Author Topic: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?  (Read 966 times)

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pmpexpress

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Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« on: April 29, 2021, 12:03:38 PM »
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Has anyone had the chance to review one of Econami Soundtraxx sound decoders that are found in Bachmann's newest N Scale EMD GP-38-2 models?

Notwithstanding any deficiencies resulting from the factory installation of inexpensive speakers, how do the Econami Soundtraxx sound decoders compare to the products of other well known brands?

Dave V

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2021, 12:09:12 PM »
+1
If I'm not mistaken, they came with the Bachmann N scale K4.  While you don't get a fraction of the options for sound files and DDEs you'd get with a Tsunami2 or TCS Wow, I'd say it more than did the job I needed it to when I was running N.

Here's a Bachamnn K4 with Econami on the old PRR Juniata Division:

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pmpexpress

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2021, 12:32:31 PM »
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If I'm not mistaken, they came with the Bachmann N scale K4.  While you don't get a fraction of the options for sound files and DDEs you'd get with a Tsunami2 or TCS Wow, I'd say it more than did the job I needed it to when I was running N.

Here's a Bachamnn K4 with Econami on the old PRR Juniata Division:


Dave,

Thanks for chiming in and sharing the video.

Although the sounds emanating from the Bachmann K4 in your YouTube video are quite good, given that most N-Scale steam locomotive tenders provide ample room for larger speakers and a speaker enclosure, I am wondering if the same level of sound quality can be achieved in an EMD GP38-2?

Listed in Bachmann's promotional information for the new diesel locomotive, it was the specifications for the Econami Soundtraxx sound decoders that caught my eye.

"Equipped with an Econami™ Soundtraxx® sound decoder and factory-set for GP38-2 realism, the diesel package offers a choice of 5 prime movers, 16 airhorns, multiple variations of 7 bell types, 2 air compressors, 3 couplers, plus a function-activated grade-crossing signal—all in 16-bit polyphonic sound. The Econami™ sound system includes adjustable auto-notching sensitivity for prototypical operation, adjustable master volume, individual sound effect volume levels, advanced consisting, and more."

The aforementioned specifications appear to be quite similar to those that are found on other popular brand-name diesel sound decoders.

SkipGear

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2021, 04:35:56 PM »
+1
Another steam reference but I was playing with an EM-1 with the Economi decoder in it last night and I really don't see it missing much of anything from a full fledged Tsunami. The equalizer is there, among other features.
Tony Hines

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2021, 07:30:58 PM »
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The only thing I found lacking on the Econami steam decoders was the dynamo sound.  That high pitched whistling sound is one of those characteristic steam sounds that you expect to hear from any steam engine and it is just missing.  Everything else sounds pretty good and the decoder operates very well. 

Scott Lupia
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NDave

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2021, 09:16:46 PM »
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Scott,
The factory Economi decoder in the Bachmann 2-8-0 had a steam dynamo feature, with the volume controlled by CV 133.

pdx1955

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2021, 09:41:08 PM »
+1
I got a SD9 that has one of these in it. It sounds  exactly  like it should from idle to full power and is very satisfactory  and comparable with other OEM  sound decoders from BLI, Atlas, stc.
Peter

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peteski

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2021, 11:10:23 PM »
+1
Sound quality and fidelity is very subjective.   If comparing sound decoders, one should compare the richness of features as described in the manuals of the decoders being compared.  RTFM.  :)

One obvious shortcoming of Soundtraxx sound decoders is that they only come programmed with a fix number of sounds.  Sure, they have a wide selection of horns, whistles or bells available to choose from, yet they cannot be reloaded with another sound, like for example ESU or ZIMO decoders. Also, their firmware (the internal "operating system") cannot be updated either, where other decoders have that capability.

As sound decoders are becoming more and more complex computing devices, it is very beneficial to have the ability to update their firmware, while also havig a wide selection of sounds available for uploads to the decoder.  Of course, this might not be as important to modelers who are quite happy with the limited selection of built-in sounds, and inability to update the decoder's  firmware.  Those same modelers might actually prefer that simplicity.

The bottom line is that sound decoders from Soundtraxx, BLI and some others are not quite as flexible as the programmable and "updatable" decoders from other  manufacturers.

Maybe I should compare this to home stereo systems.  Most people will be quite content with a simple integrated tuner/amplifier receiver with a decent pair of speakers, while audiophiles will spend thousands of dollars on a sound system consisting of individual "high-end" components (tuner, graphic equalizer, power amp), and a set of expensive esoteric speakers.  In the end, both systems are used for playing music,yet they are very different.
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pmpexpress

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2021, 12:45:07 AM »
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Sound quality and fidelity is very subjective.   If comparing sound decoders, one should compare the richness of features as described in the manuals of the decoders being compared.  RTFM.  :)

One obvious shortcoming of Soundtraxx sound decoders is that they only come programmed with a fix number of sounds.  Sure, they have a wide selection of horns, whistles or bells available to choose from, yet they cannot be reloaded with another sound, like for example ESU or ZIMO decoders. Also, their firmware (the internal "operating system") cannot be updated either, where other decoders have that capability.

