Versatile delay and looper pedal with exclusive TonePrints
$232.00 MSRP, $169.00 "Street"
By Phil O'Keefe
Wait - what's this? Did TC Electronic discontinue their popular Flashback Delay? No… but the Transition Delay (Fig. 1), a product that was developed in collaboration with Guitar Center's Barry Mitchell (and is available exclusively through Guitar Center and Musician's Friend), is built upon that well-respected foundation. Fans of the Flashback may be wondering what is different on the Transition. We'll be covering that throughout this review, as well as the features both pedals have in common, so those of you who are unfamiliar with TC's compact delay pedals won't be left out.
Figure 1: The TC Electronics Transition Delay
The Transition is a compact (2.83" x 4.80" x 1.97") pedal based on TC's successful Flashback Delay. Like the Flashback, the Transition is a digital delay pedal with up to seven seconds of delay time and nine different delay "types" that are available at the turn of a knob. The pedal also features an onboard looper with overdubbing capabilities. Loops can be up to 20 seconds (stereo) or 40 seconds (mono) in length, regardless of the number of overdubs. The looper works as advertised and is easy to operate. Like the Flashback, the Transition is TonePrint enabled, the details of which we'll get into a bit later.
The Transition has several other features of note. Analog dry-through keeps your dry signal unaffected by the A/D-D/A conversion. Two small DIP switches inside the pedal (Fig. 2) allow you to select true bypass switching or buffered output, with the buffered setting allowing lingering delay "trails" to continue to ring out and naturally decay, even when you bypass the pedal. A Kill-Dry option allows the pedal to be used in parallel effects loops.
Figure 2: The internal DIP switches allow you to select buffered or true-bypass switching, and regular or kill-dry modes
The Transition features an easy-access battery compartment that uses a single large thumbscrew to hold the pedal's base plate on. (Fig. 3) It can be opened with a coin, or by hand if you don't tighten it down too much. The pedal can be powered by a 9V battery, or with a standard 2.1mm center negative DC adapter.
Figure 3: The Transition's battery can be removed without the need for a screwdriver
I/O AND CONTROLS
One REALLY nice feature of the Transition Delay is the true stereo input and output. If you have a pedal with a stereo output in front of the TC in the signal path, the stereo information from it is retained - the TC doesn't do any funny stuff like summing the "stereo" input signal to mono before it does its processing. It's a true stereo delay.
The most powerful control is the Delay Type knob, which allows you to select the TonePrint function, the looper function, or one of the nine onboard delay types, which we'll cover in detail shortly. The other controls on the Transition include Delay, Feedback and Repeat controls. (Fig. 4) Delay time can be adjusted from 20ms to seven seconds for most delay types, although the slapback delay type is limited to a 20ms - 300ms delay time range. Feedback controls the regeneration, or number of delay repeats, while FX Level controls the level of the effected signal.
Figure 4: The Transition's controls are well laid out and more powerful than they first appear. Note the true stereo I/O
The compact TC delays handle tap tempo a bit differently than most other pedals do. Instead tapping the tempo in with your foot on a second footswitch, tap tempo mode is entered by holding down the main footswitch, and then strumming quarter notes on your guitar at the desired tempo, then releasing the footswitch. A small toggle switch allows you to select different delay time subdivision values, including quarter note, dotted eighth note, as well as quarter note plus dotted eighth. The output signal is muted while the footswitch is depressed and you're entering in "tap tempo" timing strums.
TONEPRINTS, SMARTPHONES AND USB
Just what are TonePrints? TonePrints are customized presets, consisting of deep level edits to various effects parameters that would otherwise be set to a predetermined value or range by the pedal's designer. These custom patches - many of which were created by famous players - can then be loaded into the pedal via its built-in USB jack (Fig. 5), or with the use of a Android or Apple smartphone, and completely change the character and color of the pedal. A delay pedal won't suddenly turn into a distortion pedal, but any TonePrints that are created for that particular pedal model can be easily loaded and will change the delay's character and sound.
