The Ravish Sitar promises to turn your guitar into a sitar, and there certainly seems to be a hole in the market ever since Danelectro discontinued the Sitar Swami stompbox and Jerry Jones stopped making his reissue of the late-’60s electric Coral Sitar.
Apparently named in honour of Ravi Shankar, the only sitar player most of us have ever heard of (unless you count George Harrison), the Ravish might just be Electro-Harmonix’s fiddliest pedal yet. Forget the one-knob simplicity of the Small Stone and Bassballs – this thing’s got more variable parameters than a game of chess, and the manual barely manages to cover them all.
So what defines the sound of a sitar? Two things, really: the buzzy, fast-decaying twoing of the plucked strings, and the atmospheric drone of the ‘sympathetic’ ones, which are not actually touched but resonate in tune with the others. The Ravish can split these two effects through stereo outputs or run them into the same amp, and there are controls for the timbre as well as the level of each.
The complicated stuff happens once you start messing with the white button on the right – this is where you can change the key of the sympathetic drone and various other factors. Luckily, there are 10 presets to guide you onto the path of enlightenment.
It’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on inside the Ravish, but both lead and sympathetic effects clearly involve some heavy digital filtering. The combined result is striking, to say the least. As a rough starting point, imagine an envelope follower coupled with a tuned, slowly modulating, ultra-long reverb.
Most of the presets are extremely rich, full and exotic; but they can be harsh, and if you get reckless with the controls it starts to sound like every pedal Electro-Harmonix has ever made, all running at the same time.
The Level and Timbre controls function well, though working with the sympathetic ‘strings’ isn’t intuitive. Strumming isn’t out of the question, but you won’t want to change key, or chord, too often.
The hardest thing is controlling the drone so it adds the right texture without swirling heavily over everything; on the other hand, stop playing and the echoes sweep lusciously around the room like the dying notes of an organ recital in the biggest cathedral in the universe. It goes on for hours – a superb textural effect that’s almost worth the price of the pedal on its own.
It’s hard to get too carried away with an effect that’s so eager to veer off sideways into unmusical shrillness, no matter how much you tweak the settings – and the Ravish rarely gets close to the tonal purity of a real sitar.
But what it does provide, like many of EHX’s more complex offerings since they embraced the digital side, is extreme and demented sonic textures for the musical adventurer.