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Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 12:08 am
by rue_d_etropal
as promised I start a new thread on whether we need sound in our locos, or on our layouts. Bob Hughes will testify to my use of French Christmas carols as background sound, but having tried out one of the American On30 units with sound I am now 100 per cent hooked. The only thing stopping me from putting it on every loco is the cost, and I am prepared to wait for the price to come down. :roll:

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 8:45 am
by AndyA
Although I've never been a real fan of sound on locos, any more than of smoke units, Sue was fascinated at Swanley by by Otto Schouwstra's "Terra Cotta", which, apart from being a fine model in its own right, is a test bed for his 'high quality sound system'. She dragged me back several times and by the end almost had me convinced.

Otto uses a series of speakers synchronised with the loco position and adds a single sub-woofer for the low frequencies; this makes a significant difference to the sound. Even on quite a small layout there was a distinct sense of the loco moving across the stage set and getting fainter as it disappeared off-stage. A few yards away was a layout that featured up-market onboard sound and when I compared the two Otto's system definitely had the edge.

just my two-penn'orth

Andy A

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 9:53 am
by DCRfan
Check out the ittsound website. Not expensive at all. I'm just playing with birds & brook chip for country background sound

Sound : Yes! GOOD Sound : Maybe????

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 12:01 pm
by Prof Klyzlr
Dear Modellers,

While I would in no way want to suggest that a layout Without sound is somehow "lacking",
(If YOU are enjoying YOUR trains, far be it from me or anyone else to take umberage with your layout!)

However, I do strongly believe that Well Done sound enhances most any layout display/presentation.

What do I mean by "Well Done Sound"?

Well, while "basic sound" is easy to implement,
and is well catered for by many commercial offerings,

many of them fall a long way short of full resolution audio playback,
using compressed audio file formats,
poorly engineered sound files,
and excessively limiting interfacing.

Current DCC onboard systems will fit the bill for most "I want my loco to "chuff" when it moves" level implementations.

Even user loading of custom specific audio files is being catered for by LokSound and Digitraxx.

However, IMHO, most "one engine in Narrow Gauge" operations do not have the complex control requirements that would justify the expense of even a basic DCC control system, and the currently lo res sound capabilities of DCC decoders is not enough of a reason in and of itself to justify such expense.

RE "Layout Sound"

There again are a number of options for "plug n play" modules with "prefab sound files" already loaded.


1 - the NG community is know for it's want to "get things right" in model form, and I believe this extends to the sonic "modelling" we use on our layouts,
(Rest assured, "Scratchbuilding" sonic elements for use in "LayoutSound" is just as rewardsing as scratchbuilding in "the visible" arena!)

and 2 - these units are also commonly "restricted" by similar compression and engineering issues as the DCC decoders.

The best option I have personally seen of late has been the DreamPlayer by Fantasonics/Pricom.
"Modeller" description
"Technical" description

This box gives full CD spec replay of user loadable WAV files,
Using readily available cheap SD ram chips,
(just like you use in your still digital camera),
with fully controlable triggering of the sound files,
and intergrated "control outputs" for syncing/triggering external items.

Just my $0.05c,
as a Pro Audio and Live Event technician,
and Aussie NG Logging Modeller,

Hope This Helps,

Please NB : I am in no way connected with Fantasonics or Pricom, except as a "voted with my wallet" fan of their work.

PS: One of the best sources for "Layout Sound" information is the Yahoogroup "LayoutSound", which can be found HERE

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 12:28 pm
by scott b
Sorry I could not hear any of you...the guys layout next to me is to loud and that stupid whistle keeps going off, my hearing is not great to begin with and that one tone just catches me wrong, so could you start again please :cry: :roll: :roll: :wink: :wink:

Scott B

Excessive show layout noise : Oom Paa!

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 1:11 pm
by Prof Klyzlr
Dear Scott,

Just be glad you weren't at the show I exhibited at a few years ago, a small euro layout had a recording of an OomPaa band going at it non stop for all 8 hours of each show day, at a measured 96dB SPL @ 1 metre.
(For reference, 80dB SPL is a "moderately busy road").

