Author Topic: BLI Mike initial impressions  (Read 6027 times)

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jdcolombo

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BLI Mike initial impressions
« on: July 27, 2019, 04:36:25 PM »
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Hi folks.

My two unlettered BLI light Mikes arrived today, and I've put one on the layout and run it around.

I have to say I'm impressed.  It easily pulls 20 of my weighted freight cars (each weighted to 1 oz.) plus a caboose on my flat layout with no problem.  I haven't stress tested the pulling power, but 20 cars out-does the Kato Mike, which will only pull 14 even with the traction tire installed (remember, these are weighted cars).  The sound is decent.  I think it is way too "tinny," but it's loud, the chuffs have a nice sharp bark to them, and the bell is nice.  The whistle leaves a lot to be desired, but I assume I can select from some other options.  The sound BALANCE, however, needs work - the chuffs and bell are way too loud in comparison to the whistle, but this can be adjusted (and is typical of all decoders, including ESU's steam sound files, which also don't correctly balance chuffs, bell and whistle out of the box).  So . . . I'll probably leave the Paragon 3 decoder alone, although I might look into a speaker transplant.  The speaker itself is huge - it takes up the entire top of the tender shell, but I have a feeling it is not properly sealed, and its a fairly cheap cone-style oval, rather than a cell-phone type.  Here's a photo of the decoder and speaker inside the tender:

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All things considered, I think BLI hit a home run with this one.  Going to run it and my second unit tomorrow, do some adjustments to the sound, maybe look into a better speaker, and see where it all takes me.

John C.


JoeW

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2019, 04:47:08 PM »
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Thanks for posting your impressions

sumfred

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2019, 05:04:03 PM »
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also thanks from me. Just wish MBK would show them as in stock
Fred

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2019, 05:55:01 PM »
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That's excellent to hear. The light Mike was such a common engine that I applaud a "modern" effort for it.

rodsup9000

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2019, 06:00:36 PM »
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  Thanks John,

 Looks like I'll be in for a couple as well.
Rodney

My Feather River Canyon in N-scale
http://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=31585.0

Mark5

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2019, 06:05:12 PM »
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John,

Thanks very much for the impressions - looking forward to more BLI N Steam! 8)

learmoia

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2019, 07:00:53 PM »
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Cool..good to hear..

I also like 'Hey we are going to make a new N scale Steam Locomotove....(a few months later).......Here you go.. Enjoy..'

They have gone from the longest lead time releases (10 years?).. to one of the shortest? 

Please make a modern Niagara and Hudson.. and centepede tender Hudson.

~Ian

~Ian
Don't Neglect the Jewel Case!

southern837

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2019, 11:12:54 PM »
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My Southern version arrived today, had it pulling 10 MTL heavyweights with out any issue. The Southern 4501 version looks really good. The colors are similar to the Model Power version of the 4-6-2.  The engine seems to have excellent power pick up compared to some of my others and running was smooth right out of the box. The whistle selections leave a lot to be desired for only 3 choices.  John is right the sounds are way out of balance and some adjustment is needed.  Ill try to fine tune mine in the next few days.  If they had another southern in freight paint I would grab 2nd.

Tim

OldEastRR

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2019, 01:09:46 AM »
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I like the "cable tray" routing the wires from the cab to the tender. About time somebody came up with a better idea on how to do it than letting then hang in a tangle. .

Brian M

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2019, 10:18:21 AM »
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Please make a modern Niagara and Hudson.. and centepede tender Hudson.

~Ian

Agreed!  And throw in a Mohawk while we're at it.  I'd hate to get like all the SPF's and complain about the lack of a particular locomotive constantly, but eventually they got what they were demanding.  So can BLI (or anyone, really) please make a modern Hudson?  Or maybe I should put it, "I want a Hudson!" (in my best SPF impersonation).

-Brian.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2019, 11:58:42 AM »
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Hi John, thanks for posting the photo. Are those little boxes on the upper right a bank of capacitors? Tha would explain the “excellent power pickup” mentioned earlier.
I’ll be looking forward to see what you do about the speaker/sound quality issue.
Otto

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« Last Edit: July 28, 2019, 12:06:10 PM by Cajonpassfan »

jdcolombo

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2019, 12:25:29 PM »
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Hi John, thanks for posting the photo. Are those little boxes on the upper right a bank of capacitors? Tha would explain the “excellent power pickup” mentioned earlier.
I’ll be looking forward to see what you do about the speaker/sound quality issue.
Otto

(Attachment Link)

They sure look like caps to me; whether they perform a keep alive function or not, I don't know.  @peteski might be able to chime in, though he might need a better photo that what I got out of my phone.

