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What brand of DCC do you prefer and why?

6635 Views 42 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Jerry McColgan
I realize this could be a "flame war" type of question and I really hope it will not go that way because I think it is really important for those of us who know very little about DCC to have some sort of information about the various brands.

Some of us (like me) know virtually nothing about DCC beyond the fact that some of our LGB locos came with decoders pre-installed by LGB. We know the decoders were designed to work with LGB's MTS equipment and that Massoth made the LGB electronics.

I also have a friend that uses Digitrax to run his large HO layout. That is about the end of my DCC (brand) knowledge.

I respect the quality of Massoth and by no means is this topic either for or against any manufacturer. I don't know enough about DCC to understand what capabilities Massoth products offer or how other brands might compare with them not just in price but also in capabilities.

I would like to find cheaper products for less demanding applications (such as LGB 41352 sound boards that do nothing but chuff - not even a bell or whistle - but it does have a LGB decoder interface). I don't want to pay $90 just for a DCC chuff on a sound card I only paid $50 for.

The simple fact is that there must be differences between the various brands of DCC including but not limited to decoders so there must be reasons (including but not limited to price) between the various brands of DCC equipment.

My personal viewpoint is that I already own LGB locos with LGB factory installed decoders and LGB Central Stations I, II and III so those are facts that I must consider in any further purchases.

I would really appreciate hearing from members about what YOUR preferred brand of DCC equipment is and why you prefer it and how you use it.

This is NOT about which brand is best or which brand is cheapest but simply why you buy the brand that you do (which features influenced you to buy that brand).

If you mix and match brands I would also appreciate hearing what influences your decisions to buy what.

Compatibility with LGB Central Stations and LGB Remotes is important to me so please mention that if known.


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A large part of my problem is that there is not a large scale hobby shop or a large scale MTS or DCC layout within 100 miles of me that I am aware of.

There are hobby shops that handle mainly O and HO trains but I don't know how much they would know about the heavier power requirements of G gauge and I doubt that they would know much about how their decoders would be compatible with LGB electronics.


Posted By jimtyp on 05/01/2008 9:04 AM
I'd recommend what I did, which was to go to a hobby shop that has some DCC systems and check them out..
Hi Doug,

I appreciate your suggestion and I was excited about it until I looked up Wesley and discovered that it is 228.9 miles (one way) from me. I did not know it was possible to drive 228 miles and still be in Arkansas.

Unfortunately that would be a 8 hour round trip for me.

Even the phone is not practical in that I can call cross country cheaper than I can make a intra-state phone call.

I may see about discussing DCC with a fellow I used to visit that has a HO Digitrax layout.

Qutite frankly I was very impressed with the guy's extensive HO layout and what he was able to do with Digitrax. At times he would have 12 people running different trains on it. If I were into HO I have no doubt that I would be heavily into DCC.

On the other hand for my limited plans for it on my layout - not much more than "lights, bells and whistles" so far it has been a lot more trouble and money than it has been worth to me.

It reminds me of my first computer. I bought it not knowing what it could/would do for me. If today I could get back all the money and work I put into computers over the past 30 years I would do it.


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That would not work for me because I will have a hundred questions but so far I have only thought up about a dozen.

My questions/problems only show up one at a time so I would have to make a trip for every question.



Posted By Marauderer on 05/02/2008 5:56 AM
I think it will be well worth your time and money to go see the gentleman in Wesley. Make it an over night and take your wife with you. You won't be sorry as you will get all you questions answered and probably get some demonstrations also.
I have been looking at Tony's web site and it does seem very helpful.

That is probably what I will end up doing. Unfortunately it has been a long time since I last visited the guy with the HO layout and worse yet I used to be friends with the Digitrax dealer in Memphis but he has since returned to flying.

Part of my problem is going to be learning to work with compatibility for the LGB plug in decoder sockets.



Posted By jimtyp on 05/02/2008 9:17 AM
Jerry, I'm not a DCC expert but I believe DCC works the same with the smaller layouts as the G ones. So if you have HO or O DCC layouts around I think that 98% of what they do works the exact same way in G, just don't purchase the same small amps and volt equipment they do :)
Hi Barry,

My memory is so bad that I often find myself walking down the hall or down the stairs only to realize that I have forgotten what I am going after (really).

More important I am retired so I have little motivation for multi-tasking of the sort you are talking about. Typically I go downstairs and run trains and when a problem comes up I think about it for a day or so until a potential solution occurs to me and then I go downstairs and try the solution.

I am probably the worst procrastinator you will ever know. I actually have mail that I have not opened that is weeks old.

Perhaps it is a subconscious reaction/rebellion to a lifetime of being at the beck and call of bosses and customers. Now I take nothing seriously and nothing is worth making a list of a bunch of questions to eventually ask someone.

The funny thing is that this makes me sound totally disorganized (and I don't try to deny it) but I constantly amaze myself when long after I buy something I discover a need for it that had never occurred to me when I bought it.

If MTS/DCC is so complicated that I have to devote an 8 hour trip and an overnight stay (or attend a seminar) just to figure it out then I can probably live without it.

I would prefer to handle it one question at a time and get answers wherever I can find them. After all I am under no pressure to get anything done by any sort of deadline.

UPS just delivered a LGB MTS Universal Power VHS tape and a MTS DVD II video. Perhaps between them I will find a few answers.

The fact is that there is no need for me to make my time count. It's taken me 8 - 10 years to get around to fiddling with MTS/DCC so it is OK if it takes a me few more years to sort it out.



Posted By Marauderer on 05/02/2008 10:22 AM
Come on Jerry. I know I don't multi task as well as I did 10 yrs ago but, you can do better. Each time I thought of a question I would write it down and by the time I got to Tony's I had 40-50 questions that I needed answers to. and when i got answers I would have to tell the guy talking to me to hold that thought while I would write down another question and so on. I made my time count and so can you.
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Only yesterday my wife's personal cell phone was ringing. She was outside so I picked up the phone (which was in her purse) but the caller had hung up by the time I got to the phone.

As I handed the phone to her she asked me who had called. I told her I had no idea - I just picked the phone up.

She then could not find her purse (to put the phone back) and asked me where it was. I told her I did not know.

She said I must know because I had just got her phone from it. I told her I had forgotten.

She said that was impossible. I told her I did not "look" for her purse. I followed the sound of the phone ringing and I found her ringing phone which happened to be in her purse.

I then reminded her that her work cell phone was probably in her purse so she could just use the phone I had handed to her to call her other cell phone and follow the ringing to her purse.

She was not amused but she did find her purse.

True story.

My brain is like a LGB analog sound system. It works just fine when active but the battery (memory) is dead.

The good news is that I can now read old books - often without remembering having read them before and the same is true of old TV shows. It does not work with great old movies - I still remember them.

Perhaps I like analog track power so much because it is a go - no go type of system. It does not expect me to make a bunch of decisions and then to remember which decisions I made yesterday, last week, last month or last year.

The reality of my life is that I know I am not as sharp as I was last year and I do not expect to be as sharp next year as I am right now. Reality does not bother me - I just make allowances for it.

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Hi Mike,

I did not realize that George got into DCC. His tech tips have helped me many times over the years.

The more I learn about DCC the more I start thinking that LGB had the right idea for people like me. All I want is the chuff, bell, whistle and to be able to have the passenger car lights on.

Their no-brainer idea of plug in decoders seems the best idea for me except that the LGB 55020 and 55021 decoders have become quite hard to find. The Massoth eMOTION L is the only directly interchangeable decoder I am aware of but to buy two of them (one for the loco and one for the sound system) gets too expensive (for me) too quickly to want to think about converting some of my LGB 0-4-0's with 0-4-0 motorized sound tenders as I had hoped to do for the grandkids to play with.

It seems that what I need is information on which other decoders can be used with the LGB decoder ready sockets even if the decoder is not plug in compatible.

So far no one other than Massoth seems to provide any interchangeability information in reference to LGB decoders.

IF I had started without any decoders, transmitters, receivers or central stations and I really had a strong desire for DCC I would probably have a different attitude toward DCC.



You might also look at George Schreyer’s tech tips. http://www.girr.org/girr/index.html .
Hope this helps.
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I found George's comment:

"It is also important to select decoders which implement analog conversion well. A decoder with analog conversion capability will detect when there is only DC on the track and convert its operating mode so that the loco will run just like a regular track powered loco. This will allow you to run your DCC equipped locos at the same time as your analog locos with your existing power system. New equipment has an infant mortality characteristic and you may find that your initial single DCC booster, command station and throttle are single point failures. If one dies, and your locos can't analog convert, your DCC only locos are down until the offending component gets fixed."

very interesting.

His rating of the analog conversion of the decoders was rather dismal:

"Analog Conversion Yes Marginal No Marginal Yes Marginal Yes"

Since my layouts will remain primarily analog powered the concept of decoders that would not be 100% compatible with analog power operations would be totally unacceptable to me.

