Author Topic: Kato sound box  (Read 1851 times)

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slickwillie

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Kato sound box
« on: January 30, 2015, 01:21:22 AM »
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Got the email today from Kato announcing their new Sound Box shipping next week. Does anybody have any information on how useful that will be to die-hard DC users?
http://www.katousa.com/N/Unitrack/ASB.html

peteski

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2015, 02:21:51 AM »
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It is for DC control so it should be useful if you are into this kind of thing.  I seen it working at the Springfield show last week. The built-in speaker is rather ineffective in a noisy show environment but it has a "line out" output which the Kato salesman hooked up to an amplified speaker set with a small subwoofer to make it much louder.  It was a standard run-of-the-mill speaker set usually used with personal computers.

It basically gives you the sound of a locomotive with the engine sound synchronized with the speed of the locomotive running from the DC throttle.

Others in the past made similar sound units for DC layout.  What makes this one different (and more expensive) is that they have plug-in sound modules (like an early video-game cartridge) which contain sounds for different types of locomotives.  I was told that the sound units were designed by Soundtraxx (company which makes Tsunami DCC sound decoders).

That is basically all I know about it.
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Dave V

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Re: Kato sound box for the Colorado Midland?
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2016, 12:04:14 PM »
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Resurrecting a thread form the grave (I used the search function!).

Has anyone tried this device and if so, what do you think?  They make a US light steam card that has, among other sounds, sounds recorded from the narrow gauge 2-8-0 #40 that ran on the Georgetown Loop (Georgetown, Breckenridge & Leadville Railway).

After attending a narrow-gauge focused train show here in the 'Springs I got bitten by the bug to work again on the Colorado Midland whose dinky little engines (below) do not currently have sound:



Adding sound into the enormous-a$$ tender of the Bachmann 4-6-0 would be relatively easy (although probably not cheap).  The Athearn 2-8-0 on the other hand is notoriously difficult even to convert to DCC without sound (usually involves raising the coal bunker for more room).  There are those who have added sound to it, but again, at considerable cost and nontrivial effort.

That the Midland is but 2.5 feet by 5 feet makes it somewhat ideal for an application like the Kato Sound Box.  It will sound a bit funny when the train is in the tunnels but otherwise it provides a bigger sound than I could otherwise get and allows me to remain in DC.  The Sound Box also has speaker jacks that would allow me to place the speakers under the layout in the center.  Lastly I think as expensive as the Sound Box is (it would be about $250 for the box plus the steam sound card on the street) it probably comes in under buying decoders, speakers, and having someone install them for me for two locos.  I can also add a third loco and have sound without additional cost if I so decided.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 12:05:57 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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wcfn100

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2016, 12:24:29 PM »
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I don't know if you're planing on going to the RMTTS on the 22nd, but Kato is on the vendor list and I know they've brought the sound box in the past.  If you do plan on or are thinking about going, call Kato and make sure they are in fact going to be there and if they'll bring the sound file you're interested in hearing.

I've been burned in the past by the vendor list, can you tell.  :P

Jason

Dave V

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2016, 12:33:12 PM »
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I don't know if you're planing on going to the RMTTS on the 22nd, but Kato is on the vendor list and I know they've brought the sound box in the past.  If you do plan on or are thinking about going, call Kato and make sure they are in fact going to be there and if they'll bring the sound file you're interested in hearing.

I've been burned in the past by the vendor list, can you tell.  :P

Jason

Thanks for the tip!
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C62-2

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2016, 08:56:04 PM »
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I have a Kato sound box (Japan version) as well as two sound equipped engines (K4, Challenger), and have a mixed reaction to it. One of the nice things about the Challenger is that (after figuring out how to set various CVs) besides matching the speed, the sound changes so that the chuff sound is stronger during acceleration and then fades a bit once you're at a constant speed. The K4 doesn't, and I get sick of the sound pretty quickly. But, with the K4, the sound moves with the loco. With the sound box, you go one step down from that, since the sound also doesn't move. It also gets a bit picky when running a long train of lighted passenger cars, causing the overload circuit in the sound box to trip frequently (having some loose connectors on some of my unitrak may also make this worse). Those are the minus points. The plus points are 1) I mostly model Japanese prototype, and have several small tank engines (C11, C12) and other small locomotives where I can't imagine ever being able to install DCC sound. The sound box makes running them much more fun, and 2) I have a whole bunch of stuff that I just run occasionally, and don't really want to convert to DCC, let alone add sound. So, to the extent that you have small stuff that would be difficult/impossible to add sound to, or a large number of engines that you don't want to invest in DCC + sound for, the sound box is a good idea. There are also a variety of steam sound cards available for different Japanese prototypes - some of which may also be of interest. However, if you (Dave) just want sound for 2 engines for the Colorado Midland, and the worst case an engine where it would be difficult, but possible, to add sound, you might be happier making the effort.

Dave V

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2016, 09:00:40 PM »
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Thanks!  FWIW, I would also have to add in the cost of a whole new DCC system if I went onboard sound.  I'm running Digitrax on the Juniata Division so I'd probably stick with what I know.
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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2016, 12:16:05 AM »
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Another plus of the soundbox is that there's more bass in the sound (although this also makes it more clear that hearing the sound bits being played over and over don't really sound like a real steam locomotive). You can't share DCC between the layouts?

Dave V

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2016, 12:21:42 AM »
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Another plus of the soundbox is that there's more bass in the sound (although this also makes it more clear that hearing the sound bits being played over and over don't really sound like a real steam locomotive). You can't share DCC between the layouts?