LayoutSound should Enhance the overall presentation of a layout,
esp a "built for public display" show layout,
not over-power it, IMHO.

What is wrong RE LayoutSound

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 1:24 pm
by Prof Klyzlr
Dear Scott,

Your post also just reminded me of something...

Most modellers are not Acousticians, Recording Engineers, or "Audio Technicians".

As a result, while most modellers would not be able to tell you that "the sample rate of the sound module is not capable of reproducing the frequency response required to accurately recreate the industry "shift whistle" on their layout,

They Can most definitely tell you when something "simply doesn't sound right"...

As both a tech and a model railroader, it often takes both "disciplines" working together for me to accurately work out

- What the modeller in question is specifically finding Wrong in the sound
(Interpret the "fault description" correctly)

- technically where the "issue" is coming from
(located and confirm the cause of said "fault")

- and what can be done to fix the problem,
(rectify the problem)

thus allowing the "niggling feeling that something doesn't sound right" to be aleviated,

and allow the modeller to enjoy their trains with truly "enhancing"/supporting sound implementation...

As a "starting point", it astounds me the number of model sound systems that are run at waaay too High Gain/Loud Volume levels,
with resulting distortion, poor audio reproduction, and in extreme cases, equipment damage...

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 2:53 pm
by Bob Taylor
On the other hand how about NO sound and just use your imagination like we used to do in the old days. :wink:

Or am I missing the point. :shock:


Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:07 pm
by Gerry Bullock
Bob Taylor wrote:On the other hand how about NO sound and just use your imagination like we used to do in the old days. :wink:

Or am I missing the point. :shock:


I second that Bob, I've way too many other things I'd like to do without considering something I know naught about.
Maybe we should have a poll on this one :?: :wink:

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:59 pm
by AndyA
On the other hand how about NO sound and just use your imagination like we used to do in the old days. Wink

Or am I missing the point.

No, I don't think you are.

If someone would build me Otto's detection system, I could do the rest, sampling included.

I play folk music, I occasionally (and unfortunately on the Swanley before last, did) earn pin money miking up and mixing other folk bands. I could easily do samples of locos and use them, though (before you ask) not at commercial rates. I guess I gnow what I listen to.

Otto's system sounded good to me, whereas much of what I'd heard before sounded like listening to Westlife spilling from the headphones of the woman in the next seat on the train. Would I use it on anything I had? Only if it didn't eat into the budget for buying other stuff, and didn't distract from what limited modellling time I had.

There's an old saying that 'the pictures are better on radio', meaning that your imagination is usually better than the TV director's pictures. I think that the same applies. A sound system that works for you is an advantage. If t doesn't, imagination has the last word (but as I said before, Otto's does come close)

Andy A

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:04 pm
by Giles B
A fellow member of a club I used to belong to had an 0n30 layout with a canyon backdrop and was looking at ways of presenting the layout as if there was a thunderstorm going on, with fulkl sound and light; wonder if he ever finished it?

For myself I'm not sure I'm convinced by a lot of the sound systems one comes across on the show circuit, part of the problem being that they have to be turned up loud enough to be heard over the show's ambient noise levels. The scrape of a fireman's shovel gets to sound like an industrial process using heavy machinery, for instance. Also, without a system where you need to "drive" the sound as well as the loco's speed, there doesn't seem to be a way of allowing steam locomotives to coast to a stop silently. Am I mis-remembering this? I seem to recall that no loco goes on chuffing intil it stops with a long Swwsssshhhhh - the steam is shut off some time before the wheels stop, surely.

Well, that's my pet hate out of the way. Thanks for your patience, everyone!

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:11 pm
by AndyA
Since I'm still online, tho' not for long, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able, with either Otto's method or DCC, to reduce the 'chuff' speed and have a 'coasting' setting (blowing down occasionally and suchlike) with a stationary loco.

It's the overall sound quality that has alway slightly annoyed me.

Andy A

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:08 pm
by rue_d_etropal
I seem to remember seeing and hearing one of Otto's layoutst York a few years ago, and it was VERY difficult getting near to layout. The souind was the icing on the cake.