As sound decoders are becoming more and more complex computing devices, it is very beneficial to have the ability to update their firmware, while also havig a wide selection of sounds available for uploads to the decoder.  Of course, this might not be as important to modelers who are quite happy with the limited selection of built-in sounds, and inability to update the decoder's  firmware.  Those same modelers might actually prefer that simplicity.

The bottom line is that sound decoders from Soundtraxx, BLI and some others are not quite as flexible as the programmable and "updatable" decoders from other  manufacturers.

Maybe I should compare this to home stereo systems.  Most people will be quite content with a simple integrated tuner/amplifier receiver with a decent pair of speakers, while audiophiles will spend thousands of dollars on a sound system consisting of individual "high-end" components (tuner, graphic equalizer, power amp), and a set of expensive esoteric speakers.  In the end, both systems are used for playing music,yet they are very different.

Really appreciate everyone's input.

Just started acquiring factory produced DCC and DCC sound equipped locomotives and I am beginning to learn that although layout wiring may be much simpler, custom decoder installations, decoder programming, and operations from a handheld button operated throttle can be a real challenge for a novice.

While my acquisition of a Digitrax Zephyr Express Starter Set and the potential future purchase of a ESU ECoS 2.1 DCC Command Station will pretty much eliminate the operations issue, the learning curve on programming is quite steep and will eventually need to be mastered.

Although I am comfortable building, maintaining, operating, and upgrading enterprise level computer systems, DCC remains a mystery to me.

peteski

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2021, 02:08:53 AM »
+1
Neville,
DCC, or some parts of it, are a mystery to most of us - we are just better hiding the fact that it puzzles us.  :)

If you are computer-literate, and understand basic electricity, you should be able to dive into DCC and understand the concepts.  Remember, it is all based on decades old (simplistic in today's world) standard.  While the DCC basics are the same as they were 30+ years ago, more and more features (including sound) got tacked onto the standard.  That is one of the reasons that each manufacturer has a slightly different implementation of the sound portion of the decoder (and things like function remapping).  It would be nice if the entire DCC standard could be dumped, and a new more comprehensive standard introduced, but for now that doesn't appear to be an option.

You might benefit from reading through Mark Gurries website.  It has not been updated for some time, and it seems to be geared towards NCE, but he explains all sorts of DCC quirkiness in a language that an average model railroader can understand.  But when it comes to sound decoders, it is best to approach each brand as a separate subject. Joining the online groups (on groups.io) for each decoder brand is also helpful.

Here are couple I participate in:
https://groups.io/g/ZIMO-DCC
https://groups.io/g/Loksound
https://groups.io/g/QSIndustries
When you join, you don't have to choose to receive emails. You can access the groups through a forum-like web interface. That is how I participate in those groups.
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pmpexpress

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2021, 05:21:26 AM »
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Neville,
DCC, or some parts of it, are a mystery to most of us - we are just better hiding the fact that it puzzles us.  :)

If you are computer-literate, and understand basic electricity, you should be able to dive into DCC and understand the concepts.  Remember, it is all based on decades old (simplistic in today's world) standard.  While the DCC basics are the same as they were 30+ years ago, more and more features (including sound) got tacked onto the standard.  That is one of the reasons that each manufacturer has a slightly different implementation of the sound portion of the decoder (and things like function remapping).  It would be nice if the entire DCC standard could be dumped, and a new more comprehensive standard introduced, but for now that doesn't appear to be an option.

You might benefit from reading through Mark Gurries website.  It has not been updated for some time, and it seems to be geared towards NCE, but he explains all sorts of DCC quirkiness in a language that an average model railroader can understand.  But when it comes to sound decoders, it is best to approach each brand as a separate subject. Joining the online groups (on groups.io) for each decoder brand is also helpful.

Here are couple I participate in:
https://groups.io/g/ZIMO-DCC
https://groups.io/g/Loksound
https://groups.io/g/QSIndustries
When you join, you don't have to choose to receive emails. You can access the groups through a forum-like web interface. That is how I participate in those groups.

Thanks for the info and the pep talk.

Will definitely need to peruse the website and online groups that you have suggested.

Someone also mentioned that I should acquire a copy the circa 1999, Digitrax Big Book of DCC.

Actually, while they were circa 1980s - 1990s HO Scale PFM (Pacific Fast Mail) sound systems and decoders, I have actually worked with DCC systems and installed decoders in brass steam locomotives in the distant past.

