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Thread: DCC Sound for N Scale?

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    Default DCC Sound for N Scale?

    I am interested in opinions about the sound quality of N scale DCC locomotives, compared to HO?

    I was just visiting my friends, and he has a large HO layout. He was against me choosing N Scale because the sound is apparently bad. I know I likely wont get any deep sounds from N scale, but...

    I dunno if sound would be really that much of a factor for me to choose between either scale.

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    The main problem is the size of the speakers in n-scale. There have been advances, but there are physical limits because sound need to be produced in 1:1 air. I decided to go another route. Check out THIS THREAD.
    Sean McC

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    Bryan
    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

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    Roadwolf,

    I would agree with your friend that sound in N-Scale will never be as persuasive as it is in HO, although in my opinion, it's not all that satisfying in either scale if you limit yourself to an 'on-board' approach. The system outlined by Sean is currently the best answer available to N-Scalers, at least to my ear. There has been talk for a considerable time about an under-benchwork system responsive to a block detection process, but for all the talk, nothing has hit the local hobby shops yet. I have heard that sometime next summer there may be an announcement from another quarter regarding an under-benchwork system utilizing a different approach then that suggested by the Soundtrax Surround Sound process, but I wouldn't hold my breath for either approaches.
    http://www.bearcreekweb.com/paul/gal...px?cid=&gid=18

    Modeling the Northern Pacific Railway 'Rocky Mountain Division'

    PaulC

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    If you compare the sound in HO to O or G it sucks just as much as N to HO. You need to check out the equipment yourself. When the decoders and locomotives are designed for each other the sound can be great.
    Use what you know about the world to model…
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    Sound in N scale is not as loud as in HO scale. Or any other scale as far as that goes.
    You need to look at sound (well I do) this way. In any scale you would not want to have the one to one sound that a real locomotive would make in your room would you? Now when working with a sound decoder in a HO scale(or any scale) locomotive you need to scale the sound too. At 300 feet you would more than likely not hear the real locomotive making too much noise if at all. Now move your ear 300 scale feet away from the model locomotive. This is about as loud as it needs to get to be scale sound.
    I have several N scale (steam units) locomotives and after running two or three of them at the same time on my layout I sometimes wish that I had them set to a lower volume.
    I have left them at the level of sound that makes a good presentation on the layout for visitors.
    Scale your sound as I say. No it will not sound as good as the real thing but I don't think that my wife would be too happy having a steam locomotive running through the house. As it is now, she knows when I am running one or more of the locomotives with sound, and my layout is up stairs and she is down stairs watching TV or reading .
    Some clubs and other model places have the 3 or 5 foot rule, If you can hear it from (3 or 5) feet away it is too loud.

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    I prefer to not use sound decoders at all in N scale for all the reasons (tinny sound, no deep base) mentioned. You might want to look into adding some type of an under table sound system.

    See ya
    Ron
    "Men go and come,
    but earth abides." Ecclesiastes 1:4

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    There are some manufacturers (both locomotive and decoders) that are doing a pretty good job with N Scale sound. We purchased a Broadway Ltd Steam 2-6-6-2 with Paragon Sound and it is very realistic with good quality and loudness. We had to turn down the sound for it was too loud. It also has dual speakers which I think makes a big difference. The other locomotive we have with sound is an E8 A&B Proto 2000 with their own sound system. It is not up to the quality of the Broadway Ltd, but is very loud, since each unit has their own sound system.

    I really think that some of the decoder manufactures are getting pretty good, i.e. Tsunami by Soundtraxx. The speaker situation is still a problem. One solution a customer of mind did, was put the speaker in a box car so he use a larger one.

    I personally prefer sound systems mounded by the locomotive manufacture.

    John

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    The problem with on-board sound is physics. To reproduce a low frequency one must move air at that frequency. So for a sound at 80Hz, the lowest note on a "normally" tuned guitar the speaker must vibrate 80 times per second. So far no problem, virtually any speaker can do that. However to make the sound actually audible to a human ear a very large amount of air must be moved. That can only be done with speakers larger than our locomotives. Some 4" speakers, properly mounted in a well designed enclosure can produce low frequencies in the 80Hz range and make them quite audible. No speaker less than 1" can do it. In addition the power requirements of the amplifier increase dramatically as one attempts to reproduce low frequencies. The output of a decoder simply doesn't have the oomph to do the job.

    Reproducing high frequencies is much easier. High frequency sounds vibrate our eardrums with much less moving air and much less power. Things like hissing airbrakes, ringing bells and squeaking couplers can be almost acceptable.

    Until someone figures out how to circumvent the laws of physics we will be stuck with poor sound quality from on-board systems in n-scale.

    --Sherman

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    Well spoken Sherman. You have described the limitations (and therefore the problem) with small scale "sound" in terms even I can understand. Again, this is why I think under-benchwork applications are really the only process which will return satisfying results. How that is done presents a number of alternative methods. In the end, its not so much the volume of sound but the lower range of sound that defines a locomotive at work. A louder snare drum is still not a challenger working over Mullen Pass.
    http://www.bearcreekweb.com/paul/gal...px?cid=&gid=18

    Modeling the Northern Pacific Railway 'Rocky Mountain Division'

    PaulC

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    I should also say that in many respects we suspend disbelief when modeling in n-scale. Many of the things we use aren't really "to scale" and we accept all sorts of compromises. So for some people the sound that comes from on-board units is acceptable. I didn't mean to imply that it isn't worth the effort or cost, because obviously for some people it is.

