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Kato double crossover: layout track update 4 months ago Storage tip: Kato N boxes 9 months ago Layout done! While there are some analog sound modules out there, the vast majority of decoders requires you to convert your locomotive or train to DCC. However, and this is important, many DCC decoders including sound decoders still allow trains to run on an analog layout. The problem with sound, is that you will need lots of space in your engine to accommodate the necessary equipment. Sometimes, you will want to install sound in a car, just because there is no room in the adjacent locomotive. You connect the decoder to the train as you would with any other decoder, which means often for European models, to a NEM-651 plug if your locomotive is equipped. Those decoders can be quite big, but this is the solution I would advise if there is enough room. This requires a specific interface between the DCC decoder and the sound module, and this interface is named “SUSI”.
If you have enough room, and a DCC decoder with a SUSI interface, then adding a sound module is not that hard.
A sound project can be very specific to your engine, but there are also generic sound projects for whatever type of engine you have (steam, electric, diesel).
Do not think you can “create” a sound project yourself, it is actually much harder than it…sounds.
As you have seen above, there may be hundreds of decoder article numbers, each describing a specific sound. However, to do that, you will likely need the programming device from the same manufacturer as the decoder (example: the ESU lokpogrammer reviewed here). Added to this, please beware SUSI modules usually require to be unplugged from the main DCC decoder, and connected to the relevant programming device. The good news is that most “all in one” decoders can be reprogrammed without being disconnected, so you can change the sounds just as you would change CVs: without opening the locomotive again.
Of course, that all means you can always update or totally change the sound project at a later time. Many models are not made for sound, that means that you will need experience in installing DCC decoders, as well as some basic tools (small wires, soldering iron…). Sound in trains may be childish, but let us not fool ourselves: model trains are toys anyway, so don’t be ashamed to try!


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This will not cover technical instructions, but rather the basics for people who might be interested.
Unless you buy a locomotive that already has sound, you can’t just “plug” a sound decoder in a locomotive, as you would with a standard NEM651 DCC decoder. This is possible as well, and follows the same principle: you will always need a DCC decoder, although in this case, it can be a simple function decoder (see for example my review of 2 of these, here).
It basically is a standard DCC decoder, controlling the motor and light, that also integrates a sound module. That means that you cannot connect a sound module to any DCC decoder, your decoder needs to have a SUSI interface.
This connection is required, so that the sound module knows what the DCC decoder is doing (is the train running? You need to connect the 4 SUSI wires between the two, and connect a loudspeaker to the sound module. Indeed, a sound module is not that expensive, and you can piggy back the sound module on a function decoder (as opposed to a more expensive full-fledged engine DCC decoder).
They are basically the same as the all-in-one decoders above, connecting directly to the track and the car.
This decoder is actually a function decoder with a very limited sound functionality (only a few sounds likes doors), and no way to integrate new sounds or engine sounds.
For example, driving sounds have to vary with the speed of the train, and you can’t do that easily by uploading a sound sample. Some manufacturers (ESU, Uhlenbrock, Doehler & Haass) sell their decoders with a specific sound project already in it. However, you need to know that some stores do NOT allow you to order all these different versions, this would require having hundreds of decoders in stock! My experience in Belgium and Germany is that it is a free service, if you buy the decoder there of course! With the exception of some decoders than cannot be edited at all, you will be able in most cases, to upload or even change the sound project at will. That is obviously a disadvantage, but that means that European decoder manufacturers have had to come up with universal models, that can fit in and be programmed for any locomotive, as long as there is enough room. For example, ESU has a specific product for the North-American market, called “Loksound Select”, that is cheaper than the full fledged decoders sold in Europe (Loksound).


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I personally am a fan of the ESU Loksound Micro v4.0 that I have installed in many trains (see examples here, or here). Some brands are known for integrating a SUSI interface on many decoders (Zimo, Doehler & Haass, Uhlenbrock), others never do (ESU). It is made to be installed in cars, but not in cars “supporting” a locomotive in which no sound decoder can be installed. This content is often called a “sound project”, and contains everything the decoder needs to know. This is why decoder manufacturers do that hard work for you (and this is part of what you pay for when acquiring the decoder.
You just download the project from the manufacturer, and then use the software provided with the programmer to upload the sound. The problem is that sound decoders are much more expensive: if you break one, your wallet will feel the pain.
ESU has an incredible database of custom sounds for hundreds of locomotives, you can listen to the sample via your browser.
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Although sound decoders have gotten smaller in the last years, they still are often much bigger than “silent” DCC counterparts. When I was angstrom kid the scoop Christmas present I ever got was an model train sound module.
The same is valid for sounds during stops (doors, announcements…) because obviously, an analog layout does not provide power when the train is stopped. As stated above, you are limited to the available projects from the manufacturer, so in this case, as of May 2014, only 5 sound projects).




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