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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For anyone who's purchased a new Athearn DCC locomotive recently, do you know if the decoder was all one board or was it a motherboard with a 21pin decoder attached that could easily be removed and replaced with a different decoder? Thanks.
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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.
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.
 

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Michael wrote:
"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."

There were some Atlas Classic locos that came from the factory this way -- that is, dcc and DC on a single motherboard.
You "moved a jumper" to set them to run in either dcc or DC.
I believe some of these "dual-control" motherboards were from Lenz.

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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
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.
I just asked Athearn and got an answer, because it was about locomotives that haven't been released yet. This is their response:

"Athearn uses custom Tsunami2 boards for the sound equipped models. There is a 2 pin plug for connecting a Current Keeper, but no plugs for additional decoders. The DCC Ready locomotives are equipped with a light board that has a 21 pin NEM connector.

There is one exception to this and that is Athearn’s switchers. They are equipped with a 21 pin Tsunami2 decoder."
 

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"...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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
"...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.
Yep, but I was originally asking about the DCC sound equipped versions. I should have specified that.
 

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It doesn't matter to the MB what you plug into it as long as the pin count matches. Sound or no sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It doesn't matter to the MB what you plug into it as long as the pin count matches. Sound or no sound.
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.
 

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I believe it is my misunderstanding. I was not correctly interpreting Athearn's answer, and it is still not clear from their response to you if the sound equipped locomotives have a separate decoder board.

All they state is that their switchers have a 21 pin header on the existing board. Per Athearn about the sound equipped versions: "...but no plugs for additional decoders."

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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
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 agree, they definitely did not word it well. Here is what my Genesis SDP40F looks like.

 

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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.
 
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I'm in the minority. I don't want sound on my locos. So I always buy DCC ready and install my own decoders. I did that even before DCC with sound was the norm. I've always wanted to chosenwhat goes in mine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
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.
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.
 

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It looks as though the socket is for an add-on card for additional AUX outputs and a keep-alive capacitor.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
It looks like another thing I could try is called a "Decoder Buddy", which looks like a replacement motherboard. I could swap out the Tsunami board with it and then add my own 21-pin decoder. Anyone have a good experience with it?
 
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