null Skip to main content

SoundTraxx Company History

We have a long history of designing and manufacturing innovative products for the discriminating model railroader. Below is a timeline of important milestones in our story. We hope that you’ll remain with us as we continue to explore new dimensions in digital sound technology.

ThrottleUp! Founded

SoundTraxx’s corporate entity, Throttle Up! Corp., was founded in 1989 in Pocasset, Massachusetts. Our first product was a powerful little lighting system called the Hyperlight. The Hyperlight was the first lighting system to use a microprocessor, not only to provide brilliant lighting effects but also to allow the user to select the desired effect from within one model. This allowed model railroaders to purchase one item, but one that could be configured into a multitude of different lighting systems. It also allowed for multiple effects to be used at the same time! Although we no longer sell the Hyperlight, the effects we designed for this wonderful lighting module have been rolled into our Digital Sound Decoders and continue to be enjoyed by modelers everywhere.

D220-IR Released

In 1991, SoundTraxx introduced the SoundTraxx D220-IR Diesel Sound System. This was the first sound and throttle system to incorporate wireless control. This was followed a year later by the SoundTraxx S220-IR Steam Sound System, the first digital sound system to offer ‘playable’ whistles.

SoundTraxx moves to Broomfield, CO

In 1994, the company moved to Broomfield, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. The DSD-2408 Digital Sound Decoder was the first DCC decoder to be integrated with sound and lighting functions. Model Railroaders heard, for the first time ‘polyphonic’ sound – no longer did the playing of one sound interrupt another. Along with the introduction in 1996 of the DSD-2408, came Dynamic Digital Exhaust, a method of adjusting the sound volume and ‘cutoff’ of steam exhaust chuff automatically, further enhancing the illusion of a steam locomotive ‘coasting’ into the station. In 1997, the DSD-050 and the DSD-150 Digital Sound Decoders were released. In this same year, SoundTraxx forayed into the large-scale sound market with the introduction of SoundTraxx Sierra. In addition to being the first large-scale sound system with realistic lighting effects built in, Sierra was also the first sound system to incorporate a coupler-activated sound effect.

ThrottleUp! Begins Marketing as SoundTraxx

With the focus now being clearly on sound, the SoundTraxx name was more identifiable as well as appropriate, and in 1998, Throttle Up! took a back seat as the company began marketing under the SoundTraxx name. This same year, SoundTraxx introduced the DSD-150 Diesel Digital Sound Decoders. We moved to Durango, Colorado, and purchased a new SMT (Surface Mount Technology) line of manufacturing equipment.

Digital Sound Decoders Introduced

In 1999, we introduced a varied line of Digital Sound Decoders meant to be easier to install, many following a ‘plug and play’ format. Known as the ‘LC’ line, many of these decoders were lower in cost and included such items as speakers and baffle kits. This line continued to grow and became a popular addition to our repertoire of decoders.

Moved to Durango Tech Center

But, our facility was small. . . Early in 2001, SoundTraxx moved into a brand-new 6,100 sq ft building in the Durango Tech Center, overlooking downtown and overlooked by Smelter Mountain.

Blackstone Models Announced

In 2004, we announced a new division, Blackstone Models, which we created to further diversify the company product line and to fill a need in the marketplace we knew and understood. It was time to marry our sound technology to a model from the beginning in a way that we felt only we could do. At that time, we announced our first project, an HOn3 K-27 Mikado.

Tsunami Introduced

In 2005, we released the first 16-bit Digital Sound Decoder, the Tsunami, for steam locomotives. The improved sound quality, added functionality, and motor control features made Tsunami the decoder to have. It was the first digital sound decoder to use the back-EMF to adjust the tone and volume of the exhaust chuff with changes in the engine load and to include a 7-band equalizer.

First Blackstone Models K-27s Shipped

Our first Blackstone Models K-27s shipped in 2006, which were highly anticipated and received with great enthusiasm. Followed the next year by both HOn3 Boxcars and Stock Cars, we began to develop a hungry following for these terrific models. That same year, we upgraded our manufacturing line with two new SMT machines, which were a magnitude better and faster than our previous equipment.

Tsunami for Diesel Announced

In 2008, we announced and shipped the first of our Tsunami Digital Sound Decoders for diesel. Available with the same technologically advanced features as our steam versions and a few new surprises, we have continued to add to the list of prototypes offered in order to satisfy the largest number of customers. The first ‘plug and play’ style Tsunami for Atlas HO diesels and models using a similar physical light board also was introduced.