Although I sold or traded off (i.e. for N Scale models) most of my extensive collection of HO Scale brass locomotives many moons ago, I still have a mint condition PFM Sound System II with a Qudratape 3 deck and a reverb unit on hand.

For HO Scale diesels, I used a Magoffin Modeltronics Soundthrottle 1200D with an Echotron Series 1000 reverb unit.

Wish I still had a mint condition Magoffin sound system on hand.

In the old days, sound decoders like those that were manufactured by Magoffin and PFM for HO and O Scale models were not programmable and were not factory installed in locomotives.

Those old and bulky decoders were definitely a challenge to install because (i.e, in the days before drive axle cams) the back sides of the steam locomotive drivers had to be painted with insulated paint in order to create the right chuff sequence and holes needed to be drilled into the chassis to accommodate a speaker, as many manufacturers did not do this during model production.

While there was a lot of installation labor involved in decoder installations, there was plenty of room for all of the wiring and electronics.

When I was doing all of those HO locomotive sound installations, all of the classification, head and tail, marker, and number board lights were lit with grain of wheat or grain of rice bulbs, which tended to create huge bundles of wiring.

They certainly weren't using any PC light boards and LEDs in those days.

So, while N Scale DCC decoder programming is completely new to me and stuffing speakers into N Scale locomotives can be a challenge if one wants really good sound fidelity, the actual concept of DCC systems is not alien to me.

Scott Lupia

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2021, 07:52:07 PM »
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Scott,
The factory Economi decoder in the Bachmann 2-8-0 had a steam dynamo feature, with the volume controlled by CV 133.

That is great that it was added.  The Bachmann Pennsy K4 lacked the dynamo which is what I was referencing. 

Scott
"All I wanted was a Pepsi"

SkipGear

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2021, 12:31:43 AM »
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That is great that it was added.  The Bachmann Pennsy K4 lacked the dynamo which is what I was referencing. 

Scott

The K4 does not have an Economi decoder. It is the "sound value" decoder which is a very stripped down version. It does not have the EQ or many of the normal Tsunami features. The sound value also has very limited options for bell and whistle sounds.

https://soundtraxx.com/content/Reference/Factory-Installed/Bachmann/SoundValue/bachmann_n_462k4_sv.pdf
« Last Edit: May 01, 2021, 12:35:13 AM by SkipGear »
Tony Hines

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2021, 06:17:59 PM »
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The K4 does not have an Economi decoder. It is the "sound value" decoder which is a very stripped down version. It does not have the EQ or many of the normal Tsunami features. The sound value also has very limited options for bell and whistle sounds.

https://soundtraxx.com/content/Reference/Factory-Installed/Bachmann/SoundValue/bachmann_n_462k4_sv.pdf

It's all coming together now!  Had no idea that there were different decoders.  Had assumed they were all based off of the Econami decoder.  I'm just glad there is a dynamo buzzing away in the background!

Scott Lupia
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nstars

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Re: Are Bachmann's Econami Soundtraxx Sound Decoders Any Good?
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2021, 04:50:14 PM »
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Sound quality and fidelity is very subjective.   If comparing sound decoders, one should compare the richness of features as described in the manuals of the decoders being compared.  RTFM.  :)

One obvious shortcoming of Soundtraxx sound decoders is that they only come programmed with a fix number of sounds.  Sure, they have a wide selection of horns, whistles or bells available to choose from, yet they cannot be reloaded with another sound, like for example ESU or ZIMO decoders. Also, their firmware (the internal "operating system") cannot be updated either, where other decoders have that capability.

As sound decoders are becoming more and more complex computing devices, it is very beneficial to have the ability to update their firmware, while also havig a wide selection of sounds available for uploads to the decoder.  Of course, this might not be as important to modelers who are quite happy with the limited selection of built-in sounds, and inability to update the decoder's  firmware.  Those same modelers might actually prefer that simplicity.

The bottom line is that sound decoders from Soundtraxx, BLI and some others are not quite as flexible as the programmable and "updatable" decoders from other  manufacturers.

Maybe I should compare this to home stereo systems.  Most people will be quite content with a simple integrated tuner/amplifier receiver with a decent pair of speakers, while audiophiles will spend thousands of dollars on a sound system consisting of individual "high-end" components (tuner, graphic equalizer, power amp), and a set of expensive esoteric speakers.  In the end, both systems are used for playing music,yet they are very different.

The fact that you can’t program new sounds into the Soundtraxx decoders doesn’t mean they sound bad. I don’t think audiophiles have to program their home stereo system either. With perfectly matched individual components (like good speakers) you will get great sound out of them, especially with steam locomotives. I can tell you our Y3 with a Tsunami 2 still beats every other decoder available.

Marc