Author Topic: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)  (Read 2730 times)

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jdcolombo

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Hi everyone.  If you are into sound, and particularly into sound using ESU’s LokSound decoders, you may have heard about this relatively new feature called Full Throttle (“FT”) in ESU’s diesel files (a version of FT is coming to steam files as well, but I’m going to concentrate on diesel files in this post).

When I first heard about FT, I thought it was an interesting gimmick.  I just couldn’t understand what the value of the FT features were for train operations.  I looked at a bunch of videos on-line and tried to find simple explanations of how and when to use the FT features, but really didn’t find anything that seemed to explain what was going on.  So here is my attempt to provide a context for when FT features might be worthwhile, and how to use them in these contexts (there are probably other ways to use the FT features in these situations, too – this is just one way that I discovered on my own, and though it might be useful to some of you).

First, what is FT designed to let you do?  Think of the following two prototype situations.  The first is a heavy train on a big grade.  We’ve all seen videos of this – the UP or BNSF going upgrade in the Rockies, or the NS or CSX in the Appalachians.  And we all know what it looks and sounds like: you’ve got maybe 6-8 DPU units (three at the front, two or three in the middle and two or three at the rear) all screaming with the prime mover maxed out in Run 8, but the train is going 12 mph up the grade.   Then the train gets over the grade, and slowly accelerates to track speed – say 60 mph, while the prime movers are notched back to Run 1 and the dynamics are engaged to keep the train from running away until it reaches level track again.

Or think of how a prototype consist of 3-4 engines pulls a heavy train out of the yard.  The engines notch up, first to Run 1, the brake is released, and then the engines notch to Run 4-6 as the train ever-so-slowly moves out of the yard, gradually gaining speed until the yard limits are passed, and then the engineer throttles up to Run 8 to accelerate to track speed.  When entering a yard with this train, the engines throttle back to Run 1 or idle and the engineer gingerly uses the brakes and natural braking in the traction motors to bring the train to a stop.

The problem with most sound decoders on the market today is that replicating this behavior is very difficult to do.  Most sound decoders do permit manual notching, so you could theoretically get these effects by using manual notching, using one function key (say, F5) to notch up, and another (F6) to notch down.  But this uses up two function keys, and at least on the LokSound, you have to press the relevant Function key TWICE, because usually only F2 and maybe F3 are set up as momentary-contact buttons.  The rest of the buttons are on/off.  That means when you press F5 to notch up, the “notch up” function stays on until you press F5 again.  If you press F5 once, the decoder happily notches up like crazy to Run 8.  To keep this from happening, you have to madly punch F5 twice to move up a single notch.  And same for going back down.  So manual notching may be theoretically possible to accomplish these prototype scenarios, but it is just not very practical to use it in model operations.

The Full Thottle features that ESU developed for its LokSound V.4 and Select decoders is designed to make these operational situations easier to replicate.  The whole system centers around “Drive Hold” which by default is assigned to F9. When you invoke Drive Hold on an ESU LokSound-equipped engine, the motor speed is held constant at whatever position the throttle was at when when you pressed F9, and the throttle knob (or button) now controls only the prime mover sounds – that is, you control the notching by turning the throttle knob, while the locomotive’s track speed stays constant.   Drive Hold and the rest of the Full Throttle features work best with a LOT of momentum programmed in, for reasons that I will get to next.

There is also the independent brake (assigned to F10 by default) and two other functions which aren’t assigned to a button by default: these are Run8 and Coast.  Each of these does pretty much what they say: Run8 sets the prime mover sound at maximum notch, while Coast sets it at Idle.   I assign these to F5 and F6, which are otherwise unused on most of my engines (they are set by default to run auxiliary function outputs, like a Mars light; if I have a Mars light, I set that to F3).

So how do you use this feature to replicate the prototype situations I laid out at the beginning?  Let’s take the grade situation first.   Remember that you have a LOT of momentum programmed in – I’m talking about “a full minute to change speeds” momentum.  So when your train enters the grade, you punch F5 (Run8) which sets the prime mover sound at Run8.  Then you dial the throttle back to crawl speed – say, speed step 10/128.   Because of all the momentum, the train gradually slows as it climbs the grade, but the prime movers are still screaming at Run8.  Now the train crests the grade.  You disengage Run8 and instead engage Coast, and the prime mover sounds drop to idle.  You set your throttle to the appropriate track speed (say, 50-60smph) and the momentum effect allows the train to gradually accelerate down the grade with the prime movers at  idle.  At some point, you press F4 to engage the dynamics as the prototype would.  When you reach the bottom of the grade and the train levels out, you disengage Coast (and the dynamics sound) and the prime mover throttles up to match the throttle setting.   

