ESU Multifunction Decoders

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Summary: ESU offers a number of multifunction decoders with differing feature sets, depending on the model line.

Summary of ESU Multifunction Decoders

Loksound Vx Series Multifunction Decoders

The LokSound V3.5, V4.0 and V5[1] are the full feature set multifunction decoders; which allow loading of sound projects plus the ability to create and load custom sound files using WAV files.

LokSound Vx Series allow full access to the Sound Slots and their associated logic flowcharts for configurability. Sound reloads and custom logic requires a LokProgrammer. Typical CV programming can be performed via JMRI or a DCC throttle.

These decoders as sold at retail lack firmware and programming. They ship from the factory with basic firmware and sound files for test purposes only. The retailer will install the desired sound files and update the firmware when purchased.


Select series multifunction decoders allow one to select from 4 preloaded prime movers.[2] The dealer will load Select specific firmware and the sound file upon purchase.

Select series multifunction decoders are a subset of the V4 line, with many common CVs [3], with access to the advanced features hidden and operating with default values.

A Select series multifunction decoder may be loaded with a Select series factory project post-purchase [4]. It not possible to install a unique sound project. Typical CV programming can be performed via JMRI, the LokProgrammer or a DCC throttle.

The SELECT is capable of any feaure the V4 decoder is capable of, and newer SELECT sound projects gained the Full Throttle capability of the V5. With the exception of homemade sound projects" and modifiction of the sound slot logic, if one has the patience and motivation to get the best out of a SELECT, it is a capable decoder.

The LokSound Select is no longer available.[5]

ESU Sound Essentials

The LokSound branding is not used for these multifunction decoders.[6]

These are supplied to OEMs for installation in their products. Often used in RTR Sound Equipped locomotives sold at budget pricing. While they may be based on the V4 or V5 firmware[7] Sound Essentials have a limited feature range as requested by the OEM. Loading of alternative sound-sets is not possible.

ESU Multifunction Decoder Listing

The essential difference between the LokSound compared to LokPilot is that both are almost identical, the difference being the presence of the Sound subsystem. The LokProgrammer and JMRI can determine which type is installed and present the options available. The LokPilot will be missing any CVs related to the sound functions. The firmware will be almost identical, allowing easy consisting and speed matching with other decoders in that family.

LokSound Decoders

For more details, please see the LokSound page. Any additions or corrections should be made on the LokSound page.

  • LokSound Full Throttle
    • All North American sound files are available for LokSound Select and North American v4.0 decoders
  • LokSound Select
    • The latest ESU Decoders
  • LokSound Select Direct
    • Direct replacement for Athearn, Atlas, Bowser/Stewart and Intermountain locomotive light boards
  • LokSound Select Micro
    • Small decoder with 4 function outputs
  • LokSound Select Direct Micro
    • Small decoder suited for N scale narrow hood models, with 6 function outputs
  • LokSound Essential Sound Unit
    • OEM decoder with limited programming, based on the V5 multifunction decoder
  • LokSound L Select / LokSound L V4.0
    • For 0 Scale locomotives
  • LokSound L V4.0
  • LokSound micro V4.0
    • Smaller version, suited to TT and N scale
  • LokSound XL V4.0
    • G and I with DCC, Motorola, Selectrix and M4 modes
  • LokSound V4.0 M4
    • Wired version of the LokSound XL V4.0

LokSound V4,0

This decoder is obsolete and no longer available.

Extended Hardware and Software makes it a more flexible decoder than the Select.


LokSound XL and Select L for Large Scale locomotives. LokPilot V1.0 Standard and LokPilot V4.0 DCC

LokSound Select

This decoder is obsolete and no longer available.

  • DCC and Analog dual mode decoder[8]
  • Eight functions, 1.1A Motor Drive and six lighting outputs
  • Available with 8 pin, 21MTC, LokSound Select Direct and Micro versions. It features a 32 Mbit memory space
  • Customization of sound files

PowerPack Mini

For fourth generation decoders.

LokSound V5

The LokSound V5 multifunction sound decoder has the following modes:

  1. DCC with RailComPlus
  2. M4
  3. Motorola and
  4. Selectrix

The LokSound 5 is designed with the European market in mind. Momentum multiplier (CV 3 and 4) is 0.25. European modellers are more likely to be using some form of automation, requiring much more exact stopping distances or times.

This is the current multifunction decoder from ESU.


  • Amplifier: 3W, Class D (V5-XL is 13W)
  • 16-bit audio samples, at 31.25kHz
  • 128MBit of memory
  • 10 audio channels simultaneously


  • 32-bit processor
  • 32 Functions
  • 50kHz motor controller
  • 1.5A current capacity
  • Three brake modes
  • Load simulation, two stages
  • SUSI modules and RC servos can be controlled by the decoder
  • Up to 12 function outputs available for special purposes, with a total of 15 outputs. Depends on interface to the locomotive
  • PowerPack ready


LokSound V5 DCC

  • LokSound V5 DCC decoders for the North American and Australian markets support DCC only, using a method called V5 DCC.
  • RailCom Plus.
  • CVs 3 and 4 have a momentum multiplier of 0.896, conforming to NMRA S9.2.2.

Essential Sound Unit

The Essential Sound Unit is an OEM only product. It is no available for retail sale. Any inquiries regarding this decoder should be directed to the manufacturer of the vehicle it is installed in.

The ESU LokProgrammer and JMRI support this decoder.

One feature which is often unsupported is CV6, requiring the speed table to be used for adjusting the speed.

Performing a Decoder Reset

The only valid way to reset an ESU multifunction decoder is to write a value of 8 to CV8.

This must be done using Service Mode programing on a Program Track. As timing is critical, it cannot be done on the main line using Operations Mode programming.

JMRI provides a Reset Menu, as ESU multifunction decoders do not have a generic default state. For more information see Decoder Reset.

  1. Pre V5 multifunction decoders are no longer produced due to component obsolescence.
  2. This version is usually found in the US market or as an OEM install.
  3. Compare using the documentation from ESU to determine the differences.
  4. Requires a LokProgrammer. Dealer will install the desired sound project upon purchase.
  5. Component obsolescence forced ESU to discontinue the Select. Some OEMs shipped with the full featured LokSound v5 in its place.
  6. Be aware of this when purchasing a locomotive with a DCC multifunction decoder installed, in it's marketing, packaging and documentation.
  7. Depends on the time period when they were manufactured.
  8. Dual Mode refers to the ability to use the Alternate Power Source specified by the decoder's firmware. This feature can be turned off for DCC Only operation.