DCC - Kato Locos - Use Digitrax or Factory Installed TCS?

milkman Dec 26, 2012

  1. milkman

    milkman TrainBoard Member

    I am looking to buy a 3 engines to pull my California Zephyr car set I got for Christmas. I have not setup a DCC system, but plan to use the DigiTrax Zephyr for control. Looking at three of the F3 locos.

    Is it better to get the DigiTrax decoders and install in the locos or buy the Kato factory installed TCS? Any advantage one over the other? Assume the TCS as installed is compatible with most DCC systems since they only offer one model. Looks like its a cost neutral decision, just which one has more features and the TCS is already installed.

  2. EMD F7A

    EMD F7A TrainBoard Member

    TCS decoders are far better on DC, and have back-EMF on DCC which isn't a big deal on those new, quiet & smooth Kato's. I have had very good luck with TCS' products and their warranty is good. If you need extra features, like lighting and effects, I think they're pretty comparable..... so it's a mater of brand choice and maybe consisting (though I doubt you'll be consisting those much outside their ABA set). I say save the hassle of installation, if the cost is the same!
  3. u18b

    u18b TrainBoard Supporter

    I kindof like TCS decoders too. I have some of all of them and most are good. But probably most of mine are TCS.
    You won't go wrong.
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    THE Wife bought the Kato E5 with the Kobo Shops installed TCS decoder. We are quite pleased with the performance.
  5. Wal

    Wal TrainBoard Member

    Prefer TCS to Digitrax. TCS much easier to consist. Buy factory installed if price is right.
  6. milkman

    milkman TrainBoard Member

    Thanks everyone, looks like its unanimous for TCS!
  7. PAL_Houston

    PAL_Houston TrainBoard Member

    Actually, it is unanimous for factory-installed, at equal price. You are saving yourself some hassle.

    The Digitrax are a more reliable decoder in my experience (I've had to take warrantee replacements on 2 TCS CN-GP decoders). The Kato frame designs are not as DCC-friendly as some other frames because of the way Kato designed them -- they have this little plastic press-fit clip that never really works, so the fix is to solder the contacts to the Digitrax decoder boards.
  8. rrjim1

    rrjim1 TrainBoard Member

    I use both TCS and Digitrax, both work great! The Kato F3 is an easy install, it would be a great place to start if you plan on installing some decodes down the road!
  9. JDG

    JDG TrainBoard Member

    MRC was actually clearing out their KATO F-unit decoders on their website for under $10. I have them in my f-units only and have yet to have a problem with them. I know they are not the greatest ones out there but for that price you really can't beat them.
  10. bkloss

    bkloss TrainBoard Supporter

    No matter Digitrax or TCS, both will suit your needs but for long term planning for dcc compatability stay with one or the other - don't mix and match as each individual manufacturer has it's own running characteristics.

  11. N-Jineer

    N-Jineer TrainBoard Member

    In the interest of fair play, I should point out that I've had the opposite experience - Digitrax being DOA or dying one week out of warranty despite having only less than 20 hours tracktime. I only use TCS now in my N scale and OO locos.

    You are so right about that plastic clip though - I've had to solder the TCS boards in my GE P42s and the Digitrax boards in my PA/PB set.
  12. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    I have also the same issue with dying Digitrax decoders. I have hundreds of both installed in locomotives and am happy with both, though I will only use TCS decoders from this point on.

    As for the plastic clip, the problem is not with Kato designs, it is a problem with the board thickness of the decoders.
  13. rrjim1

    rrjim1 TrainBoard Member

    I have read a lot of posts on three fourms were people had defective TCS decoders. I have hundreds of Digitrax decoders that I have installed myself and have only had one defective one. I have around 50+ TCS decoders and have never had a defective one, all installed by myself!
    IMO most of the defective decoders are caused by the person installing the decoder. The last two Digitrax decoders I installed in Kato locos had factory white tape installed on the bottom because of flash on the Kato frame cutting threw the kapton tape and shorting out the decoder.
  14. Jonathan Vincent

    Jonathan Vincent TrainBoard Member

    I'll second that. I have had great luck with the TCS decoders. The light functions give you so many more options that the Digitrax decoders. I have had no problems getting hundreds of hours of service from both brands. The good thing about the TCS, (and from what I understand, now Digitrax, too), is the "goof proof" warranty. On the warranty claim page, it even gives the option of something like "I screwed up installing the decoder". It doesn't matter, they will still replace it, no problem. I've actually had more issues with Soundtraxx decoders than either of the other two aforementioned brands. I love the sound of the Soundtraxx "Tsunami" decoders, but the motor control seems to burn out easily. I use the TSU-750 (I'm in N scale), and I think that maybe the peak .75 amp motor circuit is insufficient for some locomotives. Now, I don't even bother with the motor control, I just piggyback a TCS Z2 for the motor control, and let the Tsunami run everything else. Since they are both programmed to the same address, it's all good.
  15. johnh

    johnh TrainBoard Member

    TCS definitely works better in DC mode, but unless you plan on running on a DC layout it is a moot point. For a passenger or mainline engine, the TCS is the way to go. However, I like the Digitrax for the "switcher" mode when I am using an engine for dual purpose (yard or short haul work). I have never had a TCS DOA, but have had 3 Digitrax DOA. The warranty was hassle free and fast.
  16. glennac

    glennac TrainBoard Member

    What is everyone's take on MCR decoders?
  17. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    Accidental duplicate... Please delete
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2013
  18. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    I would avoid MRC decoders in general. The most troublesome decoders in our N scale club, hands down, are the MRC drop-in board style sound decoders. I generally use Digitrax decoders and they work just fine for me. I had reasonably good experiences with TCS decoders as well.

Share This Page