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Discussion Starter #1
I'd like to start converting some locos over to DCC. What a quality, yet cost effective decoders for basic DCC and sound. I don't need the most accurate,hi-fi sounds and I don't need a lot of fancy tricks on the decoder. Basic mobility, lights and sounds are what matters, and reliable hassle free performance.

I've learned that I should stay away from Bachmann and MRC decoders. Any others? I have several early EMD (F7 and E7) locos and a GP15 and an unidentified to me Amtrak 503 (SDP40?).

Is the soundtrax sdh166d a worthy entry? Any others to look at? There are so many on the market it's hard to know where to start.

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Shop for lowest price on either NCE or Digitrax decoders.
Both makes make dependable devices and offer a
warrentee replacement even if you accidentally
damage the unit. Save your receipts.

You most likely will need 'wired in' decoders rather
than plug in. Some dealers have them for under $20.00.
Check each loco to determine if it is DCC ready which
means you would need a plug-in to match the port in
your loco.

Just about all currently offered
decoders are rated at 1.5 amp capability which pretty
much means they'll be sufficient for just about
any HO locomotive.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for that. Most will have to be wired, which in no problem. One is DCC ready with an 8 pin connector.

One thing I forgot to ask about, I’d like dual mode decoders. What happens with sound if you have a dual mode decoder on DC only? Assuming simply no sound and only basic light function (headlight on).


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All decoders that offer sound, and probably 90% of all others made after about 2006, are dual-mode. So, don't worry about that characteristic for modern decoders.

The whole reason behind 'sound' decoders is to provide sound. Since the decoders were already designed to work on DC or DCC, and people were getting interested in sound, the rationale was that the decoders would sell themselves with the sound features IF they could be operated on DC layouts. It sort of worked, but the reality is that people began to drift over to, and to convert their layouts and locomotives to, DCC in large numbers beginning in the mid-2000's. But, informal polls show that at least 50% of all layouts are still solidly DC-only. Cost and complexity of rewiring the innards of tenders and locomotives was probably the biggest deterrent.

You could look on eBay and amazon for bulk orders of basic sound decoders from Sountraxx, TCS, and ESULokSound. I haven't heard anything contrary about MRC decoders in at least a full nine years, but they were horrible prior to 2011 or so. I seem to recall that they had improved, so don't overlook their models released after, say, 2012. I don't know much about Digitrax decoders, but Digitrax is how I control all of my stable. My locos come with other decoders installed, and I like them all.

My advice is to shop around, be patient, negotiate a deal if you feel you can purchase five or more decoders. But I suspect you'll be quite pleased with whatever you can snag for a bargain. The brand won't matter a lot if you stand by your requirements stated in your OP.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So of I understand what your are saying, the sounds will operate on a DC track? Obviously with limits, but at least a the engine sound?

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Is the soundtrax sdh166d a worthy entry?
I just installed one in my Bachmann GP30 and was quite impressed with it. It was a tight fit, and I had to sacrifice the rear headlamp to fit the capacitor, but I was very pleased both with the movement and the sound.

I'm now in process of installing the same decoders into two Rivarossi steam locomotives. The decoders, speakers, and capacitors are compact enough that I will be able to fit them inside the boilers without needing to open up the tenders.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Good to know, thanks. How much does the chip come into play with how smoothly it runs? I have loco genies installed on a few trains and they seem to need a little judge to get going. That's with the starting voltage all the way up. They are cheap locos, except one athearn. It's older though. I'm tempted to try a genie on one of my nicer engines. The remote and DC operation are pretty awesome. I'm surprised remotes aren't a more popular option. I have a hard time getting my son to play with anything else.

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So of I understand what your are saying, the sounds will operate on a DC track? Obviously with limits, but at least a the engine sound?

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Yes, but sound decoders tend to need the first five volts of what you send to the rails as you dial up voltage. So, don't be dismayed when you start to rotate the knob or push the lever for more voltage and nothing happens initially. Suddenly, the loco will 'light up' and begin startup sounds, and than as you continue to dial in more voltage, it will begin to move. Note that it may not be much smoother of a start than a straight DC locomotive. DCC control allows you to set CV2 "V-Start" so that, when using DCC, the locomotive will begin to nudge along slowly at the first speed step you assign on your throttle. Might not work as your loco is with a decoder added, but no 'tuning'. Stops and starts might be a bit abrupt.
 

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Some DC controllers also added pulses to achieve a smoother start. I not sure how compatible the pulses would be with a DCC equipped loco running on DC.
 
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