Author Topic: Best Of LokSound Installation Threads and Techniques List (Updated 9/8/20)  (Read 25242 times)

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jdcolombo

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[Added by the mods: see the end of this post for an index to the various sound install threads that John has posted. -gfh]

Hi everyone.  This is my updated post on LokSound decoder installations.

[TEXT AND LINKS UPDATED ON 9/8/2020]

Some general observations on LokSound installations in N-scale Locomotives

1.  It generally is not necessary to drill holes in a shell for sound egress.  While I did drill holes in some of my earliest installations, I soon realized that there is plenty of air leakage between the shell and frame (diesel) or in the tender (steam), so no holes are really necessary.  YMMV, as they say, but if you are doing an installation yourself, you might skip drilling any holes and see how things sound to you.  You can always pop off the shell and drill holes later.

2.  Speakers: The best speakers for N-scale installations are flat cell-phone-type speakers, sometimes referred to as "sugar cube" speakers by dealers.  These come in 8x12mm, 9x16mm, 11x15mm and 13x18mm sizes; all are a couple of mm thick.  Bare cell-phone type speakers available today are made by Soberton, PUI, and CUI.  Of these, only Soberton makes an 8x12mm; all of them make the larger (9x16, 11x15, 13x18) sizes.  The Soberton speakers are available from Digikey; the CUI and PUI speakers are available from both Digikey and Mouser.  John LeMerise has designed several different 3D-printed custom speaker enclosures for different speakers and different applications that are listed at the end of this post.

The key to best performance from any speaker is (1) it MUST be mounted in its own, sealed enclosure (do NOT try to use a tender shell or an engine shell as a baffle; it just doesn't work) and (2) the internal volume of the speaker enclosure must be large enough to allow the air trapped inside to act as a dampening "spring" for the speaker diaphragm.  My own experiments indicate that a minimum enclosure volume of 500 cu.mm is necessary for an 8x12mm speaker; 750 for a 9x16 or 11x15; and 1000 for a 13x18.  More is nearly always better.  Also remember that the speaker enclosure does not need to be a plain box.  You can "offset" the speaker in a larger box; make an "L" shaped box where one end is thinner than the other; or anything else that makes sense.  The shape is irrelevant; the key is to make sure the enclosure is fully sealed and of sufficient internal volume.

3.  Keep Alives.  Some amount of "keep alive" (e.g., a capacitor - or several - to supply power to the decoder if there is even a momentary problem with electrical pickup from the track) should be considered mandatory for all sound installations.  The most basic keep alive involves adding 400 or so microfarards (uf) of capacitance to the sound circuit to avoid sound dropouts and restarts from momentary electrical disruption.  More sophisticated keep alives, like the TCS KA commercial versions, use multiple supercapacitors wired in parallel to provide 1-2 seconds (or more) of running power for the sound, lighting and motor circuits.   For the basic sound keep alive, two 220uf tantalum-polymer "chip" (e.g., surface mount) capacitors wired in parallel should do.  These are available in both 16v and 20v versions, and have better voltage tolerance than the old pure tantalum caps I used for several years.   Available from Mouser and Digikey.  Do a search for "tantalum polymer 220uf".

4.  The links below all use a version of ESU's LokSound decoder unless otherwise noted in the title.  Most of the links use a LokSound Select Micro wired decoder, which was discontinued in the spring of 2019 but several use the LokSound board-style decoders introduced in 2018 (the 73100 and 73199) and we are now seeing installs with the LokSound 5 micro.

The LokSound V.4 micro and LokSound Select micro wired decoders were replaced by the LokSound 5 DCC micro in the summer of 2019.  Note that there are two versions of the LokSound 5: the DCC only version, and the multiprotocol version.  There is no reason to pay extra for the multi-protocol version of the decoder if you use an NMRA-DCC protocol system (e.g., Digitrax, NCE, ESU, Zimo, MRC, etc.).

