What Sound Decoders do you like?

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N

NP2626

Guest
I have used Digitrax, SoundTraxx and TCS and have bought a few Bachmann Sound Equipped Locomotives with whatever sound decoders they have used. I want to know what Diesel Sound Decoders you guys have used and why you like them. For Steam Sound, I think TCS Sound Decoders sound very good. I also like SoundTraxx for steam. I've found whatever Decoders Bachmann has used to simply be O.K.; however, the diesel decoders they install mostly sound like metal grinding and not an engine running! So, do you have opinions?
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I am using Soundtraxx's Econami and Tsunami2 decoders mostly these days, but the most predominant in my "collection" are the 1st edition Tsunami. I have a few of ESU Loksound's Select. If I did it over again, I would, like a large contingent at my club, use the new Loksound 5, which from my research (Oh, I'm sticking my neck out) is the replacement for the Select, now out of production. The sound files to my assisted hearing ears (so second hand) does appear crisper and more defined. Haven't used any of the other newer ones e.g. TCS Wow!, so can't comment.

The sort of drawback (financially) with the Loksound 5, is the requirement to have their LokProgrammer in order to download and install the sound files, but that may be an advantage over Soundtraxx's method of installing multiple files into theirs, chosen by CV and making some available in one product and others in the other product, e.g. Turbo EMD 567 in the TS2 and non-turbo in the Econami, seeing also there is a difference in price and features between. Loksound's decoder takes any file in their library and can be upgraded when new/modified files are issued and changed to others at will.
 

migalyto

Well-Known Member
Everything I have now has ESU/Loksound. As Toot stated it’s highly recommended to have a Lok programmer. I haven’t gotten mine out yet, but from what I’ve read it will allow you to do more adjustments.
 

KB02

Well-Known Member
The first sound decoder I ever got was the Digitrax SDH166d. As it was my first sound decoder ever, I was pretty happy with it. I found it a little limited, but for the price, I figured it wasn't too bad.
Then I got an Econami ECO-PNP. I was blown away by how much better the sound was. :D
When I sounded up my steamer, I decided to go cheap again and bought an MRC Sound only decoder. So far I've only had to do a complete reset of the decoder once. The quality of the sound file is reflected in the price, I think... (I'll let you decide what that means ;) ).
The next sound decoder I bought was another Econami (ECO-21PNEM).

Through all this, I was learning a great deal about sound in locos. The number one lesson learned: It's nearly all about the speaker!
I am getting amazing replication of a mediocre sound file in my steamer due to the way I built the speaker enclosure in the tender (I know some people don't like sound in a tender, but I figured since I had the space, I would work with it). I would really like to try another sound decoder in there with a better sound file, but that will have to wait a bit ($$$). For my Econami's, the sound is coming out great due to the speaker arrangements. I have tried making the Digitrax work a little better with the way I have adjusted the speaker set up, and it is better than it was before I started but, as they say: Garbage in, garbage out.

So, to recap my long and winding post: From my experience, when it comes to sound decoders, the price generally reflects the quality of the sound. BUT, the speaker will make, or break, even the best sound file.
 
N

NP2626

Guest
I've found adding sound to a steamer is far easier than a diesel as there always seems to be room in the tender for the speaker. If I could easily add the speaker to the Boiler, I would, however, there is never room in the boiler. TCS has a neat feature called Audio Assist in their WOW Steam decoders. You hit the 8 button 4 times and women's voice sounds to help you with the decoders features which I find very helpful!
 
N

NP2626

Guest
With me, it is O.K. for us Model Rails to declare our choices as the absolute best! The reason I say this is, because I don't ever believe anyone when the say this!
 

beiland

Well-Known Member
I am using Soundtraxx's Econami and Tsunami2 decoders mostly these days, but the most predominant in my "collection" are the 1st edition Tsunami..
What do you think of the 1st edition Tsunami over the #2?
I've met a guy who replaces all of his early Tsunamis with #2, and is willing to give me a good price on the originals he took out.
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
Tsunami2 is my choice. The one problem with the "better or more expensive sound decoders" is that most modelers do not take advantage of all of the decoders' functions and features.

Greg
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
What do you think of the 1st edition Tsunami over the #2?
I've met a guy who replaces all of his early Tsunamis with #2, and is willing to give me a good price on the originals he took out.
The Ts2 has got better sounds and more control features the than the '1', the lack of those bulky capacitors makes for easier fitting, although as replacements in Genesis locos where they hang over the flywheels, not a consideration. I always thought the '1's had pretty good sound and enough lighting controls for most applications. Even the Ts2, still only has enough functions for standard lighting and if required, alternate flashing ditch lights on the front. Of note is that Genesis's Norfolk Southern SD60e has got rear ditch lights as well and as NS is one of the few that have that, it means Soundtraxx have produced a 'special' decoder for them with 2 extra functions.

The Ts2 and the Eco in board replacement types, both have the advantage over the '1' of 2amp motor load and 2watts of speaker power availability.
Oddly, the shrink wrapped decoders in the new range are still only 1amp and 1watt.
 