    However if you want to hear (and feel) that Challenger hauling up Mullen Pass you have to have speakers capable of reproducing that sound and experience. Frankly even 4" speakers mounted under the table won't really do it, you'd need a decent subwoofer to get close. In audio the only way to produce a really low frequency is still by using a really big speaker and lots of power.

    --Sherman

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    Some of us are old and can't hear the total frequency spectrum, therefore on-board sound is OK and very convenient. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between door bell and the bell on the locomotive.

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    It also occurs to me that most of the time when we are running our trains, we are playing the part of the engineer.... The sound he would hear would be different from what someone on top of a hill looking down at a trains would hear, so it sort of depends on how you envision your point of view. I see myself as in the engine, so I want slightly louder sound and I don't care if it follows the engine because I am walking with it anyhow. I was actually thinking of using wireless headphones. I am not running sounds for my guests or visitors, but myself. Lots of variation of needs and wants when it comes to sound.
    Sean McC

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    who has friends." -- Clarence

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sherman View Post
    However if you want to hear (and feel) that Challenger hauling up Mullen Pass you have to have speakers capable of reproducing that sound and experience. Frankly even 4" speakers mounted under the table won't really do it, you'd need a decent subwoofer to get close. In audio the only way to produce a really low frequency is still by using a really big speaker and lots of power.
    Something else that we all need to understand in the physics about this is that low frequency sounds are non-directional. This is why you can use a single subwoofer mounted in the center for your surround sound system in a home theatre or stereo system.

    Low frequency sounds on the other hand are directional. This means that you want them coming from the right location. If you only have a small area, and you're a lone wolf operator, using a stationary sound system works. However, If you are operating with others, having a functional horn and bell in every locomotive consist can give the other operators information about where a train is on the line. This can certainly be important.

    Fortunately for us, these relatively high frequency sounds actually are reproduced acceptably from on-board sound systems, even in N-scale.

    My experience, with the 3 or 4 sound equipped diesel locomotives I have, is that the mechanism noise is generally louder than the low sounds usually are anyway. In other words, they sound beautiful when sitting still, but once you get them up to speed, you can't hear the low sounds. (you can hear the high notes still). This rule holds true on the HO layouts I operate on as well. (steam sounds may be different, but I don't have any sound equipped steam).

    Paul

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    Paul has a good point! Sounds lower in frequency than about 100 Hz give or take are pretty non-directional and as the frequency gets lower it gets more non-directional. How about two sound decoders, one on-board and one mounted under the table in a consist. The one under the table feeds only a subwoofer and the on-board unit supplies all the other sounds. Lots more money and complication but you could have nearly the total experience. Just a thought. ;D


    --Sherman

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    I agree that sound is very dependent on the ear of the user. I have done my own experiment and found the same thing as Pbender.
    "My experience, with the 3 or 4 sound equipped diesel locomotives I have, is that the mechanism noise is generally louder than the low sounds usually are anyway. In other words, they sound beautiful when sitting still, but once you get them up to speed, you can't hear the low sounds. "
    This is comparable to why I don't model steam myself, I don't feel that a scale model conveys the fire breathing beast that a 1:1 steam locomotive is.

    On the issue of which scale to choose, remember that with n scale your getting about 3 times more layout into the same space. I looked into changing back to HO. I found that I would have to go with an around the walls plan for 24" radius curves or larger and bridge the door and closet. Even with a 9'x11' space I would need to model a shortline or branchline with sharper curves.
    Freelance Rivet Counter
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    I like the idea of mounting decoders under the layout. It can get expensive and complicated. I'm thinking with my hearing (wear two hearing aids) putting together a decent under table sound system might do it for me.

    Seanm wern't you planing some type of under table system? Or Am I misremembering.

    See ya
    Ron
    "Men go and come,
    but earth abides." Ecclesiastes 1:4

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    I have a MRC Synchro system hooked into my DCC and a couple of sound equipped locos. Even though the locos do not reproduce a rumble that can be clearly heard a half a mile away, I prefer the on board sound to the under table method.

    The Synchro is great for reproducing that in cab sound. And is best used with a single train running and that train run through the lens of a micro camera equipped locomotive.

    The other drawback to the under table system is the cost. Not only do you have to buy two decoders but amplifiers, crossovers and speakers as well. Tripling your costs.

    Until somebody makes a CHEAP under table system that follows multiple locos no sound systemwill sound quite right.Even while standing next to the tracks you still can hear the ambient sounds. So turning up the volume is not the solution. To really get the sound we want we need an something like the Bose™ speaker for our locos that enhances the sound.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoNW View Post
    The other drawback to the under table system is the cost. Not only do you have to buy two decoders but amplifiers, crossovers and speakers as well. Tripling your costs.
    Hmm... I have to disagree with this statement. On board sound requires a sound decoder in each locomotive, while a basic under the table system requires only one decoder for the entire layout.

    In my case I have a single sound decoder under the layout that can be consisted with which ever locomotive I choose to run. Although I'd like to eventually hook it up to an amplifier and subwoofer, right now it's just connected directly to a cheap bookshelf speaker. So the total cost for equipping my entire layout with sound was one sound decoder (plus an old speaker I had laying around).

    If you want to hear what it sounds like there's a YouTube video in the "Travelling Boxcar Photo Thread"

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    Great demonstration Chris! Wonderful sound to my ear. I'm waiting on the 'next generation' of QSI decoders to arrive before finishing up the install on my layout-which will hopefully render a sound as persuasive as yours. Again, very nice demonstration of what is possible.

    Thanks,
    http://www.bearcreekweb.com/paul/gal...px?cid=&gid=18

    Modeling the Northern Pacific Railway 'Rocky Mountain Division'

    PaulC

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