Author Topic: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions  (Read 5681 times)

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drgw0579

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N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« on: February 14, 2017, 12:52:58 PM »
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There have been some comments that now that there are a couple of N scale locomotives that came from the factory with sound decoders that maybe future purchases will depend on that expanded availability.

I think the Atlas S2 was the Game Changer here.  I know I won't buy another switcher that is silent.  I kitbased an S4 and hoped I could do other conversions using it as a base.  The IMR SD40-2 is too new for me.

Besides that my new purchases had stagnated.  I figured if I was going to tear a locomotive apart to do a sound or non-sound DCC conversion, I might as well buy used.

I did recently note that DigiTrax has released a drop-in sound decoder for the Kato SD40-2. But it's still going to be a lot of work to convert many of my locomotives.  To this point, I've done about 10 LokSound conversions following John Colombo's inspirations. 

If more models from Atlas and Kato were available with Factory sound, would I buy them, and sell the old stuff?  I don't know.

Bill Kepner


rochsub

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2017, 12:56:40 PM »
+2
I've tried a few sound locomotives.  The most recent was the Intermountain sd40-2.  I was not very impressed.  I found the sound unrealistic and annoying.  I sent the locomotive back.

Just my view.

Daryl

C855B

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2017, 01:12:10 PM »
+1
^^^^^ What he said. I have been cutting speaker leads in the few models I wanted for sure but were not offered without sound, and replacing sound decoders with non-sound when reasonable. Using only the sound on/off command has proven to be not reliable across the board.

Model sound is not everybody's cup of tea, and I don't quite understand the big rush to soundify everything. Companies like BLI are losing buyers (like me) by hanging their entire business model on sound. I would have gladly bought the semi-foob UP Centipede pair had it not been for the "sound premium" in the price. :(
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jdcolombo

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2017, 01:38:12 PM »
+9
I like sound, done well and done in moderation (e.g., TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!).  Honestly, nothing brings a smile to my face more than hearing two of my sound-equipped GP7's or RS3's on switching duty, throttling up and down as they go about their business.  Blowing the horn at grade crossings is another aspect of sound realism.  And I just can't stand to watch silent steam locomotives anymore.  Just drives me crazy.

But I wish manufacturers would go down the road of making their models "sound ready" instead of actually putting sound in.  Why?  Because some folks don't want sound, and we shouldn't be excluding them from the hobby by making them pay for what they don't want.  And second, because so far I haven't come across a factory sound installation that I could not improve on significantly via at least speaker substitution, if not a wholesale retrofit of the decoder and speaker.  And while I'm currently a big fan of LokSound sound decoders, I don't know what the future holds and it is entirely possible that a new product will be significantly better down the road; rather than paying for a decoder twice, it would be nice to be able to buy a "decoder-less" unit and add my own decoder as I see fit.

What kinds of things could manufacturers do to make their engines "sound ready"?  Well, assuming they are already DCC-ready, then really the most important thing would be to provide a pre-milled space for a speaker.  Intermountain chose to do a fuel-tank speaker installation, and while that is not my preferred approach, if manufacturers provided cutouts in the fuel tank part of the frame for speaker installation, I'd use that, rather than mill a frame on my own.  Then leave it to the decoder manufacturers to do a sound board that fits the decoder space, and leave it to the individual modeler to add the speaker. After-market suppliers could provide speakers in enclosures to fit the available space much like DCC companies now do separate boards to fit different chassis.  Perhaps also provide a tungsten weight to fit in the speaker "cutout" for those that don't want sound and would rather have the extra frame weight. 

Now everyone is covered.  The model comes with a DC board (for those that want DC only) that can be replaced either by a DCC-only board or a full-on DCC Sound board.  If you go the latter route, you knock out the weight in the speaker cutout in the fuel tank, install a speaker/enclosure that you either made yourself or bought from a 3d-party supplier, and wire it up. 

I've got to believe something like this is doable, and it would get the manufacturers out of the need for double- or triple-inventory.  Make one engine and let the individual modeler decide how far down the DCC/sound road they want to go.

John C.

drgw0579

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2017, 01:39:17 PM »
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I didn't intend to start a Pro-Sound vs Pro-Silence debate, but I should have known better.

Sorry.

Bill Kepner

tehachapifan

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2017, 01:50:14 PM »
+1
Everything John said. :D
Russ

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2017, 02:02:02 PM »
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Just to add to the debate, there is sound and there is sound. Even ignoring the very important part of the sound quality equation (speaker.enclosure) different brands of sound decoders and the sound files themselves vary widely in quality and features. So just plopping in a sound decoder doesn't guarantee satisfaction. For me MRC and Digitrax sound decoders are lowers quality and QSI, ESU and Zimo are on top. Soundtraxx decoders are ok too.  Mind you some of this is very subjective, but I think everybody can be in agreement while judging some of the qualities of sound decoders and their sound files.  There are other manufacturers out there (liek TCS) but for various reasons I have not had a chance to evaluate them.
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C855B

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2017, 02:06:08 PM »
+1
I didn't intend to start a Pro-Sound vs Pro-Silence debate, but I should have known better.