Now what about that “heavy train leaving the yard” scenario?  This is where Drive Hold shines.  Your 3-engine consist is sitting at idle in the yard, coupled to a very heavy train.  You engage Drive Hold to hold the engines at zero speed, and use the throttle knob to notch up the prime mover a couple of notches (or more – maybe notch 5-6).  Now you release Drive Hold, and because of all that momentum you have programmed in, the train VERY SLOWLY starts to accelerate out of the yard.  When it has reached, say, 15mph, you engage Drive Hold again, and now use the throttle to notch up the prime movers to Run 8.  Release Drive Hold, and the engine will accelerate, again very slowly because of all that momentum.   Set the throttle at whatever final speed you want and the train will reach that speed with the associated notch.  If the notch is too high or too low for your liking at your selected speed, engage Drive Hold again, use the throttle to adjust the notch, and let the train run under Drive Hold until you need to adjust the speed (in which case, release Drive Hold, and the throttle and notching will respond normally).

How about when that heavy train enters a yard?  OK, throttle down in regular throttle mode; because of all the momentum, the train will gradually start to decelerate.  Engage Drive Hold, and turn the prime mover all the way down to Run 1.  Let the train decelerate with the momentum and judicious use of the brake.  As it slows to a crawl, disengage Drive Hold, and shut the throttle off.  The momentum and brake can now be used to stop the train, just like the prototype would do it, with the prime mover in idle.

All this sounds a lot more complicated than it is in practice.  Really, it’s all just about learning how to use Drive Hold, Run8 and Coast to divorce the train speed from the prime mover sound at the appropriate time in the appropriate situation.  And actually, you can probably do everything in the scenarios I’ve laid out with just Drive Hold, instead of also using Run8 and Coast.

There are two practical complications, however.  First, you can only use the Full Throttle features in a consist if EVERY ENGINE has an ESU LokSound decoder.  If any of the engines do not have a LokSound, those engines won’t respond to the Drive Hold command, and that means they will end up running at different speeds than engines under Drive Hold.   Not good.

Second, you can only use these features in a consist with Advanced Consisting.  To use Drive Hold, all the engines in the consist must respond to F9 together.  The only way to do this is to set up an advanced consist (requiring you to program CV19 in each engine with the same value, which will be the consist address) and then program CV’s 21 and 22 to make each engine in the consist respond to F9 (and F10, and whatever other FT features you use, like Run8 and Coast).  If you have an NCE system, setting up the advanced consist is simple – the throttle and command station will do it for you, although you will still have to program CV’s 21-22 by hand.   If you have a Digitrax system, you’ll have to program CV19 by hand too, although all this can be done via Ops Mode (programming on the main).  Then you will need to select the value you entered in CV19 on your throttle as the engine number to control the consist.   This makes the FT features a bit of a pain to use with a Digitrax system (much easier with NCE).  But even with Digitrax, the FT features might be worth it to you depending on your layout (if you have long, steep grades, for example) and how many sound decoders you want to install!  All I can say is that at least I now don't think of FT as just a gimmick any more.  Whether I'll use it regularly on my flatlands layout, however, is still an open question.  But if you have grades, particularly, FT might allow you to capture the prototypical operations that otherwise would be difficult to replicate.  YMMV.

John C.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2017, 05:47:55 PM by jdcolombo »

jdcolombo

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 12:23:57 PM »
+3
[deleted accidental double-post]

Mark W

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2017, 01:55:18 PM »
0
Excellent write up John! 

Full Throttle/Drive Hold is instantly my favorite feature.  I just spent all weekend with Free-moNebraska doing these exact scenarios over and over again (minus Notch8 and Coast functions, just used Drive Hold, F4). 
Words cannot describe the amazement of watching a model train creep up a mountain grade with the prime mover wide open, just as it should be! 


