Sound Decoder or Mobile Only? What's the consensus here?

Kitbash Mar 13, 2022

  1. Kitbash

    Kitbash TrainBoard Supporter

    Question: Does anyone here still pursue mobile only decoders? I have quite a few engines that I am going to put decoders in and am contemplating some of them, at least, to use mobile decoders only. Don't get me wrong, I love sound. But I find some of the best or rewarding time in the train room is when I'm working and have a mobile only decoder (or sound cut off) and just listening to the metal wheels rolling around the room.

    So I am wondering, how many people here, from time to time, just choose to purchase and install mobile only decoders? There must be a good market for them because they are so readily available. While I am not an uber wealthy sucker, I am in a position that I can purchase sound over mobile only. But my thing is, sometimes, does not mobile-only make sense?

    BigJake likes this.
  2. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    I have a lot of loco's and most came off the bay and were DC so I'm converting them all to DCC. I've done a number already with non-sound decoders (Some HERE ) and then put a cheap $40 sound decoder into another ( HERE ). Didn't really think I'd like sound but kind of got hooked. Since, I've bought 4 more sound decoders, didn't go cheap as I wanted sound that actually came from the loco getting the install ( ESU decoders). They are for specific loco's that are my favorites so they get sound.

    I think as I go down the road though that the majority will still be non-sound.

  3. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

    i only have two locos that have sound, the rest are mobile only, and i'm happy with the mix ...
    i do find myself running non sound and just listening to the metal wheels click on the rails ..
  4. 7dmack

    7dmack TrainBoard Member

    I have a few dozen mobile only decoders, some going back to the late 1990s. I've picked up a few sound decoders over the years and recently got a handful of the newest generation sound decoders. Those have changed the way I operate. It slows the pace for me. I wait for the prime mover to spool up and down and brake set and release sounds. Running with a fair bit of momentum and using the brake function makes the train seem "heavier" and I find it enjoyable. That said, I doubt the fleet will be entirely sound equipped any time soon, the cost would be about 4x what I paid for the last car I bought. Not a model railcar, the car I drove to work.
    Kitbash likes this.
  5. Kitbash

    Kitbash TrainBoard Supporter

    Alright, so far, the responses have me convinced the smart play as I tune up my engine fleet is to pick and choose my battles on the sound vs non-sound front. Good responses, thanks.
    7dmack likes this.
  6. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Also, for standard consists, interspersing sound and motor-only is an economical way to go. I have mostly sound, and most of my fleet has been converted to ESU LokSound, but there are also quite a few LokPilot decoders in there as well.
    Sumner and 7dmack like this.
  7. 7dmack

    7dmack TrainBoard Member

    That is probably a good approach, Kitbash, pick the battles. And like Rick, have settled on ESU for new installs and retrofits, both LokSound and LokPilots on Decoder Buddies (for locos not already 21 pin ready) for compatibility and upgradeability. I started with the coal fleet because I needed the slow crawl speed BEMF allows and the silent decoders I used didn't have.
  8. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    Another vote for a few sound, but mostly non-sound, for two main reasons. While I do enjoy sound sometimes, I run without it more often than with it, and I can buy three non-sound locos and decoders often for less than the price of two sound locos.
  9. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

    Was going to change to HO and have two steamers with sound but now have to live in an apartment. So it's back to N and I don't think I'd want sound in diesels. Just liked the chugging and hissing of steam.
  10. Pastor John

    Pastor John TrainBoard Member

    Me? I'm really cheap and my budget is definitely sensitive so, so far, I've been sticking solely to mobile only because there is often a $40 or $50 price difference. But I have considered the possibility that for a group of F-units, that I normally run as a consist, I might spring for one of them to have sound. I doubt that I could hear the difference between one with sound, and three or four with sound, or if I *could* hear the difference, that it would be significantly better.
  11. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    Another alternative to sound decoders in small scale locomotives is JMRI's virtual sound decoder. Up to 4 can be used at once, and they can be mapped to any of your decoders. For smaller scales, it can sound better, playing through a large speaker under the layout, than the tiny speakers that fit in the loco. The low-frequency rumbles do not allow the human ears to determine the direction of the source of the sound. They have a small variety of diesel and steam locomotive sounds.

    They are working on the ability to send the sound to your phone (that may be running a throttle app anyway). That feature was in beta a few months ago.

    You could also use larger (e.g. G scale) sound decoders, mounted and wired to a loudspeaker under the layout, and consist them with your locomotives.
  12. Mark Ricci

    Mark Ricci TrainBoard Member

    If you are running a system that supports wi-throttle server, the new Engine Driver app, ver 2.31.139 dated 3/17/22, produces sound for any non-sound loco. It does not require JMRI. It is a new Engine Driver feature. A maximum of 2 locos are supported.
    Very simple to setup..

    The normal throttle..


    In preferences;


    The Sound button can be enabled in preferences to show loco sound button on the throttle screen next to the track power.


