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Comparing DCC Brands

James asks:

“How do I know which of the many brands of DCC are compatible with which make/model of Engine?”

7 Responses to Comparing DCC Brands

  • phil johnsonsays:

    Word of mouth and if you can try the different brands before purchase. My club went NCE, I purchased their wireless pro cab throttle. Learned how to program my decoders. I have since installed a NCE on my layout. I’ve not heard may kind words on Bachmann’s system. I’ve one very good friend who swears at Digitrax and one who swears by. I can attest NCE is user friendly. Personally, I avoid Bachmann, MTH, MRC

  • Larry Cardsays:

    All DCC brands are compatible with all makes/models of engines. However, not all engines…particularly the older ones…are easy to convert to DCC. Additionally, some DCC manufacturers have drop-in decoders for engines that are designed for them. The best thing to do is look up your locomotive and then search the individual DCC manufacturers websites to see if there is a drop-in decoder for it.

  • Dalesays:

    Most real DCC systems are designed to follow the NMRA standards and will, therefore, be mostly compatible with most decoders. What you don’t want to do is mix controllers on the same layout so if you want to use NCE, don’t attach any other type controller.

    Since the decoders generally don’t care whose controller you use, you can usually take your loco, which uses one type of controller at home, to someone else’s layout even if they use a different brand of controller.

  • Robert Essicksays:

    NCE – No doubt about it.

  • Geoffsays:

    As Dale and Larry say, the main DCC system manufacturers follow NMRA standards, as do the main decoder manufacturers. If in doubt, ask the hobby shop you are buying from. The only time I would be cautious is if you are into a particular manufacturer who makes both DCC systems and decoders – eg Hornby in the UK, and Marklin in Germany. It’s possible that other brands of system or decoder will not work well with them.

    If you have an idea about which DCC system you want, and which manufacturers locomotives you are planning of buying, ask here, or on another forum (as an absolute last resort, of course!) if they are compatible. There’s bound to be someone who uses or has tried to use that combination.

  • David Stokessays:

    The box needs to say “NRMA standard” or “Compatible with NRMA Standards”.

    Then price should be the next measure. Pricier brands have all the bells and whistles, cheaper “trainset” brands have the bare necessities.

    Finally what sort of layout is this to be connected to. An 8 x 4 H0 with 2 locos and two main towns you could get away with cheaper less complicated equipment. A basement layout will need more features, greater amperage and more complication which all adds up to greater cost and complexity.

  • The N-Scale Nerdsays:

    I’ve done exactly what you’re doing now! With Digitrax pricing me off their solutions, I went to NCE. Great starter kit! However!!!!
    When I wanted to do PC automation and looked at the different costs of hardware to do block detection or transponding the prices for the major brands were also “prohibitive”.
    I have discovered these guys in Holland! digikeijs.com/en/ Their central controller, DR5000. which has connection ports for EVRYTHING, is around A$280. (includes USB, LAN and WiFi) – Size: 160mmW x 90mmW x 20mmH

    The Free software includes software throttles and turnout switchboards to test your hardware.
    The onboard WiFi allows any phone, notebook or tablet capable of a WiFi connection to be used as a throttle (eg Train Driver app)

    Their transponding solution is around A$17 per channel on their 16-channel DR5088 unit. (This talks Loconet to the CPU)

    Their block detection solution is around A$10 per channel on their 16-channel DR4088 unit. (This talks ext88N to the CPU)

    Sorry if I sound like a commercial, but save yourself some time and money.

    PS: They’re coming up with a “protocol converter” box with will allow my NCE PowerCab to work with this system, too.

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