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I'm a relative newbie to this hobby. I have no prior experience whatsoever with DCC. I thought this detailed review might be useful to other newbies.

I have been running trains under track power using Aristo's 75 mhz TE onboard system. It's fine, but they Aristo has phased it out. It's also limited--to get sound you need to install a separate sound card, which is expensive and you get extremely limited control of the sounds.

QSI takes a different approach-the soundcard and the speed/direction/lights card are the same. They make a board that simply plugs into the socket of Aristo engines. It works on DC or DCC or with a remote Airwire throttle. To use it with Airwire you need to buy an additional "Gwire" board for around $90

It looked to me that if you wanted remote control and high quality sound and sophisticated control, this was the way to go. Once you have the Airwire throttle, the QSI card and the Gwire card are cheaper than a Phoenix 2k2 sound card alone, and slightly less than a a Phoenix P5 and a separate control card.

Another plus for me is that the QSI board, since it controls speed, does not need a separate "chuff sensor" or reed switch/magnet system to tie the sounds to the speed. You just plug it into the socket, plug the speaker in, and it's up and running, and if you match the loco sound file to your model prototype, the chuff syncs quite well--better, in my view, than they did using a reed switch and axle magnets on the tender. You can adjust the shuff sync if you have the additional programmer software (see below).

I sprung for a QSI board for my aristo Pacific, and then another for my Aristo Mikado, replacing a Phoenix 2k2 card which had been in the tender.

How are the sounds? They are excellent--very high quality. They are slightly processed, with some added reverb on the whistles, but they have a slightly "dirtier" sound than Phoenix which I prefer. Using the airwire throttle, you get a really remarkable degree of control over the sounds. You can trigger a number of typical functions like bell, whistle, coupler clank etc. and there is also an interesting doppler effect as well as an effect that simulates and engine under load. To me, the engine seems more "connected" to the sound or "feels" more integrated. But that's a purely subjective feeling.

QSI also has a "programmer"--a USB based interface box--that works with QSI software to modify sound files or add a new file altogether to an existing loco. My Pacific came with the wrong sound file, and I wanted to fix it. It took me forever to get it to work--the QSI software is windows only, so I had to install windows on my Mac and install the appropriate updates. And then it turns out you have to disconnect the radio control--the "Gwire" card--to program the loco. Once I figured that out it all went very smoothly. QSI says, buried n the manual, that you can install a mini switch to disconnect the Gwire card, and there are two small solder pads on the GWire card which indicate where to mount the switch leads. But documentation on this is scarce at best. (see below)

Documentation with the QSI system overall is quite bad, especially if, like me, you have no prior experience with DCC. There are may overlapping manuals and updates; the manual I got with the board did not apply to the board I had. Between the Airire throttle and the QSI directions, it took me quite while to feel comfortable making changes and I'm still figuring it out. QSI would do customers a service if it streamlined its documentation and tech support.

Pros:

Excellent sounds
ease of installation
no need for chuff sensors
lower cost

Cons
bad documentation
software runs only on windows

Overall I'm quite happy with it an will continue to gradually shift from Aristo's 75 mz to the QSI/Airwire combination

One further note: Early versions of the QSI board shipped with a polyfuse whch can trip in warm weather. I had this happen yesterday running in 93 degree heat. Current versions of the board do not include this polyfuse and QSI recommends jumpering the existing polyfuse to take it out of operation
 

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I thought I'd add to Lownotes great review. Having already owned the Airwire throttle (and their control card in another locomotive), I too decided to give the QSI system a shot when I received my Bachmann K-27. I bought the QSI sound card and G-wire card and installation in the K's "Super socket" was very easy (Please don't start jumping on the super socket issue again as this post is about the QSI system). Like Lownote, the instructions left a lot to be desired but I eventually got it working. With the way the K is wired, it also gives me the flexability to run with either track power or battery power (that I put in the tender as well). As this was my real first experience with DCC, there was a lot to learn, but with help from others, the system works pretty well. One issue I can't seem to fix however, is inconsistent sound operation when pushing the function buttons. Some times the sounds won't activate and sometimes once activated, you can't turn it off for an extended period. I'm curious if you've seen this problem Lownote? I'm impressed enough with the system that I have decided to make this the standard install on any new or future engine upgrades that require sound and engine control.

Pros
I have been able to regulate the speed of the K through the back EMF feature (really helps on down hill grades)
Most DCC features can be used
Price is very reasonable for both sound and engine control
Installation in the K-27 was simple
Voltage range of the board is something like 0-28 Vdc (unlike Airwire card)

Cons
Documentation lacking
Function button operation to control sound is inconsistent
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I have had that problem! Sometimes the function buttons work like charm, sometimes they seem to stop working. Sometimes I press the horn and it sounds and then stops, sometimes it stays on till I press the button again. I was assuming it was a range issue. But it happens at odd times. For the most part range is excellent, but sometimes the buttons act just as you describe
 

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The Airwire throttle isn't the greatest. I have talked to QSI and they are working on their own wireless throttle for their system. The problem you guys are having may be frequency related. The Airwire throttle and the Gwire have 9 frequencies you can set them to. I have a cell phone tower down the street from me and I have found I have all sorts of trouble with frequency 2 &4. Cell phones operate on the 900mhz frequencies the same as the QSI/Airwire system. The cell phones were walking all over my trains causing all sorts of problems. The documentation for the QSI stuff is confusing, I agree. Additionally I just sent 2 QSI decoders back to them because I was having problems. They call me and told me they couldn't find anything wrong with them. We talked about reseting things back to the factory default settings which I did with the programer. Well turns out the programer doesn't do that that well. Has to be reset using the magnetic wand. There guys have made HO decoders for years and they are great but most of the tech there don't know much about the G decoders which is a shame. I think this is a great system and is what has been needed for a long time, HOWEVER if they don't do a better job of documentation someone else will come up with the same system to compete with them (and do the documentation correctly) and they will loose out. AT THIS TIME I TELL ALL THE GUYS IN MY TRAIN CLUB THAT ARE THINKING OF BUYING THIS SYSTEM TO WAIT UNTIL THEY IMPROVRE THE DOCUMENTATION OR UNTIL I HAVE FIGURED EVERYTHING OUT SO I CAN TEACH THEM CORRECTLY. It would be real easy to do some demonstrations on how to do things and put them on utube or on their own web site. Hint, Hint.
 

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Posted By lownote on 09/05/2008 11:42 AM
I have had that problem! Sometimes the function buttons work like charm, sometimes they seem to stop working. Sometimes I press the horn and it sounds and then stops, sometimes it stays on till I press the button again. I was assuming it was a range issue. But it happens at odd times. For the most part range is excellent, but sometimes the buttons act just as you describe


That sounds familiar. I used to have that problem with Airwire/Phoenix 2K2.
 
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