Hey All: During the last year, I've seen new sitars (5 years old or newer) made by Rihki Ram (custom built), Hiren Roy (custom built), Manoj Kumar Sadar (at Peter's), RKS (at Peter's) and Hemen. BY FAR, the Hemen had the finest workmanship. But, without being able to hear all of them together, it would be impossible for my novice ears to make a judgement about which one had the "best" sound. That's my 2 cents. - K.K.
Yes, Hemen's are nice, but they are mostly known for their sarodes. I actually played a $2000 Hemen last summer at AACM when I was in San Rafael (can't believe it was actually lying on the floor in their stockroom, picking up dust). Looked dynamite with very nice woodwork. The sound was OK, but frankly I expected better at that level. If you gave me $2k for a custom, I think I would go for a tun Kanai Lal.