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Author Topic: Improving the N scale DCC sound Consolidation  (Read 781 times)

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« on: February 11, 2020, 12:24:06 PM »

Am I the only one or does the N scale 2-8-0 with Soundtraxx Econami have an extremely dim headlight? Mine is so dim you can barely tell it is on and it is orange in color. My older 2-10-2 has a similar headlight design but it is MUCH brighter and golden white!

Can Bachmann explain why the change in design for a newer release engine that has resulted in such a poor result?

 I removed the boiler shell and tender shell, found a tiny chip on the front PC board not very close to the light gathering pipe that goes out through the boiler front to the headlight housing.  I removed it and attached magnet wire to the leads and glued a larger golden white LED to the front of the boiler casting.  I checked the tender's PC board and found two 220,000 ohm resistors on the light circuit--that is really strange as most LEDs use around 1000-10000 ohms.  I removed those and replaced them with a pair of 1500 ohm SMD resistors. Now the headlight is much brighter and a more appropriate color. But still not right, the light tube seems to be very thin and ends too far from the face of the light.  So I'm still not happy and it was a lot of finicky work that shouldn't have been needed.

BTW I also improved the speaker response by filling in the large opening in the front of the tender with black styrene and closing the hole where the engine wires enter the tender with a piece of soft black foam cut from the piece that came with the engine in the cab as it was shipped in the box.  This seems to have sealed up the enclosure enough to make the sound louder and richer.

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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2020, 08:26:58 PM »

I realize very few modellers are going to take their steam engine's electronics apart to remove and replace LEDs and resistors. I guess I would just like to hear Bachmann explain their thinking in making the choices they did to end up with such an unsatisfactory headlight when other steam engines they made years before were so much better.  One thing I can see is they used a much thinner fiber optic strand or light pipe coming through the front of the boiler going into the headlight casting. That is why when you look at the light it seems to be coming from a small pinpoint deep within the casting.

There is one thing that you can try that is fairly easy and makes a difference. I used a tiny drop of UV curable "glue" like Bondic to make a small convexity on the face of the headlight lens piece (mine popped out spontaneously while running and I just happened to notice it-lucky 'cause otherwise it would have been lost).  Pry it gently out with a fine #ll blade tip. Hold the lens piece with a very fine tweezer up so that the front face is horizontal, put a drop of the UV glue on it and let it form a little, almost hemispherical bubble, then fix it with the UV light. When you put it back into the black headlight casting, the light will now fill the entire headlight instead of coming from a pinpoint.  Looks way better. 

If your lens doesn't want to come out, just pick up the whole engine, hold it vertical and do the same thing. Just need a teeny drop.

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« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2020, 12:24:04 AM »

Well I couldn't stop myself from carrying on with this engine as it is a very nice running and well detailed model. Although I am most familiar with ESU Loksound, I was able to get this engine running very smoothly after playing around with the BEMF settings.  I was not impressed with the sound produced by the cheap round speaker in the tender with very obvious audio clipping even with the sound turned way down.  Most steam sound is basically a form of white noise with the various hisses and chuffs so it's hard to hear clipping but the whistles are musical and they sound like crap with this speaker.

Using a Dremel cutting bit, the speaker opening was enlarged slightly and a 9x16mm cell-phone type speaker (available from Digikey), 3.5mm thickness fit in perfectly in terms of depth.  Small pieces of styrene and Microscale Krystal Clear were used to seal the speaker in place with the whole tender as the enclosure. No modification to any of the tender electronics was needed. Very easy to do actually.

The sound volume was very similar and quite loud (I have master volume at 40% and most individual sounds at 50% of default) and the non "musical" sounds were fairly similar although the chuffs seemed brighter and sharper.  However, the whistles were greatly improved, actually sounded like the demos from HO scale engine with this decoder.

So, I would say to Bachmann, for likely less than $5, this engine could have had: 1. a bright headlight 2. much better sound 3. a better reputation for both Bachmann and Soundtraxx.   I hope someone from Bachmann reads this.
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