Monday, July 27, 2009

National Train Show Recap and Using Tsunami's Equalizer

In this edition, we will wrap-up our trip to the NMRA National Convention and the National Train Show and share with you the new announcements we made. In this week’s Tech Tip, we will demonstrate the usefulness of the 7-band equalizer that is installed in every Tsunami Sound decoder.

NMRA National Train Show Wrap-Up

Well, It was a busy weekend at the National Train Show and the NMRA National Convention in Hartford, CT. We enjoyed talking with people about our products. We met many modelers and demonstrated our products for them. We had lots of positive feedback as well.

Jarrette started the trip on Tuesday with a cold, but recovered in time to deliver his clinics throughout the week. George flew in with Steve on Thursday, which gave us a crew of 5 along with Nancy and Allison to work the show. After a busy 2 ½ days, everyone but George and Jarrette flew home on Sunday afternoon, leaving us to take down and pack the Blackstone Models and the SoundTraxx booths. Starting after the final call to close the show at 5pm, we worked diligently to pack our booths with care and get it ready to ship back. After we finished at 9:30pm Sunday night, that hot tub at the hotel sure felt great!

Every year, many manufacturers use this show to announce new products. We were no exception. We announced some new sounds to add to the diesel lineup. Some of you may have figured it out after seeing the photo we posted of our recording trip last time. We now added the ALCO 539 available in both a turbo and non-turbo version. Now all the ALCO fans will have the proper prime mover available with Tsunami quality sound for their 539-equipped locomotives. Another announcement we made is to help facilitate easier installation into Kato HO locomotives. The TSU-KT1000 Tsunami decoder will be designed for specific Kato models with LEDs installed at the correct locations to match up with the light pipes. No modification will be needed to mount the decoder and illuminate the lights.

All in all, we had a productive show. Next up for us is our Dealer Training. This is a 4-day workshop where your hobby shops and local dealers are able visit us in Durango to become more familiar with our products as well as gain tips and hints on installing our decoders. This information helps the hobby shop personnel answer any questions that can come up while selling the products. This will take place August 5th thru the 8th. After which we will get to ‘rest’ for a month or so before we have to start getting ready for the National Narrow Gauge Show in Colorado Springs, September 16 -  19, 2009.

Tech Tip: 7-Band Equalizer

One of the many features available on the Tsunami that is not available anywhere else is a built-in 7-band equalizer. This is similar to the equalizers found on many home stereo systems. This allows the user to adjust the bands based on the sound or speaker limitations and help distinguish each locomotive. It is very easy to use.

CVs 153-160 are the associated CVs to control the Equalizer. CV 153 set to 7 opens up CVs 154-160 to be adjusted by the user. Each of these CVs has a range 0-255, with a value of 128 being flat, or no change, while a value of 0 cuts the frequency completely and value of 255 boosts it fully.

To start, determine the frequency range of your speaker. Most small speakers cannot faithfully replicate the lowest frequency, 62.5hz, so we can set CV 154 to 0. Next is then the lowest frequency our speakers can handle, so we can boost CV 155 to 200. CV 156 is next, so we can set it to about 180. You can adjust these settings for the remainder of the CVs. We recommend using ops mode programming, or programming on the main, so you can hear each adjustment immediately and can fine-tune each CV setting from there.

One of the more popular uses of the equalizer is to help adjust the chuff in the steam decoders. Each steam decoder is loaded with 8 whistles, and a pre-determined air pump (single phase or cross-compound). If the whistle you like or desire is loaded on the medium steam decoder, while you have a 2-10-2, you can boost the bass and cause the chuff to sound heavier and deeper. This will allow you to use the medium or heavy steam decoders without sacrificing an authentic heavy chuff sound. Combine this with the Dynamic Digital Exhaust and it will give a great sound to your hard working steam locomotive. Similar use is available for diesel decoders. The boost of the lower-end frequencies will allow the rumble of the diesel engine to stand out more and give it a distinctive hard-working characteristic to the sound.

After playing with this a bit, you will feel comfortable using this unique feature. Combine the Equalizer settings with the multitude of sound combinations, and you can  make your model unique and as prototypical as possible.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Trade Show Mania and Creating Sound Files

This time, we will glance at what it takes to prepare for a trade show. Next we will discuss the options of downloadable sounds and some myths associated with them. Due to the timing and preparation needed for the NMRA National Convention and Train Show, we will be brief this time out.

Trade Show Mania

We have been busy preparing for the NMRA national convention and the National Train Show. This year it is being held in Hartford, CT. This is always a busy time for us.

One of the many things we try to do is to pre-assemble our trade show booths. This way we can repair any damaged parts or address other issues that require our attention beforehand. We also arrange our plaques and signs to be sure to give full visibility for the products we want to show. This includes any new products or announcements that we have been working on.

Then we work on getting any display locomotives ready and test run them to be sure we have a variety of locomotives to display. We are also showing our SurroundTraxx this year and want to have our display unit functional so we can demonstrate it and show some of the many features we have incorporated. Once our booths have been checked and the locomotives and other electronics have been inspected and tested, we then turn our attention to paperwork and handouts that we will have with us to distribute to all the model railroaders who stop by and visit us. This all has to be shipped out before we leave to ensure it arrives on time and safely. 

After four days of packing, the trucking company arrived and took our materials on to Hartford! If you are at the show, be sure to come by and say ‘hello’ and see what’s new in the world of SoundTraxx and Blackstone Models! We always enjoy talking with our customers!

Mythbusters: Creating Sound Files

DCC sound decoders are becoming more popular as DCC becomes the control system of choice. Some manufactures offer the option of user input or downloadable sounds. By displaying a catalog of available downloads showing a prime mover with a specific horn, they have attempted to create a virtual endless list of possible sound combinations to amaze the customer.

The other option is for the hobbyist to spend countless ‘modeling’ hours trying to manipulate the sounds to create a specific locomotive recording. Usually these recordings can be crude and of poor quality, compromising the realism to have a specific sound. Don’t forget to count the extra cost of the hardware you must buy to accomplish such a download. Additionally, editing the sound to create a seamless transition takes time and software tools not normally available to the modeler.

When we go out into the field to obtain our recordings, we work with the railroads to grant us access to the equipment we wish to record. For example, we take a locomotive and locate an average of 3 microphones in various places on the locomotive to ensure we get a full cacophony of sounds. We also record the locomotive pulling a load and sitting light to be sure we get accurate recordings we can work with. A usual recording session of one locomotive, for example can take all day. The audio tracks are then taken to our sound studio where a trained technician takes the recordings, using our state-of-the-art equipment and specialized audio software, and combines the tracks and creates realistic sound tracks to load into the decoder. This guarantees a true quality recording of the prototype locomotive and ensures a much more realistic sound.

We have worked to offer as wide a range of locomotive sounds as we can in both steam and diesel. We also are always adding sound files to our library. With each diesel decoder, for example, there are 16 era-related horn choices. We have up to 12 different diesel prime movers now available, which accounts for 192 different sound options in our diesel decoders alone! Combine that with the 7-band equalizer and reverb, available on every Tsunami sound decoder, you can have that distinct locomotive sound to give your finely-detailed model character, without the hours in front of a computer manipulating sound files.

Coming Up...

Our Tech Tip will be on hiatus this time due to time constraints. We will look at Tsunami’s exclusive 7-band equalizer, what it can do for you and how to adjust the settings in our next post. Also, tune in next time to see what we have to announce during this year’s National Train Show that’s new!