MyLocoSound analog sound system

Sound system for steam and diesel engines
MyLocoSound sound system
Kevin Strong
Analog sound system for steam/diesel locomotives
115 Woodland Way
Teringie, South Australia 5072
Price $69

Analog sound system for steam or diesel locomotives; chuff/motor sounds; whistle/horn sounds; bell sounds; separate volume control for different functions
In today's world of digital sound systems, the notion of an analog system seems antiquated. I think back to the sound systems my dad designed for our railroad, which-while quite good for their time-still didn't match the fidelity or flexibility of today's digital systems. So, it was with a great deal of curiosity that I hooked up MyLocoSound's analog sound systems. I didn't know what to expect.

The system is offered for either steam or diesel engines, and the steam version comes in two configurations: with the chuff triggered either by the track voltage or by an axle-mounted cam of some type. The board is fairly small, measuring 25/8" x 11/2" x 1/2". It's got screw terminals for all external wire connections, and small jumpers for configuring various aspects (all clearly outlined in the instructions). The sound system can be used with a variety of control systems, including regular track power. It's at its "best" in control systems that provide a constant voltage, either via batteries or through the track with an on-board throttle. In traditional track-powered applications, the user can connect a small battery to provide basic sounds when the track voltage is below a certain threshold. The sound system requires a minimum of 7.2V to work properly and can handle up to 24V DC.

With my Dad's sound systems, if they sounded good to me, they passed. If one didn't, he went back to the drawing board. Over the years I learned what things to listen for-"dead giveaways," so to speak, for bad sound systems-so I was really interested in hearing how these systems compared to what I heard growing up.

I was pleasantly surprised. The first one I hooked up was the "diesel" sound system. It didn't sound like any specific locomotive but it did have a nice sound, somewhat reminiscent of an internal-combustion engine. The speed of the engine increased with the voltage applied to the system, and can be adjusted to suit. The whistle (horn) is either a two-tone horn, or a single-tone horn that plays the two tones in succession. For the US market, the two-tone horn sounds pretty good. It plays on command so, when you press the function button, the horn blows for as long as you hold it down. You can adjust the horn's pitch to suit your taste.

The bell is the weak part of the system but I've never heard a good electronic bell on an analog sound system, so that was expected. The bell only sounds at low voltages (between 3 to 5V) and can be turned off by removing a small jumper. There are small trim pots on the board to control the volume of the individual sounds, so you can adjust the motor relative to the horn. Other pots control the frequency of the motor sound and the horn. There's a great deal of customization available that I didn't expect.

The steam sound system was impressive. Again, the bell was a bit weak, but the quality of the chuff and whistle more than made up for it. Like the diesel, the bell sounds only at low voltages and can be turned off. Just for fun, I set four locomotives up on my shelf railroad in my workshop-three with various digital systems-and the MyLocoSound analog board, and let them sit there providing background sounds. The MyLocoSound board fit right into the cacophony, with a quiet, gentle "hiss" that you'd expect to hear from a steam locomotive. Every now and then, it would sound a "chuff" sound, I suppose to simulate an exhaust of an air pump or something. It was a nice variation to just the constant hiss.

Then I started moving locomotives around the railroad, listening to the chuffs. The MyLocoSound chuff is a soft, building chuff at low speeds, kind of a chhuuufff, as opposed to a staccato "chuff." As the speed increases, the chuff gets a bit more staccato. The MyLocoSound board blended harmoniously with all the other locomotives chuffing around.

The whistle on the sound system, like the diesel's, is either two chimes or one, depending on how you have a jumper positioned. Unlike the diesel, the single-chime whistle is just one tone, not two in succession. Both whistles sounded believable, with just a hint of tone increase at the very beginning as you'd hear on a prototype whistle. Also, like the diesel system, there's a trim pot to adjust the tone of the whistle to suit your personal preference. On the two-chime whistle, it adjusts both tones the same, so they're always two steps apart (C and E, D and F#, etc.)

Depending on which steam sound board you purchase, you can trigger the chuff either through a traditional cam of some kind or by controlling the chuff rate with the voltage going to the motor. The latter is not as precise as the former but on locos that do not have built-in chuff triggers, it's adequate. Two trim pots allow you to set the start and maximum chuff rates to best match the locomotive.

It's natural to want to compare these sound systems to the high-end digital sound systems. After all, they do the same thing-add sound to our locomotives. In reality, they're two different animals, intended for two different markets.

That's clearly reflected in the price difference between the two classes of sound systems.

If you're after absolute fidelity, these boards aren't for you. If you're after something that will give you believable, basic sounds for a good price, I think you'll find these boards fit the bill.


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