ESU Board Replacement Decoders - Future Plans?

DCESharkman May 8, 2018

  1. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Hello,

    We see now that ESU makes both motion decoders and sound decoders for the Intermountain locomotives and some of those fit in Atlas locomotives as well.

    Does anyone know if ESU is looking at making board replacement decoders for Kato locomotives?

    I am a big fan of Loksound and Lokpilot decoders, and I have a bunch of Kato locomotives that I would like to use Lokpilot decoders, but I do not want to hardwire them.

    Thanks!
     
  2. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Some folks have been able to use the 73100 board (LokSound) in some Kato models, but in all cases frame modification is required (and there is always some mod required, anyway, simply to make room for the speaker). As for LokPilots, have not heard any rumor on an additional version beyond the 54560 Micro Select. Those were very specifically designed for non-sound versions of the Intermountain offerings. I know there has been a lot of clamor about "a Kato board", but Kato has created a variety of chassis styles, so there would never be a "one board fits all solution" anyway. Kato has started to embrace ESU decoders, though, with their Kobo Custom sound units, so one never knows.
     
  3. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    David, why don't you want to hard wire? In almost all cases, you can fit a LokPilot Micro V.4 in a narrow hood diesel with no frame mods, often on the shelf underneath the existing lightboard. That lightboard then can be used for power pickup, lighting, and even motor supply by judiciously cutting traces and soldering the relevant wires from the LokPilot.

    I get that a LokSound hard-wired install is daunting - it often requires frame mods, new LEDs, finding a way to supply power to the decoder, etc. But a hard-wired LokPilot is pretty much a no-brainer.

    Like Rick, I don't see Kato-specific boards coming from ESU any time soon, at least not for retrofit purposes.

    John C.
     
  4. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Hi John,

    I do not hardwire because it is difficult for me to do any frame mods. I have no tools per say to mill or cut metal, and frankly, given the choice between spending time installing a hard wired decoder or laying and wiring track, I love to do the track work over the decoder installs. And given that 95% of my locomotives left to have decoders installed, only a handful are not DCC ready. I love the way the LokSound units run almost more than I like the sound. That is why I am hoping to get Kato replacements because of number of Kato DCC friendly units I have yet to convert.

    From my testing, Lokpilot motion control is only rivaled by Zimo. I use Zimo for all of the NEM651 compatible locomotives like the Fox Valley locomotives and now the Atlas S2. They are far superior to NCE, Digitrax and TCS for motion control and capability. Zimo also has an awesome sound decoder as well, but they do not have very many American prototype sound packages. All in all from a motion control standpoint, there are dead even with the edge going to ESU because of the American sound packages.

    I just hope ESU and Kato can get on deal together to make these available. I would like to do more LolPilot's/Loksound's because they MU better than any other decoders. Otherwise I am back to TCS or Digitrax and not a fine a control over motion.
     
    bkloss likes this.
  5. bkloss

    bkloss TrainBoard Supporter

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    Ditto on what David said. I, recently picked up 4 of the GEVO ET44C4 locos and while I have a learned appreciation for the sound from these decoders; the low speed performance and the MU characteristics are second to none.
    I have many KATO locos and they are all DCC. I would change over to ESU if they came out with a true drop-in board. I see all the great posts that some of you guys have done with the ESU decoders and the KATO locos. I originally started with DCC when most everything I did was hard wired so I have a real appreciation for the work and effort in these installations. I just can't see myself going down that road again.

    Brian
     
  6. gatrhumpy

    gatrhumpy TrainBoard Member

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    You can hardwire them very easily.
     
  7. gatrhumpy

    gatrhumpy TrainBoard Member

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    I hardwired an ESU LokSound Select Direct Micro board decoder into an Athearn SD-70 very easily. One can adapt to a Kato as well easily.
     
  8. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    I understand completely why one would shy away from hardwiring a LokSOUND. Frame mods aren't for everyone; finding a place for a 25mm long decoder, a speaker, new lighting LEDs and probably keep-alive caps is daunting. Even with the right tools (almost always including a milling machine) the job is complex and time-consuming. A drop in board would be orders of magnitude easier, if such a creature existed. One day in the future it might if Kato gets cozy enough with ESU, but it doesn't appear likely any time soon.

    But a LokPILOT (non-sound motor decoder) doesn't need any frame mods - it's 10mm long by 8mm wide by <3mm high. I've never come across a situation where it wouldn't fit nicely right under the existing light board on the frame "shelf". You can wire it up using the existing light board for power pickup and lighting; motor connections might need to be insulated from the frame, but that's usually just a bit of kapton tape in the right spots. I've done this myself on FVM SD70's and GEVO's in the NS Heritage lineup. It might be slightly more complex than a true drop in, but not much. 10 minute job, once you figure out where to cut the traces on the light board.

    I just hate to see folks use inferior decoders because of perceived complexity that just isn't true. If you don't want sound, a standard LokPilot Micro v.4 is about as easy a decoder install as you'll find.

    John C.
     
  9. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    I understand that John, but the problem is that I just have too many locomotives to worry about sound and mostly just do motion decoders. I am mostly looking at making sound cars that I can load whatever profile I want and that makes it easy to add sound to any train. I am staring with the passenger cars where I am installing multiple sound decoders in the head end cars. In most cases it is a Kato baggage car that already has the power pickup in the trucks. Does not get any easier than that. I do cheat and have at least one locomotive installed with sound from one of the trainboard advertisers, that way I get a good sound project to save off and reload the sound cars when needed. It is a bit of a cheat, but that is fine with me.

    As an example, I have the SD70ACe sound package already setup in an Autorack car on two sound decoders and am installing them in a few large box cars as well. This way I can have head units with sound (4), mid-train units with sound (3) and rear pushers with sound (4). Just waiting on all the parts to come in........
     
  10. bkloss

    bkloss TrainBoard Supporter

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    Now that sounds very interesting (no pun intended :)!

    I know that I am, eventually, going to do an install with a LokPilot. Probably sooner than later.

    Brian
     

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