N scale Sound..

UPCLARK Oct 16, 2009

  1. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    The easiest first sound installations are cab diesel units, because of the space available and ease of wiring. E's, F's, Alco PA's, etc. If steam locomotives are pre-wired for decoders in the tender, then those are also easy first-time projects.

    Here is a thread on installing sound in the Kato PA (scroll down the thread for photos):
    https://www.trainboard.com/highball...-into-kato-f3-7-e8-9-pa1.101712/#post-1001759

    And here's a thread on how I converted a Bachmann Berkshire over to ESU LokSound:
    https://www.trainboard.com/highball...sound-tutorial-with-photos.82075/#post-920069

    As for decoders, I don't think there is much question that for diesel sound installations, the ESU LokSound Micro (for N scale) is the way to go. LokSound has the largest library of prototype sound files, actually recorded from existing engines. The LokSound is also very versatile when it comes to lighting. The Micro decoder has at least 4 function (lighting) outputs, which means you can do a front headlight, a rear light, and alternating front ditch lights if you want. Some versions of the LokSound micro (the "board" Select Direct versions - ESU #'s 73100 and 73199) have six functions, so you can also add alternating rear ditch lights. For steam, I still use the LokSound, but the Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 is also a good choice.

    Do a search of both this forum and the DCC forum for threads on LokSound sound installations (search for "LokSound") and you'll find a lot of ideas. Rick Brodzinsky has done a lot of installations and posts here on Trainboard about sound installations and you can search his name and find them.

    Getting good sound in N scale is imminently doable, but takes some work. Usually, some frame milling is required for diesel installs, but this can often be done with a Dremel and appropriate cutting bits. Good soldering skills are required, but easy to learn with a bit of practice. It's not rocket science, but it IS skilled work.

    John C.
     
  2. freddy_fo

    freddy_fo TrainBoard Member

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    Scaletrains makes a few nice N-scale DCC/Sound locos that have almost all the features you mentioned. I have their rivet counter GE Tier 4 GEVo in the UP livery. Sound is not as good as I'd like but still pretty decent. I did have to put it on the programmer (lokprogrammer) to get flashing ditch lights but from the factory they do turn on and off separately from the other lighting features.

    I also recently picked up an intermountain SD40-2 which has amazing sound and very nice looking as well. I got the BN with a dummy beacon so no ditch lights on that. I did have to custom wire an LED to the beacon to get it to work but they do have models with ditch lights. I think the UP versions have them.

    I've updated over a dozen of my DC locos to sound over the last while using a variety of the loksound micro DCC systems. I tend to do all the different lighting functions I can including ditch lights and separately lit number boards. Takes a bit of time and patience but with the right speaker and enclosure you can get some very nice sound. I've been using some 8x12mm speakers with very short enclosures due to space constraints. ZIMO makes one that size but I wind up trimming the enclosures as they are too tall for my diesel installs.
     
  3. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    My understanding of the Intermountain SD40-2 is that it only uses 2 channels, 1 for the front and one for the back. So I assume that means if it has number board lights and a headlight, they use one channel and have a light pipe running from both to the same led. Is that right? So if they make an SD40 with illuminated number boards, ditch lights and a headlight, they are all either on or off from 1 led? Is it then possible to separate that out and add leds and wires with the stock loksound select micro they come with and add those features?

    And one last question. Does changing the lights and weathering the trains hurt the resale value? Not that I would ever part with anything I spent so much time detailing ;)
     
  4. freddy_fo

    freddy_fo TrainBoard Member

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    I can't answer about separate channels for the ditch lights as mine doesn't have that feature but the number boards use the same light pipe as the head lights and I suspect that will be the same for any of the variants of that model. Mine came with a strobe on the roof of the cab but it wasn't lit although there was an LED on the board that was flashing but covered. I wound up soldering a pico led with wires so I could run it directly into the strobe lens that I hollowed out with a .8mm drill bit. No easy way to light pipe that. I believe on the boards they use there are two aux channels. Basically it's an ESU select micro drop in board.

    If you want a full feature set for lighting you're going to either have to pay someone to do it or do it yourself. I've got a thread in the DCC section where I've been documenting my installs including an SD70Ace. I show how I cut up the lenses to get the separately lit number boards and place the LEDs for the ditch lights.

    Not sure about resale value. I typically am not interested in someone else's custom work unless they have a reputation for doing top notch work. I originally resisted doing the custom DCC installs because of the mods and potentially hurting resale value but the drop in sound boards like MRC offer very little customization and 1/2 the time the sound is terrible. So far though I feel for me I have a better product than how it came originally and like you said it's unlikely I'd part with any of my custom engines.
     
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  5. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    I'm trying to determine now if it benefits me to purchase a loco that is just DC and add the sound decoder. I can get a Kato PA-1 for $71. So I would need a Loksound decoder and a separate speaker to start? They don't come with a speaker pre-wired, right? How much on average is that?

