Impact Soundworks Sitar Nation Review

Sitar Nation: Classical Instruments of India ($119) is easily the best collection of sampled sitars I''ve ever played. Given some of the sampled sitars we''ve all heard
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Sitar Nation is an impressive sample collection of classical Indian instruments, currently available in Kontakt format.

Sitar Nation: Classical Instruments of India ($119) is easily the best collection of sampled sitars I''ve ever played. Given some of the sampled sitars we''ve all heard, that may sound like faint praise, but this set from Impact Soundworks pole-vaults over the others with a playability, a musicality, and a complexity that place it alongside the best sampled instruments of any stripe.

It is currently available as a download only for Native Instruments Kontakt 2.2.4 and later; support for other sampler formats (including Giga instruments) is in the wings. I ran Sitar Nation in Kontakt 3.02. Should you want to subject them to processing or map them to another sampler, Impact allows access to the individual 24-bit, 44.1 kHz samples (totaling roughly 2.75 GB). The Kontakt patches furnish some terrific layouts, rich with expressive sample-mapping techniques, so be prepared for a lot of work if you want to make the instruments speak as expressively as they do in the Kontakt format.

Nation Building

Installation couldn''t be simpler. After downloading the sequentially numbered archive files, I dragged the first one into my Kontakt user folder and double-clicked on the file, and it unpacked all the data into a single folder, ready for loading.

Sitar Nation concentrates on a bevy of sitar patches, including sampled playing techniques that would otherwise be difficult to pull off convincingly. However, it also provides a generous helping of Indian percussion, tambura, and other instruments. Instruments come in Ambient, Close, FX, and Room categories. FX offers a batch of useful processed patches, whereas the other three folders re-create the acoustic instruments in different reverberant spaces.

Round-robin samples, Velocity layers, and other touches of realism grace the patches. In some cases, a random bit of extra buzz and picking noise artfully enhances the live-instrument vibe. The artifacts appear unobtrusively, unlike what you''ll find in so many other sample collections that unrealistically place such instrumental by-products front and center.

Key Change

The keyswitched glissando patches are wonderful, with three notes in the keyboard''s lower range selecting different sampled-glissando speeds. Two patches furnish an assortment of sitar phrases. The legato-phrase patch is musical and terrific fun; a Random Art switch selects arbitrarily (but musically) from the available articulations, cutting off the previous phrase so as to avoid melodic train wrecks.

The punchy Tabla and Baya percussion patches are offered separately, and collectively they span a bit more than two octaves of the keyboard. The Ambient version of this patch is awash in an excess of reverb, but fortunately, controls on the virtual panel let you dial it back. As lush and playable as the individual instrument patches are, the

Multi instruments present the sitar in all its resonant and expressive glory, with legato versions, mordents, tremolos, release noise, and accompanying drones at your fingertips. All sitars and some articulations occupy a single MIDI channel, with phrases, more-prominent articulations, and accompanying instruments on adjacent channels.

Chiffy Pop

The FX folder provides a handful of exotic and blatantly synthetic sounds. Twilight Air starts with a chiffy front end, as a subtly blooming sitar tremolo emerges and grows more pronounced as you apply the mod wheel.

Sitar Nation is full of surprises, but the most pleasant one is the set''s overall musicality and expressiveness. If you''re looking for classical Indian instruments (and then some), Sitar Nation is an outstanding value. Don''t take my word for it; check out the demos at the developer''s Web site.

Value (1 through 5): 5
Impact Soundworks