This paper proposes likelihood smoothing techniques to improve decision tree-based acoustic models, where decision trees are used as replacements for Gaussian mixture models to compute the observation likelihoods for a given HMM state in a speech recognition system. Decision trees have a number of advantageous properties, such as not imposing restrictions on the number or types of features, and automatically performing feature selection. This paper describes basic configurations of decision tree-based acoustic models and proposes two methods to improve the robustness of the basic model: DT mixture models and soft decisions for continuous features. Experimental results for the Aurora 2 speech database show that a system using decision trees offers state-of-the-art performance, even without taking advantage of its full potential and soft decisions improve the performance of DT-based acoustic models with 16.8% relative error rate reduction over hard decisions. Copyright © 2011 The Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers.