Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Accessories and Baldwin Sound Files, and the Importance of Speaker Baffles

Is it really February already?. It seems as though we just had the New Year! Time flies when you're having fun, right? So here for another SoundBytes, we will chat about the Amherst Show and some of the new announcements we made during this weekend. For our Tech Tip, we will take a look at speaker enclosures and why they are critical to good, quality sound. On a side note, Jarrette and his wife are expecting their first child this week, so he will be out of the office. We are all looking forward to meeting little Miss Ireland!

New Products Announced at the 2010 Railroad Hobby Show 
We always look forward to attending the Railroad Hobby Show held in West Springfield, MA and sponsored by the Amherst Railway Society.

With an ever-expanding lineup of manufacturers and dealers, this show encompasses 325,000 square feet of display room, with over 450 exhibitors. There were 38 operating layouts on display in all scales. With those numbers, it is no wonder why the show draws an average attendance of over 21,000 modelers throughout the weekend. Overall, we had a great time talking with the show attendees.

This show is also a great opportunity to announce new products. We were able to add a new plug-and-play Tsunami, increase our sound library, and also announced some new accessories.

We have welcomed the Baldwin Family to SoundTraxx. Not Alec, Billy and the rest of the clan -- we added three Baldwin prime mover sounds: the VO, 608NA (non-turbo) and the 608A (turbo) to the TSU-1000 line. These are in stock and available now.

We also added a TSU-4664N Tsunami decoder for Athearn N-scale Challenger and Big Boys. This is a direct decoder for models that were purchased without sound or as a replacement sound system. These decoders will be available soon.

A welcome hit at the show was our DBX-9000. This is a 9-wire harness that simplifies locomotive-to-tender wiring with a ½” connector. This is a welcome wiring aid for installing decoders that allows separation of the locomotive and tender for storage or servicing.

We also added 3mm LEDs in both Golden White and Sunny White. These will be sold in 6 packs.

Another fun fact about this show is that this marks our 20th anniversary. This is 20 years of being the industry leader in sound and DCC technology. We are thankful to all who have helped make this possible and we are looking forward to many more years to come!

Philadelphia Visit
While in the Northeast for the Railroad Hobby Show, George visited his grandparents in Center Valley, PA. In conjunction with this trip, he decided to visit a few of our dealers nearby: Mainline Hobbies in East Norriton, Lin’s Junction in Lansdale, and J&D Whistlestop in Quakertown. While there, David of J&D invited him to the Coopersburg Area Society of Model Engineers, where he toured their layout and spent the evening talking with their members. George wants to extend a "thank you" to the club for their hospitality.

Tech Tip: Speaker Baffles
One of the biggest questions we get is about speaker baffles and why they are necessary. Lack of a baffle, or improper baffling, is almost always the cause for poor sound quality and volume. To understand this, we first need to understand how a speaker works.

A speaker, when moving, is creating air pressure. When the speaker cone moves forward, it creates a positive pressure wave. When creating a positive wave on the front of the speaker, the back of the speaker, being open to the air as well, creates a negative pressure wave. If left open to the air, the negative wave cancels out the positive wave, diminishing the volume and quality. This is why we need to install a baffle around our speakers. This will allow the air pressures to remain isolated so they are able to project out the sound. Which side of the speaker is baffled is not important. Sound will radiate from either side of the speaker, as long as one side is properly baffled.

With our popular line of round speakers, we have a series of baffle kits designed to make the installation of the speaker and baffle easier. These are injection-molded plastic kits that are easy to assemble.

It's also easy to build your own baffle. When building a baffle, use a material that is rigid to keep the baffle from absorbing some of the pressures. We like to use 0.030” or 0.040” styrene. Cutting straight lines using sheet styrene can be tricky, so we use scribed styrene to cut straight since the speaker is inside the model and not visible anyway. Measure the depth that the speaker and enclosure will fit into. Cut the styrene at minimum just larger than the depth of the speaker and 0.1” longer than each side. Assemble these in a ‘pinwheel’ fashion to ensure a clean sealed joint at each corner. After attaching all sides to the speaker using plastic cement, trim the extra material off the end and file clean. Decide where the speaker wires will go through and drill small holes accordingly. Now, measure the baffle size onto the styrene and cut out. This will create a top to the baffle and enclose the back of the speaker. Then take a small amount of silicone and close up the four screw holes on the front of the speaker and the speaker wire hole(s). This will isolate the front and back of the speaker. The speaker can be mounted in any way that will allow the sound to escape. Leaving a small lip on the front of the baffle around the speaker can allow silicone to adhere the speaker to a shell without interfering with the travel of the cone. The speaker baffle can be built on either side of the speaker, leaving room for the mechanism, for example an Atlas RS-3. Building a small baffle on the sides of the speaker and using the shell as the top of the enclosure allows the speaker to be sealed, leaving just enough room for the gear towers to pivot.

For more information on sound and the science of sound, visit our website. We have many documents that will help guide you in your quest for realistic, quality sound. Start with the sound primer, and read on from there. There is a lot of information on our website to help you with your installations.