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Cost of Adding Sound to a Locomotive


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It is just me or do others think the huge cost of adding sound to a locomotive is far more expensive than is should be? I work in IT and many of the technologies I use are far more complex and difficult to produce than a sound chip, so I can't understand how the cost of them can be justified. Sure, the IT industry has significantly larger scale of production, but I still don't believe that accounts for the excessive pricing.

 

I actually wonder if the excessive pricing is self defeating, meaning that the sales volume is much lower than is could be due to costs that many people can't justify? Would there be a linear relationship between price reduction and sales increase? Could one offset the other? Or perhaps increase revenue for the vendor / manufacturer?

 

Just something I've been wondering about for a while and am interested what others thoughts on this are?

Is there a justification for the high price tag?

 

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It’s a topic that comes up from time to time,  TTS proves it can be done cheaply as John says but many people aren’t satisfied with the quality of TTS so look to people like Legomanbiffo who travel the country to record locos to create complex sound projects which load onto high quality sound decoders, it’s the quality of the decoders and the time and expertise of the person who created the sound file that makes the price what it is.

 

Richard

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Agree with OP, considering the mundane electronics involved they do seem very expensive; OK there is some up front cost producing the sounds, but 100 quid plus for a few low performance DACs and a bit of memory seems steep to me.

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It cost a lot of time to produce the sound that is loaded and that time, both in recording and editing the recording into a usable file set all has to be paid for and that we all understand, but why does a blank sound decoder with no ones sounds loaded cost the same as one loaded with sound.

 

Obviously the answer is that ESU and Zimo must sell the decoders to the sound producers for a fraction of the cost the rest of us pay for a blank, otherwise why would they bother making the sounds in the first place.

 

Also as to the true cost of these £100 decoders, have you ever blown one up and had it replaced, what were you charged, one supplier I use charges between £15 and £20 to replace a faulty decoder, I bet they are Not  loosing any money on the replacement are they, that I bet is the true cost of these decoders direct from the makers, with the prices for retail held high to make all the work done producing the sounds worth while, that I have no issue with, its still asking £100 for a blank that gets me, why shoild I have to pay the sound producing element of the retail price if I was producing the sounds myself.

 

Not that I am capable of producing the sounds so am happy to pay the price the producers charge, just saying there sould be a big difference in the prices of blank decoders.

Edited by Paul80
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….agreed and especially when some suppliers' products are absolute rubbish. Top end suppliers may just be worth it, especially as they have spent many hours producing the programme. The maths is simple really isn't it? 10 loco's with good equipment and programme = £1000ish. When I had a small DCC exhibition layout in the past and used sound fitted diesels, I had to pretend I was not spending anything when creating the loco fleet as it was frightening (20 + loco's)…..ouch.

I only have one sound fitted steam engine on my present home based layout and I was fortunate to have got that loco and sound complete for around £80 I think it was, from a RM Webber. As it is, each of my steam loco models requires about £25 for a reasonable decoder but I can do that as I go as it isn't being prepped for exhibiting and I have quite a lot to do.

Phil

Edited by Mallard60022
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4 minutes ago, Paul80 said:

It cost a lot of time to produce the sound that is loaded and that time, both in recording and editing the recording into a usable file set all has to be paid for and that we all understand, but why does a blank sound decoder with no ones sounds loaded cost the same as one loaded with sound.

 

Obviously the answer is that ESU and Zimo must sell the decoders to the sound producers for a fraction of the cost the rest of us pay for a blank, otherwise why would they bother making the sounds in the first place.

 

Also as to the true cost of these £100 decoders, have you ever blown one up and had it replaced, what were you charged, one supplier I use charges between £15 and £20 to replace a faulty decoder, I bet they are Not  loosing any money on the replacement are they, that I bet is the true cost of these decoders direct from the makers, with the prices for retail held high to make all the work done producing the sounds worth while, that I have no issue with, its still asking £100 for a blank that gets me, why shoild I have to pay the sound producing element of the retail price if I was producing the sounds myself.

 

Not that I am capable of producing the sounds so am happy to pay the price the producers charge, just saying there sould be a big difference in the prices of blank decoders.

£100 for a non sound decoder? Blimey, someone is ripping you off buddy.

Phil

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I get that there's effort involved in recording and editing the sounds. And some more work in the 'program', but that still doesn't justify the unit cost in my view. Not when compared to other consumer electronics that are far, far more complicated.

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25 minutes ago, Paul80 said:

one supplier I use charges between £15 and £20 to replace a faulty decoder, I bet they are Not  loosing any money on the replacement are they, that I bet is the true cost of these decoders direct from the makers

Its my understanding that the £15 charge originally came about because it was taking months to get a warranty return back from Austria so the retailer would take a bit of a risk and send one out from their stock, in the hope that eventually they would get the faulty one replaced. Thats fair enough because I'm sure there would be examples where the manufacture refused a repair etc and the shop wouldn't want to lose out. More recently its become the case that some retailers charge this for every repair, presumably they stopped offering the service where you could just wait months to get it back, I'm not sure?