It is all too easy to say we don't need sound on our layouts, but like many in hobby am concerned at reduced number of younger members and theefore looking at any way og getting new interest.
I wonder how many times we have asked our dear youngsters to turn sound doen on computer games. Sound is an important part of computer games and to compete maybe sound needs to be part of model railways. We as adults may see the serious or not so serious side of our hobby, but we need to look at new ways of attracting the attention of those who prefer to battle it out on their computers, including those attracted by the excellent train simulation computer programs.
One of the attractions of this forum and narrow gauge in general, is the lack of rules saying you have to do things one way. I only follow a few rules, the main one being that the train is the same gauge as the track it runs on. All OO gauge modellers run their trains on narrow gauge track, yet compete to find the smallest detail incorrect on the latest release from the big H or B . All my models are freelance or loosely based on realality, so I can do what I want to do, and I( have a lot of space with respect to sound. All I am trying to do is ad a bit of atmosphere rather than geting the sound absolutely correct(what ever that is ).
As narrow gauge(freelance) we have an advantage over those who crave for finely dtailed models of standard gauge trains running on narrow gauge. Those who create sound systems for these 'big' locos will be expected to get them correct, where-as the only reality in our miniature worlds is what is being created .
Sure that's stirred it up.

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:28 pm
by MOG
My perspective on this is purely as a 'home user'.. not exhibiting..

Recently I played about with a nifty little free bit of software called Audacity.. I mixed a load of free sound samples of general diesel yard noises and city noises to create a background sound loop. I then played this on repeating loop through my mp3 player, connected to little speakers either side of 'August Yard' whilst Fred and I did a little Sunday afternoon switching.
It wasn't too loud and wasn't synchronised in anyway with the action but added to the atmosphere greatly and I'd definitely do it again.

At exhibitions I don't mind sound as long as it's in 'scale'.. I can see how neighbouring exhibitors would quickly tire of the over-loud effects too.
I saw Graham Watling's Witsend 009 at Spalding.. he was a using a steam 'chuffer'. It wasn't too loud, you could hardly hear it.. but seeing as one was viewing a 4mm layout from a distance, I thought that worked well.


Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 1:17 am
by Catweasel
Whilst I don't have a problem with sound as such,I feel it should fit with the scene presented. Like Mog,I found Audacity a very useful programme for creating your own effects. I have Lister and Ruston engine sounds of approx 1hr duration in MP3 format. Much better than generic diesel noises.

To sound or not to sound? for Bob T

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 1:26 am
by Prof Klyzlr
Dear Bob,

Please re-read my earlier posting,
if you personally feel you do not need sound to enjoy Your trains,
then far be it from me or anyone else to argue otherwise.
(It's YOUR layout, not mine, and I thouroughly respect that! ;-) ).

That said, layout sound done <Well>,

(IE created, designed, installed, and operated with respect to
- viewpoint/perspective
- overall volume,
- and Specific Layout specs/Application/intended use)

Can and does materially enhance the overal presentation of the entire scene/layout.

Take for example the myriad "Museums" the world over. Many are actively using scale models of machinery, animals, entire battlescenes, ANYTHING they are interested in,

to portray and communicate historical events, long-past items/people/places, to a "current day audience".

As part of these ultra-scale models, fully intergrated Lighting and Sound, (both "walkthrough" voiceovers AND "atmospheric soundtracks"), are often inherrent parts which are designed and implemented from the very conception of the display...

For myself, I have been involved in the sound design, recording, and installation of supporting sound for items in the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra, and have used very similar "supporting sound" techniques in the creating of "theme events" in the live sound industry. Taken into "fun" land, a number of members of the LayoutSound list use again very similar techniques to enhance the presentation of theme park rides and suchlike...

Bringing it back to Modelling, Carl Arendt actively "enhanced" a webpage image of a small layout town scene by adding specifically engineered sound to the page,
(Scroll down to section 2 "Sounds Around")

What I guess I'm trying to get at is that, while layout sound is by no means Mandatory for any given layout,
(and is certainly not mandatory in order to have Fun with Trains),

a great number of both modellers and others have worked out that even basic sound can enhance a visual scene.
(Try watching your TV with the sound muted! ;-) ).

