Choosing the Right Sound System
If you are new to SoundTraxx and are unfamiliar with our products, knowing which product is most suited to your needs may seem to be a difficult choice. We can simplify this decision with the following steps:
1. Understand the Basics
- All SoundTraxx products are DCC-compatible
- All SoundTraxx products have sounds available for both steam and diesel models.
- Some SoundTraxx products will also work on DC or ‘analog’ layouts
- No SoundTraxx products are compatible with 3-rail (AC) layouts such as Lionel or Williams
2. Understand the Key Differences Between Products
Your next step in deciding which SoundTraxx product is right for you is to have a basic understanding of the differences in our product line:
- Digital Sound Decoders are designed to be installed onboard your model with a speaker to provide sound that comes from the locomotive itself. They are most effective in HO, S, O and large-scale models.
- Both Tsunami2 and Econami Digital Sound Decoders are compatible with DC and DCC layouts.
- SurroundTraxx is currently designed to work with DCC layouts using Digitrax Command Control and block detection and provides under the layout surround-sound. It is especially effective with small scales, such as N-scale, where good onboard sound can be more difficult to achieve due to space constraints and the need for too-small-to-be-effective speakers.
3. Determine What is Important to You
At this point, you need to apply the above and ask the following questions:
- Do I have a DCC-controlled layout?
- Do I desire to have onboard or under-layout sound?
- How many sound features do I want?
You are modeling in HO scale and would like to have onboard sound. Your layout is small and you are running a DCC layout using NCE as your command station. You have the ability to control up to 28 functions and realistic sound contributes greatly to your enjoyment of your layout. You also belong to a club that is currently operating in DC.
We suggest: Tsunami2 or Econami Digital Sound Decoders have the highest quality of sound available on the market today. They have more sound features, as well as the best motor control and lighting features. Both Tsunami2 and Econami allow you the option of running in analog, so you can easily take your engines from home to your layout and run in both places.
You are modeling in HO-scale and would like to have onboard sound. Your layout is average size and you are running a DCC layout using Digitrax as your command station. Your layout is mostly diesel and you are already using Digitrax block detection on your layout. You have the ability to control up to 28 functions and realistic sound contributes greatly to your enjoyment of your layout.
We suggest: You have the option of using Tsunami2 or Econami Digital Sound Decoders, SurroundTraxx, or a combination of both. If you want that diesel 'rumble,' then SurroundTraxx will provide both the sound and the 'feel' by way of a subwoofer feature. Optionally, most HO diesels have the room for a decoder and a speaker, though small switchers can be a challenge. A third option, using SurroundTraxx for the low-frequency sounds and an onboard decoder for high-frequency sounds, such as the bell and airhorn can be very effective – the best of both worlds.
You are modeling in N-scale and would like to have onboard sound. Your layout is small and you are running a DCC layout using NCE as your command station. You have the ability to control up to 28 functions and realistic sound contributes greatly to your enjoyment of your layout.
We suggest: Since at present you must have Digitrax Block Detection on your layout to use SurroundTraxx, we recommend using Tsunami2 or Econami Digital Sound Decoders.
You are modeling in N-scale and would like to have onboard sound. Your layout is average size and you are running a DCC layout using Digitrax as your command station. You operate both steam and diesel models. Realistic sound contributes greatly to your enjoyment of your layout.
We suggest: SurroundTraxx is ideal for your situation. SurroundTraxx will provide both the sound and the ‘feel’ by way of a subwoofer feature. Since sounds are built in for both steam and diesel engines, all you will need to do is add the block detection from Digitrax.
Now that you’ve decided which SoundTraxx product suits your needs best, you can go directly to the sections that further explain the features of these products. If you need additional help with choosing the correct sounds for your models, visit our Sound Primer. There you will find information on how sound works, how to correctly choose the sound for a prototype or road, and how to get the best sound from your selected product.
4. Choose the Product or Model
If, after answering the above questions, you are interested in particular product, visit the page that describes its features in more detail. In some cases, it will be obvious which product is the right one – it is designed to be installed in a particular engine for example. Our Decoder Selector lists our decoder and speaker recommendations many models (though certainly not all locomotives) and likely candidates for a good installation.
If you are trying to select the right sound for your steam locomotive, Choosing the Right Steam Sound will be helpful.
If you don’t know which engine, or prime mover, was built into your model’s prototype, visit Choosing the Right Sound for Your Diesel Locomotive. If you don’t know which airhorn is appropriate, don’t worry – all of our decoders have multiple horns and whistles available in each model. Once you’ve made your purchase, however, if you want to be prototypically correct, visit the Diesel Locomotive Airhorn History, which is full of fun information. You can also cut to the chase and go directly to the Locomotive Airhorn Usage chart.
5. Listen to the Sound Samples
If you already know the model but don’t know what sound to choose, our sound samples will give you a chance to audition them first.
In other cases, don’t worry too much about what sound is correct, rather choose a sound you like. Most people really don’t know exactly what many of these engines sounded like anyway (really!), especially older steam engines.
Once you’ve made your decision, visit our Sound Primer for tips on how to get the most out of your installation.
And, remember, this is supposed to be FUN!