Test Drive: The Tranzport from Frontier Designs

tranzport hand

WE ARE ROLLING

I used the TranzPort to remotely control Adobe Audition 1.5 on my PC, and Pro Tools on my Mac (in HUI mode). It was easy to work in Audition with the TranzPort. Setting markers, memory-cycle (loop) points, and auto-punch-in and auto-punch-out points on the fly was a breeze. The TranzPort’s ability to step sequentially through markers (in either direction) helped me find punch-in points quickly, and I also put the TranzPort’s Undo button to good use whenever I needed to nuke the last fluffed take. It was also great to be able to solo or mute any combination of tracks while recording or playing back, and then clear all solos or mutes afterward. And I was happy to see that the TranzPort reliably updated the counter in Audition after auto-returning to a stopped position... it didn’t need Audition’s transport to be rolling to see the correct location. The only significant omission in Audition is that the Tranzport can’t emulate either the Enter or Esc keys, so if you forget to arm a track before hitting Record, you’ll have to use your computer keyboard to agree that you screwed up. With luck, Adobe will fix this in Audition v2.0 (coming soon).

Fewer features worked in Pro Tools, in part due to the fact that Digidesign uses the HUI implementation developed by Mackie some years back. But all the basics are there as shown on the Tranzport’s front panel, as well as a few others like pressing SHIFT-STOP to dismiss the “no tracks are record-enabled, you moron” dialog box. And unlike some other controllers I’ve used in the past, the Tranzport never lost its connection to Pro Tools.

The TranzPort displays only signal levels that pass through the CPU and not those of inputs that are routed directly to outputs, as you’ll find in some “zero latency” monitoring modes. But the metering is accurate against those in the software, and having them is a Good Thing.

The TranzPort works best when recording one track at a time, because its LCD can display parameter values and levels for only a single track. Nevertheless, it’s convenient to have such a small device — check the picture where I’m holding it — with its functions screened right on the front panel. Some other controllers out there also don’t give you the bidirectional response, including the multi-segment level metering and record, mute, solo, auto-punch, and loop-status indicators, that the TranzPort provides.

The manual is on the CD as a PDF, or you can download it from Frontier’s website. While you’re on the site, I also suggest you visit their online forum and driver download sections. Frontier is good about posting updates and additional drivers, and the individual instructions that will help you with your specific editor are available as PDF files, so go get ‘em.

I’M KEEPING IT

The Tranzport is another one of those very well-thought-out products that qualifies as a must-have. At a retail price of $249 and a street price under two hundred simoleons, it solves a significant problem very well. I immediately recommended it to a prominent VO client’s WhisperRoom-equipped home studio (she voices for ESPN and Lifetime), and she loves it. She stuck it on a mic stand in her booth and off she went.

And the more I use it, the more I like it. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting psyched to read copy, then having to turn around and use a computer keyboard to locate to a pickup point and get into record. With the Tranzport, it’s all right in front of me, and I can proceed “unencumbered by the thought process,” as they say.

After using for many weeks, the only complaint I can muster is that the Tranzport’s key commands vary depending on the software that it’s controlling. Switching back and forth between Pro Tools and Audition was confusing at first, but I understand that this is an issue with the software rather than with the Tranzport. Heck, the fact that it works with as many editors as it does out of the box is a minor miracle as far as I’m concerned.

There’s not much more I can tell you except that this unit will never see the inside of Frontier’s offices again — it’s staying here.

The Tranzport from Frontier Design carries a suggested list price in the US of $249. For more information, visit www.frontierdesign.com.

 

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