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New Athearn Challenger with Tsumani = YUCK?

Printed from: Atlas Model Railroad Co.
Topic URL: http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=59862
Printed on: 07/02/2010

Topic:


Topic author: GN4EVER
Subject: New Athearn Challenger with Tsumani = YUCK?
Posted on: 04/19/2010 20:52:08
Message:

Hi all,

I just received my new Athearn Challenger with Tsumani sound. I was eagerly anticipating this due to all the praise I've heard for Tsunami. Well the result is disappointing in the extreem. My MDC challenger sounds loads better! Here are the faults in my book.

1. Whistle sound in so low to be almost inaudible when the engine is moving. There is no option to change the whistle sound.

2. Chuff rate seems way to high at speed the chuffs blend almost completely together. There is no option to adjust the chuff rate.

3. There is no volume control on the sound just "on" or "mute".

4. Only about 9 or 10 of the functions are used. No functions above 12 are programmed.

All in all I'm thinking about returning this one and just keeping my MDC equipted Challengers. Speed control is improved but the sound is way worse than either my older Challengers of my Walthers 2-8-8-2. Maybe I got a lemon? Anyone else have one of the new ones?

Thanks,

Kevin

Replies:


Reply author: wcfn100
Replied on: 04/19/2010 22:10:13
Message:

So in the manual there is no listing for the following?

CV 128 - Master Volume

CV 116 - Auto Exhaust Rate (Chuff)

CV 129 - Whistle Volume

As for the functions, yeah it looks like they only use 12 functions so no farm animals I guess.


Jason


Reply author: GN4EVER
Replied on: 04/19/2010 22:27:10
Message:

Actually, no, these is no mention of those CV's. There is a mention of a non-existant "User's Guide" and a downloadable technical reference. The number of Functions are as follows:

F0 - Headlight
F1 - Bell
F2 - Whistle
F3 - Short Whistle
F4 - Dynamic Brakes (Not used I would assume for Steam)
F5 - Breake Squeal / Release
F6 - Coupler
F7 - Headlight Dimmer
F8 - Mute
F9 - Not Used
F10 - Not Used
F11 - Injector
F12 - Water Stop

thanks,

Kevin
F


Reply author: wcfn100
Replied on: 04/19/2010 22:35:48
Message:

I would try what's in here:

http://www.soundtraxx.com/manuals/tsunamisteam_users_guide.pdf


Jason


Reply author: peteski
Replied on: 04/19/2010 23:12:42
Message:

I ran into similar situation with decoder manual of my Walthers/LifeLike Mallet. It has a full-blown QSI decoder factory installed but the manual included with the engine is very sparse. There are links pointing to a fuller manual but I just went directly to QSI website and downloaded the full manual. Now I have about 6 months worth of bathroom reading (this thing is a size of a small phone book) and I also found out that this decoder is capable of things I'll never need!

I agree, go to Soundtraxx's website and download the full manual.


Reply author: GN4EVER
Replied on: 04/20/2010 01:11:15
Message:

Well I downloaded the manual and I'll see if I can tweek it into shape. I did a quick test and boosted the whistle to max volume and it helps a little bit. Problem is that the whistle sounds just like static. Making it louder is just louder static. I'm hoping that they did include a different whistle I can choose.

Kevin


Reply author: jdcolombo
Replied on: 04/20/2010 08:29:59
Message:

You can cycle through the available whistles via CV115 (from 0 to 7). Also, there are two separate volume controls. There is a master volume control in CV 128, and then individual volume controls for the individual main sounds (e.g., bell, whistle, chuff, air pump, boiler, steam hiss, etc.). I set the master volume at almost maximum (250) and then adjust the individual volume controls to my liking. On a real steam engine, for example, the bell is barely audible over the chuffs, but the whistle should be much louder than the chuffs.