The new LokSound 5 DCC micro has a bit different footprint than the old LokSound Select wired decoder.  The biggest change is that the new decoder has a Next18 connector on the decoder board, and the wiring interface (which can be a set of wires for hard-wiring or a flat ribbon cable with an 8-pin NMRA plug at one end) plugs into that Next18 connector.  That means that both ends of the new LS 5 micro are about the maximum thickness on the spec sheet (3.8mm).  The old LokSound 4 micro and LokSound Select micro wired decoders had a "thin" end, where the wires were connected - that end was only about 1.5mm thick.  This meant that you could often put the thin end of the decoder over the motor saddle (after milling the frame a bit) while letting the thick end hang out over the frame shelf, and then have maximum room for a speaker sitting on the frame shelf.  The result of the new design is that this kind of installation is no longer possible.  For example, I do not think I could install one of the new LokSound 5 micro decoders in an Atlas RS3, as detailed in my thread below.

However, as of this date (September 8, 2020), the LokSound Select board-style decoders (73100 and 73199) which were released in 2018 remain available, and might be useful for installations where a 5 micro wired decoder will not fit.  Use your imagination - I think that there are probably very few N-scale engines (mostly small switchers) where a sound installation is not possible, and manufacturers seem intent on providing factory sound options for new tooling. 

John C.


Sound Installation Threads List


Arnold Locomotives:
Arnold SW1 (Jim Starbuck)

Athearn Locomotives:
Athearn Big Boy(Carl Sowell)

Atlas Locomotives:
Atlas B23-7 (Steve Ruger)
Atlas B30-7 (AKNscale)
Atlas C420 (John Colombo)
Atlas FM H16-44 w/Loksound 5 wired (John Colombo)
Atlas GP7 (John Colombo)
Atlas GP7 using 73100 board (Rick Brodzinsky)
Atlas GP9 (Bill Denton - 73100 board)
Atlas GP15 with ditch lights using 73100 board (GM50)
Atlas GP30 (John Colombo)
Atlas GP30 using 73100 board (Rick Brodzinsky)
Atlas GP38-2 using 73100 board (Rick Brodzinsky)
Atlas MP15DC using 73100 board (Jim Starbuck)
Atlas MP15DC (Chris Broughton)
Atlas RS3 (John Colombo)
Atlas RS-11 (John Colombo)
Atlas SD7 using 73100 board (Rick Brodzinsky)
Atlas SD9 (John Colombo)
Atlas SD50 (Steve Ruger)
Atlas SD60 using 73100 board (Steve Ruger)
Atlas VO-1000 (John Colombo)
Atlas Shay w/LokSound Select micro wired (craigolio1)

Bachmann Locomotives:
Bachmann Berkshire (John Colombo)
Bachmann 2-8-0 Consolidation (John Colombo)
Bachmann Ten Wheeler (John Colombo)

BLI (Broadway Limited) Locomotives:
BLI PA-1 (John Colombo)
BLI Mikado (John Colombo)

Fox Valley Locomotives:
FVM ES44AC (Mark W.)
FVM GEVO (John Colombo)
FVM GP60 (Steve Ruger)

Intermountain Locomotives:
IM F7A (Rick Brodzinsky)
Loksound 5 DCC micro wired in IM F7A (Rick Brodzinsky)
IM F7A (Bill Denton)
IM SD40-2 speaker swap (John Colombo)
IM SD45T-2 (Tehachapifan)