Figure 5: TonePrints from your favorite artists can be loaded through Transition's USB port - a USB cable is included with the pedal
The process of loading TonePrints into your pedal is super easy. For example, I wanted to check out a Lee Ranaldo TonePrint, so I went to the TC Electronics website and downloaded the small (~2MB) file. Then, using the included USB cable that came with the pedal, I connected it to my Macbook - it works just as well on a PC - then I opened up the downloaded file, which loads a small applet. (Fig. 6) No need to install any software or change any computer settings. Just click "upload" and the TonePrint is sent to your Transition. A handy A/B switch on the applet allows you to switch quickly between the two most recently loaded TonePrints, letting you quickly compare them so you can hear which one you prefer.
Figure 6: The TonePrint applet is simple - and effective
Owners of Android and Apple smartphones have a second option available. A free applet for their phones allows them to browse TonePrints, select one, then transfer it directly from the phone to your pedal just by plugging a guitar into the pedal, then using the phone's speaker; "playing" the TonePrint straight into the pedal by holding it up to your guitar pickups. The applet software walks you through the steps:
A digital tone is produced by the phone's speaker and is picked up and sent through your pickups and straight into the pedal. As with the USB option, it works flawlessly.
In my forum surfing online, I've noticed that there are some players out there who are disappointed that TC doesn't provide access to their TonePrint editing and development software to the public at large, and I can somewhat understand that--I for one would love to experiment with creating unique TonePrints, but I have to wonder how many guitarists would realistically want to wade in that deep. Rumor has it that there are literally hundreds of parameters that can be defined and adjusted, and most players would probably rather have more instant gratification, and Transition's TonePrint capabilities certainly provide that. Browsing for and loading TonePrints is super easy and a much more convenient way to get new sounds than spending hours and hours programming them.
FLASHBACK TO TRANSITION
Other than the cosmetics, the main difference between the Transition and the Flashback is in the assortment of delay types that the pedal comes with. For the Transition, they include:
Two additional settings on the Delay Type selector knob allow you to call up the loaded TonePrint or engage the onboard Looper.
Four unique and exclusive built-in TonePrints replace the standard Flashback's 2290, ANA, TAPE, and MOD delay types with EVO, FATY, DUCT and MORF.
No, Flashback owners can't get access to these four exclusive preset TonePrints - they are exclusive to the Transition. Transition owners can load any of the standard Flashback TonePrints into their TonePrint Delay Type slot, but can't replace or modify the exclusive delay types, nor can any of the other "preset" delay types on either pedal be modified or replaced.
The other delay types from the Flashback are all present on the Transition, and include DYN, LOFI, P.PONG, SLAP, and RVS. Dyn is a dynamic delay that "ducks" when you're actively playing, and kicks back in when you pause or stop, allowing the delay to be audible in the rests, but preventing it from making busier parts of your playing sound muddy. Lofi is a grungy and dirty sounding delay, while P.Pong bounces back and forth between the left and right outputs as you'd expect. Slap offers a very credible rockabilly sound, while the Rvs is probably the most authentic sounding reverse tape effect I've ever heard from a pedal. Between them, the Transition offers a staggering amount of sonic versatility for such a compact pedal.
I really enjoyed my time with the Transition Delay. The overall sound of the pedal is great, but it's a chameleon, and it changes significantly depending on which of the delay types you've selected. It really does a good job at emulating some of the distinctive characteristics of the delays it emulates - enough so that most people would have a very difficult time telling them apart based on the sound alone.
With nine different delay types (plus the TonePrint slot for #10), tap (or "strum") tempo, delay time subdivisions, and looper capabilities, the Transition packs a lot into a very compact pedal. The Transition's versatility, excellent sound quality and relatively low price also help it to score very well on the price verses value scale. If you need to be able to cover a wide range of different delay effects and have minimal funds for multiple pedals, or minimal pedalboard space to hold them all, the Transition is well worth your consideration. In fact, it's an excellent choice for anyone who is seeking a cool sounding general purpose delay pedal that can cover a lot of ground.
To hear the Transition Delay in action, please check out the Harmony Central Quick Take video. All the sound clips in the video were performed with the Transition. Guitar Center also has a demo of the Transition available on YouTube.
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Associate Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.