Sitars 'n Space: Eventide Space & Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar

THANKS TO THE LONG LIST OF BASSists who’ve made astounding use of effects, many of us consider octavers, envelope filters, and fuzz/overdrive/distortion pedals almost as necessary as tuners.
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THANKS TO THE LONG LIST OF BASSists who’ve made astounding use of effects, many of us consider octavers, envelope filters, and fuzz/overdrive/distortion pedals almost as necessary as tuners. In order of importance, chorus and wah pedals might be next, followed by compressors and/or limiters, and then phasers, flangers, and delays, right ahead of loopers. But off in a galaxy of their own are effects like Eventide’s Space and Electro-Harmonix’s Ravish Sitar, two stompboxes you may never absolutely need to own unless you’re one of those… well, we’ll get to that in a minute.

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Eventide’s Space is a studio-quality pedal that’s built to stand out on dark stages and survive clumsy roadies. The LED readout is big and bright, the three switches are tough, and the ten knobs are smooth, the better to help you edit and scroll through Space’s 12 main presets and their 88 variations. Technically, Space is a reverb pedal, but it would be more accurate to call it a deep cornucopia of reverb flavors that includes delay, distortion, pitch-shifting, compression, reverse, and chorus. It does so many things so well—and gives users such infinite control of its parameters—that frankly, looking deep into Space can be daunting.

After a few hours of toying with the pedal in my tiny practice room and hearing it through a Demeter VTBP-201 preamp and powered Bergantino IP112 1x12 cab, I brought Space and its 50-page manual to the studio of my friend Tom Rollison, a masterful guitarist and wizard-level effects alchemist. He promptly plugged me into his stereo PA, which included matching 1x12s and 1x15s. The moment I hit a note, I wish I’d put new strings on my active Lodestone 5-string: In Space, the more treble, the better. Nevertheless, I dialed up the “Shimmer” preset and immediately fell in love with the rich organ-in-a-cathedral sound that surged from both speakers. It was slow, rich, and “shimmery” all right, and Space had no problem tracking all the way down to my open B. The effect generated 5ths, 7ths, and octaves that were so clean and clear that I began thinking of ways I might use this pedal: in an adventurous trio, perhaps, or on a particularly dynamic solo. Through any of the unit’s three bypass modes (true/relay, DSP, and DSP+FX), I never lost my bass tone, and after I used the MIX knob to adjust the balance between bass and “organ,” I learned to tweak Space’s LOW and HIGH EQ knobs— essentially, low- and highpass filters—to dial in the right amount of booty. If I did it right, which was pretty easy, I didn’t lose any lows when I stepped on the ACTIVE/ BYPASS switch.

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Next, I tried “Room,” built to emulate small- to medium-size spaces, from vocal booths to small halls. I’m sure it would be just the thing on a DI’d bass track that needed more air, but besides the occasional exposed double-stop or chord, I couldn’t immediately think of many ways to use it onstage. “Spring” brought to mind the cool, crazy spring reverb I adore on dub tracks, but it’s usually the guitars that get that treatment while the bass stays steady, right? “Dynaverb” gave me reverb with compression, delay, and a noise gate. “Dual- Verb” gave me complete control over two different reverbs at once, and it was the fi rst preset that helped me and Tom realize how indispensible an expression pedal could be to Space. As Tom played a riff, he could hit a big note, activate a cloud of reverb, and then let up on the pedal so he could get back to groovin’ while the effected note hung in the air. Discovering that the expression pedal could be programmed to control any combination of parameters—including wet/dry MIX, reverb DECAY, pre-delay time (DELAY), room SIZE, as well as LOW, HIGH, and frequency CONTOUR— was a revelation. We had a blast setting up the pedal to control radically different parameters (MIX and SIZE, for example) and then using it to morph into one sound and back again.

Adding a volume pedal to the equation brought out even more possibilities: Sitting down, with a foot on each pedal, Tom achieved a haunting mix of moody swells and pitchshift drama with “Modechoreverb” that would have fit right in on a big-budget soundtrack. Four hours after I’d fi rst plugged in, we still hadn’t touched Space’s MIDI, HotSwitch, or USB capabilities. The options felt endless.

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Space may be the place, but the Ravish is heavenly—and not afraid to be kitschy. The good news is that its silly packaging hides an impressive array of spices.

As the manual informs us, sitars have lead strings, which are plucked and bent, and sympathetic strings, which resonate to whichever key and scale you tune them to. The Ravish doesn’t just offer players independent volume control of the lead and sympathetic strings—it lets you tweak the tone of both sets of strings, “freeze” the sympathetic strings so they don’t follow you, program your own presets, and control the mix between the wet/dry signal and both sets of strings.

I was disappointed the unit didn’t take batteries, and I couldn’t help but notice its somewhat synthetic tone. But I had to appreciate the range of timbres this pedal offered, from a stout “zing” to a warmer “buzz,” and we wobbled our heads from side to side in approval after hearing the factory presets. Plugging in an expression pedal made it easy to bend notes and reach for semitones; the Ravish’s fast tracking meant it sounded pretty cool with my fretless F Bass 5-string, too.

If that’s all it did, the Ravish would be tons of fun, but its tuning, key, and scale controls are gateways to a world of harmonic options. Rotating the MODE/PRESET knob took us chromatically through each major and minor key, as well as the “exotic” scale, a major scale with a fl at 2nd and a fl at 6th, which closely matches the Hindustani bhairava raga. If that’s not enough, you can custom-tune, transpose, or add tambura-like modulation to the sympathetic strings, and you can also adjust the lead sound’s note decay. Playing in specific keys was fine, but not necessary; in fact, Tom—no stranger to dissonance and chaos—found it more interesting when he played outside the key he’d chosen. A sonic adventurer willing to invest some serious time into this pedal could get spectacularly authentic results or visit distant planets a million miles from Mumbai.

For all its possibilities, though, I’d wager that most bass players would have a hard time rockin’ this pedal in all but the most specialized contexts. Like Space, Ravish is best visited in small doses, skillfully inserted into the mix like a stealth chili in a plate of Indian food. If you’re a solo bassist, however, these pedals may be ideal platforms for ambient, exploratory composition and performance, and being onstage alone might be the perfect way to appreciate their myriad possibilities.

Creating something on the Ravish Sitar that isn’t cartoonish will take a little work, but if you need it, this is the best sitar emulator on the planet. Likewise, it might be difficult to justify buying Space for your Top 40 or blues gig, but if you’re the only person onstage and you’re ready to visit the far reaches of the galaxy, you’d be silly not to check it out.

Street $500
Pros Studio-quality reverb with a universe of options Cons Expensive

Street $240
Pros It’s fun, full of options, and tracks well
Cons Doesn’t take batteries; presets only go in one direction

Weight 2.15 lbs
Dimensions 4.8" x 7.5" x 2.12"
Controls Mix, Xnob, Ynob, Size, Decay, Delay, FxMix, Low EQ, High EQ, EQ Contour
Power supply 9V, 500 MA, tip hot (+)
Warranty One year
Made in China

Weight 1.3 lbs
Dimensions 2.4" x 5.7" x 4.7"
Controls Mix, Xnob, Ynob, Size, Delay, FxMix, Low EQ, High EQ, EQ Contour
Power supply 9.6V, 200mA AC
Warranty One year
Made in USA