There are two practical complications, however.  First, you can only use the Full Throttle features in a consist if EVERY ENGINE has an ESU LokSound decoder.  If any of the engines do not have a LokSound, those engines won’t respond to the Drive Hold command, and that means they will end up running at different speeds than engines under Drive Hold.   Not good.

Second, you can only use these features in a consist with Advanced Consisting.  To use Drive Hold, all the engines in the consist must respond to F9 together.

I wonder if/hope the Drive Hold can be adapted to a command station override.  There would have to be a way to define whether a unit within a consist has Drive Hold itself or not.  If so, no alteration necessary, the decoder handles it; if not, the command station would recognize when the lead unit enables Drive Hold, and in turn would 'hold' throttle commands to any unit in that consist which does not support Drive Hold itself. 
Or perhaps, being basically a software feature, could firmware on existing decoders be updated?

Of course, this would undermine ESU's proprietary feature, for which their innovation recently very well deserves.  I just hate the thought of re-converting my entire fleet.  Especially as one who loves 5-8 unit lash-ups.  :oops:


[deleted accidental double-post]

Not accidental at all.  Now we get to upvote you twice!  8)

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ednadolski

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 02:35:39 PM »
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Thanks for the great write up:  clear and concise!    8) 8) 8)

I have a Loksound in my P:48 GP9 and I think it is great -- sounds even better than the Tsunami which it replaced.   I've just ordered up two Loksound Micros to try out in some N scale engines.   The Full Throttle feature seems like just the thing for running long trains up (Run 8 ) and down (full dynamics) on the Tehachapi grade ;)

Ed

riogrande491

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2017, 02:36:44 PM »
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First, you can only use the Full Throttle features in a consist if EVERY ENGINE has an ESU LokSound decoder.
I saw a post by Matt on the LokSound forum that ESU is working on (and may have already released) an new release of LokProgrammer software that can update the firmware in a LokPilot V4.0 (non-sound) decoder to support Drive Hold.

One thing I especially like about Drive Hold is that all LokSound units in a consist will notch up and down simultaneously, just as they should. There are some brands of decoders that change diesel notches by sensing motor load. Good luck getting all units in a consist to notch at the same time!

With consisted diesels I like to change the prime mover playback speed in each unit, varying them a few percent. Doing so makes a two unit consist sound like stereo instead of mono.

Bob S

ednadolski

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2017, 02:50:26 PM »
+1
you can only use the Full Throttle features in a consist if EVERY ENGINE has an ESU LokSound decoder.  If any of the engines do not have a LokSound, those engines won’t respond to the Drive Hold command

You could always just mute them or set the volume to zero, but yes it is clearly better if they are all the same.

For consisting you probably want them matched for speed and momentum too.   Has anyone tried using these with DPUs?

Ed

jdcolombo

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2017, 03:59:11 PM »
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You could always just mute them or set the volume to zero, but yes it is clearly better if they are all the same.

For consisting you probably want them matched for speed and momentum too.   Has anyone tried using these with DPUs?

Ed

Hi Ed.

Drive Hold isn't just about sound, it's also about speed.  When you press the Drive Hold button, the decoder no longer responds to throttle commands for motor speed; it only responds to the throttle position for engine notching.  If you have a unit in a consist that doesn't support drive hold, however, then that unit will be responding to the throttle for motor speed.  As you are twirling the throttle knob to notch up the engines to Run8, the non-Drive-Hold unit is interpreting that twirling as "more speed!" while the Drive Hold units are saying "no more speed; just a higher notch sound" - so any unit that does not respond to the Drive Hold command will invariably try to run at a different speed than the ones responding to Drive Hold.  That's why each unit MUST be a Drive Hold-compatible unit (and yes, as Bob S pointed out, ESU is working on updating the LokPilot - non-sound - decoder so that it too will respond to Drive Hold).  Muting the sound won't help; it's a speed command problem, not a sound problem.

John C.

ednadolski

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2017, 06:34:23 PM »
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Thanks John for clearing that up for me.  It still a really compelling feature for me, since I do not already have an installed base -- altho I can imagine that some folks might not be especially thrilled at the 'proprietary vendor lock-in' part.  But if the feature becomes popular enough (and this seems like it just might -- the competitors have been caught flat-footed, and have a long way to catch up), then it may turn into a de facto standard that others will try to implement in some compatible way.

