That's what I was thinking too, but I just bought a Athearn Genesis Amtrak SDP40F (my first Athearn locomotive), which was released over a year ago. Anyway, I had purchased a 21-pin LokSound 5 that I was going to swap out the Tsunami2 for, but when I opened the locomotive up, I saw that the Tsunami2 was a "direct" decoder, meaning there was no connector and just one one circuit board. It looked similar to the LokSound 5 direct decoders I've seen online but it's a Tsunami2 version. So now I am wondering if that it just standard practice for Athearn now.I've not yet seen any brand locomotive equipped from the factory with DCC where a MB wasn't used for the attachment of a decoder.
The MB usually has the header for the decoder to attach directly to the MB or attached with a short length of harness using a header plug or jack.
I just asked Athearn and got an answer, because it was about locomotives that haven't been released yet. This is their response:To the OP:
I'm going to guess that most "upper end" engines such as the Athearn Genesis series are now coming with a 21-pin connection to the light board -- unless they are using a "native dcc board" similar to the ones I mentioned above.
The only way to know... remove the shell and take a look.
Or... perhaps look around online for that particular loco in which you're interested.
Yep, but I was originally asking about the DCC sound equipped versions. I should have specified that."...The DCC Ready locomotives are equipped with a light board that has a 21 pin NEM connector."
And there is your answer. A MB with the header jack for a 21 pin decoder.
I get that, but maybe we are not understanding each other. What I discovered (and what Athearn confirmed) is that when you buy most DCC sound equipped Athearn models (which are the more expensive versions, not the cheaper DCC ready versions), the locomotives have a single circuit board which is the decoder itself, so there is no plug to add a different decoder. You would have to buy a DCC ready version (no sound) to be able to install a 21-pin decoder.It doesn't matter to the MB what you plug into it as long as the pin count matches. Sound or no sound.
I agree, they definitely did not word it well. Here is what my Genesis SDP40F looks like.This reads as if there is at least one header already on the MB for the decoder and that there are no additional headers for another decoder.
If there is indeed only one board for everything, a better response from them would have been "...but no plugs for swapping decoders.
I don't like it either, for the same reasons and others. I'm trying to have LokSound 5's in all of my locomotives to make things consistent with programming and consisting. That SDP40F that I bought was one of the last few left at Trainworld and there were no DCC ready models left. I was totally expecting it to have some kind of connector and was really surprised when it didn't. I could buy a LokSound 5 Direct for it (this), then completely de-solder the wires from the Tsunami and re-solder them to the LokSound 5 direct, but no idea how well that would work. I would also still be stuck with no connector.Yep, that's a combined MB with the decoder built in/on. I would not like that arrangement. It limits your choice of decoder to what they supply.
I've never seen an assembly like that in modern DCC locomotives. Now, if something goes wrong with the decoder and the magic smoke is released, you're stuck without being able to pop in a new decoder, and instead have to rely on Athearn to replace, or supply the replacement MB/decoder and your locomotive is down for the duration.
I would never buy a locomotive set up like that. I hope yours lasts a good long while.