 

What I am sure of is that the ESU decoders cost a lot more than £15 at wholesale price, and I'm sure Zimo will be very similar, retailers are not buying the decoders for £15 and adding the rest on for the sound file. Also remember that if something costs £120, £20 of that is VAT which again takes off a huge chunk of potential profit.

 

Richard

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14 minutes ago, Gerrard said:

And some more work in the 'program'

That may be quite an understatement. attached is a screen shot of the engine sounds from a free German sound file from the ESU website. I have no idea how it all works and I never will, but the people who do understand it have a right to charge for that expertise. If you look at the bar at the bottom you can see that the section on the screen is only about 1/3 of it and thats literally just the engine thats on F1, the horns, compressor, flange squeal, lights etc all need programming separately.

 

1663587341_ScreenShot2020-01-15at22_35_59.png.7655e15496eb503f449f7902b8472e52.png

 

Richard

 

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Most of my locos are sound fitted and I am happy to pay for decent quality sounds. A couple of thoughts...

 

You could pay £30 to hear a good band play, or you could pay me £5 to sing a few songs and play some tunes.  £30 will give you a good night out, £5 and you’ll be out of the door in 2 minutes.

 

I made amateur railway videos (I’ve posted some on RMweb).  I now spend more time getting the sound right than I do on editing the pictures. If someone was paying me (would be nice if they did) the cost of editing the sound would be considerable.

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17 minutes ago, ColinK said:

Most of my locos are sound fitted and I am happy to pay for decent quality sounds. A couple of thoughts...

 

You could pay £30 to hear a good band play, or you could pay me £5 to sing a few songs and play some tunes.  £30 will give you a good night out, £5 and you’ll be out of the door in 2 minutes.

 

I made amateur railway videos (I’ve posted some on RMweb).  I now spend more time getting the sound right than I do on editing the pictures. If someone was paying me (would be nice if they did) the cost of editing the sound would be considerable.

 

I sing like that too. Commiserations, LOL.

 

Paul

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17 hours ago, Richard Croft said:

That may be quite an understatement. attached is a screen shot of the engine sounds from a free German sound file from the ESU website. I have no idea how it all works and I never will, but the people who do understand it have a right to charge for that expertise. If you look at the bar at the bottom you can see that the section on the screen is only about 1/3 of it and thats literally just the engine thats on F1, the horns, compressor, flange squeal, lights etc all need programming separately.

 

1663587341_ScreenShot2020-01-15at22_35_59.png.7655e15496eb503f449f7902b8472e52.png

 

Richard

 

 

Thanks for your input Richard. I agree there is definitely effort in the 'program' however, whilst I'm no expert in programming locomotive sound files, the diagram you provided appears to be a fairly basic logic flow for when to play what sound. I work with far more complicated logic flows (I've worked in IT for 30+ years).

 

My point isn't that these people shouldn't be compensated, it's that the effort involved isn't vast by any stretch of the imagination, and that effort is compensated for by a percentage of each sale. On that basis I still can't see the justification for the addition unit cost of adding sound to the decoders. It honestly seems very excessive to me.

 

Happy to be pointed in the right direction, but none of what I've read so far appears to justify the cost.

Thanks everyone for contributing to the debate.

 

 

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From Youchoos website:

 

Non-sound Zimo Decoder: £20-35 approx for N and OO sizes

Blank Zimo sound Decoder: £100 approx.

Pre-loaded Zimo sound Decoder: £110 approx (including a speaker!)

 

So the cost overhead of sound seems to be mostly in the hardware, rather than the software. That will be due to things like a faster, more capable processor, lots of RAM and a DAC.

 

Edited by Harlequin
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First up, I have to admit I am not a fan of DCC Sound. However. If you are going to complain about the cost of sound fitted DCC chips then you may as well have a poke at the cost of standard ones too. Yes by and large prices have dropped over the last ten years or so, but considering the tech behind DCC, it's component breakdown and architecture is in way off excess of ten plus years old now, why are we paying upwards of twenty quid for a moderate quality DCC control chip? As an example I've just purchased a box of "Tracking" dongles at £42 a throw Each dongle has a 3G SIM card, GPS receiver and the necessary magic pixies for me to know where that dongle is geographically (providing it's within 3G coverage) via the tinter-whizzle and for a month before I have to re-charge it. Compare that against the twenty year old serial control tech that's in a DCC chip and you have to wonder who is getting their leg lifted? Yes I know all about economies of scale and size of market etc etc etc. But it does make you wonder. 