Ed

reinhardtjh

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2017, 09:59:14 PM »
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(and yes, as Bob S pointed out, ESU is working on updating the LokPilot - non-sound - decoder so that it too will respond to Drive Hold).

Also note that it's the V4.0 LokPilot decoders to which the update applies.  The others, Standard and Nano, have smaller memory chips and don't have room in the firmware section for the new code.  So choose decoders wisely.
John H. Reinhardt
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nstars

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2017, 07:42:41 AM »
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For me the FT is more interesting with steam engines. We tend to run the diesels in MU and although this is possible with all loksound decoders and advanced consisting it will make each locomotive sound exactly the same (if they have the same sound file). With universal consisting there is always a small mismatch in sounds, which makes it a lot more interesting. We have tried it and in the end went back to the old non FT files (we liked the brake squeal more on the non FT files).

Marc
 

jdcolombo

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2017, 08:29:40 AM »
+1
For me the FT is more interesting with steam engines. We tend to run the diesels in MU and although this is possible with all loksound decoders and advanced consisting it will make each locomotive sound exactly the same (if they have the same sound file). With universal consisting there is always a small mismatch in sounds, which makes it a lot more interesting. We have tried it and in the end went back to the old non FT files (we liked the brake squeal more on the non FT files).

Marc

Hi Marc. 

You can avoid the "they all sound alike" issue by varying the "sound speed" setting of the prime mover.  It's not intuitive, but if you have JMRI or a LokProgrammer, each sound slot has a "sound speed" setting (actually, two - a Minimum sound speed and a Maximum).  This setting literally alters the speed at which the decoder plays a particular sound, and thus varies the pitch and the timing for certain sounds (like the "beat" of the prime mover).  The default is 128.  The Prime Mover is always in Sound Slot 1, and if you vary the minimum and maximum speed by just a little (e.g., set it at 125 and 130, or 123 and 133), the prime movers will sound different even if they are in the same file.  Don't change this too much - really a couple of notches (e.g., from 128 to 125 or even 126) is all it takes.  Try it some time.  You can do this even with non-FT files to vary the sounds of the prime mover from engine to engine; it's especially important to avoid the "phasing" sound that will happen if you have two engines in a row with the same sound file.

The FT files also have two brake sounds.  Did you try selecting the "alternative" brake sound to see if it was more like the old file?  (I haven't done this, but now that you mention it, I kind of liked the old brake sound, too!).

Like you, however, I'm awaiting the updated steam files.  I'm hoping they are better than the current generic ones, which I don't think capture the "bark" of the modern superpower steam locomotive, nor do they have the open cocks on startup sound that I consider essential to steam operations (and frankly, the steam hiss sound also sucks).  Right now, I think Soundtraxx does much better on steam sounds than ESU, but given that Matt just finished recording a bunch of steamers, including Milwaukee 251 (a nice modern superpower 4-8-4), I have high hopes.  I wish he'd record NKP 765 . . . (or Pere Marquette 1225).

John C.


« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 08:31:32 AM by jdcolombo »

tehachapifan

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2017, 01:32:23 PM »
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I preferred the "older" brake squeal sound too. Not sure why that would've been changed as the new one is not as impressive....at least it is in the one FT file I've tried so far (maybe other FT files still have the older squeal?). I tried to set the decoder to the second break squeal but didn't notice any difference. Perhaps I did it wrong or perhaps my file doesn't have one? At any rate, The new FT throttling feature is pretty cool and, Like John mentioned, the old way to achieve this effect with function buttons was a bit more cumbersome. I found that, at least with my system, the throttle sound would sometimes run away on me and would keep going all the way up to notch 8 even though I tried to set it lower. Perhaps I wasn't always hitting the function buttons in quite the right on/off sequence (F9 for up and F10 for down on mine), but the new way is WAY easier to control.






SandyEggoJake

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2017, 02:05:39 PM »
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Yep.... FT is the reason I've paused slapping in decoders in my steam fleet.  Can't wait to hear the new files.

