Decoders

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#2
Can I use an NCE decoder with a Digitrax set up?
Yes! The beauty of DCC as a standard is that you can run almost any decoder on another brands system. I have digitrax but the majority of decoders I use in locomotives are NCE, Soundtraxx and Loksound. I only use Digitrax decoders in locomotives I buy second hand with them already installed. Even then I have to see if they are first generation ones (no speed tables in those).

It's quite common to see a mixture of brands of decoders on a single DCC system. This is especially true of club layouts.
 

bnsf971

AKA Gomez Addams
Staff member
#3
You can operate almost any brand and type decoder on almost any system, most of them at the same time.
In the video linked below, Locomotives from Intermountain, Athearn, and MTH, with sound decoders from ESU Loksound, Soundtraxx Tsunami, and MTH Protosound 3 demonstrate their interoperability:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUTxPadQzgE
 
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wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#6
While your looking Paul, take a look at TCS for DCC only decoders and Tsunami for Sound. I think they may be the cheapest options. I've had both and find them to be pretty decent. LokSound is (from all accounts) the top of the line in Sound Decoders but can be a little on the expensive side compared to the others.
 
#7
Afraid I don't know what TCS is. I don't think I'll be going for sound on these. My lead loco has sound, so I think that will do it. The 8-40B's are pretty small and wouldn't think the sound would be too good in those anyway.
 
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tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#8
TCS is another brand, Train Control Systems. Do you know if your Atlas locos have only the 8 pin NMRA socket for the decoder to plug into, or the 9 pin "Quick Plug" socket?
 
#10
ModelTrainStuff is a great place to buy but I have also found that Yankee Dabbler is a good resource for DCC anything. They carry the speakers that are liked by many that you will not find at modeltrainstuff.com.

Hope this is a little help.
Dave
 

Selector

Active Member
#11
Afraid I don't know what TCS is. I don't think I'll be going for sound on these. My lead loco has sound, so I think that will do it. The 8-40B's are pretty small and wouldn't think the sound would be too good in those anyway.
Don't mean to sound snarky, as my written words might, but this is where you say to yourself, "Umm....maybe I need a bit 'o larnin' on decoders because people are telling me stuff I didn't know, and I already want to buy one particular brand."

TCS and LokSound decoders are the two very best for fine motor control. I mean the kind where you crack the throttle with one single speed step on your throttle and the loco begins to creep along at a smooth 2 scale mph. Many decoders can't do that. In fact, the vaunted and popular Tsunami 1000 and variants from 8 or more years ago required the user to enter arcane and high-numbered Configuration Variables (CV) to tune the drive they were enslaving. If you do that, as I did with a 4-8-4 that otherwise ran jerkily, you'll eventually get a good runner, but it's a bit of bother to do all that work while the TCS and LokSound decoders do it right out of the box!!

What I mean to suggest is that you really should do some research before you spend upwards of $25 on a non-sound decoder or as little as $80 for a sound decoder. They're not all the same. They use the same code system, the same way your various Mac or Microsoft PC variants do to allow you to use their respective OS's. That's where the standardization is a big boon to the hobby. Remember that MTH doesn't want to play nice in the same sandbox because they want people to purchase their own standard, named DCS. But Roco, Lenz (the originators of DCC who opened their books to all the others so that the industry would benefit), TCS, NCE, QSI (when they were a force), Soundtraxx, Digitrax, and ESU LokSound are able to come to market to compete and to play nicely with each other. But they all offer different capabilities. If you want your throttle responses to be smooth upon installation with no amount of fiddling, then try TCS variants and LokSound. If you don't mind some fiddling, try the others.
 
#13
Yeah, I definitely need some learnin'. my equipment is 8-10 years old. My Athearn sound equipped loco I'll leave the original decoder in for now, and replace the DC decoders in the two Atlas 8-40B's with maybe the TCS decoders. Now that I'm more aware of their existence I'll check them out. Thanks for the info.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#16
Paul,

As Crandell said, not all decoders are the same and (definitely) some are better than others. I have TCS decoders in some of my engines and they are excellent and fairly easy to install.

First up - PINS; there are different types of installation methods, completely "do it yourself" or "drop in" decoders. Drop in decoders have a "cable" with a connector on it, a "pin". You basically drop the decoder in the engine and "plug it in" with little more (if anything) to do in terms of an installation. the "DIY) decoder requires you to solder wires from the engine onto the Decoder Board. That is the difference very VERY basically. Others will give you a more detail definition.

I believe the "Function numbers" of a decoder determine how many "additional" things can be added to the particular board. All sound and non sound decoders come with factory set (default) functions that give you the basics for a particular engine. The additional numbers allow you to expand on what the engine comes with by default. For example, and I hope I am right with this, if you have an engine with a decoder that doesn't come "default" with ditch lights, you can use one of the additional functions of the board to install ditch lights into the engine. As said, I hope that is right, if not, someone will correct me and offer a more precise explanation. In short, the 4 functions are anything yu want them to be.

Not wishing to push you onto one particular decoder BUT, TCS decoders make "drop in" decoders for various makes of engines, Kato, Atlas, Bachmann etc etc; however, you need to add Sound to that decoder. In other words, you need to buy a speaker and wire that speaker to the Decoder Board. ESU (LokSound) is a sound decoder and ESU makes numerous engine specific decoders. I have never used them so cant tell you about installation.

In short, if you are not bothered by sound then I would recommend looking at TCS and seeing what decoders they have for the engines you own. If they do have them, I would go that route.

As for cost, TCS isn't much more expensive than the others such as Tsunami. The extra few dollars they may cost are very well worth the money though and we are not talking about ridiculous, over the top additional costs either.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#19
That TCS drop-in decoder you linked to is for N scale, not HO. As you have an Athearn with sound, I will assume your other locos are HO scale too. 4 function means motor control + front and rear lights. That DC board you showed earlier is Pre DCC, no 8 pin socket to plug into. So here's a question from me to the other eggspurts on here. Would this loco with that type of board be DCC ready i.e. is the motor insulated from the frame?
 
#20
That TCS drop-in decoder you linked to is for N scale, not HO. As you have an Athearn with sound, I will assume your other locos are HO scale too. 4 function means motor control + front and rear lights. That DC board you showed earlier is Pre DCC, no 8 pin socket to plug into. So here's a question from me to the other eggspurts on here. Would this loco with that type of board be DCC ready i.e. is the motor insulated from the frame?
I am doing N scale.
I can't find the boxes my locos came in to check, but I think they were DCC ready, I could be wrong tho.
 
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