I've already changed the speaker to an 11x15mm cell-phone type with an 8mm-deep enclosure.  Much happier now.  I'll try to take a video and compare the stock speaker (I still have a second unit with the stock speaker) to my upgrade.  I've also been adjusting the sound level CV's to get things more in balance.  Still not entirely happy with this, but it's better.

But for the life of me, I can't figure out how to keep the headlight on when the engine is in reverse!  I need to delve more deeply into the Paragon 3 control CV's to see if this is possible, but a quick perusal of the options in Decoder Pro didn't give me much hope.

John C.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2019, 02:35:09 PM »
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I don’t own any BLI steam, but recall I had the same headlight issue with my M1 before sending it back (for other reasons). I don’t understand the “automatic reversing” headlight mindset model manufacturers follow like sheep; it’s silly... front and rear headlights should be independent and dimmable. This is particularly annoying with yard engines. Fortunately for me, daytime steam headlights were not yet mandatory during my modeled period so I can keep’em off until I head out on the mainline. Don’t know about the Nickle Plate...
Otto

Btw, anyone, what does the boiler/cab assembly look like? Is it something that could be replaced with another boiler/cab somewhat easily? I have some nice ATSF mikado boiler castings... 8)
« Last Edit: July 28, 2019, 02:39:28 PM by Cajonpassfan »

jdcolombo

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2019, 02:57:19 PM »
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Well, after playing some more with my unit, my initial enthusiasm is tempered by the usual weirdness of BLI's Paragon decoders.  The Paragon 3 is better than the 2, but it's still weird and lacks the flexibility I have become used to with ESU.  Here are some particular issues I have:

1.  Perhaps the headlight issue is fixable, but I don't see a way to do it.
2.  The open cocks sound when the engine starts moving from a dead stop isn't loud enough, even at maximum loudness (CV 145 is what the manual says to change).  The Tsunami and ESU (most recent steam files, like the Soo 2-8-2 or the SP Daylight) are light years better.
3.  I haven't yet mastered the decoder's settings for how to make sound increases and decreases (e.g., "heavy load" and "coasting") less sensitive.  Turn the throttle one notch, and the chuffs go from normal to extremely loud.  I get the "labored chuff" thing; it's just excessive.  There are CV's that adjust how loud the chuffs get, and CV's to adjust throttle sensitivity, but the manual has very poor explanations for how these work, IMHO.  I'll probably find something that works, but if it takes four hours of experimentation to get it right, it ain't right.
4.  Three whistle choices aren't sufficient.  This is a USRA prototype, used by nearly every Class 1.  There were probably 50 different whistles used on Mikes late in their careers.  ESU's (and Tsunami II's) more-than-a-dozen choices are much better.  Plus, I'm not fond of the actual sound quality of the three whistles you DO have.
5.  Chuff to driver rotation sync is OK, but not as good as I'd like, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to change it.  Maybe there is a setting buried in a control CV somewhere . . .

As a result, I'll almost certainly replace the Paragon with either a Tsunami II or ESU LokSound 5.  There's plenty of room in the tender for either one, along with a significant number of keep alive caps.  So here we go again, with manufacturers insisting on buying their decoder even when end users might prefer something else.

But to end on a higher note: the engine is extremely smooth in operation, has excellent pulling power and shell detail.  The mechanism and shell are excellent.  The decoder, not so much.  That's fixable, but it would be nice to be able to buy a "sound ready" unit so I don't have to throw away $50 or $100 or whatever BLI is charging me for their Paragon 3.

John C.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2019, 03:00:36 PM by jdcolombo »

Point353

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Re: BLI Mike initial impressions
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2019, 03:18:53 PM »
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I've already changed the speaker to an 11x15mm cell-phone type with an 8mm-deep enclosure.  Much happier now.

Well, after playing some more with my unit, my initial enthusiasm is tempered by the usual weirdness of BLI's Paragon decoders.  The Paragon 3 is better than the 2, but it's still weird and lacks the flexibility I have become used to with ESU. 

As a result, I'll almost certainly replace the Paragon with either a Tsunami II or ESU LokSound 5.  There's plenty of room in the tender for either one, along with a significant number of keep alive caps.  So here we go again, with manufacturers insisting on buying their decoder even when end users might prefer something else.

That's fixable, but it would be nice to be able to buy a "sound ready" unit so I don't have to throw away $50 or $100 or whatever BLI is charging me for their Paragon 3.
If you'd rather make your own choice of decoder and you'd likely replace a factory-installed speaker, how would you distinguish a "sound ready" unit from a DCC-ready unit (that makes some provision for fitment of an aftermarket decoder but lacks a factory-installed speaker)?