Author Topic: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?  (Read 1405 times)

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Bill H

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Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« on: March 23, 2014, 09:12:08 PM »
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I am very curious as to what specific decoder the more experienced sound installers feel is the best sounding steam decoder from a sound only perspective. I am not interested in the motor control aspects in this evaluation, as most likely the sound will be in the tender, and a separate decoder for motor control will be in the engine.

So is it Tsunami, LokSound, Paragon2 or ?

Thanks in advance,
Bill

peteski

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2014, 12:20:29 AM »
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In my experience QSI Revolution (like the one installed in Walthers Life-Like Mallet) has a very realistic sound (and motor control).  It was amazing how well the chuffs could be synchronized with the running gear, without a cam.  But it doesn't see like drive synchronization is anywhere on your list of features (kind of odd as that is an important item for steam locos).  QSI no longer makes the Revolution, but I suspect that their current Titan decoder is just as good (or better). Assuming you could shoehorn it in the tender.

I also found the Zimo sound decoders emulate European steam locos really well, but I don't think they have too many US prototype sound avaialble.

Tsunami decoders are also pretty good (going by the one I have in the Athearn BigBoy).

You might really re-think the dual decoder install. You just need two (or 4 including the headlight) extra wires to connect between the tender and the loco.
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babbo_enzo

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2014, 06:20:30 AM »
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Bill have not stated the Scale he model, so I'm assuming .... N, given this section name of RW?
QSI Revolution (like the one installed in Walthers Life-Like Mallet) has a very realistic sound (and motor control) ...
QSI don't sell to public any N scale decoder, as I know ?
Product list on web site : http://www.qsisolutions.com/products/index.html
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By the way BLI Paragon 2 (I've it on BLI PA and E8) sound good in Diesel version but I don't know any shop that resell it as spare decoder.
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Zimo sound decoders emulate European steam locos really well, but I don't think they have too many US prototype sound.
I think is correct! Have hear some European model loaded with this decoder and it sound good, but guess US Steams need a properly recorded sound file...
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Tsunami decoders are also pretty good
Tsunami 750 is a nice sound but depends on code Numbers, as Soundtraxx don't allow end-user to load sound files.
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Locksound Select and 4.0 series both sound so good and have smoth motor drive ( just complicate to program if you don't use JMRI !) and additionally you can load several sound projects at home using his LockProgrammer unit.
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dual decoder install. You just need two (or 4 including the headlight) extra wires to connect between the tender and the loco.
Maybe more, depending on wiring you plan ( in the worst case I've count: 2xRails from boiler to tender + 2x motor from tender to boiler + 2x front light) assuming speaker and rear light are inside the tender.
Hope helps

nstars

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2014, 10:15:49 AM »
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For steam sound our preference is the soundtrack Tsunami. Their sound decoder has in our opinion the best steam sound in combination with a small size. Especially impressive is their dynamic sound when used in combination with the F11 button as a brake button. BTW this F11 button is something specific to the Tsunami.

The potential of the loksound is very good (as shown by their diesel sounds) but at the moment the samples of the soundfiles on their website don't impress me yet. But this can change.

I'm not really impressed with the QSI sound in the life like Y3. It's good but not great and the decoder is very big. We have no experience with the Zimo decoder.

Just a remark about the wiring. Limiting the number of wires between loco and tender is in our opinion essential for good performance. The loco and tender would be able to move independently from each other. More wires will limit these movements. Our steam locomotives normally don't have wires between loco and tender.

Marc

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2014, 01:20:02 PM »
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For steam sound our preference is the soundtrack Tsunami. Their sound decoder has in our opinion the best steam sound in combination with a small size. Especially impressive is their dynamic sound when used in combination with the F11 button as a brake button. BTW this F11 button is something specific to the Tsunami.


Just a remark about the wiring. Limiting the number of wires between loco and tender is in our opinion essential for good performance. The loco and tender would be able to move independently from each other. More wires will limit these movements. Our steam locomotives normally don't have wires between loco and tender.

Marc

That sure is unconventional thinking fro N scale.  So you rather give up the extended electrical pickup by not electrically connecting the loco with the tender (by at least 2 wires).  That to me seems counter-intuitive (especially since thin and very flexible wires are available).

Tsunami seems to be the most popular sound decoder out there, but just like with Digitrax, which is the most popular DCC system,  I don't find it to be the best.  To me QSI is just a better overall sounding decoder (the motor control of QSI is also really good).

As indicated, QSI is not making small decoders (IMO, that is a big mistake on their part, since N scale sound is getting more popular), but some of their H0 decoders can be squeezed into N scale tenders.
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nstars

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2014, 05:25:15 PM »
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That sure is unconventional thinking fro N scale.  So you rather give up the extended electrical pickup by not electrically connecting the loco with the tender (by at least 2 wires).  That to me seems counter-intuitive (especially since thin and very flexible wires are available).

We don't give up the extended electrical pick up, it is just organized differently with a fixed throwbar with multiple electrical connections. By attaching the tender with one or two screws, up to 5 electrical connections are made through the throwbar. The advantage is more free movement between loco and tender not limited by wires.

Concerning the sound quality it is true that with the normal programming the sound quality is not really better than the QSI. The real quality comes forward when a more dynamic way of programming is used. Part of this's programming is the use of F11 as a brake. BTW the motor control of the Tsunami is only reasonable.

 Marc

peteski

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2014, 01:07:42 AM »
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We don't give up the extended electrical pick up, it is just organized differently with a fixed throwbar with multiple electrical connections. By attaching the tender with one or two screws, up to 5 electrical connections are made through the throwbar. The advantage is more free movement between loco and tender not limited by wires.

Concerning the sound quality it is true that with the normal programming the sound quality is not really better than the QSI. The real quality comes forward when a more dynamic way of programming is used. Part of this's programming is the use of F11 as a brake. BTW the motor control of the Tsunami is only reasonable.

 Marc

So, with 5 connections between the loco and tender, you can easily have single sound decoder controlling all the functions of the locomotive.

As far as the fancy features of the QSI decoders, go, have you actually read through the manual to see all the bells-and-whistles available in those decoders?
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nstars

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2014, 05:56:43 PM »
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So, with 5 connections between the loco and tender, you can easily have single sound decoder controlling all the functions of the locomotive.

As far as the fancy features of the QSI decoders, go, have you actually read through the manual to see all the bells-and-whistles available in those decoders?

Concerning the connection between loco and tender, you're correct. Our PRR M1 (brass) has the decoder in the tender and it controls the motor in the loco.

Concerning the QSI decoder I have to admit that I haven't gone through all the bells and whistles. However, i'm afraid this decoder is not really an option for us. It may be possible to improve the sound quality like the Tsunami, but it's just too big (and too heavy) for our purposes.

Marc

Cajonpassfan

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2014, 07:06:58 PM »
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I don't know about "best"; it depends on the application in my opinion. Here's my two cents' worth...

I really like the Tsunamis and their "dynamic" effects when accelerating and coasting. For that, one needs tons and tons of momentum and a single decoder install; a separate motor decoder defeats these effects. Unfortunately, the Tsunami motor control is not the best. It works fine in some locos like the Challenger, but not others, particularly smaller more finicky locos.(There has been a lot of chatter about how to tweak the Tsunami motor performance, but I think the guys that are successful are mostly HO and large scale modelers and they don't have the same challenges we do). The other issue with the small .75 amp Tsunami is overheating...it's been a hit and miss for me, again, depending on the install. Selection of whistles is a bit limited, and finally, and this is minor, the Tsunami lacks the "swoosh" when the cylinder cocks are first open and the loco starts to move. One can fake it with a very quick blowdown application.

Recently, I acquired a loco with a Loksound Micro decoder, and it is awesome both in terms of motor control and sound quality and variety. It's also tiny. I think I will experiment with additional installs....very promising so far.

I like the QSI as well, but it's BIG.... Not very useful for most of my projects.

I have several steam locos, mostly brass, with dual decoder applications (Lenz silver minis in loco; separate sound decoder in tender). This does minimize the number of wires between loco and tender, allows independent programming and chuff/speed matching. Downside is loss of "dynamic" sound performance, and additional cost.

The quest continues....
Otto K.




robert3985

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2014, 11:51:25 PM »
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No matter what brand of sound decoder you decide to use, the one thing that REALLY makes a huge difference in your sound quality is the speaker installation.  The speaker should be as large as possible and it should always have an airtight speaker enclosure built around it.  Also, proper venting so the sound can escape is also essential.   It is better to construct the speaker enclosure out of a dense material (such as lead sheet, or brass), but a good enclosure can be made from sheet Styrene also.  Just make sure you seal up all the holes, no matter how tiny, around the speaker and where the wires come out.

One of the distinct advantages the Tsunamis have is their "equalizer" functions, which allow you to play with the bass, midrange and treble frequencies.  Most often, I turn the lowest bass completely off as this low frequency sound will never reproduce properly with a 10mm speaker, or even a slightly larger one.  This enables the midrange and treble frequencies to be "cleaner" as the tiny speaker is not distorting as much, trying unsuccessfully to reproduce bass.

I have had excellent results with both Soundtraxx and Loksound decoders, but the Loksound decoders have "cleaner" sound than Soundtraxx.  I also run some Digitrax sound decoders in my E's and F's, which sound okay (except for the horn, which is really bad).  BUT, I can fool around with the Digitrax decoders and modify the sound files to my heart's content, which Loksound allows also, but you're stuck with whatever sound the Tsunamis are programmed with.

Sound equipped steam is what got me to bite the bullet and go DCC, and I never have regretted my decision one iota.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2014, 01:03:51 AM »
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No matter what brand of sound decoder you decide to use, the one thing that REALLY makes a huge difference in your sound quality is the speaker installation.  The speaker should be as large as possible and it should always have an airtight speaker enclosure built around it. 
+1

Sound equipped steam is what got me to bite the bullet and go DCC, and I never have regretted my decision one iota.

+2!
Otto K.

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2014, 03:15:16 AM »
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Quote
No matter what brand of sound decoder you decide to use, the one thing that REALLY makes a huge difference in your sound quality is the speaker installation.  The speaker should be as large as possible and it should always have an airtight speaker enclosure built around it.
+1

Sound equipped steam is what got me to bite the bullet and go DCC, and I never have regretted my decision one iota.
+2!
Otto K.

+4 squared!  :)
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jdcolombo

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Re: Best sounding steam engine sound decoder?
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2014, 08:19:41 AM »
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My first sound install used a full-sized Tsunami in the tender of a Lifelike Berkshire.  I learned from that experience that I loved the TSU's heavy steam sound (though why they didn't add the "open cocks" sound when the engine first moves from dead stop is beyond me), and loved its EQ circuit.  Unfortunately, I hated the motor control, and could never get a proper match between chuffs and driver rotation using the TSU alone.  That led to my "standard" steam install, which involved using a Lenz Silver Mini for motor control somewhere in the cab or boiler area, and the TSU for sound only.  As Otto notes, you lose a bit of functionality in the TSU this way, but I'm far more sensitive to seeing near-perfect driver/chuff match at low speed than the dynamic load sounds.

Now that I have made my acquaintance with ESU Loksound for my diesels, my next project is to put one in my Athearn Challenger and see how I like it.  The ESU lacks the EQ circuit of the Tsunami, but it uses the same BEMF sensing to control chuffs that QSI used in the Walthers 2-8-8-2, which together with ESU's superb motor control (perhaps even better than Lenz) should address my driver/chuff matching sensitivity and avoid needing a separate motor control decoder.

And as Bob notes, speaker choice and installation is absolutely critical.  Separate sealed enclosure is absolutely the way to go for best sound.  But I've discovered that bigger is not always better.  The new generation of cell-phone speakers made by Knowles and others vastly outperform "standard" speakers twice their size.  The Knowles Dumbo (now out of production, replaced by the Sambo) is a 13x18mm speaker that sounds orders of magnitude better than the 16x30 ovals I had previously used. 

John C.