    The available loco sounds...


    The throttle for loco once enabled... Sound settings can be accessed via the sound button to the right of the track power button.


    Additional loco sound options..


    Loco sound can also be accessed via the acquire screen.


    Most Android devices can route sound to a Bluetooth speaker so presumably one can mount a it underneath layout.
    tjdreams, KC Smith, BigJake and 2 others like this.
  13. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

    ohhhh new toy for engine driver awesome , darn you more stuff i want to add now.(y):D now where did i put that speaker(n)
  14. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

    double post
  15. James Fitch

    James Fitch TrainBoard Member

    If cost were no object, I'd order all my engines DCC/Sound equipped. But cost is a factor for me, and probably many of us. But as I've been able, in recent years, I've been buying more and more engines with DCC/Sound factory installed. That said, at least half to 2/3rds of engines are DCC ready.

    One example, since I started buying ScaleTrains HO engines, I've bought around 1/2 to 1/3rd with sound and the rest are DCC ready, but I ordered LokPilot decoders pre-programed for the loco's that were DCC ready. So that means virtually all of the ScaleTrains loco's have DCC. The DCC ready I merely have to plug in the non-sound DCC decoder in and it's ready to use. I bought them all direct from ScaleTrains at $29 each.

    As for the rest of the fleet, most are DCC ready so I will need to install a DCC decoder in them all, assuming I don't sell them NIB at some point.
  16. FlightRisk

    FlightRisk TrainBoard Member

    I also like sound decoders, but have played with JMRI and Engine Driver for "virtual" sound. For N scale, some of the sounds on some locos that can't have larger speakers is a bit tinny. Engine Driver is developed concurrently with EX-CommandStation so we are constantly thinking about what can be added to both. I like the ease of use and the sound with ED.

    NOTE: EX-RAIL can also play sounds through a DFPlayer, so imagine one or more of these around a layout connected to buttons on ED or sensors on the track to add even more ambiance to locos or animations; Passenger Station, Dance Hall, Forest Mills, Mine Explosions, Turntable and Roundhouse operations, Village and Town Traffic and children playing on playgrounds, Landon Pub Crawl, even one in a rail car to make sounds or play music.
    Mark Ricci likes this.
  17. James Fitch

    James Fitch TrainBoard Member

    Because I can't afford all sound decoder equipped, I do some of each. Being the D&RGW was a mountain RR there would be 2, 3 or 4 or more engines in a consist, I don't need all to have sound.
  18. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

    Same for me....Sound is cool, but good sound is expensive !
    I have one engine with a Digitrax sound decoder. Being my 1st and only one, I thought/think it's cool
    But I know experts are saying the best ones are Loksound decoders, but it costs close to twice the price of my engines (that I bought like new at a very good price)
    Sumner likes this.
  19. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    I'd suggest that one should maybe listen to their (ESU) demo sound files ....

    ... to determine if they want to go that way or not.

    At this point I've installed one sound decoder, a XL that is from the company who did MRC's sound decoder, that was under $50. It is OK but only has a few sound options for different prime movers on the decoder. The sound file isn't an accurate one for the GE U30C that I have it in. Would I know this by listening to it? No, but some might and that might be important to them. Also if I installed a number of these soon a number of the locos would sound the same.

    My favorite loco, pretty much, is the GE U50 which had two diesels in them. i bought a couple ESU decoders to eventually put into one or two of them. With the ESU decoder you can hear first one diesel start up and then the second and the sound files are accurate for that engine. I paid the extra to get that. To some it might not be important but I do in this case.

    For my coal mine project where an 'unloaded' train is replaced by a 'loaded' one in a hidden area under the loading chutes the two trains will be powered by identical GP7'S. There will be two GP7's at the head of the train and maybe a helper further back. Here I was looking for two things. One was accurate sound and the other was fine motor control. I need the motor control to hopefully speed match both trains so that to the eye the train entering and the one leaving the loading chutes look to be going the same speed and appear to be the same train.

    ESU is noted for its motor control along with the exceptional sound. I've bought two of their sound decoders with GP7 sound files on them for the lead engine or maybe the second engine on both trains and also their non-sound decoders for the other engines hoping to get the motor control I'm looking for by using all ESU decoders. I've found now also that I can get the non-sound ESU decoders for only about $3-$4 more (under $30) than the smallest Digitrax decoder that I've been using and they are smaller yet and have more functions that they can control.

    I will say that I have no problem with the Digitrax decoders I have installed and the limited running I've done with them and at $16 (when I bought them) they have and will (still have a bunch) allow me to inexpensively convert a lot of the eBay DC locos I've bought to DCC. Sound, no sound, ESU, Digitrax, someone else? Use what works for you and the situation,

  20. James Fitch

    James Fitch TrainBoard Member

    Most of the engines I've bought with factory installed sound came with ESU Loksound. So I've bought Lokpilot decoders to install on the engines that will run with them. I paid $29 each.
    Sumner likes this.

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