I’m admittedly somewhat of a neophyte when it comes to digital effects. So I was a little nonplussed when I was greeted with a series of green and red lights when I turned on Trace Elliot’s Transit-A acoustic preamp and effects unit. But I’m surprised to find that I don’t even need to consult the manual to figure out the Transit-A, which is so intuitive to use. And, though I tend to avoid effects, I’m struck by how inspiring they sound on this unit. The Transit A is part of Trace Elliot’s new Acoustic sub-brand and is tailored specifically for the acoustic guitarist.
Small and Flexible
Gigging acoustic guitarists are so often at the mercy of the house system at a given venue, and it can be difficult to get a consistently good sound. Trace, the UK-based amp company now owned by Peavey—clearly recognized this conundrum in designing the Transit-A. It has practically everything an acoustic guitarist needs before going into a PA system, in a compact unit (12.3 inches wide by 4.5 deep by 2.3 high) that weighs around 2.5 pounds.
The Transit-A has a clean and orderly layout. Starting at the control panel’s upper-right corner, a series of knobs is arranged right to left—the opposite of most amp controls, but logical enough. First there are controls that shape the basic sound—gain, boost, treble, mid, bass, and notch—and then there are knobs for adjusting the chorus, delay, and reverb effects. Meanwhile, a series of footswitches are used for turning on the effects, and for setting the delay’s tap tempo.
On the Transit-A’s rear panel are inputs and outputs that offer plenty of flexibility. There’s a quarter-inch input, for guitar, and an auxiliary eighth-inch input, which allows you to play along with tracks from a smartphone or tablet. The outputs include a quarter-inch dry out; a pair of quarter-inch outs for mono or stereo sound; and a pair of XLR outs, one that’s not affected by the knobs and one that reflects everything but the unit’s output level.
Plug In and Play
I plugged a Breedlove Premier Concerto into the Transit-A and fed it to an AER Compact 60/3 combo. First, I try the Transit-A’s onboard tuner, which is engaged when the reverb footswitch is depressed, muting the output. When a string is in tune, a circle around the notch knob is illuminated in red instead of the expected green, but it’s easy enough to read.
The Transit-A is designed to work with any type of acoustic pickup. A piezo button on the unit gives 10dB of boost, handy for a guitar without a built-in preamp; a pre-shape button boosts the low and high frequencies while attenuating the mids, which should help inexpensive pickups sound more natural.
Though the low, mid, and high controls—which provide an active +/-15dB boost/cut—have a good sweep, I get a great sound with the controls set on neutral. I do, however, miss the knobs having a center detent to let me know that the EQ is off. It’s satisfying to tweak the boost and gain controls to achieve a slightly gritty sound that’s ideal for single-note soloing with a band.
What works really well for me (though perhaps not for a diehard sonic tinkerer) is that the reverb and chorus effects each have just one control—for blending the level of wet and dry signals. I liked the immediacy of this setup and avoiding having to tweak a bunch of parameters.
On the other hand, the delay is controllable in terms of tempo (handily shown with a flashing blue light at the tap-tempo footswitch) and amount of repeats, and this has its obvious advantages: It’s easy to create a delay sound on the fly with the appropriate rhythmic activity for a given tune. What’s more, the delay has a warm and natural sound, as do the chorus and reverb. And these effects can be used individually or simultaneously for a broad sonic palette.
Any gigging musician is all too familiar with not knowing what to expect in terms of sound at a new venue. Things can get hairy out there. It’s possible to negate this dilemma with Trace Acoustic’s Transit-A—kind of a sonic Swiss Army knife for the acoustic-electric guitarist, which will help you get a consistently good sound no matter where you play.
Trace Acoustic Transit-A
FEATURES Three-band EQ; chorus, reverb, and delay; phase reverse; notch filter; boost and gain; chromatic tuner
INPUTS 1/4″ instrument; 1/8″ auxiliary
OUTPUTS Two 1/4″ out (Mono and Stereo); 1/4″ dry; 1/8″ headphones out; XLR Pre and Post outs with ground lift
EXTRAS 9-volt DC power supply; nylon carrying case
PRICE $399.99 MSRP/$300 street
Made in China, traceelliot.com
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.