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

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Chet: Great video of your R-1 pulling that freight through the countryside. Nice color theme used on the Northern Pacific locomotive.

I play a tape of ALCO locomotives when at the work bench (relaxing, crazy hey!) or as background sounds when visitors come to see the layout.

Call me picky if you want, but for me Sound is a must! As someone said a bit earlier in the post, model railroading is about being able to immerse yourself in the scene, and while controlling the locomotives with the speed and operations is cool, having that sound as a part of the "feel" completes it.
Ran some trains this afternoon and like Chet I am a ALCO fan and love listening to my Milwaukee Road ALCO when pulling 13 fully loaded ore cars. On the mainline line I ran a C&NW GP-9 with custom sound along with the ALCO. It was great to hear the locomotives.

I will admit that the locomotives sound was slightly muted but still realistic. Locomotives with sound where parked on a siding or on several spur tracks, but remained muted.

Like NP2626 says, "I like sound", but I don't over do it.

I find the whole sound thing personally to be a bit of a noisy gimmick. I'm an N scale guy and they sound quality from a tiny speaker is just not very impressive. Now that new BLI Paragon 3 sound thingy with a subwoofer is intriguing but I also find most sound equipped locomotives to be cost prohibitive. I can buy 2 DCC ready locos and even sometimes 3 for the cost of 1 with sound. I will probably buy a few to play around with but I like the little hum of those Kato engines and I usually have a video or something playing the background.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Even in HO scale, the speakers that come factory fitted, are not high quality. Price point is still a factor. Some of the sound decoders that are also factory fitted have not as many functions as the aftermarket ones provided by the same decoder maker .e.g Athearn's Tsunamis in their RTR line. I note that they are now saying that the Tsunami2 in their Genesis line and the Econami decoder in that RTR line are fully featured. They may be learning that if you offer a brand name decoder, that is what the customer expects and wants. Loco maker's "custom" ones will result in them going elsewhere.
So I think I read in an article or maybe it was a train show that I understood that you should adjust the master volume where you can here it from a range a 5 ft or less away. Correct me if I am wrong but that is what I do. I do not want to hear it from the other side of the layout. I find the sounds are more enjoyable that way.


Active Member
Yes, Eric, this was mentioned already. Pretty much every decoder arrives with factory settings unless a tech has intercepted it and fiddled with it because it was obviously faulty...prior to shipment to a customer. And then xe (latest non-gendered third person singular pronoun. :cool:) forgot to do a factory restore to address 03 or whatever, which would bring the volume back to 'make 'em wince' level. Every decoder has a Master Volume CV (at least two for the QSI indexing decoders) which most of us know to reset soon after powering up a new locomotive. A very good starting point is exactly halfway through the range (1-255?) for volume. From there, I enter the CV's for all the more annoying, often neutral/idling, sounds and cut them almost in half again.


Active Member
Maybe to elaborate a bit, I like the added dimension that sound brings to my enjoyment of the hobby. While the sound of a transition era diesel is O.K., the sound of a steam engine really excites me. Sound also adds some work to the process of running a train with the boiler blow down, bells, whistles and other sounds locomotives make. It is fun to attempt to copy the prototype; so, I feel the added expense and work of adding sound decoders to my locomotives to be worth while!


Stuck in the 1930's
The sound gets on my nerves after about an hour. I worked in a hobby shop that had LGB trains going around in the window around Christmas and working there you had to just ignore it. I don't do smoke because of the oily residue either. Makes for a cleaner, easier to work on model.


Whiskey Merchant
The sound gets on my nerves after about an hour.

I will have to agree with you completely. When I am working on the layout I like to let trains run and change out locomotives to give all of them a chance to run and leep the innards moving. Just takes a few minutes of having a sound equipped locomotive running to make me put one of my DC locomotives (non sound of course) at the head end of the train.

new guy

Active Member
I have a large DCC layout and running 8-9 locos at once is common, it does get LOUD sometimes. Depends on what ya wanna hear. I like the idling sounds and the SD 45's running sound awesome. Add a DD40 with it's "jet engine" sound and my wife yells from upstairs it's too loud...then I plug the big screen into the laptop and play you tube videos of diesel start up and REVVV at MAX VOL! It's a battle! LOL
I decided when I first started that I wouldn't be happy with the sound-fidelity from speakers that would fit in an N-scale loco (all of my DCC'd N-scale locos have only silent decoders). So I bought an analog Kato SoundBox with multiple SoundTraxx cards. I run my two-channel (stereo) SoundBox through a Sony 150W surround-sound amplifier in 3.1 (synthesized) mode with a sub-woofer. Sounds really great. The layout feels "dead" when running without the SoundBox.

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Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
The layout feels "dead" when running without the SoundBox.
While I've contributed to this thread, I don't think I answered the question. I've been a sound person since 1983. Once I grabbed a couple locos and went down to the club. Put them on and started running, hmmm this seems "dead". Oh yeah, these units have no sound! I'll always grab a sound unit over a non-sound.
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GOT to have sound! I still remember my first BLI Locomotive I ran on my DC layout. I purchased it for the detail and smooth running that had been reported on this and other forums. I had no idea there was such a thing as sound that came FROM the locomotive. I can remember putting it on the track in anticipation of a good pulling smooth running locomotive, cranked up the throttle and it “started Up” then chugged along - WOW! :rolleyes: Then I found out about the DC Master and the ability to control the bell and horn. The performance and sound of that BLI 2-8-2 Mikado started an urge I couldn’t control. I was switching over to DCC!!! I never looked back. To make the sound more realistic and pleasurable you HAVE to LOWER the master volume and adjust the individual sounds so that you don’t have what sounds like a steam or Diesel in your living room when you’re running 3, 4 or 5 locomotives. I’ve been able to adjust sounds so that you can hardly hear the locomotive when it’s at the furthest points of the layout and you can easily identify which loco it’s coming from. Last year i added the Rollingf Thunder and adjusted CV’s so that it comes on as the locos approach the nearest edge of the layout and disappears as it moves away. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to