The more I learn the more I realize I don't know and the more concerned I become about the bugs that have never occurred to me.



Posted By Mike O on 05/03/2008 11:39 AM

You might also look at George Schreyer’s tech tips. http://www.girr.org/girr/index.html .
Hope this helps.
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I can understand the other perspectives but in my case I have a lot of flexibility.

There are only a few sticking points that I have run into and I can live without having to deal with them if I have to.

My original plan was to stay with my LGB Central Station 2 and loco remotes but a deal popped up on Central Station 3's with additional Loco Remotes so I bought them because that adds extra remotes for visitors and opens an inexpensive door to the DiMAX Navigator if I ever want or need the extra power and features.

The flip flop wiring is now complete and working fine (one way = analog and the other way = MTS).

Part of the "master plan" is to have MTS so I can shut the sound off when my wife is asleep on weekend mornings.

Essentially I have a track that goes all the way around the house but underneath it in the crawl space that I use as my main line.

Another loop is inside the other track and only goes around 1/2 the house so I use that as my local or interurban line.

I have enough LGB Moguls, Mikados and F7AB's with LGB factory equipped sound and decoders so that I can run them under MTS on the mainline. There are also two LGB Streetcars (Chicago & New Orleans) with decoders and no sound that I can run on the inside (local) track.

I figured out that for the granddaughters the best MTS solution is to add Massoth eMOTION XL decoders to a Thomas the Tank (no sound) and LGB Circus loco (the only sound is a Circus Sound car which will run fine without a decoder).

That pretty much takes care of everything I want except for LGB D&RGW and PRR Forneys (DCC interface) with LGB 41352 sound units; F7ABA & F7 ABBA ATSF freights and double headed LGB 23900 auto uncoupling switchers.

I've accepted the fact that I will have to run the F7ABA & F7 ABBA either under analog power or with my Universal Remote without the P upgrade since I cannot double head them with the Loco Remotes. Eventually I may have Massoth upgrade the Universal Remote or more likely find a new or used Universal Remote with the P upgrade on eBay.

Since I cannot double head the 23900's with the Loco Remotes (and I decided against disassembling them to reverse wire the motor on one) I've decided to point them both forward, set them with the same loco ID, disconnect the middle two uncouplers, and run a cable from the end of the back one to the rear of the front one which may look a bit weird but should enable full operational capability with the Loco Remotes. My home made sound car is in the middle with a LGB 65002 sound unit will provide the sound and it has a decoder (I just need to eventually figure out how to reconfigure some of the F controls which conflict with the locos F controls.

That just leaves the two Forneys. I bought LGB 55027 decoders for them and if I cannot find cheap decoders that will work with the 41352 sound cards I'll just put an external switch on the sound units to shut them off when running the Forneys under MTS.

I've only been at this MTS/DCC thing for about a week so far so if it takes another year or so to figure out a better way to handle the things I am not totally happy with.

I appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions. It often helps me to figure out how best to handle a problem just by explaining the problem to others.


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No. I don't know anything about Skype.


Posted By John B on 05/07/2008 6:40 AM
Posted By Jerry McColgan on 05/02/2008 5:27 AM

Jerry, Have you considered calling via Skype? I talk to my friend in Bermuda once a week or so for free. As long as both parties have it, it's free. It's an intranet phone system. You just need a computer and a headset with mic.
Hi Raymond,

Its good to be back. I think I am about done with "projects" in that I did add a decoder to one of my Track Cleaning Locos (the one on the crawl space layout) and it is nice to be able to turn the cleaner on and off so I can drive it where I want it without running the cleaning unit unnecessarily on the way.

The problem with MTS/DCC for someone with a bad memory such as myself is trying to remember what the various loco numbers are and which button controls what.

I'm looking forward to our visit.


Posted By Rayman4449 on 05/27/2008 11:05 PM
I don't have anything to add, just wanted to say it's good to see you back and around the forums again Jerry.
See you in June.
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Hello George,

Your web site and especially your "George's Technical Tips Page" http://www.girr.org/girr/tips/tips.html has been my Large Scale "Bible" since the day I discovered it many years ago. Whenever I have run into a problem with anything your site has always been the first place I went to look for help.

I would like to extend a Very Special "Thank You" for the many times your web site has helped me resolve untold numbers of problems that have come up over the years as I have built and rebuilt my layouts.

