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DCC Decoders

Steve has this question about his HO layout:

“I am getting back in to model railroading after a lengthy time and know nothing about DCC. Can I install any decoder into my DCC ready locomotives or are they Brand/style specific? I will have a small (under 100 sq ft layout), but want it to be/sound realistic.”

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6 Responses to DCC Decoders

  • Leesays:

    Google either the train manufacturer or “decoders”, find one of the top companies (I use Digitrax) and they’ll have a reference guide based on Locomotive and which decoder is recommended.

    17 Engines, all DCC equipped using this method


  • Robert Mooresays:

    Digitrax is the best as it will work any decoder
    some others are not as compatible. ask others & go with the most common.

  • Billsays:

    As long as it is truly DCC (your power supply and control) then you can use any brand of decoder in your loco’s. What is important is to make sure the decoder fits and can handle the power requirements of your loco. While it is relatively easy to figure out what your power requirements are for a given loco the easy way is to go through eithe Digitrax or Soundtrax website and see which decoder they recommend for your loco. Then when you link to it you can see the peak output of the recommended decoder. That is what you have to use to guide you in your selection.

  • Frank Bsays:

    DCC systems are built to a common standard, so that equipment from different manufacturers will be compatible.

    I advise you to buy a basic book on DCC from a model shop to get a full grasp of the basics of operation. This will cover just about everything you need to know.

  • train doctorsays:

    Hello Steve and you
    As you have found out… DCC is all together different than the old style controllers,
    You have to hardwire a decoder inside your older engines You can buy new engines that are DCC ready and some that are not DCC ready or you can buy engines with decoders already in them.
    If you have GOOD running engines you can install the decoder and save money on engines…..
    another way is buy a engine that is not DCC ready and install a decoder in it.
    3rd way is to get a DCC ready engine which already has the motor isolated etc and all you have to do is drop the decoder in it + if you want sound you will have to add speaker etc.
    4th way is to buy an engine that is already DCC equipped ,,, As a dealer I will tell you up front that the decoders in these engines are usually not the good decoders. unless you buy Broadway limited etc the decoders are as cheap as the manufacturer can get .
    one example
    Bachmann has stepped up their game over the years. one of the best seller which has “sadly” been dropped now
    Not to step on toes I will use this one,,,
    the “shay” New over $300 and still hard to find USED less than $200 with the DCC/ sound
    It had a Soundtraxx tsunami DCC decoder it sounded great!! BUT it did not have all of the sounds and features as the Shay tsunami decoder you buy direct from soundtraxx

    Now,,, the answer to your question will any decoder fit the DCC ready. N O,,, 1 some decoders will need a wiring harness to fit your engine. 2 you said that you want sound,,, first … DCC ready usually means that the motor is isolated from the chassis and has a slot to install a decoder, it does not mean that it is “sound/ DCC ready usually it does not have space picked out or have a speaker for your sound…3 you have to get a decoder that the sound will match your engine….. you don’t want to install a SD40 engine sound in a F7 ,,,,,,,,,,,, and a few other reasons. you will have to ask the seller what will work in your particular engine.

    I Myself had rather buy a engine that has no DCC to it at all and install a good decoder after reworking the engine to DCC friendly. because If I get one that is dcc ready I will rip that stuff out since most are not DCC sound ready and other reasons. which is wasting the extra money you paid for the DCC ready stuff.

    The decoder in your engine will have to be programmed up by your system. some you will only have a couple cv’s to set and others have everything you have to set .
    Their are many decoder and Dcc systems out their.
    I Use and sell NCE DCC systems I reccomend them because they are high quality, fairly priced, easy to use and easiest to program your decoders with.
    I also Use and sell TCS decoders I have searched all of the products and NCE / TCS are in my opinion the best for different reasons.
    The TCS WOW sound decoder is hard if not impossible to beat.
    It has excellent motor control, many lighting functions the best sound quality on the market and you get all of the diesel engines, bells and horns in one decoder,,, the same with the steam,,, all sounds in one decoder “unlike the others”. It can be run right out of the gate but is easy to set the CV’s since it has a voice helper to interact and tell you how to do what you want along with a lot more that I don’t want to go through, the best part of TCS is that their quality is so high and they are so confident in their products they offer a full year GOOF PROOF warranty, even if you wire it wrong and melt it ,,, they will fix or replace it at no charge. just pay shipping ” a little secret here is that TCS don’t ask for a buy date hint hint. have you heard of a better warranty????
    Its getting late here,,, 06:18 AM so I am not going to proof read this so if I made mistakes in my wording etc. please forgive.
    You can call me for repairs installs new or used train items or just plain help and info @ 252 686 6527 after lunch til midnight EST. or this email
    Good luck and happy railing

  • Bob Esays:

    NCE. Not only do they work, but there is real live nice, helpful & honest people on the phone if you need them. I have heard several people say that they blew a decoder or control system by doing something wrong and the company treated them very well on repair or replacement. Absolutely the best system, IMHO.

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