Finally, if this is a full Tsunami like the after-market versions, there is a sound equalizer you can (and should) use to further fine-tune the sound. You set CV 153 to 7, which enables the user control for the EQ, and then play with the values in CVs 154-160. A good starting point would be the following:

CV 154 - 0 (very low bass, which the speaker can't reproduce anyway)
CV 155 - 0 (bass, ditto)
CV 156 - 240 (upper bass)
CV 157 - 220 (lower midrange)
CV 158 - 150 (midrange)
CV 159 - 120 (upper mid/lower treble)
CV 160 - 120 (treble)

You can use ops mode programming (programming on the main) to vary these values while the engine is running to get the sound most pleasing to your ears. Use the chuffs to set CV's 156-158; the bell and whistle to set CV's 159-160 (they have more treble energy than the chuffs).

I don't know what kind of speaker Athearn has in the new Challengers, but the Tsunami has so many individual sound controls that I would be absolutely shocked if you can't set it to your liking (and in a way that completely blows away the sound of the MRC).

As for the chuff timing, that can be set via CV116. Again, use ops mode programming to vary the values and watch the drivers for optimum chuff timing. I don't know if this comes from the factory in articulated sound mode (dual chuffs) or standard rod mode (single chuff); but you can change this in CV112. Set CV112 to 1 (single chuff mode, dual airpumps) and then adjust the chuff timing in CV116. Now if you want to enable articulated mode (dual chuffs, where you get the "cha-CHA" sound of an articulated at low speed), change CV112 back to 61 (I think - you'll need to look at the owners manual for the values). You can even change CV112 to a value that varies the dual chuffs so that they go in and out of sync like you would hear on most real articulateds (though I have to say that I really don't like the articulated sound of the Tsunami at speed; it sounds too much like a gatling gun rather than a real articulated, and I have left my Tsunamis in simple mode - CV112 at 1).

And Athearn should have included all this information with the engine, or at least told the customer to go to Soundtraxx's web site for the full manual. Not doing so is a major customer service blunder.

John C.


Reply author: GN4EVER
Replied on: 04/20/2010 13:07:30
Message:

With John's information I made the following changes:

CV 112 = 1 (Exhaust mode, air pump)
CV 115 = 2 (Bell)
CV 128 = 250 (Master Volume)
CV 129 = 254 (Bell Volume)
CV 131 = 60 (Chuff Volume)
CV 153 = 7 (equalizer)
CV 154 - 0 (very low bass, which the speaker can't reproduce anyway)
CV 155 - 0 (bass, ditto)
CV 156 - 158 (upper bass)
CV 157 - 150 (lower midrange)
CV 158 - 128 (midrange)
CV 159 - 128 (upper mid/lower treble)
CV 160 - 128 (treble)

This has improved things alot. I now get a "Whooo Whooo" for the whistle though I can't get the volume up to where I would like it. I just may have to turn down the chuff volume a bit more. As I said before only 3 of the 7 whistles are available (3 through 7 all sound like 0). I set the chuff type to single, dual air pump (CV112 = 1). Though articulated sounds good at low speed, at track speed the chuffs blend together too much. I'm liking this better. Thanks to all for your help.

I can't believe Ahtearn did not put some more work into the default settings!

Kevin


Reply author: peteski
Replied on: 04/20/2010 17:46:33
Message:

Kevin,
have you counted number of chuffs per wheel revolution when it is going slowly enough to count? You should hear 4 on a normal loco or up to 8 on simple articulated one (like your Challenger). I suspect that the chuff rate is correct but you are running your loco *way* too fast. We in N scale have no true sense of scale speed. What looks to our eye like 50SMPH is probably closer to 100SMPH. Chuffs will blend at 100SMPH!

I have noticed that running an N scale train while looking through a loco-installed train camera forces us to drive it at much more realistic speed. What looks like about 50SMPH through the camera view seems like crawling when the train is viewed directly. Similarly what looks like "reasonable" speed when the train is viewed directly appears to be a crazy 150SMPH roller-coaster ride when viewed through the camera.


