Sound Decoder Test
MyLocoSound is run by Peter Lucas in Australia. The company specialises in producing sound decoders for model railway use. I get the impression that the initial products of the company were aimed at larger scale modellers and garden scale locomotives. The company has products for DC operation and DCC operation.
Here on test, I have the MyLocoSound DCC Steam decoder, for O, HO and OO trains.
The decoder is a sound only decoder. You need to use another loco decoder to drive the train on a DCC layout. On a DC layout, only the sound decoder is required. The decoder uses synthesised sound to produce the chuffs and other effects. This apparently is cheaper than recorded sound and some say that it can actually produce a better quality sound.
This DCC decoder is currently priced at £44 / $68 (USA) / A$68 (Australia). The price immediately makes the decoder interesting as we are used to paying around £100 for a ESU LokSound sound decoder.
What we get: For £44 we get the decoder and the instruction sheet. I received some wire pickups and some shrink-wrap insulation tube.
Current UK prices:
This image below shows the decode and the ribbon attached to it with the description of each of the wires.
The setup of the decoder is simple. It connects to the red and black track input. The Stay alive capacitor connects to the orange (positive) and grey (negative) wires. The speaker connects to the brown and green wires.
The decoder can be installed under the baseboard of the layout if your layout is small and/or if you are using N-gauge locos or smaller. A reasonable effect will result, but of course the sound will not follow the loco around the track.
The full installation instructions are available here (PDF 1.07MB). I am not going to go into detail on how to install the decoder. If you wish to see the options, I suggest you look at the PDF.
Here below is the test rig for the MyLocoSound sound card working on the ESU decoder tester. I am using a DCC Concepts DCC-S2SAP decoder to control the motor and lights.
Here below is a video to give an idea of the sound. the 25mm, 8 ohm Bass Reflex Speaker produces a very reasonable sound.
The functions of the decoder are as follows.
I found the bell quite nice, and the whistle was OK after a bit of tweaking. You can adjust the tone, but too far above or below the recommended value and it doesn't sound good at all. The Guards's whistle wasn't great. I don't use these type of effects much anyway.
Installation into the train
I installed a 2200ÂµF 25V capacitor for the stay-alive. I found it in an old amp that I had lying around. Peter from MyLocoSound usually uses a 220ÂµF 25V capacitor.
The loco for the test is the Bachmann Class 57XX BR Pannier locomotive with a Lenz Gold loco decoder. A review of the loco and the installation of the Lenz decoder can be see here. Very little space in the loco even for one decoder. Some of the ballast had to be cut away (below).
The MyLocoSound Sound Decoder is installed into a Bachmann boxcar as there is no space in the loco even for the smallest of sound decoders. The boxcar installation enables me to use the sound decoder with other locomotives.
I was able to fit the 25mm, 8 ohm Bass Reflex Speaker facing down with some holes drilled in the bottom of the boxcar to let the sound out. The sound decoder is just under the roof of the boxcar - a tight fit as this model has pillars connecting the inside of the roof to the frame. I cut away one pillar and use only one to hold the body in place. A little double sided tape holds the other side quite well. The capacitor sits on the frame in front of the speaker.
I have added phosphor bronze pickups to the wheels of the boxcar.
Here we have the loco and the boxcar on the rolling road. Programming the decoder on a rolling road is a good idea as you don't have to run after the loco trying to judge if the chuffs are synchronised with the wheels.
There are a couple of ways you can use the decoder with this setup. One option is that you can program the sound decoder to the same ID as the loco. But if used with other locos you will have to reprogram it each time. Also, when programming the sound card or the loco (with the same ID) you will have to remove the other as you could get conflicts.
Another option is that you can give the sound decoder (boxcar) it's own ID and run it as a consist with other locos. On my command station, this is the easiest option as switching consists is easy and you can save up to 32 consists.
On my ESU ECoS 50200 Command Station, I created two icons, one for the Bachmann boxcar fitted with the MyLocoSound decoder. The other for the consist of the Pannier loco and the boxcar.
I have the boxcar on one controller for operation of the sound functions and the consist on the other controller for operation of the train itself.
So, finally, here is a video of the decoder installed into the box wagon. The Pannier tank loco is on the rolling road and everything is connected up to the ECoS command station. A couple of different speeds are shown and I try and demonstrate the stay alive function by lifting the box wagon whilst it is underway.
A few features on the decoder are lacking. Break squeal would be nice. There is no startup or shutdown sound.
Start-up and shut-down is not very important and Peter told me that most of his customers don't require it.
Programming the decoder can only be done on the mainline (POM) using the ECoS. This prevents you from reading the values of the CVs. This I find very frustrating as I can imagine if you are using the sound decoder with a few locos, you will have to create a table with the values you use for each loco (if you wish to adjust the chuff for each loco of course). Apparently on some DCC systems, you can use a programming track to read and program the CVs.
Peter has told me that development is underway that will enable re-programming the decoder via a Serial to USB cable. This will enable you to update the firmware of the decoder and possible adjust or change the sounds on the decoder. Features such as brake squeal are under development.
The decoder is best suited to being installed in a tender of a stem loco or trailing wagon or coach. This will be a put-off to some, but I am sure it will be welcomed by others. Installation is easy.
The price of the decoder makes it very interesting. The bass reflex speaker is cheap and is of a good quality and produces an excellent sound. The quality of the chuff is great and I am sure that your loco will be enhanced by the sound.
If you are using the MyLocoSound decoder, please let us know your opinion on the associated forum topic.
DFT - February 2012