    Another comparison would be Silver Streak Starter Set (CB&Q EMD E5A “Silver Bullet” and 5 cars). DC is $250 retail. Factory Loksound and all the passenger cars lit is $465. So I have to find the actual dealer price, but figuring it might be around $400, am I saving any money doing it myself over paying (I'm guessing) $200 more to have them do it. Of course I would miss out on all the fun, lol, thought I actually do like soldering. Also, I imagine the lighting is minimal with both headlights and the number boards all lit by 1 led, but that may be ok.

    Their GS-4 looks incredible and has directional headlight, simulated mars light, and lit number boards. But of course that is a steamer and I am getting ahead of myself ;)
     
  6. catfan

    catfan TrainBoard Member

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    Lighting the passenger cars requires no soldering. They can be kind of a PITA unless you've done a few.

    I look at N Scale sound like this...We will never have a full bass response because of our size restrictions. I have done several custom installs and just as many for myself. When you get 20-30 sound loco's going at one time..it does seem to sound like a heard (Pun) of angry bee's.

    I will confess that I haven't tried the sugar cubes from Steamline Backshop but I have some coming.

    I will also add that the Rolling Thunder system from BLI does indeed work with their locos. It adds base so you can leave one of the BLI's idling near the speaker to balance the tenor of the others..

    JMHO
     
  7. freddy_fo

    freddy_fo TrainBoard Member

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    Flightrisk, cost and time getting an engine already setup with DCC/sound will almost always be cheaper than retro-fitting. Things to watch for though in a OEM setup is the quality of sound and usually less lighting effects than if you were to do it yourself.

    ESU dcc/sound decoders average about $90.
    Pico LEDs can be had pre-wired for about $.70 apiece if bought in 20 count packs.
    8x12mm speakers just under $8 apiece.

    Then there is the loksound programmer which is $150. When I started out a few month ago I had about 25 engines to update. From a cost perspective upgrading myself was a no brainer even with the expense of the programmer which paid itself off after a couple of installs.

    You can reuse the LEDs that come with the loco but for myself I rarely do. First reason is the lights tend to be too dim for my tastes. Another issue is if you want separately lit number boards and headlight by the time you cut up the light piping it tends to reduce the light that makes it out to the point it is barely visible.

    The Streamlined 8x12mm speakers with enclosures are about the best sound you can cram into a diesel with minimal space requirements. It is very important though to make sure you have a good seal between the speaker and the enclosure. I taper the mating edge of the enclosures then apply a liberal amount of "canopy glue" to the edges and clamp the speaker in place with a clothespin till the glue has dried. Be careful not to get glue on the speaker diaphragm.
     
  8. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    If I picked up a Kato Silver streak (EMD E5A #9909 “Silver Bullet”), what would you recommend to get to give it sound? Loksound Select, Select Direct, Select Direct Micro? Then a LKS50321 speaker or is there something better? Then it has to be programmed. I will ask to see if the local club has someone with a programmer, otherwise offer to pay someone here perhaps to upload to it. Thanks for all your help. I'm learning quite a bit and I figure actually playing with something will teach me even more.
     
  9. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    Loksound doesn't make the Select micro any more. It has been replaced by the LokSound 5 DCC Micro (what we've all taken to calling the "V5" even though that's technically not ESU's nomenclature). The new V5 micro comes in several different versions. First, there is the DCC-only version vs. the multi-protocol version. You want the DCC-only. Next, they sell them with different interfaces - a Next16 plug, an NMRA 8-pin plug attached to the decoder by a flat cable, or a version with wires for hard-wiring. You would want the hard-wire version. That's ESU #58823. The appropriate sound file for an E5 is the dual EMD 567 V12 prime mover, ESU file #S0583 (for the LokSound 5). You'll either need to have the dealer you purchase the decoder from download this file to the decoder, or have someone with a LokProgrammer do it.

    As for a speaker, you have different options. Probably the easiest is to order the 8x12mm "sugar cube" speaker from Streamlined Backshop:
    http://store.sbs4dcc.com/SBS4DCCSugarCubeSpeaker8x12mm8ohm.7wattw/SoundChamber.aspx

    A second option, which is what I use (and which will provide somewhat better sound than the above), is order the 8x12 Soberton SP-1208 speakers from Digikey here:
    https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/soberton-inc/SP-1208/433-1130-ND/6099104 (about $4 each, $3 in quantities of 10) and then use it in this 3D printed enclosure:
    https://www.shapeways.com/product/5...erton-speaker-enclosure-4pk?optionId=60853776 ($9 each in packs of 4). This option is more expensive, but the final depth of this option is 6mm, which means you don't have to mill as large a channel for the speaker/enclosure.

    And you'll need a couple of keep-alive capacitors. Most of us these days use tantalum-polymer "chip" caps, 220uf, 16v (some folks prefer to use 20v caps because of the larger safety factor; however, I've used 16v caps for years with only one failure):
    https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/avx-corporation/TCN4227M016R0070E/478-13376-1-ND/10063045

    Use two of these wired in parallel (easiest to stack one on top of the other).

    As for how to do this all, Rick Brodzinsky - @RBrodzinsky to find him here - has done a LokSound install in an Kato E8, which is probably the same chassis as the E5. I tried to search for his installation thread, but got a search error. Contact him directly via a private message and he may be able to direct you to his thread on this forum or a different forum.