Reply author: C855B
Replied on: 04/20/2010 18:28:55
Message:

Yes - sort of what Pete said, from a different approach. At 60 MPH, the Challenger's 69" drivers are turning at 292 RPM, which works out to 39 chuffs per second. You will hear that as a steady "roar" of chuffs. Having paced the real thing at speed on multiple occasions, yes, it sounds like that.


Reply author: GN4EVER
Replied on: 04/20/2010 20:16:37
Message:

I don't think that I'm running it too fast. The chuffs blend together using the articulated setting at about 45 - 50% throttle. I've seen and heard 3985 doing about 70 mph and there is definately a "roar" of chuffs but it is more a very rapid stacatto than a constant "whoosh" which was what I was getting on the articulated setting on the Tsnami. What I'm thinking is missing due to the small speaker is the sharp "cracks" of the exhaust so it sounds all blended in. As John pointed out earler, setting to single setting actually sounds better at speed.

Edit: I timed my locomotive at 50% throttle it runs at about 65 mph.

thanks,

Kevin


Reply author: turbineman
Replied on: 04/20/2010 22:49:34
Message:

Having heard Tsunami sound systems on various N scale steam and diesel locomotives...and also owning a Athearn Challenger with the MRC sound system...I can't imagine anyone thinking the MRC system was superior to the Tsunami. The MRC sound is CRAP! The chuff sounds like static...the whistle isn't even close to the prototype...nor is the bell...and there is no way to change them. One of my next projects is to change my Challenger over to a Tsunami system, so I won't feel embarresed to run it at the club shows.


Reply author: peteski
Replied on: 04/20/2010 23:27:06
Message:

I would say that if I had to pick I would use QSI decoder instead of Tsunami. That is what I'm planning on installing in my AC-12. I fell in love with it when I bought Walthers Mallet.


Reply author: GN4EVER
Replied on: 04/21/2010 02:00:47
Message:

I will admit the chuff volume on my MRC Challengers leaves a bit to be desired after listening to my QSI in the Walther's Mallet. The QSI on the Mallet is the gold standard in my book. Though the chuff volume on the MRC decoder is a bit anemic the rate and "pulse" sound just right. Even at full speed I can pick out the beat of the exhausts. There are a number of different whistles on the MRC decoder, you can cycle through them with F8. You can improve the volume on the MRC decoder by cycling F12 to change the volume. After futzing with the Tsunami deocoder on the Challenger for most of the day I've got it where I do think its better than the MRC (Except for the whistle...). Perhaps a NON ATHEARN Tsunami is the way to go for the Challengers?

thanks,

Kevin


Reply author: peteski
Replied on: 04/21/2010 02:14:16
Message:

Why would you replace Athearn's Tsunami decoder with another Tsunami decoder? If you are spending that much extra money then why not just install a QSI decoder?

Too bad that Athearn is not offering their Challenger and Big Boy without DCC decoders. That way some picky modelers (like you and me) could install our own decoders. I'm still *VERY* happy that Athearn dumped the MRC decoders but ....


Reply author: GN4EVER
Replied on: 04/21/2010 12:59:39
Message:

I'm not sure that replacing the Athearn Tsunami with a Heavy Steam mini-Tsunami would be the way to go unless the Athearn Tsunami is too stripped down. I know it is somewhat stripped down as it only has 3 of the 7 whistles in it. Most of the other programming appears to be there from what I've seen. I think I was refering more to replacing the MRC decoder. You should shortly be able to purchase the Athearn Tsunami decoder but it might be better to get the mini-Tsunami Heavy Steam decoder or a QSI decoder instead.

thanks,

Kevin


Reply author: Sharkman
Replied on: 04/21/2010 13:29:23
Message:

I have one of the Micro Tsunami's in a LL Berk, and the sound blows away the MRC in my Challenger. Perhaps you have a questionable decoder. I do not know about the decoder that was OEM, but I am really happy with the Tsunami. I have not had the chance to get a Walthers Mallet with QSI, but I will have see if I can get my hands on one and see how weell they run and how well they sound.