@jdcolombo you say above "This makes the FT features a bit of a pain to use with a Digitrax system (much easier with NCE)" but to be clear, you mean in programing, yes?  In operation mode, both are quite similar to toggle FT correct?


jdcolombo

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2017, 02:23:06 PM »
+1
Yep.... FT is the reason I've paused slapping in decoders in my steam fleet.  Can't wait to hear the new files.

@jdcolombo you say above "This makes the FT features a bit of a pain to use with a Digitrax system (much easier with NCE)" but to be clear, you mean in programing, yes?  In operation mode, both are quite similar to toggle FT correct?

The "pain to use" phrase referred to the ability to set up and address advanced consists.  With a Digitrax system, you must program CV19 for each engine in the consist by hand to the consist address, then remember that address and select it on the throttle to control the consist.  With NCE, the command station sets up the advanced consist for you - when you press "consist" on an NCE Procab, it automatically uses advanced consisting, and the command station "remembers" which engines are assigned to the advanced consist.  So you don't have to program CV19 in each engine by hand, and you don't have to remember the consist number - on a Procab, you simply select the lead locomotive number to run the consist (like you do with Digitrax Universal Consisting).  Even with NCE, you DO still have to program CV's 21-22 in each engine by hand to set up how you want engines in an advanced consist to respond to function commands.  But you typically only do this once and never touch CV's 21-22 again.  Not so with consists, which you might want to break up, re-make with different engines, etc.

But after this operation is the same on both systems.  Press whatever F key you've assigned to Drive Hold and the speed of the locomotives is held constant, and you vary the notching via the throttle wheel/knob/button/whatever.  Release Drive Hold and you are back to normal control.  Press the button for Run8, and everything notches up to Run 8 independently of the throttle setting.  Etc.

So the "pain" with Digitrax is in setting up and selecting an advanced consist.  Once you get past that, everything is the same.

John C.

nstars

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Re: My ESU LokSound Full Throttle Feature Explanation (VERY LONG POST!)
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2017, 04:26:22 PM »
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Hi Marc. 

You can avoid the "they all sound alike" issue by varying the "sound speed" setting of the prime mover.  It's not intuitive, but if you have JMRI or a LokProgrammer, each sound slot has a "sound speed" setting (actually, two - a Minimum sound speed and a Maximum).  This setting literally alters the speed at which the decoder plays a particular sound, and thus varies the pitch and the timing for certain sounds (like the "beat" of the prime mover).  The default is 128.  The Prime Mover is always in Sound Slot 1, and if you vary the minimum and maximum speed by just a little (e.g., set it at 125 and 130, or 123 and 133), the prime movers will sound different even if they are in the same file.  Don't change this too much - really a couple of notches (e.g., from 128 to 125 or even 126) is all it takes.  Try it some time.  You can do this even with non-FT files to vary the sounds of the prime mover from engine to engine; it's especially important to avoid the "phasing" sound that will happen if you have two engines in a row with the same sound file.

The FT files also have two brake sounds.  Did you try selecting the "alternative" brake sound to see if it was more like the old file?  (I haven't done this, but now that you mention it, I kind of liked the old brake sound, too!).

Like you, however, I'm awaiting the updated steam files.  I'm hoping they are better than the current generic ones, which I don't think capture the "bark" of the modern superpower steam locomotive, nor do they have the open cocks on startup sound that I consider essential to steam operations (and frankly, the steam hiss sound also sucks).  Right now, I think Soundtraxx does much better on steam sounds than ESU, but given that Matt just finished recording a bunch of steamers, including Milwaukee 251 (a nice modern superpower 4-8-4), I have high hopes.  I wish he'd record NKP 765 . . . (or Pere Marquette 1225).

John C.

I haven't tried to change the sound speed, but it is something for the future. I did try to change the brake squeal, but I can't remember a big change. However that is not the real deal breaker, the difference in sounds is.

Concerning steam sounds, we always went for the Soundtraxx and the new Tsunami 2 is really good. It sounds wonderful at higher speeds (not like a machine gun) and you can also change the cutoff of the engine. However, I did program the only FT steam sound file available into a decoder and the first impressions are very positive. The sound is much improved compared to the older files and comes close to a Tsunami 2. And the whistles are really great, especially the PRR banshee. That one beats the Tsunami version by a wide margin, which is quite interesting for this SPF.

Marc