Yes, I suppose I could.  Although to be perfectly honest I often like letting the Juniata Division run while I work and run on the Midland.  On the whole I want them to be distinct and independent layouts in every way.  But yeah, I could move my Super Empire Builder DCC command station from one layout to the other if I had the urge (although a Digitrax Zephyr would be vastly more appropriate for the Midland).

The bass thing does appeal to me though...  Remember that my intent for the Midland is for it to be a show layout, and I could easily imagine the sound onboard being completely drowned out by show din.
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robert3985

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2016, 06:30:15 AM »
+2
Yes, I suppose I could.  Although to be perfectly honest I often like letting the Juniata Division run while I work and run on the Midland.  On the whole I want them to be distinct and independent layouts in every way.  But yeah, I could move my Super Empire Builder DCC command station from one layout to the other if I had the urge (although a Digitrax Zephyr would be vastly more appropriate for the Midland).

The bass thing does appeal to me though...  Remember that my intent for the Midland is for it to be a show layout, and I could easily imagine the sound onboard being completely drowned out by show din.

Dr. Dave...Here's an easy solution thats gonna be much cheaper and more convenient than buying a separate DCC starter set for the Midland.  Also, your present Digitrax setup is totally "appropriate" for the Midland.  Size really doesn't matter.  It'd be pretty easy and cheap to run a power bus over to the Midland, connecting to it with color-coded Anderson Powerpoles.  You'd have to run Loconet over there too, and plug it into an appropriate panel.  I would install a PM42 Quad Power Manger board, or equivalent, and run your Midland as a separate power block, attaching the new power bus wires to it, then over to the Midland.  The Juniata Division would also be connected to the PM42 to take advantage of its features.

If you needed to turn off the power for some reason while working on the Midland, just unplug the bus wires and disconnect Loconet.  Pretty easy. Or install toggle switches to do the job even more conveniently.

I don't know if you have Duplex or Simplex and/or radio for the Juniata Division.  If you don't have radio, one or two UP5 panels on your portable Midwest display layout would be cheap and provide the necessary Loconet/throttle connections. 

If you have radio, although it might be a bit inconvenient, when getting ready for showtime, it would be easy to remove whatever receiver panel you have on the Juniata Division and replace one of the UP5's on the Midland with it...or just get another radio panel for the Midland to make it easier.  Two radio panels when the layouts are powered up together at home won't affect anything at all, except improve your radio reception.

My layout is modular and portable, and I can attend up to four show per year with it if I want to.  I mounted my essential Digitrax hardware on a nice portable section of shelving with rubber feet on the bottom, creating a "Portable Power Board", and it is very easy to unplug it, fold up the cords and transport it to shows along with the rest of the layout...then just plug it in when the layout is set up at the show with color-coded Anderson Powerpoles making the process very easy.

Your connections to the Midland from your Portable Power Board would be one two-wire power bus to the rails, one Loconet connection to a panel, and a wall-wart DC power plug to your UP5s and radio panel on the Midland...that's a total of four connections.  Not too difficult, eh?

You could easily do the same as I have with your present Digitrax hardware.

Here's a photo of my "Portable Power Board" at home under Echo Junction while my layout is between shows and set up in my layout room:


Doing it this way would cost very little, be convenient, and utilize your existing DCC equipment.  But the sound decoders and speakers are still gonna cost at least 80 bucks each...not counting installation cost.

So, it's sixes between the two systems from a cost standpoint.

Personally, I much prefer having the sound follow the trains, even if the bass is inferior...and being able to run more than one train at a time on the same trackage.  Besides, DCC has so many advantages over DC I'm not even going to list them since we all have been over that uncounted times.

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore

Dave V

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2016, 09:27:22 PM »
+1
Definitely a thoughtful post per usual @robert3985; I appreciate the discussion!  One thing the sound box would do--by virtue of its cost alone--is almost ensure I'd never go DCC with the layout.  I'm not sure I want to close that door as I've been running DCC on the Juniata Division for a decade now and it's second nature to me.  Besides, on-board decoders allow me a much greater library of sounds.  In particular, the Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami has a narrow gauge steam library that includes those most Colorado of sounds...the D&RGW single- and three-chime whistles.  Given that in my era the Colorado Midland was corporately owned by the D&RG (not yet the D&RGW) those whistles would not be inappropriate.

So much to think about.  I think it's time for some scenery, don't you?
« Last Edit: October 13, 2016, 09:32:49 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2016, 10:13:28 AM »
+1
Go scenic.

But also, this is a quick and dirty way to increase your enjoyment. What's not to like?

You can always add DCC later and flip this thing at a show or something.

Nato

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Re: Kato sound box
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2016, 02:51:08 AM »
+1
             :|  When the Precision Craft E-7's with sound and duel mode decoders were released, they are now BLI I purchased one of their DC Masters, which when connected to the track on a DC layout allows you to push buttons to access most of the sound functions of many DCC locos on a DC layout. Two drawbacks , you must go to a fixed location to say blow the horn like old Lionel or AF toys, cannot follow your train around, and of course you must have a "DCC  Sound" equipped locomotive. However good things come to those who wait. Coming soon Model Power small steamers like their 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 will have sound. Bachmann is also set to introduce sound to their 2-8-0 and 2-6-0 locomotives . The only question in my mind can the right type (make) of speaker be found to fit in several of the smaller MP tenders that have a nice robust sound. The ones in their large locomotives, Pacific and Mikado are pretty good. In closing I give a +1 to Robert 3985's idea for Dave's Midland layout. Nate Goodman (Nato).  :|