muting for a pseudo-plucked cello attack. As you push the Timbre knob gradually clockwise, the tonality of the Lead voice will transform, and the Decay function will begin to have a more noticeable effect. Leaving the Decay at 0 will produce the most prominent attack envelope while raising it as far 9 will create a consistent attack and tone that’s vital for creating some dramatic, very un-sitar-like effects. Exploring the Ravish’s Lead timbres reveals sounds from 16-bit video games, accordion and bagpipe textures, organ-like effects, and even those emulated guitar tones from old-school keyboards. There’s some serious fun to be had for any guitarist looking for something a little different. Also, a little bump of the Ravish’s Q parameter is ideal for making your Lead tone stand out a little more in the mix when used with the Sympathetic strings or other musical elements.
To touch back on my introduction, the Electro Harmonix POG2 showed that the brilliant engineers over at EHX know a thing or two about harnessing modern DSP power to create pedals with insanely fast pitch tracking and incredibly smooth polyphonic performance. The Ravish Sitar carries on this standard with extremely precise and reliable performance. While some lesser pitch and synth pedals are known for their unstable “wobbling” pitch effects, the Ravish Sitar has no such issues, producing smooth harmonic textures even when playing chords with 3 or more notes. It’s also surprisingly dynamic, producing louder sounds when you pluck the strings harder. While some synth and pitch pedals benefit from increased tracking accuracy when having a compressor placed before them, you would only need a compressor with the Ravish if you simply want to even out the dynamics due to minor volume inconsistencies in your playing. Basically, the Ravish’s tracking is superb and very revealing of your technique. It’s quite impressive that a digital instrument can be so responsive and musical.
There are a few more little surprises in the Ravish’s bag of tricks that add to the creative possibilities. Holding down the preset button suspends the resonating Sympathetic strings, creating a droning texture to improvise over. If you plug an expression pedal into the Drone input, you can fade in and hold the sympathetic strings, an effect that is especially beautiful with some delay or reverb added after the Ravish Sitar. It’s also possible to create your own scale of up to 17 notes for customized sympathetic textures. You can even use an expression pedal to control the pitch of the Lead voice, raising it from 1 semitone up to a full octave. At wider pitch interval settings the sweep sometimes seems to step through the notes, interrupting the smoothness of the pitch glide. Shifting the expression pedal more slowly or very fast reduces this perceived effect. Setting the Pitch to an octave up and leaving the expression pedal in the toe position lets the Ravish Sitar’s unique Lead voice produce a great sounding polyphonic octave up effect.
Electro Harmonix have yet again broken new ground in guitar synthesis with the Ravish Sitar guitar synth pedal. Let’s see the final result.
The Electro Harmonix Ravish Sitar is easily the best sitar emulator effects pedal ever created and also offers a wealth of great tones beyond its namesake. With deep control over the Lead voice and Sympathetic strings, the Ravish produces some of the most sitar-like sounds ever triggered from a guitar. Guitarists who dig deeper will find textures and sounds similar to organ, cello, and more. It’ll even emulate old-school keyboard style guitar tones and retro video game sounds. The Ravish Sitar has earned an irrefutable place among the top tier of the best guitar synth pedals available.
That concludes our Electro Harmonix Ravish Sitar review. Thanks for reading.
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