Kato Locomotives:
Kato C30-7 (Steve Ruger)
Kato C30-7 (AKNscale)
Kato Dash 9 (Steve Ruger)
Kato Dash 9 (GM50)
Kato E8 with marker lights (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato E8/9 (Diezmon)
Kato ES44AC (Mark W.)
Kato F3 (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato F40PH (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato F40PH (Mark W)
Kato MP36PH (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato PA-1 (John Colombo)
Kato P42 with 6 function outputs using LokSound 5DCC (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato P42 with 6 function outputs using LokSound Select micro (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato SD9 (Carl Sowell)
Kato SD40-2 snoot nose using Loksound 73100 board (Kelley)
Kato SD45 with ditch lights (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato SD70ACe (Rick Brodzinsky)
Kato SD70ACe (Mark W.)
Kato U30C (John F.)
Kato Mikado (Rick Brodzinsky)
Zimo MX660 in a Kato NW2 (John Colombo)
Kato FEF w/LokSound 5 (Kelly)

Life-Like (and Walthers/Life-Like) Locomotives:
Walthers/LL Berkshire using Loksound 5 DCC micro wired and TCS KA-1(John Colombo)
Walthers/LifeLike C-Liner (Sharky McSharknose)
LifeLike FA (John Colombo)
LifeLike DL-109 (John Colombo)
LifeLike GP60 (Steve Ruger)
LifeLike GP60 non-DCC-ready (Steve Ruger)
LifeLike SW9 re-motoring and sound (Jim Starbuck)
LifeLike SW9 calf conversion and sound (Jim Starbuck)
Walthers 0-8-0 (John Colombo)

Scale Trains Locomotives:
Scale Trains Dash 9 (Steve Ruger)

Threads on generally applicable techniques:
Peteski's dissection of the LokSound Select Direct Micro Boards (73100 and 73199) for installing keep-alive: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=44324.0

Using a choke along with keep alive caps to avoid LokProgrammer programming errors: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=45354.msg587453#msg587453

Making a speaker enclosure

Making a small PC board with surface-mount resistors for LED lighting: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=41340.msg515416#msg515416


Keystone Customs custom speaker enclosures:
For 8x12mm Soberton, 6mm depth, general application: http://www.shapeways.com/product/5L4ZXWA28/8mm-x-12mm-soberton-speaker-enclosure-4pk?optionId=60853776

For 8x12mm Soberton, 4mm depth but extended length, offset, for general application: https://www.shapeways.com/product/HRECPQVSB/9-62x16x4mm-enclosure-for-8x12-soberton-speaker?optionId=66848954

Offset enclosure for using 8x12mm speaker in an IM SD40-2: https://www.shapeways.com/product/N8M7HBL6Y/2pk-8x12-soberton-offset-speaker-enclosure?optionId=62934409

Offset L-shaped enclosure for 9x16mm speaker in an Atlas GP38/40 with LokSound board-style decoder: https://www.shapeways.com/product/47AN33V3Y/gp-38-40-9x16-speaker-enclosure-2pk?optionId=85016610

Offset enclosure for using a 9x16mm speaker in an IM SD40-2: https://www.shapeways.com/product/W64FT84NN/16x9-spkr-enclos-2pk?optionId=62916866


« Last Edit: September 08, 2020, 11:20:47 AM by jdcolombo »

atsf_arizona

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2014, 10:33:29 AM »
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John, thx for the great summary info and your continuing inspiration and experience in N scale sound for all of us to see.  :-)   Really appreciate what you're doing for us in sharing this info.
John Sing
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sp org div

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2014, 11:26:15 AM »
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Ya, thanks for putting that up.
The N scale sound market must be a lot worse than I think it is, because it seems like advancements have stalled for years...
I havent added any more sound units after installing multiples of Digitrax sound drop ins... and most of them required some mods (and with only fair sound files).
Im burned out on all the hardwire decoder installs that have taken place, and would jump on more user friendly designs from Tsunami or Loksound. 
Maybe when the economy starts rolling a bit more?

Jeff
http://espeeoregondivision.blogspot.com/

peteski

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2014, 03:21:36 PM »
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Nice summary John.

I also want to add my warning about voltage ratings for tantalum caps.  I prefer to err on the side of caution, and use 20V or 25V rated caps. For me 16V is too close for comfort in N scale DCC applications.

