Well, this article may cause some controversy, but I feel club members should be totally informed on products I have researched so that they can make some informed choices. Much of the information presented is from my testing, and input from several other modelers across the country.
Aristo recently came out with an inexpensive ($75) sound system, which everyone had been waiting for and talking about. It turns out that this is really a system made by Dallee electronics, sold under the Aristo name. This system is monophonic, meaning that only one sound can be played at a time. For example, the diesel engine sound or steam chuff cuts out when the horn or whistle blows or the bell rings. This may not be real noticeable to many, but to those that have experienced Phoenix or Sierra, there is a definite difference.
A friend bought one of these systems at the ECLSTS. He realized afterward that at the ECLSTS, the sound system was enhanced to promote sales. It has since been discovered that the display locomotive at the show had a Bose small box speaker in it plus it was being driven by a 22 watt amp. This definitely made the system sound better than it would normally when you bring it home and install it in your own locomotive or box car. In reality, the engine sound is fair, and the horn or whistle is marginal. The bell actually sounded like someone hitting a horse shoe with a hammer. This bell is activated with a track magnet, and can only be turned off with a second track magnet. This has been criticized as a "waste of a track magnet". The horn also works with a magnet, but plays a random sequence of signals and not just a grade crossing signal. There is no speaker included in this system, so one must be purchased. It has also been recommended that Phoenix or Sierra reed switches be used to trigger the bell or horn/whistle, since the Dallee reed switches are very sensitive and difficult to work with. Many modelers I have corresponded with have described this system as sub-par.
Several people have installed this system in a boxcar so that it could be used with several different locomotives, and also would allow easy access to the volume controls and 9 Volt battery. The battery actually powers this system, as it does in the sound systems marketed by other companies. If you install this system in a locomotive, you have no access to the volume controls, Track power provides charging and control of the basic start up and stop sounds.
In reality, this is a "bare bones" sound system with many limitations. Do not expect quality sound from it, and expect to pay more than the original $75, since additional parts (speaker and reed switches) must be purchased to make it work. Many modelers on the internet forums feel that Aristo should distance itself from this product and admit that they made a mistake. The system will occasionally shut down for no apparent reason, and Dallee is not interested in fixing it. Per George Schreyer "The Dallee steam sound system doesn't have the sound quality of the more expensive systems but it is good enough as long as the chuff rate doesn't get too high. At high chuff rates, the chuff simply fades away. Dallee claims that this is the way it supposed to be, but I would expect the chuffs to merge into a steady roar instead of fading away completely. " If you liked the old PH sound systems, then this system is quite similar. Be aware that it will give you a basic sound system with no frills. If you really want high quality sound, do not expect it from this system.