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DCC has made many advances of late in the UK market. DCC sound has arrived and to date has mainly focussed on diesel sounds with a couple of exceptions. The UK Pacific's, which are some of the most popular locos, oddly seemed to have been overlooked; however that has now changed. A4 sound decoders have been release by two suppliers in the last month and now DCC Concepts of Perth, Australia has brought us the first commercially available A3 sound decoder, and it's good.

A month ago I requested that Richard Johnson put together an A3 sound decoder for me. He has done a lot of work tweaking and perfecting the sound and has come up with an excellent end product.

The sound decoder is an ESU Loksound 3.5 which I'm not going to go into detail on as it will be familiar to anyone who currently uses DCC sound. For those who aren't, click on the link and read on. The A3 decoder includes three different types of loco whistles and a station announcement appropriate for the loco amongst other sounds. The chuff is well matched to the cylinder movement at all speeds, which is great as this is an area that many sound decoders have struggled with. I have found that many sound decoders will focus mainly on either slow or high speed, depending on what the prototype was used for, and when the loco is at a speed which was not the speed primarily associated with that loco it can sound a bit synthetic. Synthetic sound can be disappointing.

Richard Johnson of DCC Concepts has managed to get this A3 sound decoder to sound good at all speeds and I have produced some example footage to demonstrate this so you can hear for yourself.

Here are the functions on the decoder.

F0 Lights on /off
F1 Sound on/off
F2 Short whistle
F3Twin whistle
F4 Crow whistle (three short whistle toots)
F5 Guards whistle
F6 Station announcement
F7 Coal shovelling
F8 Water pump
F9 Injectors

The first clip contains the start up sequence and the first eight functions.



The second clip demonstrates the ninth function and slow speed.



The third clip demonstrates the sound at middle to high speed (30 -120 speed steps).



The fourth clip demonstrates the sound at very low speed.



The fifth clip highlights the fire box lighting also installed and attached to function 7 Coal shovelling.



The sixth clip shows slow speed movement from a different angle.



The seventh clip demonstrates high speed from a different angle. It also shows time to stop from being braked at 120 speed steps. The stop was triggered when the loco emerged from the partition.



My loco has also had front and rear lights and firebox lighting added which, in conjunction with the sound decoder, makes the model just so much better. The variety of whistles are good. Station announcement is good although I'm sure we would all like to insert our local stations names in there. The screech of wheels comes on when it should and stops when the loco does. This may not sound anything special however anyone using the first generation QSI sound decoders will know what I'm talking about here. Guards whistle is a good addition. Overall I think DCC Concepts have done an excellent job with the sound from this decoder. I am pleased with the sounds at all speeds and it does sound authentic.

The decoder is available from DCC Concepts price Aus $199.00 plus delivery (est $5 AU, $10 rest of world.)

Richard will also be happy to discuss any EU, UK, Australian or US loco sound project that you wish. He prefers that a customer specifies a loco and a time so that the sound file can be matched to that specific period. He would also like to know the way the install will be done so he can supply additional speakers if they will help the sound quality.

If owners wish, they can send him the loco from anywhere in the world and he'll tune it perfectly as well as creating a bespoke sound file. He will do an install with added lights as per owners specification for $ A80 to $A140 for a steam loco, between $A70 and $A160 for diesel depending on complexity of sound install and complication of lighting (a simple diesel with ex factory lighting is a quick install, but extreme diesel lighting takes a lot of time and an added accessory decoder adding to price). Return Post is additional. If you wish to purchase the A3 Sound Decoder or initiate another project then feel free to contact Richard Johnson on the phone numbers and email address below.

http://www.dccconcepts.com/

TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
For International callers: +61 8 9437 2470
For Australian callers: (08) 9437 2470

Email
Sales/orders: [email protected]
General: [email protected]
Other: [email protected]
 

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Cool


I was travelling behind A4 class "Bittern" last Saturday and can still remember the chime whistle which was blown for every high vis jacket at the railside. It's very evocative.

Can you tell us what size of speaker has been used and where it has been installed?

Is there a reason why you didn't opt for a smoke unit as well?

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post this. Looks like another item for the wish list.

David
 

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QUOTE I was going dizzy there watching it speed up


It gets a bit manic, doesn't it?


David
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
QUOTE (dwb @ 18 Sep 2008, 03:58) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Cool


I was travelling behind A4 class "Bittern" last Saturday and can still remember the chime whistle which was blown for every high vis jacket at the railside. It's very evocative.

Can you tell us what size of speaker has been used and where it has been installed?

Is there a reason why you didn't opt for a smoke unit as well?

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post this. Looks like another item for the wish list.

David

Hi David,

There is the standard 23mm plus another in the tender. They are under the coal facing upwards.

Personally I don't think there is enough room in the A3 for a smoke generator without removal of substantial parts of the front chassis (there's not much spare space in there) and I'm not 100% certain the plastic on the Hornby could handle the heat although Richard may have other views on whether this could or should be done. It's really down to the loco owner if they want to take a risk. I'm sure Richard can find a way to instal one if you were sending your loco to him to do for you.

QUOTE I was going dizzy there watching it speed up

I wanted to demonstrate that the sound is good at all speed steps and had to edit the clip substantially to get it within the limits of size that Photobucket allows. I also had to work the camera and remote at the same time which is why it gets a bit shaky on occasion.
 

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QUOTE (dwb @ 18 Sep 2008, 01:58) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Cool


I was travelling behind A4 class "Bittern" last Saturday and can still remember the chime whistle which was blown for every high vis jacket at the railside. It's very evocative.

Can you tell us what size of speaker has been used and where it has been installed?

Is there a reason why you didn't opt for a smoke unit as well?

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post this. Looks like another item for the wish list.

David

***Hi Neil, thanks for the positive review - its appreciated very much.

David - We always try to use more than one speaker in a Steam loco with tender - one up front, one in the tender for lower sound frequencies... this is a subtle thing in some ways but very important for better sound level, imaging and realism... there's nothing more off putting than a loco whose tender makes the chuffs when the noises should come from the front!

Send us any steam loco you like, we'll add realistic lighting and we'll guarantee that you will be delighted with the sounds!

Smoke is certainly a possibility - Personally I'm not fussed but others love it and thats their choice.... so we do them with a smile!

If there is space we sometimes even do a dual smoke unit install with a pre-heater - capable of enough smoke creation to hide a flotilla of destroyers, or at least make thoughts of a layout room extractor fan a likelihood :). It does need a roomy loco though as it is switched via a relay as current draw is above decoder safety levels.

Kind regards

Richard
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
QUOTE (Richard Johnson @ 18 Sep 2008, 12:59) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>***Hi Neil, thanks for the positive review - its appreciated very much.

David - We always try to use more than one speaker in a Steam loco with tender - one up front, one in the tender for lower sound frequencies... this is a subtle thing in some ways but very important for better sound level, imaging and realism... there's nothing more off putting than a loco whose tender makes the chuffs when the noises should come from the front!

Send us any steam loco you like, we'll add realistic lighting and we'll guarantee that you will be delighted with the sounds!

Smoke is certainly a possibility - Personally I'm not fussed but others love it and thats their choice.... so we do them with a smile!

If there is space we sometimes even do a dual smoke unit install with a pre-heater - capable of enough smoke creation to hide a flotilla of destroyers, or at least make thoughts of a layout room extractor fan a likelihood :). It does need a roomy loco though as it is switched via a relay as current draw is above decoder safety levels.

Kind regards

Richard
Richard, what's your opinion on the heat generated by the smoke generator? Is it sufficient to do damage?
 

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QUOTE (neil_s_wood @ 18 Sep 2008, 11:24) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Richard, what's your opinion on the heat generated by the smoke generator? Is it sufficient to do damage?

*** Its a different bit loco by loco really so to speak.

If the smoke unit is carefully installed and set up so that voltage to it is propely calibrated (not just any old track voltage) and the install itself uses the correct smoke unit for plastic bodied loco's then its fine... however we are a bit choosy about which we will do, as some have small chimneys with very little ability to insulate from the smoke unit.

In general though... "Is the heat enough to do damage" ....definately if its not properly installed and set up.

Richard
 

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Hi

Great review. Ahhh the benefits of living in Perth. I got to see and hear this loco in person and the video's are great Neil but don't do it justice. That is one fine loco you got there. I think you did a great job controlling it and videoing at the same time.

I also had a listen to the SWD one again tonight and I don't think you can really compare them. They may be the same decoder but thats where it finishes. Richard's is far superior in sound and from what you said much better running.

Thanks for the review.

m
 

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QUOTE Send us any steam loco you like,

That's a tempting offer, particularly the speaker up front as I agree entirely about the chuffs coming from the wrong end.

I have another question: did you rewire the pickups on the A3? My understanding is that the chassis is used as one the power feed routes and on my model it will sometimes short out on some curves or passing through points. The short shuts down my system which is a real pain.

David
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
QUOTE (Martin71 @ 19 Sep 2008, 01:46) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi

Great review. Ahhh the benefits of living in Perth. I got to see and hear this loco in person and the video's are great Neil but don't do it justice. That is one fine loco you got there. I think you did a great job controlling it and videoing at the same time.

I also had a listen to the SWD one again tonight and I don't think you can really compare them. They may be the same decoder but thats where it finishes. Richard's is far superior in sound and from what you said much better running.

Thanks for the review.

m
No worries Martin, looks like you heard it before I did.
Unfortunately I am limited by my HDD Camera and my budget and skills in what I can reproduce however it will give a fair idea of what it sounds like.

Yes, it was very hard following the loco and operating the mobile control, especially at speed.
 

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QUOTE (dwb @ 19 Sep 2008, 01:20) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>That's a tempting offer, particularly the speaker up front as I agree entirely about the chuffs coming from the wrong end.

I have another question: did you rewire the pickups on the A3? My understanding is that the chassis is used as one the power feed routes and on my model it will sometimes short out on some curves or passing through points. The short shuts down my system which is a real pain.

David

***Sound loco's get a lot of attention to pickup as its far more critical.... a sound decoder that continually re-sets is a real pain.

Nothing all that special for this loco though - yours really shouldn't be causing problems really - something must be out of position if it is. (most H brand loco's use chassis as part of pickups with little or no problem).

Richard
 

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QUOTE Nothing all that special for this loco though - yours really shouldn't be causing problems really - something must be out of position if it is.

Thanks for that information. I have an A4 that has never given me any trouble. I will have to make time to have a look.

David
 

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Having listened to all the various examples of this sound system, I must say that as far as the synchronisation goes, it is the best yet, although not exactly perfect. However, I would make the following comments specifically regarding the A3s. I am old enough to have seen them regularly during the 1950s and cannot recall ever hearing one with a chime whistle. Indeed, they all had a very high pitched "scream". The only LNER locos I experienced with chime whistles were the A4s (and the W1).

woolwinder
 

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My second comment (mentioned in the plural above), concerns the following: a. one of the most noticeable sounds of a lot of locos when moving slowly, and in particular when not under load, was the "clanking" or "ringing" of the connecting rods. This is missing. Also, when the regulator is closed, there is no "chuff-chuff", only the "sishing" from the cylinders. However, having made these points, the rest of the sound is the best to date, especially for 3-cylinder locos. Maybe the points raised could form part of a Mk 2 version ? I would prefer that to having lights, which on steam locos, which were not necessary except during bad visibilty or at night.

woolwinder
 

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Finally, the above remarks concering lights on steam locos only applies of course to British Railways and its forerunners, and not to any other countries.

woolwinder
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
QUOTE (woolwinder @ 1 Oct 2008, 22:24) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>My second comment (mentioned in the plural above), concerns the following: a. one of the most noticeable sounds of a lot of locos when moving slowly, and in particular when not under load, was the "clanking" or "ringing" of the connecting rods. This is missing. Also, when the regulator is closed, there is no "chuff-chuff", only the "sishing" from the cylinders. However, having made these points, the rest of the sound is the best to date, especially for 3-cylinder locos. Maybe the points raised could form part of a Mk 2 version ? I would prefer that to having lights, which on steam locos, which were not necessary except during bad visibilty or at night.

woolwinder
I had noticed the lack of clanking you mention. This is not available on any sound decoder I'm aware of. How about it Richard?
 

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QUOTE (woolwinder @ 1 Oct 2008, 20:24) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>My second comment (mentioned in the plural above), concerns the following: a. one of the most noticeable sounds of a lot of locos when moving slowly, and in particular when not under load, was the "clanking" or "ringing" of the connecting rods. This is missing. Also, when the regulator is closed, there is no "chuff-chuff", only the "sishing" from the cylinders. However, having made these points, the rest of the sound is the best to date, especially for 3-cylinder locos. Maybe the points raised could form part of a Mk 2 version ? I would prefer that to having lights, which on steam locos, which were not necessary except during bad visibilty or at night.

woolwinder

*** The chuff actually does disappear just as it should when the regulator is closed - I am most particular about that, and 100% of my steam files have this ability, However the degree of this that is seen by the modeller depends on the way the controller is used and the way the momentum is set up - In this case if momentum is increased to properly approximate/simulate the mass of a Pacific, then it will react just as a real loco does as far as sound is concerned.

To activate, simply decrease the throttle a little more rapidly.... With momentum set high, the loco will not slow down appreciably for a considerable time.

However when I ship a loco to a client, I have discovered that they find long momentum settings disconcerting and mistake them for the loco not responding to their command and slowing immediately, so leave it at about 1/2 the ideal which is CV 3 at 20 or more, CV4 at 15 to 20.

Rod clank is quite possible but its really quite hard to do well without it being out of balance - badly done its worse than it not being there.

Also... it demands other compromises as I have only 4 channels on the processor so it needs to replace other things. It can be activated in the same way as braking squeal, with different parameters of course. I have it in some files but haven't put too much effort into it yet as there are so many other things to do. One mans time only goes so far.

Re lamps, its not an issue of a trade-off in any way - they are just an elective addition. Many modellers like this added "life" to a loco and I must admit I do too, as long as its subtle. A loco looks undressed without them.

They may not be always needed as "lit" but are needed for any loco on the main line - The option is always there for on and off, how its used is up to the owner! (and the levels are kept low on lit lamps, with further adjustment being available via the dimming CV for that funtion.)

Regards

Richard

ps: Whistles and sounds are a bugger to be certain of always - the G2 is a good very example, as both whistles and chuff are really asthmatic and evocative of the joy valve gear sound character on all original "in service recordings" I have, whilst for example the preserved G2 has a quite perky sound.... definately a "no win" for the creator no matter how he tries!

(The whistle sounds on Neils loco were from a recording of an A3, so at least some must have ended up with that whistle type - I never "guess" on these things as I'm very aware of the evolution and cross-blending of parts that happened over a loco's life... my final arbiter for that particular sound file was an ex BR driver & current same period modeller in P4, and he was very adamant its right, so it can't be far off).
 

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FABULOUS just FABULOUS.

Thanks Neil for doing that review, I really enjoyed it with all the extra sounds and the video. As usual it all looks good on your layout. I am really looking foward to getting my BR01 back from Richard and having a listen to it.

Regards

Anthony
 
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