David


Reply author: jim prince
Replied on: 04/21/2010 13:46:12
Message:

David,

The Y3 from Walthers is nothing short of awesome. Like your Berk, it makes the MRC in the Challenger sound like tin.


Reply author: turbineman
Replied on: 04/21/2010 19:00:15
Message:

Just curious about this QSI outfit, everyone is talking about. Is this a new company? Do they have much of a track record and selection of products? Are these just sound decoders...or sound/motor decoders...If they are just a sound decoder...how do they work with Digitrax? thanks


Reply author: peteski
Replied on: 04/21/2010 19:08:52
Message:

QSI ( http://www.qsisolutions.com/products/index.html ) has been making excellent sound decoders (for H0 and larger scales) for years.

Excerpt from they webpage: QSI is a leader in premium sound & train control devices and has sold over one million sound systems world-wide. QSI's Quantum systems are known for their realism, reliability, and ease of use.


Reply author: tomgschilling
Replied on: 04/21/2010 19:08:54
Message:

I agree about the QSI in the Y3 Mallet. It is outstanding but I also agree with John Colombo...being able to use the equalizer in the Tsunami is a great advantage. You can't generate a lot of badly needed bass but that's just the nature of the small N scale beast. The equalizer lets you optimize the sound to be the best it can be.

It sounds to me like maybe Athearn went on the cheap with the speaker and/or perhaps an enclosure. If volume settings are a problem when using a Tsunami, you gotta believe the culprit is the speaker or its installation. ...Tom


Reply author: peteski
Replied on: 04/21/2010 19:13:15
Message:

Tom, N scale speakers are tweeter-sized. Tryin to get more bass from them (even with equalization) is mostly futile. Best way to get more bass from our tiny speakers is by placing them in air tight enclosures. I'll take QSI's sound fidelity over Tsunami's equalizer any day.


Reply author: BryanHowieson
Replied on: 04/24/2010 08:14:41
Message:

Hello from Australia,

I have just received my Challenger too and I was also very disappointed with the sound for the same reasons as Kevin. I have made the various changes he suggested to the CVs which has helped a bit. However, I don't seem to be able to get any brake squeal and I'm wondering if I am just doing something wrong or I have a bad decoder (all the other sounds seem to work okay). Nothing happens when I press F5 and I have even tried setting brake squeal to come on automatically as per the Soundtraxx manual with no success (if I brake using my Digitrax Zephyr the sound sort of drops off and a slight broken strangle sound can be heard - otherwise no brake sound at any time). I have set CV 139 (brake squeal volume) to 200 (it was 128) and CV 196 (brake sensitivity) to 8 (it was 3).

Is there anything I'm doing wrong - this is my first Soundtraxx decoder (I've got one ESU loksound and a few MRC sound decoders and all of these make a brake squeal without problems).

Thanks for any assistance.

Cheers,

Bryan.


Reply author: Doug Gosha
Replied on: 04/24/2010 10:56:55
Message:

quote:
Originally posted by peteski

Tom, N scale speakers are tweeter-sized. Tryin to get more bass from them (even with equalization) is mostly futile. Best way to get more bass from our tiny speakers is by placing them in air tight enclosures. I'll take QSI's sound fidelity over Tsunami's equalizer any day.



Yeah, everybody knows that acoustic suspension speakers provide more true bass than those crummy bass reflex or ported designs!

Interesting that there is a company named QSI in model railroading because, back in the quadraphonic days, there was a company called QSI that made chips for some of the CD-4 demodulators.

Lou Dorren, who had that company, is also an N scale model train enthusiast.

Doug


Reply author: superturbine3
Replied on: 04/24/2010 11:18:25
Message:

I own at least 20 of the MRC equipped Big Boys and Challengers and am very happy. With Tsunami Challenger I am very disappointed. I have adjusted the sound which from the factory is awful and now have it somewhat satisfactory...
These decoders are not the same as a 750, at least not the settings.

MY MAIN PROBLEM IS THE TENDENCY TO STALL OVER SWITCHES SINCE THE TSUNAMI REQUIRES MORE POWER!!


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