As John mentioned (and experienced), tantalum caps have spectacularly violent failure mode.  Unlike LEDs or other semiconductor devices which simply let the smoke out when they fail, tantalum caps are more like fireworks!  Back in the day when I used to troubleshoot and repair comuter circuit boards, I had a tantalum cap actually fly off the board like rocket, missing my head by few inches.  It happened rather quickly. I saw a brief bright glow on the board I was repairing and next thing I knew was that the red-hot cap body took off the board and flew past my head.  I suspect that this cap was installed backwards (it was so burned that it was impossible to confirm that). But that incident made me treat tantalum caps with respect. Electrolytic caps can also fail, but they usually go with a small pop as the safety vent simply relieves the built up pressure.

Of course the tradeoff is that caps rated at higher voltages are physically larger than equivalent value caps rated at a lower voltage. In N scale space is at a premium, so this makes a difference. But still, I prefer caps rated at 20V.

As far as advancement goes, for me the next big step will be when (if ever) QSI will release a N scale version of their Titan sound decoder. I just love QSI sound decoders (for steam locos).
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garethashenden

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2014, 03:47:00 PM »
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Ya, thanks for putting that up.
The N scale sound market must be a lot worse than I think it is, because it seems like advancements have stalled for years...
I havent added any more sound units after installing multiples of Digitrax sound drop ins... and most of them required some mods (and with only fair sound files).
Im burned out on all the hardwire decoder installs that have taken place, and would jump on more user friendly designs from Tsunami or Loksound. 
Maybe when the economy starts rolling a bit more?

Jeff
http://espeeoregondivision.blogspot.com/

I suspect the S-2 may jump-start things a bit when it arrives. I preordered one (first thing I've ever preordered) and I went for sound because it was available and I knew I'd regret it later if I hadn't. Since then I've been following John's sound installations with interest and I'll do some at some point. Just yesterday I placed an order for the BLI E7 with sound, I suspect that once I have those two I won't be able to hold off on the rest.

Wutter

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2014, 04:03:09 PM »
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Just curious, between which pads on the decoder do you attach the capacitor to? And do you need a resistor on one of the sides to limit the charging current?
Alvin
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peteski

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2014, 04:05:28 PM »
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We do have several  models with factory-installed sound decoders.

BLI F7s
Walthers Y2 Mallets
Athearn Big Boys and Challengers
The latest is Bachmann DDA40X

I might have missed few. But at least it is a start.  :)
. . . 42 . . .

jdcolombo

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2014, 04:40:01 PM »
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Just curious, between which pads on the decoder do you attach the capacitor to? And do you need a resistor on one of the sides to limit the charging current?

I don't use a resistor.  For caps of this (relatively) small size, the charging load isn't that high, and they don't induce a "fake short" mode in my command station.  The positive side of the cap is wired to the blue function common wire.  The negative side of the cap is wired to the pad that is directly opposite the blue function wire pad on the "back" side of the decoder.  If you look at this side of the decoder, you will see a bare gold pad, and then next to it at the very edge of the board, a pad with some solder on it.  The negative side of the cap gets wired to this pad (the one with the solder on it).  You'll have to cut away a bit of the plastic wrap to get to this pad.

John C.

jdcolombo

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2014, 04:50:42 PM »
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Nice summary John.

I also want to add my warning about voltage ratings for tantalum caps.  I prefer to err on the side of caution, and use 20V or 25V rated caps. For me 16V is too close for comfort in N scale DCC applications.

As John mentioned (and experienced), tantalum caps have spectacularly violent failure mode.  Unlike LEDs or other semiconductor devices which simply let the smoke out when they fail, tantalum caps are more like fireworks!  Back in the day when I used to troubleshoot and repair comuter circuit boards, I had a tantalum cap actually fly off the board like rocket, missing my head by few inches.  It happened rather quickly. I saw a brief bright glow on the board I was repairing and next thing I knew was that the red-hot cap body took off the board and flew past my head.  I suspect that this cap was installed backwards (it was so burned that it was impossible to confirm that). But that incident made me treat tantalum caps with respect. Electrolytic caps can also fail, but they usually go with a small pop as the safety vent simply relieves the built up pressure.

