How to do I match the notching sound of an ESU LokSound decoder to the locomotive speed steps?

Stephane Savard May 16, 2018

  1. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Hi everyone!

    I've been lurking about the forum for several weeks now, reading new threads here and there as I setup my very first layout. As I've come up to some minor problems or things I didn't understand, the forums have pretty much answered what I needed to know. But now I'm stumped.

    So it all started with a gift in the form of a Kato ES44AC starter set... and of course this has exploded to setting up a new workbench, two additional Kato variation sets for a practice layout, an NCE powercab and second new locomotive.

    I installed a TCS decoder in the Kato GEVO, and I'm happy with the configuration - I basically setup CV2, CV6 and CV5 for great low-speed running and a top speed of 75 scale mph. No worries so far.

    The new locomotive, an Intermountain SD40-2w with ESU Sound Decoder was rather more complicated, but I did get it running great, and speed matched with the Kato after playing with the CV2, 5 and 6.

    However! the notching engine sounds are not synchonized with the speed steps of the locomotive. Press F8, and the prime mover starts and settles into idle. At step 1, the sd40 waits 4 seconds, and then starts inching forward... no change in sound. as I slowly increase speed steps.. the loco will increase speed, and notching changes are heard. However I reach notch 8 somewhere between steps 50 and 60. Until speed step 128, the loco increases speed until it reaches scale 75mph, but no more changes in sound.

    So the question.. how do I adjust it where notch 8 is reached in the upper-limits of the speed steps?
  2. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    You can't change the notching "steps", and this is normal behavior. However, there is a potential work around.

    In a LokSound Select file (which is what the SD40-2 has), engine notching is pre-programmed and cannot be changed. I have noticed that notching occurs about every 7-8 increments on my Digitrax Chief/DT402D throttles (the DT402's throttle "scale" is from 0-100, not 0-128, so if your throttle scale runs to 128, these numbers will vary a bit on your scale). That is, the engine will go from idle (notch 1) to notch 2 when I crack open the throttle. Then at somewhere around 8, we are at notch 3; 15 = 4, 23 = 5, 31 = 6, 39 = 7 and 45-ish = 8. And then you're done. No more notches. The exact notch "step" varies a bit with the particular sound file - I've noticed that the Alco 251 sound file notches a bit more slowly, and doesn't max out until over 50 on my throttle.

    The potential work-around is to use manual notching. However, you need to understand how do to this properly. Each ESU sound file comes with a function key assigned to "Notch up" and "Notch down". For now, let's pretend that these function keys are F5 and F6 (you can assign these behaviors to whatever keys you'd like). When you press F5, the engine notches up. BUT . . . since F5 is not a momentary contact button, once you press F5, the decoder will CONTINUE to notch up until you press F5 again (to "turn off" F5). So if you want to do a single notch up, press F5, wait for the notch up, then immediately press F5 again. Want two notches? Press F5, wait for two notches, press F5 again. Notching down is the same way - Press F6 to begin notching down, then press it again to stop.

    You can also take advantage of the Drive Hold feature (usually F9) to vary your notching response to some degree. When Drive Hold is engaged, the engine's speed is locked, and the throttle knob controls the notching, not the speed. When you release Drive Hold, the engine speed will increase or decrease, as necessary, to match the throttle setting at which you released Drive Hold.

    Example. I want to notch up to Notch 4 before my train starts to move in the yard. With the throttle at zero, I engage Drive Hold, turn the throttle knob up until I get to Notch 4. Then I release Drive Hold, and the engine(s) will accelerate to whatever the setting is on the throttle (usually something like 15-20 on my DT402, depending on the sound file). Note, however, that this is not going to "fix" the issue of no notching above half-throttle (50 on my DT-402). That's because Drive Hold's notches are tied to the original notching in the sound file. If a throttle setting of 50 gets you to Run8, then when you engage Drive Hold, it will notch up to Run8 at 50 on your throttle. The engine speed won't change until you release Drive Hold, at which point the engine will accelerate to the throttle setting. And Drive Hold works best with very large amounts of momentum programmed in, which some people do not like.

    If you really want notching "spaced out" more over the entire throttle range, the only way to do this with a LokSound Select is to use manual notching.

    And if you are really bugged by all of this, you CAN change the notching behavior in an ESU V.4 file using a V.4 (instead of a Select) decoder. But that would also require you to master your own sound programming, which is not a trivial task. And in any event, there is not a V.4 version of the board-style decoder that is in the IM SD40-2.

    John C.
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  3. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Wow, thanks for the reply. I spent quite a bit of time with the loco this evening with two unrelated issues and really, I won't be going into editing any of the sound files, or changing decoders. I'm quite okay with it as is, as it's really not much of an issue, still sounds great regardless! I wonder why the notching has a range up to speed step 67 instead of 128?

    I haven't yet tried manual notching yet, I'll have to remap some of the functions for that. By default this particular model locomotive does not map the notch up or down functions by default, instead having Ditch Lights and Rotary Beacon setup on F5 and F6 (not that those work on this n-scale locomotive).

    My weird issues this evening was trying to figure out the default settings for all the CVs. Apparently, setting CV8 to 8 did not reset the locomotive back to the "out of the box" state, but possibly some ESU factory defaults. At least it seems that way since some values reported from the loco to the powercab did not match those of the instruction sheet that came with the loco. Trying to make sense of the various PDF files full of loksound settings is time consuming!

    Second weird thing is that whenever I use the NCE powercab in programming track mode to setup the SD40-2w, the "NCE cab params" keep changing (the "recall" setting changes from 2 to 6, and the "bell" setting is set to 4 instead of 1).

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