Sound Decoders

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Hi,
I'm starting to convert a bunch of my Dad's old DC diesel and steam locomotives that are mostly about 50 years old to DCC. So far I started with converting two, one with no sound and one with sound. The number of options of sound decoders and speakers is a bit overwhelming to parse through. I started with Digitrax decoders because they seemed compact, reasonably priced, and speaker included with sound decoder. I was satisficed with the result, but then I've never heard the others in-person. I have noticed it seems like videos and articles rarely talk about Digitrax sound decoders, and most videos/articles seem to focus more on Tsunami, Wow, LocoSound or others. I'm really not too picky, I'd like to keep the cost reasonable, and I need something that can compactly fit into some of these locomotives that were not DCC ready. I'm just wondering am I missing the boat on options that are way better than Digitrax sound decoders, or does Digitrax sound compare reasonably well to the other options?

Thanks,

Victor
 

Espeefan

Well-Known Member
Soundtraxx and Lok-Sound (ESU) have the best sound files IMHO. If you're going to convert to sound, you want good sound files. A few bucks of cost difference is generally worth it, especially since with 50 year old locos, you're going to be doing hard wired installations (no plug and play option). Why go through all of that for tinny generic sound? Just my $.02.
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
I've had the best luck with Soundtraxx Tsunami sound decoders for my kitbashed Mantua steam locomotives. If your Dad's engines have open-frame motors, including Athearn blue box diesels, I suggest you check their current draw when the engine is fully stalled. These motors tend to draw a fair amount of current (1.0-2.0amps). You will need to pick the decoder with the highest rating (e.g. TSU-2200 rather than the TSU-1100). I'd also get the Keep-Alive capacitors which will help prevent stalling over dirty track or insulated turnout frogs, etc.
Have fun! Stay well and safe!
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
Just a concern not related to decoders, but the older locomotives and rolling stock have wheels that were commonly referred to as "Pizza Cutters" due to their deep wheel flanges. These flanges cause problems when operating over modem track and especially turnouts.

You may have to change out the wheel-sets as well as install decoders. This may or may not be a major task depending on the locomotive or rolling stock.

Just my opinion, but forgot Digitrax soud decoders since in my experience their prime mover sound files are weak and have low volume.
 
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trailrider

Well-Known Member
If you use Code 100 track you will probably be okay with "pizza cutter" flanges. You'd find those mainly on AHM/Rivarossi steam locos. OTOH, if you have Mantua steamers, you will be okay on Code 83 as well. Except for the open-frame motors, Mantua steamers are the best. If you replace the motors with can motors and a gearbox set, you can really have some nice-running engines.
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
If you use Code 100 track you will probably be okay with "pizza cutter" flanges. You'd find those mainly on AHM/Rivarossi steam locos. OTOH, if you have Mantua steamers, you will be okay on Code 83 as well. Except for the open-frame motors, Mantua steamers are the best. If you replace the motors with can motors and a gearbox set, you can really have some nice-running engines.

I had problems with Pizza cutters on Code 83 track and the turnouts being the largest concern. Open-frame motors make great paper weights.

Greg
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
The number of options of sound decoders and speakers is a bit overwhelming to parse through. I started with Digitrax decoders because they seemed compact, reasonably priced, and speaker included with sound decoder. I was satisficed with the result, but then I've never heard the others in-person. I have noticed it seems like videos and articles rarely talk about Digitrax sound decoders, and most videos/articles seem to focus more on Tsunami, Wow, LocoSound or others. I'm really not too picky, I'd like to keep the cost reasonable, and I need something that can compactly fit into some of these locomotives that were not DCC ready. I'm just wondering am I missing the boat on options that are way better than Digitrax sound decoders, or does Digitrax sound compare reasonably well to the other options?
I say no. Sound is one of those things that if it sounds good enough to you, it is good enough. Spending $ hundreds more for what someone else says is better would just be silly. And listening to computer videos about them doesn't help. Computer sound is SOOO bad. Maybe there is a hobby store you could go an listen to some of the other types in person.

For a non-train example.... I have a classic Marantz Quadraphonic stereo system from the early 1970s. It drives classic Advent Series One speakers. It is fed from a turntable, or AKAI reel to reel tape. 90% of the people that listen to it cannot tell the difference between it and a modern generic Pioneer AV system using Bose speakers, and I am guessing 70% couldn't tell it from a CD playing on a TV sound system. For that 70% of the people, spending the thousands of extra dollars for the system someone else says is good would be a waste.

Personally I had an early bad experience with the Digitrax Sound Bug. It has been so long ago I don't remember the issue, but I never looked at Digitrax sound equipment again. Technology changes. What was once bad can improve and what was once top of the line can come to be considered junk, or can actually become junk.
 

kjd

Go make something!
I think with model sound, the speakers are the most important element. Finding speakers that can reproduce the very low frequencies, especially in diesels will make them seem more like their full size counterparts.

I know what you mean about complexity, I started with Digitrax Dh121 decoders in about 1998. They have about 100 CVs. I recently got some LokSound decoders and they have over 2000 CVs.

I looked up Marantz on ebay, you know it's spendy stuff when an owner's manual costs $100.
 

Espeefan

Well-Known Member
Ah the audiophile days! Those lovely sets of racked components, the VU meters, the early LED's, Cassette tape decks and the reel to reel units. I still have the Pioneer receiver I bought in the Navy, as well as the turntable. Both work. The Bose 901's are long gone, but lasted over twenty years. There's big money in vintage audio equipment these days. Now we're shoehorning all that stuff into HO locomotives. Cell phone speakers have done wonders for sound quality. The sugar cube units ESU sells are competitive price wise and sound very good.
 
Thanks for all the tips! I'm sold that I'm going to try some econamy and maybe mix in a couple tsunami's. I'm still running them on my Dad's old tracks, so the wheels have been no problem.

Thanks,

Victor
 




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