Additional Tsunami Decoders Announced

In 2009, we introduced two additional plug-and-play format Tsunami decoders for Athearn Genesis and Kato HO diesel models, helping to expand our customer base beyond the technologically savvy.

SurroundTraxx Introduced

Innovation continued, and in 2011, we began shipping SurroundTraxx, a unique digital sound system designed for the layout, not the individual model. Since SurroundTraxx relies in part on the technology of another company, it faced several delays while these products were made commercially available and the technology proven. It is truly an amazing product and the first of its kind. Working with today’s DCC technology, SurroundTraxx gives the modeler the realism of high-fidelity sound moving with their train as it travels about the layout without installing speakers onboard the engine. Using the latest digital signal processing (DSP) technology and advanced block detection techniques, SurroundTraxx faithfully reproduces the sounds made by each train on the layout and directs the sound to the speaker closest to the train’s location.

New DCC Digital Sound Decoder Released

In 2012, we released the first DCC Digital Sound Decoder with separate sound channels for the three prime movers used by NRE GenSet locomotives, which makes the prime mover sounds kick on independently based on the throttle setting. This decoder is available in a plug-and-play format for Atlas models.

More Tsunami Decoders Released

Further expanding our Tsunami offerings in 2013, we released a plug-and-play format for InterMountain HO diesels, which is our first Digital Sound Decoder to include six lighting outputs. We also added prime movers to our line of decoders for the recently released Athearn Genesis ES44AC/DC and Kato HO P42 models.

Tsunami SoundCar Released

In 2014 we introduced the Tsunami SoundCar Digital Sound Decoder, the first-ever 16-bit DCC decoder for rolling stock. We also developed Intelligent Consisting, a new method for quickly adding and removing trains in a consist without tricky programming. That fall, we broke ground on a new building to expand our manufacturing capabilities.

SoundTraxx 25th Anniversary

A number of milestones marked our 25th year of innovation in 2015. To start, we launched an entirely new line of decoders, the Econami. This value line of 16-bit sound decoders offers many great new features and some SoundTraxx classics at a more affordable price point. Econami includes our smallest decoder, the ECO-100, as well as the 'beefier' 4-amp ECO-400. We also introduced our first aftermarket 21-pin decoder, the ECO-21P, as well as our first electric sound version. Finally, we announced UK steam and diesel versions of the Econami line during our first appearance at the Warley National Railway Exhibition in Birmingham, England.

Moved into New Manufacturing Facility

In December 2015, we moved into a new manufacturing facility at 141 Burnett Drive, which is near the former location in the Durango Tech Center. This new facility provides three times the manufacturing and product development space.

Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoders Released

In May 2016, we announced our new Tsunami2 line of high-performance Digital Sound Decoders. This line provides high-quality, onboard locomotive sound, precision motor control and brilliant lighting effects. The Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoder was designed to enhance your model railroading experience by giving you a wide variety of innovative features and only the most realistic sound for your models.

This line of decoders introduced cutting-edge features to the industry including:

          • SoundTraxx Flex-Map Function Mapping
          • Reactive Dynamic Digital Exhaust for steam, diesel, and electric models
          • Hyperdrive2 Advanced motor control
          • 16 polyphonic sound channels
          • Full 28-function support

Tsunami2 Version 1.2 Software Update

In October 2017, we updated the software on Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoders to provide even more realistic features to the modeler! This update included new airhorns, a new bell, realistic Turbine & GenSet features, and a new electronic air dryer.

New Sounds Announced for Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoders

In August 2018, our premium line of Tsunami2 Digital Sound Decoders continued to evolve. We added a new Tsunami2 decoder, the EMD-2, which provided an additional 8 EMD prime movers to our sound library. We also updated the Tsunami2 steam decoder with 28 new whistle choices giving you a total of 90 whistles to choose from on the Tsunami2 Steam-2 Decoders.

Introduction of Blunami Decoders

Blunami is the first premium sound decoder that will operate in DC, DCC, or wireless mode. This line of decoders takes all of our industry-leading sounds and features and adds the ability to control the decoder wirelessly through your phone or other mobile device using the free Blunami App. Blunami will change the way you enjoy model railroading!