    The installation requires milling out a channel in the rear of the chassis for the speaker/enclosure. You can do this with a Dremel, but if you know someone with a small milling machine, it will be a LOT easier.

    John C.
     
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  10. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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  11. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    First, let me get this out of my head. It's bass, not base.

    NOw that that's done, we must understand that the possibility of getting prototypical sound with speakers that fit in locomotives, or for that matter, boxcars, is a fools errand. You are fighting things you cant win, like physics. And the size of speakers that fit inside locos and boxcars are like the tweeter in your home stereo speakers. Using a good sub under the layout is a great idea, but ultimately impractical. Bass is more omnidirectional, our hearing isn't able to locate the source as well as higher frequencies. But the sad truth is that 's only true for really low bass, like from a locomotive. there needs to be a crossover frequency that sends all the low stuff to the sub and all the midrange and higher stuff to the tiny speaker. Relatively easy to do, but like TV drug ads, there's side effects. Like leaving out a lot of information. The reason you no matter what hear the sound coming from under the layout, is because there's a lot of midrange coming through the sub. So the best option is if you want sound, be happy with what nature allows you, tinny sound.

    Now, if you want to really hear a harangue, get me started on how sound should have scale.
     
  12. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    Actually, I think sound SHOULD have "scale." I've been to layouts where someone connected a decoder to a full-range home speaker under the layout. Terrific sound - except that you look down at the N-scale engine, and say "huh"? My brain just doesn't accept that this sound can be coming from an N-scale engine. So it breaks any semblance of realism - for me, anyway. On the other hand, my brain seems perfectly fine with hearing the "bucket-of-bolts; bucket-of-bolts" cadence of an ALCo prime mover from an 8x12mm cell-phone speaker located inside my N-scale RS11's or PA-1's - even though there is no bass at all, and barely even lower midrange (these speakers have a reponse curve that drops off a cliff below 800hz; useable output generally ends at 500hz, no matter what the spec sheet of the speaker says). I don't expect to hear the kind of sound I hear when I'm standing 10' away from the prototype from my N-scale engines. So it all seems "right." What doesn't seem right is "full sized sound" coming from a 1/160th-sized model.

    John C.
     
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  13. tehachapifan

    tehachapifan TrainBoard Member

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    I completely agree, John! If I'm typically no closer than 3 feet or so away from an N scale loco, I want it to sound like a 1:1 loco that's several hundred feet away and not like it's sitting right there in the layout room with me. But then there are folks at the other end of the spectrum who want it to sound like they're actually inside the locomotive that they're watching from the outside 3 feet away or more. I can't wrap my head around that one but to each his own!
     
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  14. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

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    John C.,

    I want to thank you for the very well articulated reply to "FlightRisk" posted above. You not only took the time to do the post but to give the links for him to find "the goodies".

    Well done, my friend, we have all learned a great deal from you.

    Carl
     
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  15. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    I'll try t keep this short. I've seen J colombo's layout and it is remarkable. And he does get the whole concept of scale sound. I've seen too many layouts where the train is 40 to 50 scale miles away and it sounds so loud like it was next to you. Getting it turned down takes it from toy train to scale model.
     
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  16. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks to all! John's answer is my shopping list. He's done everything for me but program the controller ;) I "liked" your post, but thanks again here in text. I'll post pictures of what I wind up doing like a lot of you have done. I've been soldering since I was 9 or 10, I have a hot air soldering rework station, and am an EE major, though my minor in computer science is what I use for my career. However, I am not a milling expert. I have a drill press and a bunch of attachments for my dremel, like a plunge router, but I may find a friend or local shop with the right equipment so I don't bungle an engine frame. ;)
     
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  17. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    I wonder if you can have an onboard decoder playing high pitched sounds, and a stationary decoder playing the bass sounds. Imagine that, you would hear the whistle or horn from the loco but hear the rumble from a subwoofer.
    Like life, or dating a Victoria's Secret supermodel, it's not that easy. There must be a crossover that separates the low sounds from the high ones. And you could simply get a audio guy to design some high or low pass filters for the two speakers. But that was easy, no? NO! What's missing? The whole midrange, where the meat and potatoes are. Now what, the mid is directional, unlike the bass, so you can't just stick a midrange speaker somewhere in the corner.


    I think the only issue would be you would need to disable some sounds or the large speakers would overwhelm the small ones. Another interesting idea is a surround system hooked up to occupancy monitors. Soundtraxx has something along those lines called SurroundTraxx. I would think a system like that would work better than trying to play bass frequencies over basically headphone speakers.
    No can do. Headphone speakers are designed to be putting sound in a small space. If oyu take a small speaker like that and put it in an enclosure all bets are off, and the sound may well be distorted.

    All these schemes demonstrate a lack of basic audio knowledge. Not something to be embarrassed or feel bad about, just something else you don't know, and don't want to , like brain surgery or rocket design. i've got over 30 years experience in broadcasting and I just know the highlights. Find an audio guy that is interested in trains, maybe a modeler, and tap his knowledge.
     

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