Without doubt I speak for many others as well as for myself.

Many thanks for having been there when I needed help.


Posted By gwschreyer on 06/08/2008 9:42 PM
Since you've already seen my DCC page, I'll just add some overall comments.
I like Lenz, Zimo and NCE decoders, NCE especially for the big stuff. The D408SR and D808 decoders are hard to beat if not just a little expensive.
I have no clue about compatibility with MTS. If there are problems, they will be on the MTS end.
Digitrax used to make terrible decoders, I have not used one of their newer ones.
Digitrax makes a good command station/throttle/radio system. However, their boosters and decoders cannot handle current. I use a NCE PB110 (a really old one) with the Digitrax DCS100 command station.
- gws
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Hi Solar,

You are right. I have had Sleep Apnea for over 10 years and I have used CPAP machines for that long. My doctor suspects I have a form of Narcolepsy but the potential side affects of the medications for it are such that neither me or my doctors are ready to address that situation yet.

Most people respond better to the medications, CPAP and treatments than I do and since I am retired I am unwilling to risk medications or surgeries that I would need if I had to work a 40+ hour week.

There are other medical problems with my back, legs & sciatic nerves so I took early retirement, quit flying and now I play with toy trains and jeeps instead.

I (really) appreciate the thought.


Posted By Solar2 on 06/23/2008 2:48 PM
About that memory problem... I strongly suggest that you look into the possibility that you may be suffering from sleep apnea. I too was having memory problems such as you describe, and was subsequently diagnosed with sleep apnea. I have been under treatment now for a little over a year, and my memory has improved dramatically, as has my general energy level.
From the looks of your photo, I'd say there is a significantly higher than average chance that you have sleep apnea.
Best of luck!
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Hi Solar,

It is not as bad as it may sound. A bad memory often means that I can enjoy watching old movies without remembering everything that is about to happen and I can read books without remembering I read them before and knowing the ending.

At 64 years old I am in worse shape than some my age but in better health than others. Some diet and exercise (or keep saying that they will) but I am happy with my life style.

The last time I saw my GP I commented that he had gained weight. As he admitted it was true I told him I would rather have a fat doctor than a skinny one who would tell me to do what I was not going to do anyway. The best doctors are the ones who ask what you want before they tell you what (they think) you need.

Thank you for your concern. It is proof that people are more important than the toys we play with. I wish you well.



Posted By Solar2 on 06/23/2008 4:06 PM
I saddens me to have been right about that. It sounds like you have competent medical people working with you, so hopefully things are as good as they can be.
I've sent a prayer your way.
On the good side, you get to have fun playing with trains. :D" border=0>
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Hi Raymond,

NO! That is NOT true.

There is only one loco that I have that when converted to MTS/DCC cannot run under analog and that is the LGB Track Cleaning Loco. It can be driven under analog power but the cleaning mechanism only works under MTS/DCC. The other exception of sorts is the 23900 Auto Uncoupling Switcher which will only uncouple under MTS/DCC. The older 21900 version works under analog power only.

Even locos with decoders can usually still have the bell and whistle work with track magnets.

A complication comes up when analog sound units are converted to decoders and that can vary from brand and model.

I suspect there is some sort of truth to what was said if the full knowledge of what he/she was talking about was known.

How the decoder is installed may have an effect on what analog operations are possible.

Hope this helps,


Posted By Rayman4449 on 06/29/2008 1:45 AM
Jerry, from all your research did you find out whether once an engine is equipped with a DCC decoder that you can no longer run the engine on straight analog DC? Is this true? Someone just mentioned it to me and I was stunned, if it is true it's one heck of a limitation. Maybe I'm just used to DCS which can be.
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Hi Greg,

You are correct in that there are actually two bunches of switches that need to be correctly positioned to work under MTS/DCC.

There is an issue of the LGB Telegram that I can find if you need it. It shows and tells which switches need to be changed for the track cleaner to work under MTS/DCC.

Also the directions that came with the TCL tell which switches need to be moved (not the instructions that can be downloaded).

If Kevin needs help to run it under MTS/DCC have him contact me and I can copy the directions to him.


Posted By Greg Elmassian on 06/29/2008 9:54 AM
My LGB track cleaning car only ran on DC, and I never got it to work properly on DCC. I suspect it was an issue with the on board decoder. I believe it was a programming issue, plus there were a bunch of slide switches inside.
So there is an example of completely opposite behavior in the same loco. I sold it to Kevin Yutz.
Regards, Greg
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