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Sound decoders have been getting better over the years since the 90s when the first ones hit the market. ESU has some really good reproduction of sounds but the amount of time it takes to load the sound projects into them is a bit excessive.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Sound decoders have been getting better over the years since the 90s when the first ones hit the market. ESU has some really good reproduction of sounds but the amount of time it takes to load the sound projects into them is a bit excessive.
No good without high broadband speeds then?
 
N

NP2626

Guest
I don't want to buy something and then have to download sound files to it. The files should already be accessible in the decoder. However, I have heard good things about ESU; but, if I need to download files to make it sound the way I want, are ESU's decoders cheaper, due to the extra work needed by the purchaser?
 

Rico

BN Modeller
Some vendors will sell decoders preloaded with the sounds and features of your choice.
I like the ESU decoders but the tsunami GP9 sounds really impressed me.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I don't want to buy something and then have to download sound files to it. The files should already be accessible in the decoder. However, I have heard good things about ESU; but, if I need to download files to make it sound the way I want, are ESU's decoders cheaper, due to the extra work needed by the purchaser?
Your question caused me to go and check ModelTrainStuff's site, specifically for the ESU Loksound 5 HO decoders they have in stock, and low and behold they have some new ones to announce across the top of this page that I prioritized to that brand. Just when I thought I had worked out what ESU was doing, they throw a curve ball
https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/dcc-sound-power/decoders/#/filter:custom_scale:HO/filter:brand:ESU

We see, that they have introduced what looks exactly what their previous decoder known as the "Select" with it's 8 pin NMRA plug and additional wires for other functions, and with specific sounds preloaded, priced at $91.99. If they hadn't flagged them as "New", I would have thought they had found some NOS somewhere.

The next line down are 2, 21pin decoders to suit those engines with motherboards to match and described as "Blank Decoder". They appear to be for use on two differently configured 21 pin motherboards. The one on the right says it's for another 8 pin , also "Blank", but showing a 21 pin type decoder, which would indicate that there are only 8 sockets of the 21 available that work. That is not unusual, Soundtraxx's so far only use 9.

The bottom line of 3, The left one looks like what I understood to be, the new Loksound 5, DCC/Sound board replacement for the lighting boards fitted to most DCC/Ready models. Presumably the "Generic" title refers to it's need to have sound files downloaded and installed. This one is priced similarly to Soundtraxx's one called the TSU2-PNP, also a board replacement type, but with a selection of sounds preinstalled.
The one in the middle appears to be identical to the ones in the top row but described also as a "Blank Decoder" but also "Ready for Programming", so I guess that's what those other "Blank" ones are too.
The right end one is the odd one out, It is not a '5' but from ESU's V4 range, which I believed was going to be exclusively for the Euro market now and "Blank" also, but I see this one has Alco 244 files preinstalled.

Don't ask me to explain what the heck is going on and I'm going to stick my neck out again. You will see Loksound V5 being advertised, but as I've seen, nowhere on the packets they come in is a "V" shown in the description. I believe this is a confusion caused by the "5" decoder becoming available several years after the V4.0. The V4.0 continues to be produced along with the "5" as separate products.
 
N

NP2626

Guest
I'm embarrassed to admit this, being a supporter of DCC and sound. However I'm going to go ahead and do this. First of all, however, I need to say what my experience has been: While in the ARMY, I was a truck and track mechanic and while stationed in Germany I was sent to Generator Mechanics school. These experiences taught me how to use a Multimeter to trace circuits and troubleshoot problems. While owning my own metal and plastic stamping company, I installed electronic safety and monitoring systems on some of my Punch Presses. Then, after leaving this business, I became a Marine Surveyor; or, Boat Inspector. I therefore had to become familier with boat electronics, enough to be able to give an opinion on the functionality of the many and varied electronic devices used aboard both power and sailing vessels.

Having said the above, to the meet of what I wanted to say: I have installed 10-15 non-sound decoders in various steam and diesel locomotives, all of them work very well. I have attempted to install three sound decoders and none of them have worked correctly! At this point, I doubt if I will ever attempt to install another Sound Decoder and if I want sound, I will buy already installed from the manufacturer!
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
I have installed many DCC decoders in locomotives and even with the soldering is an easy task. Sound decoders, while I have installed them, I find that task more of a challenge since so many locomotives were not designed for the speaker install.

I have a NIB KATO locomotive that was designed for a sound decoder, but I haven't done the install as of yet.

Greg
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
The manufactures now, have, since introducing sound equipped models, if they supply a DCC/ready model as well, provided the same sound ready chassis in those versions as well. Some have been a bit slow, but they are now identifying them in the advertising i.e. DCC and sound ready.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Just one brand I will strongly advise, if wanting sound, to get it factory fitted, is Scale Trains. Save yourself time and frustration.
 
N

NP2626

Guest
O.K.; but, Scale Trains is very era specific, meaning nothing from the transition, at least not currently and it appears they have offered nothing for my particular line, Northern Pacific. Plus the fact that almost all of what they offer price wise is closer to $50.00; so, I just don't feel any need anything they offer!
 




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