To be very frank, Bill, the non-sound interests need to be represented in these discussions. The impression in various forums is "all about sound", and the model manufacturers are taking this as an apparent large interest in the community. I don't think it's as big as they think it is, it's just louder... so to speak... uhhh... so to speak. :D

However, I'm all with John, too - satisfy both interests with base models that easily accommodate sound but don't force it. Like he said, "Sound Ready", with speaker space and channels for wire runs, removable weight(s) as placeholders. This has the benefit of making it possible to do like Atlas does with DCC, with, or without, or upgrade to your own preferences since the market right now is very dynamic and is going to take a while to shake-out the best options.
...mike

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We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

MK

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2017, 03:27:35 PM »
+1
Ditto what Mike and John said.  Just like "DCC/Decoder Ready" there should be a "Sound Ready".

One day I think the manufacturers will get there but not now.  I went to Amherst and there was sound everywhere.  And to be honest I said to myself that I would never do sound in N since you need the speaker volume to make good sound but I've stuff at Amherst that made me go "Hmmm...."  Getting something that sounds good is one thing then you have to ask how hard/easy is it to get there with the installation.

It started me looking and researching sound and it looks like sound is like when decoders first came out.  No drop ins, all hardwired and alterations.

Carolina Northern

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2017, 03:29:48 PM »
+3
The push for sound is saving me money - I'm just not buying any new equipment. If it's sound only, I'll just do without it.

Don

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2017, 03:45:44 PM »
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It started me looking and researching sound and it looks like sound is like when decoders first came out.  No drop ins, all hardwired and alterations.

The problem is the sound itself (the speaker and enclosure). This is N scale - you can't really install a speaker in an enclosure on a sound decoder, even if it had a plug-n-play connector.  And a non-sound model will not come with a speaker preinstalled in it either.  There are some European models (and even the recent Big Blow turbine model from Scale trains) which accept plug-n-play decoders, but the speaker installation will still require wires/soldering.  I don't see a drop-in sound installs as being really viable in N scale. That is probably the reason more ane more N scale manufacturers are doing factory-installed sound decoders.
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sundowner

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2017, 04:06:21 PM »
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I try sound and did not like it, to me it does not scale down right. When I found out that Athearn finally saw the light and it going to finally offer there Challenger without sound, I sold mine. I had both the MRC and Tsunami Challenger.  I do wish BLI would sell there locos without sound because they do look nice and are going to make the AC6000 but I do not want to pay extra for a feature I will not use.
Which ever side of the track I am on is the right side.

tehachapifan

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2017, 04:38:39 PM »
+2
I can't help but think that some folks simply have not yet heard the quality level of sound that can be achieved in N scale. As John and Peteski and others have pointed out, a quality decoder, sound file, speaker and especially a properly sized and fitted sound enclosure are an absolute must. While I am no expert by any means, I believe that there is still a lot to be learned about N scale sound from both a modeler's and manufacturers' standpoint. It doesn't help that some of what seems to produce the best N scale sound is somewhat counter-intuitive (it certainly was to me, anyway). Such as, sticking an air-tight enclosure over either side of a speaker and not opening up the shell to "let the sound out".





« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 05:01:32 PM by tehachapifan »
Russ

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2017, 05:35:30 PM »
+1
I am glad the manufacturers are intoducing quality sound as an option on more engines. I model trains. Trains make noise. 3/4 of the engines on my layout have sound. Any new engine coming on now will have sound. My non-sound engines sit while my sound engines get all the work.

The other layouts I operate on are adding more and more sound locos. The layout owners noticed crew members gravitating to the sound engines. The extra dimension of bell ringing, horn blowing and prime movers has been worth every penny.
Karl
CEO of the Skally Line, an Eastern MN Shortline.

robert3985

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Re: N Scale Sound and future purchasing decisions
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2017, 06:26:07 PM »
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My turning point was when I purchased an Athearn Challenger when they were first introduced.  Although the sound was crappy MRC, and I didn't have DCC...the little remote gave me a taste of the added prototype sound aspects of using sound when operating.

Also, the desire to have complete control over the sound led me to purchase my DCC system...and I haven't had ANY regrets.

The expectation that prototypical sound is going to come out of a 10mm speaker is fantasy.  However, certain aspects of prototype sounds are pretty well rendered, such as the bell, the horn/chime, rod clank, steam letting off, and brake squeal.  Lower frequency sounds like steam chuff, prime mover rumble, will never sound correctly unless a major technological advance happens.  To expect this, then being disappointed when the sound isn't "right", is a case of misdirected expectations.

However, even though model railroad sound isn't completely realistic, horn/chime signals add greatly to a more realistic operation IMO, and make my straight DCC, non-sound locomotives seem "dead".

I find myself making the horn/chime signals myself...which brings laughs from the operating crew...but illustrates the big lack I find in silent running.

Soooo...all of my engines, and engine lashups will eventually be equipped with sound, even it it's not completely prototypical sounding, even though it adds about 90 bucks an engine (or more), even though it's sometimes a complex job. 

It's worth it...WELL worth it.  :D

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore