The Sound of Steam

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modelbob

Administrator
As you may have noticed in my other posts, I'm exploring upgrading my layout to DCC and sound.

I realized that I've never really heard a DCC sound system, at least not that I can recall. I'm sure they had them at the National Train Show last summer, but I didn't spend any time checking them out.

So, here's my question... Does the steam sound system allow you to adjust the exhaust level? Obviously the chuff rate is synced to the drivers (or at least should be) and that part is easy. But a hard working steam loco sounds an awful lot different than an engine that's drifting downhill, and can be almost silent.

Is it possible to do this with DCC systems?

I have seen two systems that had remarkably good sounds, one was the long defunct PFM sound system and the other is (was?) made by PBL. Both were excellent. How does DCC sound compare?
 

lemscate

Member
Yes, most systems do to my knowledge. Soundtraxx's hopefully-soon-to-be-released Tsunami adjusts the volume and other sound settings depending on the load. The current model (DSD series) also has this, though supposedly it's not as advanced as the Tsunami will be. The exhaust volume, and pretty much every other sound volume is individually adjustable.

I do not believe the MRC sound does this (it doesn't have a volume control from what I've heard), and I have no experience with QSI systems, though I think they do have dynamic exhaust sounds.

I have not heard the PFM or PBL systems, so I can't make a direct comparison. But I will say that DCC sound is amazing. It sounds very real, and has great detail in the sounds and configuration, as well as having specific chuff/exhaust/whistles. Everyone at my club that has heard by sound equipped locos agrees!
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
The only sound I've heard that compares with the old PFM sound system (I heard it in several Sn3 D&RG Mikes) is the Soundtraxx system installed in a G scale D&RG Mike at the Soundtraxx factory. Of course, I wasn't able to audition each system side-by-side, but I remember the PFM system being very good and most of the digital stuff I've heard in recent years just doesn't do it. This could be the product of speaker size, among other things (I know speaker size made a difference in the G scale locomotive). IIRC, you had to manually adjust the sound throttle and the operation throttle independently on the old PFM system while that's taken care of by the Soundtraxx system. There's no question things have come a long way since the old analog sound system days, but that PFM system really set the bar high.
 

modelbob

Administrator
> Soundtraxx's hopefully-soon-to-be-released Tsunami adjusts
> the volume and other sound settings depending on the load.

Great, I was hoping that would be the case...

> I do not believe the MRC sound does this...

That doesn't surprise me, it seems to be an entry level system.

> I have not heard the PFM or PBL systems

Well I did a bit of research and they're both off the market now, and apparently P-B-L was also involved in the PFM system development years back. They were both outstanding systems, BUT you had to play them like a pipe organ. You could adjust the chuff volume etc, which gave you total control, but also required you to constantly work the system to get good results. I saw an O scale layout where the fellow was a real artist, and was very impressed. I also saw other systems where the sounds were just plain wrong, usually set at highest volume all the time.

I only saw the PBL system a few times, at shows with the PBL switching layout portable display. It had external speakers, so the sound was deep and full (often steam whistles and tiny speakers don't get along.) Very impressive, and I'm not sure exactly how the sound was controlled on it.

In any case, that doesn't really matter, as it's no longer available.
 

modelbob

Administrator
> IIRC, you had to manually adjust the sound throttle and
> the operation throttle independently on the old PFM system

Yes, exactly... That, along with the fact it was quite expensive (I think it ran about $1,000 when $10,000 would buy a nice new car) was the main reason I never bought one of them.
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
Wow, I didn't know they cost that much. My friend who had one (and six Sn3 brass Mikes) lived in a really nice house, but wasn't the type to tell everyone he had money. I guess he really was loaded!
 




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