If we are talking specifically "Layout Sound" as opposed to "onboard sound", then I'd also submit that it's very easy to do, and get a CD spec or better result!

Happy Modelling,
Aim to Enjoy Your Trains,
Prof Klyzlr

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:19 am
by scott b
As you could all tell, I was as usual putting the cat amougst the pigeons in my earlier post, I can see how sound done right with the proper equipment and done to scale would add an amazing level to a good layout. That being said I was today at a train show where there was a variety of noise all trying to compete for room in my already troubled ears and my son commented on the drive home about the odd sounds that where supposed to be train whistles and horns but where in reality badly done computer "copies" of the real thing. Sadly for me I have never seen a well done layout with sound so I really have nothing to judge the junk I have seen (or heard) so to me and I imagine most of us only know the loud, badly done distorted stuff.
Now Prof. if you could show us a cost effective scale sound system that works well....

Scott B

Cheap Good Layout Sound Module for Scott

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:58 am
by Prof Klyzlr
Dear Scott, Modellers,

For a CD spec "Layout sound" unit, that is available with both "RTR" sounds AND the ability to easily handle custom/scratchbuilt WAV files, I can't reccomend the DreamPlayer enough.

It's not much dearer than an ITTC module or similar,
(which, BTW, can be had with "custom loaded sound", if you approach the right people...),
but outperforms them by a country mile in terms of sound reproduction,
(throwing the emphasis BACK ONTO the source audio file itself, where it always should have been, IMHO... ;-) ),
AND integrates very flexible looping, triggering, and control options...

For "Onboard" DCC sound, Loksound are not the highest spec'd units, but they seem to have possibly the best support currently available for modellers who want to "user load" their own sounds, and can be tweaked to sound quite reasonable.

For those of use who have "Hyper-tuned ears" for our Profesional Lives :wink: ,
we await the arrival of a 16Bit 44.1Khz or better DCC sound decoder,
and in the meantime cringe at what the current DCC decoders mistakenly call "good enough"... :(

For those that remember, PFM and the successor PBL "Foreground" sound systems are still highly regarded, although they are not available new any more, and are pretty $$$.

I myself am still impressed with the shay sounds coming out of Rick Richardson's On30 "Vulcan Vale" locos, which were/are equipped with analog DC compatible "ModelTronics" sound systems. I recently picked up 2 of these systems, and intend to see what can be done with them...

I know Otto S's "OsSynth" systems are highly regarded in the UK, although I fear the demo file on his website may have inadvertently been "S.U.C. Processed", and thus not give a good idea of what the systems are capable of. (Does anyone know if Otto's systems are still available???)

Thee are a number of "analog DC compatible" onboard sound modules currently on offer, esp by MRC. However, while these may "pass muster" in the sonic dept for some modellers, they have the unfortunate side-effect of requiring anything up to 3/4 of the throttle knob rotation to give power to the sound circuitry, before the loco starts to move! (This is a known issue with any "dual mode" analog DC/DCC sound decoders when operated on analog DC. More details available if relevant).

Hope this Helps,

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:21 am
by John
Personally I don't agree with my models sounding like the real thing,
the experiences I've had are Alco diesels sounding EMD's (detroit
diesels) and 2-6-0's sounding like 2-10-0's so not all that realistic
to me. Background "music" if kept in scale is all right, but if it isn't,
it's just more annoying noise, kinda like when people are talking to
someone on their cell phone giving a play-by-play of their day when
gno one wants to hear it.


John's "Alco talking EMDs"

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:49 am
by Prof Klyzlr
Dear John,

I agree, if you are intimately aquainted with the sound of a given loco, and a model doesn't match that, then it will only serve to annoy.

I personally have recorded shays and climaxes for my Aussie logging tramway, and am fairly confident I could "recognize on by sound".

Ergo, when I heard the Soundtraxx Shay and Climax decoders, and worked out the only difference was the whistle, I was suitably "turned off".

