Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Look Back at the Hyperlight, Blackstone Models Updates, and Using the Tsunami Sound Mixer

In this edition, we will take a look at the early beginnings of SoundTraxx in Massachusetts. Then, for our Tech Tip, lets look at setting and adjusting volume levels for our decoders.

As It Was in the Beginning. . .

In the early days before SoundTraxx, Steve and Nancy worked for a marine electronics company. Nancy was in the marketing department while Steve was in the engineering department. Steve was a model railroader who loved narrow gauge. One day, Steve approached Nancy with an idea to start a model railroad electronics company. He wanted to have prototypical sound and lighting in his brass Fujiama K-36 in HOn3. Nancy, not being at all familiar with model railroading, was not sure what he wanted. He returned the next day with his prized possession to show and Nancy thought it was the coolest thing she had ever seen. They then began to work together and formed the Throttle Up! Corporation in Pocasset, Massachusetts. Their first product was shown to the public in Springfield, MA at the Big Railroad Show in January 1990.
Our first product, the Hyperlight, released in 1990

This new innovation was the Hyperlight. This product was the first lighting module on the market that used a processor to control the lighting effect. One module was able to create many different lighting effects, including a Mars light and Gyralight. No longer would modelers need to purchase separate circuits for different lighting effects. The heritage of this product is still evident today in our line of Tsunami decoders. 

This was just the beginning…

Blacktone Models Update: Drop Bottom Gondolas

As of this week, our Drop Bottom Gondolas are sold out. These cars are currently in production and are expected to arrive here in early May. If you want some of these cars and have not yet put in your reservations, check with your dealers to see what may they have available. 

On the plus side, we have a few High Side Gondolas from the second run still available for order through your dealers.

Tech Tip: Tsunami Sound Mixer

When using Tsunami decoders, each sound effect has its own volume setting, as well as an overall volume setting. This allows the modeler to customize the sounds to desired levels. Volume setting CVs are considered percentage CVs, meaning that a value of 0 (0%) turns the sound effect off, while a value of 255 (100%) is maximum volume. These CVs will accept any value from 0 to 255.

CV 128 is used for the overall volume control for steam and diesel Tsunami decoders. The Tsunami decoders leave our factory with CV 128 set at 192, which translates to 75% volume. CV 129 controls the whistle or horn volume. CV 130 is for the bell, and CV 131 controls the exhaust, diesel or steam chuff. CVs from there become model-specific. You can reference the lists of specific sounds in the respective Steam and Diesel User’s Guides.

After learning the array of sound effects available in each decoder, it is time to adjust the sound volumes. By setting CV 128, or overall volume, to maximum level immediately, it diminishes the effectiveness of volume adjustments for the different sound effects using the other CVs. To begin to adjust the sound levels, we recommend starting by turning down the overall volume to about 50%, or set CV 128 to 128. When the overall volume level is lower, the changes made in each sound effect are more audible. Once the adjustments have been made to customize the sound, the overall volume can then be raised to desired levels, and all volume adjustments will be raised equally.

Customizing sound volumes can be used to match prototype locomotives. Late in the heyday of steam, many locomotives were much too large for one crewmember to shovel coal. For example, a Union Pacific Big Boy was equipped with a coal stoker, so set CV 148, volume control for sound of coal shoveling, to a value of 0 to eliminate that sound effect. This way, Fireman Fred will not be worn out by the time the train leaves the yard!

Another example of using volume levels is to customize a locomotive to match the prototype can be found on George’s Mopac layout. Adjusting an EMD SD40-2 non-dynamic brake equipped loco is easy. When these locomotives were in a consist with dynamic brake equipped locos and the dynamic brakes were applied, the prime mover on the loco in question still followed the railroad’s practices by ramping down to idle. By setting CV 133, volume control for dynamic brakes, to a value of 0, this will turn the dynamic brake fan sound off, eliminating that sound effect. To control the prime mover, set CV 116 to 103. (7, auto-notching at 7 speed steps, +32, auto start enabled, +64, EMD dynamics runs prime mover to idle =103). This will allow the locomotive to drop to idle, as was the practice, but it will not play the dynamic brake sound when activated. This is effective when consisting locomotives using advanced consisting.

Using sound mixer CVs, you too can customize your locos to act more like their prototypes and get great reactions from your friends and operating crews!