Of course the tradeoff is that caps rated at higher voltages are physically larger than equivalent value caps rated at a lower voltage. In N scale space is at a premium, so this makes a difference. But still, I prefer caps rated at 20V.

As far as advancement goes, for me the next big step will be when (if ever) QSI will release a N scale version of their Titan sound decoder. I just love QSI sound decoders (for steam locos).

For those of you who would feel better about using a 20v cap, you might be able to get away with a 100uf cap in a diesel install.  There are quite a few 20v 100uf tantalum caps that come in a package that is no bigger than a 16v 220uf (e.g., 7.3mm long; 4.3mm wide, and seated height of between 3-4mm).  I suspect that for modern diesels, which usually have really good electrical contact, a 100uf would cure 99% of the dropouts (assuming generally clean wheels and generally clean track).

John C.

garethashenden

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2014, 05:05:36 PM »
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We do have several  models with factory-installed sound decoders.

BLI E7s
Walthers Y2 Mallets
Athearn Big Boys and Challengers
The latest is Bachmann DDA40X

I might have missed few. But at least it is a start.  :)
FTFY

milw156

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2014, 05:52:15 PM »
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Athearn FP 45 and F 40
Rick

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2014, 07:10:19 PM »
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Thanks, John, for all of the information and help.
Modeling the C&O in Kentucky.

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2014, 07:23:15 PM »
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I don't use a resistor.  For caps of this (relatively) small size, the charging load isn't that high, and they don't induce a "fake short" mode in my command station.  The positive side of the cap is wired to the blue function common wire.  The negative side of the cap is wired to the pad that is directly opposite the blue function wire pad on the "back" side of the decoder.  If you look at this side of the decoder, you will see a bare gold pad, and then next to it at the very edge of the board, a pad with some solder on it.  The negative side of the cap gets wired to this pad (the one with the solder on it).  You'll have to cut away a bit of the plastic wrap to get to this pad.

John C.

Just a word of caution to the novice sound decoder installers out there about hooking up the stay-alive cap. 

Every decoder is different. If John is talking about a specific brand and model of a decoder, then his description works. But different brand decoders (or even different models from the same manufacturers) might have different hookup pads for the cap.  Best way to find out how to properly hook up that cap is to read the decoder's manual.  If the manual does not mention adding the cap then the decoder is not designed for a stay-alive cap. In that case, someone who is electronically inclined could trace the circuit traces to find a suitable hookup point for the negative side of the cap.
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jdcolombo

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2014, 07:35:46 PM »
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Just a word of caution to the novice sound decoder installers out there about hooking up the stay-alive cap. 

Every decoder is different. If John is talking about a specific brand and model of a decoder, then his description works. But different brand decoders (or even different models from the same manufacturers) might have different hookup pads for the cap.  Best way to find out how to properly hook up that cap is to read the decoder's manual.  If the manual does not mention adding the cap then the decoder is not designed for a stay-alive cap. In that case, someone who is electronically inclined could trace the circuit traces to find a suitable hookup point for the negative side of the cap.

Yes - I was describing the wiring for an ESU LokSound Select Micro.  As Peteski notes, other decoders would have different wiring - for example, the micro-Tsunami (TSU750) has a specific wire dedicated to the negative side of the stay-alive cap (the positive still hooks to the blue wire). 

John C.

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Re: Updated Techniques for Sound in N-scale Diesels
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2014, 07:43:42 PM »
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QSI lists a Titan micro on their website for N scale, but the release date is TBD.  Maybe some emails to them would help?
Modeling the C&O in Kentucky.

“Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. ... Everything science has taught me-and continues to teach me-strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.” Wernher von Braun