 

One last thing.       You can't scale sound............ I'll just leave you with that one.

 

 

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The blank sound decoders are priced at exactly what the market will pay, simple dimple.

 

The effort and work that goes into recording and programming the sound file to my mind is completely disproportionate to the overall cost, I can get one of my existing sound chips fitted reblown with one of the latest files for anything from £10>£20.......which to me is a bit of a bargain.

 

If the chips cost £30>£40 bare and sound files (really good ones of course) cost £40>£50 to buy and load I would think that was a far more balanced and fair cost, it appears the big manufacturers get the major slice of the profit for hardware and the little sounds guys scrap a bit at the top, as it’s always been unfortunately.

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1 hour ago, Harlequin said:

So the cost overhead of sound seems to be mostly in the hardware, rather than the software. That will be things like a faster more capable processor and RAM.

 

So it still looks like a lot of money for some fairly low tech hardware, but at the end of the day the market decides the price and it seems this price level is sustainable.

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2 hours ago, spamcan61 said:

So it still looks like a lot of money for some fairly low tech hardware, but at the end of the day the market decides the price and it seems this price level is sustainable.

 

Yep, the market will sustain a price level, but I for one won't be buying sound decoders at that price, I just don't see the value for money.

So whilst the market may sustain this price, I wonder how many more would be sold if the price was lower?

 

I'd consider them for an addition £15-20 more. But not for £100+.

But it's up to each person to decide value for money.

 

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3 hours ago, Nile_Griffith said:

One last thing.       You can't scale sound............ I'll just leave you with that one.

Maybe the sound isn't to scale but to my ears at least the models which produce sounds are more realistic than the ones that don't

 

Richard

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This comes around at least once a year. 

There is nothing stopping those who think sound should be cheaper from crowd funding a project for a cheaper sound decoder.

 

At between £40 and £60 per decoder (retail), there are Digitrax sound decoders - user loadable with sounds.   But perhaps there are features in ESU and Zimo which makes them a better proposition ?     

 

 

 

- Nigel

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On 15/01/2020 at 19:51, Gerrard said:

It is just me or do others think the huge cost of adding sound to a locomotive is far more expensive than is should be? I work in IT and many of the technologies I use are far more complex and difficult to produce than a sound chip, so I can't understand how the cost of them can be justified. Sure, the IT industry has significantly larger scale of production, but I still don't believe that accounts for the excessive pricing.

 

I actually wonder if the excessive pricing is self defeating, meaning that the sales volume is much lower than is could be due to costs that many people can't justify? Would there be a linear relationship between price reduction and sales increase? Could one offset the other? Or perhaps increase revenue for the vendor / manufacturer?

 

Just something I've been wondering about for a while and am interested what others thoughts on this are?

Is there a justification for the high price 

 

You work in IT and are charging £100/hour for easy work, more than a cleaner gets for a whole day work.  Are you good value for money?

Well that pay isn't reflecting the days work, there is all the prior training you invested over the years to gain and maintain that skillset.

And there will be more skilled IT consultants who will command higher fees for doing the things only they can do

 

 

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On 15/01/2020 at 22:22, Gerrard said:

I get that there's effort involved in recording and editing the sounds. And some more work in the 'program', but that still doesn't justify the unit cost in my view. Not when compared to other consumer electronics that are far, far more complicated.

 

Quite interesting fact I heard that if you started in the 1970s and decided to build a top spec mobile phone from scratch... the technology behind it would cost $25 Trillion!

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2 hours ago, Gerrard said:

 

Yep, the market will sustain a price level, but I for one won't be buying sound decoders at that price, I just don't see the value for money.

So whilst the market may sustain this price, I wonder how many more would be sold if the price was lower?

 

I'd consider them for an addition £15-20 more. But not for £100+.

But it's up to each person to decide value for money.

 

 

There are high quality blank DCC sound decoders available for around £ 70. 

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I haven’t a clue what the components of a decoder are, or the costs of making them, whether sound or non-sound. As with so much else in life it would be nice if they could be cheaper, but if cost is an over-riding factor , and I can well understand that for many of us, then there are Hornby’s TTS ones at around £38, their valiant attempt to provide lower cost sound. The diesel variants are quite nice and if you find the motor control with a particular motor is less than you require, (it’s a case of getting what you pay for), then using them just as sound function decoders with another controlling the motor is a possible option to consider. It’s what I have done in several cases, and costs little extra if it’s an already DCC loco you have decided to sound fit.

 

Even buying two decoders, say a TTS plus a Zimo for the other bits, motor, lighting etc, can work out at around £60. Not peanuts, but more affordable if cash is tight. Horses for courses etc.

 

Izzy

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