Hi everyone, so I’m new to the whole sound card thing. I have the newest version of polks (aristocraft) fa 1 with the 3 plugs. Which is the easiest brand/type sound card to use for this? Note I am using old school dc power.
Greg's referring to Phoenix's "plug-and-play" SM-18 DCC decoder. While I would agree that would be an easy install, if you're using the loco in a DC environment, it is not the way I would go. The DCC decoder will work in an analog DC environment, but the loco requires a minimum of 6 volts to the track in order for the decoder to power on and run the loco. The loco will not begin to move until the track voltage get to this level, and as Greg states, the top speed of the locomotive will be less than that of a non-sound-equipped FA, meaning you could not run the two together. Also, the sound will cut out whenever the track voltage drops below 6 volts. This gets bothersome if you change direction frequently or do a lot of starts and stops.
Instead, I'd use Phoenix's PB-17 sound board. This is a sound-only board which is also a very easy installation. It has an external battery which provides a minimum voltage to the sound decoder to keep the sound running no matter what the track voltage is doing. This prevents sound drop-out. Also, because you are not changing anything in the wiring of the locomotive itself, it will run at the same speed of another FA without sound.
The sound files used by both boards are identical, so you would just ask for the retailer to program your board with Phoenix's Alco sound file (presuming you wanted to be as close to prototypical as possible).