Dc sound

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Kato SoundBox:

I model N-scale and I have a Kato SoundBox connected to a 150W Sony 3.1 surround-sound external amplifier with a sub-woofer. It sounds amazing through it! The low-end ruble from the sub-woofer (even a cheap one) really notches up the realism! I have several Kato Soundtraxx sound cards for it, including the new GP35 turbo-charged diesel card, and I think it's the best so far with a really cool new air-horn. I also just got the 3rd-gen GE diesel card to go with my AC4400 (Kato also makes a steam and an electric card). The SoundBox has six dedicated buttons for bell, horn (choose among three), brakes, coupling, rev-up/rev-down, start-up/shut-down.

Start-up and shut-down sequences sound great, but at constant-throttle, the sound really doesn't vary at all. I use the over-rev button to "cure" this. Another weak point is it's kind of wonky momentum circuit (adjustable with a pot). The built-in momentum circuits in MRC controllers work much better (but doesn't work in conjunction with the SoundBox' momentum, which you cannot turn off).

As for syncing the sound with your throttle-movement, mine syncs pretty well (sync is adjustable), so that's very cool. Again, through an external amp, it sounds amazing (you HAVE to have a sub-woofer!). For anyone with a DC-layout who wants to add true, high-fidelity sound to your operations, this is it! [Note: incompatible with certain manufacturer's locos; e.g., Fox Valley Models].
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No, the sound does NOT come from the locos. It comes either from the small built-in speaker in the SoundBox (not very impressive), or, preferably from an external amplifier and speakers. However, even the cheapest external amp and speakers (even powered PC speakers) will sound significantly better than the Kato built-in speaker. My Sony surround-sound system is an inexpensive all-in-one unit, and it sounds incredible. A system with a sub-woofer is highly recommended.
Thanks I'll have to check this out.
At $209, the Kato SoundBox' price tag may seem a bit steep (it's currently in-stock, here at MTS), but I never run my railroad without it! So to me, it's been worth every penny. I expected that I just wouldn't be happy with the limited frequency-range of an in-loco speaker, especially in N-scale, so I went with the analog-only Kato SoundBox very early into my re-entry into the hobby, specifically for its external stereo-output jack. I just knew that when hooked up to an external amp, this thing would rock, and it does!

I have two identical low-end Sony 5.1 surround-sound systems on my railroad. I bought both on sale for $150 each, and each came with four compact surround speakers, a small center-channel speaker, and an 8" sub-woofer (un-powered). Again, even the most modest external amp and speakers makes this thing sound awesome! The first system amplifies my SoundBox output, and the second system runs a Fantasonics' "Big City Modern Diesel" ambient-sound CD. The combination of both (through two separate speaker systems) really adds a lot of atmosphere to the railroad. I highly recommend both!

The only other option I would consider (when I convert to DCC) would be BLI's Rolling Thunder DCC receiver and sub-woofer system. Of course, you have to have locos with with BLI's Paragon 3 decoders installed for it to work. But I would probably only run a single Paragon 3 loco, or two at most. Any more than one or two externally amplified locos would probably become an annoying cacophony of noise.
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Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
At $209, the Kato SoundBox' price tag may seem a bit steep
No, that is cheap. The PFM, PBL, and Grizzly Mountain systems were from $299 for the PFM mini-sound to $1000 for the full thing in 1979 dollars. Don't know what that would equate to in today's dollars, but just like DCC the price keeps getting cheaper and cheaper.

What are the frequency spec's on the output jack?
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As is typical with such products, technical specs are scant. I don't recall finding any specifications in the minimal Kato documentation, other than the fact that it has a line-level output jack (1/8"). Again, the sound from my Sony surround-system seems pretty good. Nice low-end from the sub-woofer, excellent mid-range, and a decent amount of treble. Maybe not 20Hz-20,000Hz, but it sounds pretty good.

I just checked the Kato USA site, and in fact, the Kato documentation does not indicate whether the output jack is mono or stereo (I determined this myself). However, whether the Kato Soundtraxx cards are actually encoded in stereo, or just two-channel mono, I'm not sure. Also, note that although the documentation states that you can connect the line-out jack to "speakers," they would need to be powered speakers (or an external amplifier). Here's a screenshot of the Kato SoundBox .PDF:

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