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Which Sound Decoders Are Best?

Richard S who models HO wants to hear opinions on decoder types:

“I notice that sound decoders seem at least triple the cost of non sound. Are they worth it, and which are the best to buy?”

Use the comments link to submit your comment, suggestion, or opinion to assist Richard.

12 Responses to Which Sound Decoders Are Best?

  • Donsays:

    Even though the cost is higher and you do have to add for the speakers there’s nothing that beats watching a steam locomotive or diesel even that responds with sound to your controller

  • phil johnsonsays:

    I like to use 1 or 2 sound decoder equipped units on a train. Especially if they are different models. EMD + GE or Alco. Because the exhaust and DB’s sound different. If you are running something like a pair of units that are close to the same sound then one sound decoder will suffice and the other may be nonsound.

  • Ken Bristowsays:

    I have used ESU Select sound for some time now, I consider them the best, but again it depends on the original recording and the use of a good quality speaker. These decoders are not affected by “hunting” with a heavy consist behind the loco/loco’s. The old adage, “you only get what you pay for” applies to sound decoders & I think that is what you get with the ESU.
    Have Fun,
    Ken B.

  • Martin eaglesays:

    I have units all with different sound unit ,when they labour up a hill or come out of the tunnel with whistle blowing is great bite the bullet the money its worth it

  • james whitissays:

    i use all kinds but only use two now and one more then others esu the best to me have the programer and download the sound on them also you can do more set up on it yourself . the other is soundtraxx also good but you can only change so much on it with cv changes . have some qsi decoders also . thay all work good but for sound these three are the best.

    • Rudolph Blawsays:

      Yes, I second that. Get an ESU programmer and buy blank ESU decoders. There are dozens of sound files available on the ESU web site. I have one set of QSI decoders factory installed in an A and B unit and found them very impressive. QSI has the Quantum Programmer to program a decoder.

  • Dale Smithsays:

    I’ve had great results with the Tsunami decoders. Well worth the extra $$ for sound.

  • Vobbert Beckingsays:

    I like the ESU decoders, they have a lot of sound files freely available.

  • David Stokessays:

    Do you really need the additional noise over the noise of steel wheels against steel track. For some layouts it might be one jump of reality too many. My only experience with sound decodes is at exhibitions, which make an almost unbearable racket as each layout tries to “outnoise” the other.

    Stand by a piece of real railway – when do you realistically hear the train coming, is it from miles, or hundreds of metres, away. I think the latter. Stand by some sound equipped layouts and the locos are heard from the 1:87 ratio of around the other side of the world.

    If you really want the sound of an approaching train, turn the volume down until it is barely audible from 5 feet or less away and you will have “scale sound.

    Now is the effect worth it – my word it is.

  • Tom roisesays:

    You do not have to equip all locos with sound. It really depends on your preference. And in your budget. If you buy some of these mentioned you have to spend time just setting them up after you spend time installing them. How big is your layout? Are you running trains around a 20×20 room or switching a small shelf layout. Great suggestion on turning down the sound

  • g southardsays:

    due to recent events with a loksound esu decoder that i had fitted in a dmu class 150
    bachmann train which went pear shape lights not working correctly then not working
    i would like to say that having competent people fitting them is half the battle

  • Jaysays:

    Having installed at least 30 sound decoders, they all have their merits. You get what you pay for, the more expensive sound decoders will sound better and have more features. After using some decoders with 16bit sound, the 8 bit sound decoders pale in comparison. As time goes on, the quality of many decoders has improved, and the costs are more acceptable. The early MRC decoders disappointed me, with cheezy sound, some of their later ones were excellent. I have used many of the Digitrax sound decoders that you can download sound files from their site, they also come pre-loaded with many diesel and steam sound schemes that you can select, these cost around $60ea.

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