Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking Back at our First Sound System, 20th Anniversary Commemorative Boxcar, and Dynamic Digital Exhaust

It is time for another edition of SoundBytes. In this edition, we will share another story from the early days of SoundTraxx, this time at Timonium. We will share our first limited edition Anniversary special as well. In our Tech Tip, we will take a look at the DDE, or Dynamic Digital Exhaust.

Our First Sound System

Every company has its early memories of success (and yes, failure!). There are those that teach, those that lift your spirits and those that make you wonder what the !**@? you are doing.

Back in 1990, we attended our very first Timonium Train Show. For those who are not familiar with these shows, they occur roughly four times a year at the fairgrounds in Timonium, Maryland. The ‘exhibit halls’ are large buildings with concrete floors that generally smell mildly of hay, since they are most often used for livestock shows of some kind.

D220-IR (a revision of the D200-IR), released in 1991
We had just finished our first sound system, the D200-IR, which was a diesel sound system intended primarily for under-layout use and controlled with an infrared wireless throttle. It was the first of its kind and we were excited to have an opportunity to display at this show, since its completion had been a little too late for our first show in Springfield, Massachusetts in February. We were told that due to our late inquiry, we could have a booth at the far end of the hall in the back corner; it was all that was available.

It was a beautiful October day and we found our booth as far back in the hall as you could get and began to set up for the show the next day. The back doors (big barn doors) were open since it was such nice weather and you could see the CSX tracks running right behind the building. We set up our track, made our connections to the sound system and hooked it up to a big under table speaker and a subwoofer for the really low frequencies. We turned it on to test it.

All of a sudden, we looked up to see about a dozen men coming toward us. Not just coming, but sprinting. They rushed past us, out the door and stood looking down the tracks. They all started clamoring that they could hear the train, but they couldn’t see it. Cameras poised and ready, waiting for the train -- one by one you could see them start to look over their shoulder at our booth and drift our way, mouths open, listening to the diesel rumble of a GP7 emanating from under our table. It was at that moment we knew we had a winner.

Our First 20th Anniversary Offering: Commemorative HOn3 Boxcar

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are proud to offer a special-run boxcar painted to celebrate our 20 years. This limited edition HOn3 offering from SoundTraxx and produced by Blackstone Models was decorated to commemorate this special occasion. These cars are available for purchase through your favorite dealers to run on your own layout, or simply to collect. A limited number have been made, so if you are interested, be sure to get yours quickly. This car (P.N. B340127), has a retail price of $39.95.

Look for more special anniversary specials in the months to come!

Tech Tip: Dynamic Digital Exhaust

One of the coolest features of the Steam Tsunami (In George’s opinion anyway) is the Dynamic Digital Exhaust (DDE). This feature allows the decoder to read the load on the motor using B-EMF (Back Electro Motive Force) and adjusts the chuff to match the locomotive’s load. When starting up or beginning the grade, the chuff will get heavier and louder to match how hard the locomotive would be working.

When slowing to a stop or after cresting the hill, the chuff virtually disappears and the side rod clanking increases to represent drifting.

Let's take a look at how to set this up.

CV 177 through CV 188 controls all aspects of the DDE, although adjusting only a couple of CVs, CV 177 and 178, will result in satisfactory results. 

CV 177 sets up the sensitivity to changes in the throttle setting, 0-255. If you are turning the throttle to start a train, this will adjust how sensitive it would be to changes. If this is set too high, then any slight adjustment will cause a dramatic change to the sound. The default value for CV 177 is 10. Start with this CV set to about 150. 

CV 178 sets up the sensitivity to motor load, 0-255. This will use B-EMF to determine if the load is heavier or lighter, for example going up a grade. Set this too high and the changes become subtle as any change in track, a turnout or curve, could cause the loco to change the chuff. The default value of CV 178 is 10. Start by setting this CV to a value of 150.

Play with the values in CVs 177 and 178 to determine good sensitivity settings for your locomotives. These settings are subjective, so spend a little time and get it right to your ears. Once these settings are determined, look at the some of the other DDE CVs to fine-tune the exhaust sounds for each locomotive in your fleet.

To get the most from this Tsunami feature, momentum will need to be added, otherwise the throttle changes would be instant and not give the DDE time to react. Using a value of 25 for both CVs 3 and 4 should yield good results.