Favorite / Best Brand of N Scale DCC Decoders

Bookbear1 Jul 24, 2020

  1. Bookbear1

    Bookbear1 TrainBoard Supporter

    You you have a particular brand you are partial to, either for reliability or versatility? Enquiring minds want to know...
  2. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    For non-sound, ESU LokPilot. For sound, ESU LokSound. Best motor control on the planet except for Zimo, which is a touch better. Huge list of different lighting effects; function keys can be programmed to do all sorts of things - like macros, if you want. The sound versions are SO versatile, in fact, that learning how to program them is a major undertaking. But once you've figured it out, there literally is nothing you can't do with a LokPilot or LokSound.

    John C.
    SASRR, jhn_plsn and RBrodzinsky like this.
  3. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    I have an Atlas RS1 and would like to know what decoder to use. My DCC is a Bachmann system.
    I'm not interested in sound so much.

    Edit: N scale.


    Last edited: Jul 24, 2020
  4. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    Joe do you know what year it is? If not see if this helps determine which one you have so you know what your options are ...


    Regardless it looks like no Atlas RS1 will take a 'drop-in' decoder. Not a drop-in option but looks like TCS's CN decoder will work from this if yours has the latter chassis (not a drop-in but easier than some installs) ....

    http://n-scale-dcc.blogspot.com/search/label/Loco: Atlas Classic RS1

    Looks like it would also be good to look at the following link as it goes into more detail for what to do....

    http://n-scale-dcc.blogspot.com/search/label/Loco: Atlas Classic RS3

    You could use other hard-wired decoders but they would all probably require milling the frame for room for the decoder. This would also be true if you have the earlier RS1.

    Mike also has a good description on how to to it with the second series RS1 ...


    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  5. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    In full agreement, these days ESU.
  6. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    Thank you for the information Sumner. I will read all material tomorrow morning. Not sure what year the system is but I can find out.

  7. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    I think if it is marked Japan on the bottom it is the early one and doubt the TCS-CN will work in it but without seeing the chassis better don't know. I think the ones that will work should be marked China on the bottom,

  8. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

    After some limited experience with ESU I am also convinced. I have been running DCC in N scale since about 2005 and have used Digitrax, TCS, NCE, Soundtraxx, and ESU.

    This is my opinion and is not from an expert.

    Digitrax non sound decoders are smooth runners and reliable.
    Digitrax sound is a waste of money and time.

    TCS made some split board decoders that made installation simple. They do have nice plug and play decoders that run well. I found the split board decoders would forget the programming from time to time, but that could have been an installation issue.

    NCE decoders are good runners, but the last NCE deocoder I bought was many years ago.

    Soundtraxx The only one I have is the Tsunami in my Kato GS4. Runs and sounds great.

    My two recent ESU sound locos are smooth and have more features than I know what to do with. The main operating functions sure helped me run the locos more realistically.

    The tough part of running different decoder brands is knowing how to make them run together for consisting.
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  9. greenwizard88

    greenwizard88 TrainBoard Member

    I like TCS for non-sound and Soundtraxx for sound.

    TCS are simple to program, run well, and have a few more features over Digitrax. They also make board specific decoders for n scale.

    Soundtraxx I think are similar to ESU, but seem easier to program.

    About 1/2 my fleet is ESU, I don't have a problem with them. I just prefer others.
  10. SASRR

    SASRR TrainBoard Member

    I installed a Loc Sound in a friends decoder and tested it. After that i installed them into all of my loco's the only thing with Zimo is they have to go back to Austria to get repaired which can take a month and i don't want a engine down for a month.
  11. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

    In N scale I own mostly Kato engines. I actually only own one non Kato engine and that is my BLI SD40-2. That being said the Digitrax decoders have been my go to for my Kato engines. There is only one train I have that I cannot find a decoder for and that is a Kato HB-E300, which is not a train that was intended for the US market. The board on it is the same as the P42s but the lighting requirements are not the same.
  12. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    I would go with ESU decoders as well. Digitrax are not that bad, but some do not work with the Bachmann EZ command system. I have a micro-sized decoder in a small locomotive that does not work with the Bachmann controller. It runs fine on other layouts, and other people have noted this issue too. Digitrax sound is inferior to other brands as well. Overall, I have had a so-so experience with Digitrax. It is much better to use other brands though.
  13. ajkochev

    ajkochev TrainBoard Member

    Where is a good place to buy ESU decoders from? ESU website doesn't sell them directly.
  14. Atani

    Atani TrainBoard Member

    I've had a lot of luck with Fifer Hobby Supply (@fifer is also a TrainBoard supporter)
  15. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    My go-to is Streamlined Backshop. I am looking at their ad on the bottom of my page now, but I knew about them from outside the ad as well. They have a good selection, but the deal-breaker for me is their sound file installation service. LokSound decoders come blank, but I don't have a LokProgrammer, so being able to say which sound file I want is really good. Obviously you don't need that for a LokPilot, but its good to have that level of service on products that need it.
  16. Bookbear1

    Bookbear1 TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks to all for your replies. Stay safe out there....
  17. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

    I've mainly used non-sound drop-in TCS and Digitrax for n scale. I can't get Digitrax momentum to work the way I want. Even at maximum value (31) the loco takes typically less than 10 seconds to reach target speed whereas TCS can be programmed for much longer duration. OTOH my TCS don't play well with speed curves; they have a speed jump that is very annoying so I end up using the min/mid/max settings. I have a growing number of factory installed LokSound decoders that work quite well. I also have a number of Broadway Limited sound locomotives with very persnickety electrical pickup.
  18. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    I have heard good things about TCS steam sound files, but none of my locomotives have TCS decoders. The issues with Broadway seem to be in HO too. They have cool models, but their proprietary/custom decoders seem like a problem waiting to happen. I know a guy that always seemed to be doing some kind of repair to his Broadway Limited steam locomotives.

    I think it is a good idea to standardize or limit the number of decoder brands in a fleet. That way they are easy to program and all the locomotives work with each other regarding momentum, speed matching, or anything else that may be difficult with conflicting decoder brands.
  19. Mo-Pac

    Mo-Pac TrainBoard Member

    My old Lenz and Digitrax decoders from the early 2000's are still going strong.
  20. OlyPen

    OlyPen TrainBoard Member

    If you're intent on using ESU decoders, by all means invest in their Lok programmer. Makes programming much simpler.

    I have one ESU-equipped locomotive, but prefer Digitrax. If ESU made a plug and play decoder equivalent in dimensions to the Digitrax DN163A0, which I use exclusively, I'd probably switch.
    Mo-Pac likes this.

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