Do You Prefer Sound or Standard Non-sound DCC Locomotives?

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Section Hand
I have a small to medium sized layout and usually run several locomotives at the same time. Two locomotives on the main and maybe two locos switching cars at various industries. I operate DCC and approximately at least half of my locomotives are sound equipped. I found that more than several locomotives running with sound at a time can be overbearing and I prefer to listen to only a single or two locomotives with sound at a time.

When visitors enter the layout room they are greeted by the elevated Saxeville Interchange and usually several locomotive are idling in the interchange while others have their headlights operating. Visitors' first impression is that my railroad is a larger model railroad and more realistic than imagined upon hearing the sound of locomotives.

On the mainline visitors find two locomotives pulling trains slowly, making their way around the layout's trackage and the individual locomotives' sound is distinct which attracts everyone's attention.

What do you prefer...sound or no sound or a limit sound locomotives?

PS: Nothing beats the sound of an ALCO starting and then the sound of the locomotive struggling to start moving a string of cars.



Saxeville Tunnel.JPG

Saxeville Tunnel...Interchange yard is above to the left. No trains yet to appear emerging from the tunnel.
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
I like to have the sound on when I'm operating them. Other times, when I'm working at the desk on a project, I usually turn the sound off and take a break every once in a while to watch them go by. I have the radio on to talk shows, so the loco sound will cover up the talk right at important points.


Active Member
The sound in HO is horrible. Period. But, it beats not having sound in my opinion.

Part of the problem, aside from the physics relegating our tiny plastic enclosure speakers sounding tinny, is that the sound doesn't scale well. In our 15 foot long room, the sound from a steamer 12 feet away is almost as loud as the sound from the switcher we're working right in front of us. For that reason, and because the factory default volume is wretchedly high and awful, when I get a new loco the first thing I do is to get into the Master Volume CV and cut the range in half. From there I go to the individual sounds and adjust them, usually downward again by half. The whistle should be loud, but the bell half that. The injector noise howling and raling away? Nope, you can hardly hear it, even standing right beside a steamer. Turbo-generator is also too loud. And so on....

I never have more than two locomotives emitting sound on the layout at the same time. Maybe two idling, panting away, hissing, pumps cutting in every three minutes, but nothing else. I usually only work two locomotives, so that would leave one other idling on a ready track.
I go both directions, mainly depending on my mood. However, if I've been running a sound-equipped locomotive and switch, it's hard going back to a silent loco.

If it was possible to equip everything with sound, I would.

Odd duck, aren't I?
Sound is the only reason I run DCC at all! I agree some of it can be annoying and needs adjusting out-of-the box. Otherwise, I don't care that much for DSS vs DC.
I am going deaf, currently 50% hearing loss in one ear and 90% in the other (current hearing aids cannot help) so I usually pass on sound versions. You have to make choices based on what you really want. For instance, I did buy the sound Rapido RDC SP 10 as no non-sound DCC version was offered. Rapido indicated adding a decoder would be difficult to the DC version.

But I would not give up the pleasure of DCC control over locomotives. I switched to DCC 15 years ago and have never wanted to go back in time to DC and block control.
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Active Member
Staff member
Yeah, I'm definitely in the W/sound camp, but as I run at a club, it can and does become overwhelming, especially as most operators don't know how to adjust volumes, or aren't all that interested in finding out how, one disadvantage of using phones for control and the programming track being separated from the layout. If I take a break I turn the power off to the siding I leave the train on. Can do this because of the 3 position direction switches on each track.


Active Member
Staff member
I prefer sound although I take your point about running x amount of sound equipped loco's, it might get a little annoying.
I PREFER sound, but I can AFFORD standard DCC. But then, I'm from the days a freight car kit cost $3.50 to $5.00.

Oh, I probably should add that I have 5 sound locos (or to be accurate: 1 sound loco and 4 sound equipped trolleys) and 42 non-sound locos and 26 non-sound trolleys.
And to be more accurate - 30 non-DCC and 12 DCC only locos and 6 non-DCC and 20 DCC only trolleys. So the cost of going fully sound would be ............. (insert adjective)
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I definately prefer sound.most of my locos are sound but I do adjust the sound-volume down..especially the bells. And yeah...nothing better than the sound of the old Alcoa’s starting up and chugging under load!


Active Member
Staff member
Model railroading has always been about imagination. Having sounds that approximate the real ones some (many) feel that helps. It is much better than going Choo, Choo, in front of visitors. Trying to do diesel sounds are worse.


Active Member
Staff member

All of my diesels have sound genuine no computer generated sound - every one of them. Aren't video recorders amazing :)
When I started to build my layout I had decided that I wanted DCC because I liked the options of the way one could control multiple locomotives. Sound really wasn't a consideration. Ultimately I picked up an Intermountain FT Demonstrator AB set with sound. Now I would not have power without sound, That is a whole new dimension to model railroading, that is a difference like night & day. I do agree about the "annoyance" of multiple loco's sounding off when the layout is turned on, but that is being dealt with.........So for me, the advantages out way the disadvantages........Sound Yes!
Sound is the only reason I run DCC at all! I agree some of it can be annoying and needs adjusting out-of-the box. Otherwise, I don't care that much for DSS vs DC.
You didn't like any of the DC sound systems that were out there? I still like the PFM ones better than many of the DCC digital stuff.


Whiskey Merchant
I am a DC operator, but do have a few DCC locomotives with sound. The first was a gift, a little Bachmann 2-6-0. I do like smaller steamers and it is a bit of a novelty as it is also a wimp on my grades. Then I picked up a BLI heavy mike, mainly because I liked the chunky looks of it and no one else offered one at a reasonable price. Brass was out of my price range. Then, I saw a Bachmann Alco S-4 painted for the Milwaukee Road. I am a bit of a sucker for anything from the Milwaukee Road and the detail was excellent.

I find that sound can be a bit annoying when I am working on the layout and let trains run at the same time. I pretty well now run them when the grand kids are over or when visitors want to see trains run. I can pretty well live without it. I am a lone operator and sound is not at all necessary for me.

Years ago I did have a PFM sound system that I used for steam locomotives. In my humble opinion, it is far superior to the sound in DCC steamers. The problem with the PFM system was that sound modules were getting hard to find, the system was not really portable and being that my layout was built for switching, I needed a hand held throttle. I also kept bumping into it as it was mounted on the front of the layout.

I did pick up one last DCC locomotive with sound mainly to run at the model railroad club. An Atlas Alco RS-1. After getting some issues with it corrected I do enjoy running it at the model railroad club. It is not a strong puller with the grades that they have on the layout, but I am perfectly happy running shorter trains.

I will have to agree with Greg when it comes to the sound of an Alco locomotive. (the John Deere of the railroads). I have posted this video before of the RS-1 on my DC layout.
Alcos are cool.

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