Friday, August 14, 2009

Dealer Training, Blackstone Models Product Updates, and Using Speaker Enclosures

This past month has been a busy one for us here at SoundTraxx. After we got back from the National Train Show, we started preparing for Dealer Training, which took place the first week in August. Therefore, this time we will take a look at our Dealer Training Program, and this past week's adventures here in Durango. We will then mention the latest announcement from Blackstone Models. In our Tech Tip, we will discuss speakers and enclosures and how vital they are to having good sound.

On an important, unrelated note, we have seen more decoders being sent back because the installer is using Tix flux for their installations. We mentioned this a few posts ago, but it continues to be an issue. The acidic nature of the Tix flux attacks the components on the board and damages the decoders. Be sure to get flux specifically for electrical work, or you too could be having an expensive problem.

Dealer Training

Every year here at SoundTraxx we offer a 4-day dealer training program for hobby stores to get a chance to learn all about our products directly from us. This year’s Dealer Training Seminar was held August 5-8 at the Durango Recreation Center.

Although it is always a lot of work we always seem to have a great time. During the 3 days in the classroom we discussed many subjects including: History of SoundTraxx, DCC, proper installation techniques, product overview, programming CVs, and, of course, a few hands on installations.

Dealer training however isn’t all work and no play so each day we offer everyone in attendance some highlights of Durango. On the first night we all attended the Bar D Chuck Wagon Western show and supper.

The second night after a long day of intense discussion and hands on installation we treated everyone to a behind the scenes tour of the historic Durango yards. We were lucky enough to have Paul Schrank, General Manager of the World Famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad as a tour guide. During the tour we saw the inside of the roundhouse and car shop, as well as seeing K-36, No. 486 being moved on the turntable.

On Friday after a couple of long days in the classroom we had a field trip to Silverton on board the D&SNGRR. We had a very special guest with us, Al Harper who is the owner of American Heritage Railways and the D&SNGRR. Everyone enjoyed a beautiful Colorado summer day along the Animas River. Also onboard was the entire SoundTraxx staff, which turns into our annual narrow gauge field trip!

On the final day, we had our small group classes that allow a little something for everyone. We offered classes on future product discussions, Tsunami advanced programming, and creative tips for installing decoders in non-sound ready models. Overall we all had a very good time and always enjoy hosting so many great people from as far away as the U.K.

To learn more about our dealer training program for your store, email

Tanks, Blackstone!

In case you missed the announcement, Blackstone Models will be doing tank cars in HOn3. This is a preliminary announcement, with the specific road name and road number details to follow at a later date. We will be producing both narrow frame and
frameless tank cars in several versions found on the D&RGW. Stay tuned to the Blackstone Models website for more details featuring road names and numbers.

Tech Tip: Speaker Enclosures

Sound installations can be affected by many factors. Perhaps the most important factor is the quality of the speaker and baffle. We have taken the time to test many speakers for the best sound quality, widest frequency range and cone durability so you don’t have to. However, these tests are only part of the equation. The use of a quality baffle or enclosure is essential to good sound.

Let's look a little into the science of sound. The speaker makes sound by creating air pressure in the form of waves when it moves forward and back. We’ve all seen a speaker vibrate, right? Well, the front of the speaker creates a positive pressure (when moving forward), while the back creates a negative pressure. Without a solid sealed enclosure, the pressures created by the two sides, now cancel each other out, affecting the volume and clarity of the sound. By building a sealed enclosure or baffle, this will keep the front and back air pressures isolated, and therefore give a better sound wave and as a result, a better sound. More often than not, an inadequate baffle, or lack of a baffle, is the cause for lack of volume or poor sound quality.

When fitting the speaker and baffle into a locomotive, we need to be creative with the installation. Based on what we just discussed in the prior paragraph, we want to install the largest speaker we can in our locomotive. You do want to try to have the baffled area be a 1x1x1 volume. This is where creative baffling comes into play. You might think that the speaker has to be flat or square inside the model, but as long as one side, front or back, is isolated, it can be in some of the tightest spaces needed. For example, you can fit a larger speaker or a mega bass speaker diagonally in a diesel locomotive shell, to clear the drive train.

On a steam locomotive, the tender shell can be used as part of the baffle to help utilize a larger speaker. Using scribed styrene will help you cut straight lines easier, allowing you to create virtually any baffle shape needed to ensure the front of the speaker is isolated from the rear.

For more information about the science of sound, check out our Sound Primer Web page.