(To take it furthur, I KNOW that Shay SN697, ex Nth Mt Lyell Tramway, now Lahey's Timber tramway, Canungra, QLD,
was equipped with a "locally sourced" bullroarer whistle,
and NO RTR sound decoders, even "shay" ones, will have that matching whistle. The Bachmann On30 shay visible matches SN697 pretty closely, but I haven't HEARD a model On30 shay represent SN697 yet!).

I'll refer to my earlier comments though, and say that you obviously have a keen ear for what "sounds right". There are therefore 2 possible options.
(Assuming you actually WANT sound,
if you don't, then the "what sounds right" debate is academic at best.
Forget installing any sound modules, and "Enjoy YOUR Trains" :wink: ).

1 - you find the closest commercial offering you can that "sounds right" to you, and live with the "not quite dead right" bits


2 - obtain a user-loadable decoder,
source the required sounds as deemed "correct" by your ears and recollection,
and "scratchbuild your own".

Seriously, this is no different to scratchbuilding a loco or car, because the <Insert fave prototype> version is not available RTR!

You can "R.T.R." sound,
(buy a decoder or ITTC model,
install, and enjoy),

"Kitbash" sound
(download a copy of Audacity, and some "prefab" sounds from somewhere,
tweak as required,
and load into Loksound decoder, CD/MP3 player, or DreamPlayer),

or go the whole hog and "Scratchbuild" sound
(start waaaay back with whatever recordings of the "Real thing" you can find,
use them as reference material just like you would with photos for "visual scratchbuilding",
clean them up or recreate them with synthesis tools,
and then load into decoders or playback modules)

The option is yours,
the "level of effort" is up to you,
(some people enjoy handlaying track,
some prefer PECO,
as long as both modellers are Enjoying Their Trains,
it matters not 1 iota which option they choose...)

but if you are using a "Hyper Specific" benchmark,
be prepared to put in some work to achieve it! :wink:

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 8:38 am
by Bob Taylor
You may have got me wrong.

I personally find sound effects on model railways in an exhibition environment just plain distracting no matter how well they are done. By the same token I'm also not a great lover of animation and gimmicks.

If the proper sounds and smells are required I have seen and enjoyed looking at live steam exhibition layouts in the larger scales. That does seen to work.

From a home layout point of view it's down to the builder. Model railways are very personal things and it should give pleasure in what ever form it takes. If it does not then there is little point.

Hope no offence has been taken.


Re: Cheap Good Layout Sound Module for Scott

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 8:41 am
by Gerry Bullock
Prof Klyzlr wrote:Dear Scott, Modellers,

I know Otto S's "OsSynth" systems are highly regarded in the UK, although I fear the demo file on his website may have inadvertently been "S.U.C. Processed", and thus not give a good idea of what the systems are capable of. (Does anyone know if Otto's systems are still available???)

Hope this Helps,

Though I'm not interested Prof as this stuff is way above my head :? I do keep my eye on adverts :wink: and Ossynths regularly appears in Roy Link's publication "Skips with Everything" otherwise known as NG&IRMR.

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 8:50 am
by Gavin Sowry
:? Ran Haywards Estate for a visiting Canadian couple that had come to see my garden railway...loved the realistic sound. Didn't even have a sound system installed, what he heard, was the train rumbling along the track and over some wide joints. I did not use cork or any other insulation (as you are told to do), the PECO track nailed directly to the base board. The fact that HER was sitting on top of another board, this created a sound box effect....must admit :oops: it did sound realistic. Just sometimes, the simple mechanically created sounds do the job. Sound is best enjoyed 'in the privacy of one's own', wasted, generally, at an exhibition...too much other noise about.

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 10:10 am
by MOG
But why.... spend oodles of money on superduper sound units to get a steam loco sounding just like a real steam loco when you can't reproduce the steam and smoke?
I don't mean to go off on a tangent, and smoke seems to be an emotive issue :wink: but seriously, I really struggle with the fact that when I see a real steam engine - one of the most striking features is all the steam and smoke. It's seems really odd that there's so much investment in wonderfully detailed models and getting them to sound right.. but the 'big visual' is just missing for me.

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 10:38 am
by Bob Taylor
I'm with you Martin.

I did mention the larger scales :wink: