8.17 Jazz Music for Phil's √

Unlike typical model railroad sounds, such as steam or diesel locomotive effects (which drives me insane), something like jazz music playing softly in the background is something I'd enjoy. And having a "live band" at Phil's Bayou Another is just a natural thing. My plan was to use a cheap little DIY MP3 player and install a small speaker right under the building. I found a seriously cheap (<$4) MP3 player; I just had to add the speaker and a battery pack. Conveniently the player reads the sound files from a USB drive.

On 10 May 2020 I built an enclosure for the MP3 player. I couldn't build it into the layout because 1) I needed access to the USB stick, and 2) the controls were part of the PC board. So I popped it into an electronics project box which had a handy 9V battery compartment, requiring that I include a 5 volt regulator in the circuit (tucked in behind the power switch, top left corner of the image below left). I also had to construct a set of pushbuttons using tubular styrene. The finished enclosure is below right; I'll probably hang it on the face of the layout with Velcro, like a throttle.

Technical notes on the sound files: Because of the tiny speaker size, as well as the lack of volume control on the player, I processed the files quite a bit. First, I attenuated the volume to keep the music from being overbearing, as well as to reduce distortion. I also ran the file through an EQ to greatly reduce the bass, also to further reduce distortion. Then I applied some dynamic compression to keep the softer passages from dropping out and the louder ones in check. Finally, I mixed in ambient bar-restaurant sound, captured from this video, plus some light applause at the end of each tune. I also included a couple of tracks of just the ambient restaurant sound to give the band a break between sets. Thankfully the little player doesn't pause between tracks, even for a split second, so the the whole experience is seamless.

I installed the speaker directly under the jazz band (above)ónot because it was necessary, but because it was the only space left for it! I drilled a few holes through the floor around the band, then assembled a tiny enclosure around the speaker, which greatly improved the sound quality.

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