KATO DCC & Sound

Randy Clark Dec 2, 2019

  1. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    I didn't research this topic so let's just throw it out there for thought and comment...

    Of the last 18 locomotives I have purchased, all but four (a Kato SD70ACe and Kobo Shops FEF4) all came with dcc and sound with many having excellent applied details.

    Do any of you have any "inside baseball" on Kato stepping up to the plate with higher levels of detail and electrical options than the current DC or Kobo Shops model?

    Kato paint is generally quite good and I have dozens of units I have bought over many years though not as many as some of you other members. This is not about quantity, it's about features and value.

    Let me have it..Pro or Con or is something better coming?
  2. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    I sure hope not.

    You already stated that... "all came with dcc and sound with many having excellent applied details." And yet you want "higher levels of detail and electrical options" ???

    I am not sure what more you want? The more they add...the more they price more and more modelers out of their market !

    I have read so many complaints on DCC sound. At first it was a novelty...then it soon became an annoyance ! Paying the high price for sound and at some point just turning it off for good sounds crazy to me. $$$$$$ down the toilet!

    Most all manufactures offer higher quality detailed locomotives already. I cant remember the manufacture who added so many fine details to a locomotive (GP50?) that they actually fell off either in the jewel case or with minimal handling...but it did happen.

    To each their own...but I say...enough is enough ! Just my opinion.
  3. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    And you are more than welcome to your thoughts. I won't presume to debate on what you preferences. Some people hate soun, others like it. Personally I turn everything down to where it doesn't interfere with the tv too much but wide open is, I concede, racket!

    I also did a little surveying of some of our favorite suppliers and to my own surprise, it appears Kato has made a real effort in supplying DCC with and without sound on the newer offerings. I even compared pricing and the prices are close to some but way off vs others of comperable detail. Frankly, I really like to see the added wire details like we see in older brass models. I have a few pieces of brass that are really pretty pitiful. All near the end of Hallmark.

    I don't cringe too much on locos until they get over $250.00. After my last round of pricing having locos retrofitted with DCC and sound, it's less expensive to buy new.
    mtntrainman likes this.
  4. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising In Memoriam

    I wouldn't bet on Kato doing anything different than they have. But if it fits your prototype, and Scale Trains makes what you need, get it.
    For my money they are the current gold standard. And I have a bunch of FVM locos, all with the details applied, and I love 'em. But Scale Trains is da bomb!
    catfan likes this.
  5. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    The Kato units with sound are regular stock units with ESU LokSound installed. Their DCC units tend to use the TCS or Digitrax drop-in boards. And, of course, DC versions are offered.
  6. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    Kato is known more for smooth operations and reliability. Their emphasis on details is not there. But you will hard to find better runners overall. Though I will say FVM is very close. I can not comment on Scale Trains because the two I got were duds from the get go. Still trying to get that resolved.
  7. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    I totally agree. Bought a Dash 9 today. I didn't even know they were out until my usual retailerwas out of all UP with sound. That extra 10% for TN Sales Tax stings.

    My favorite recliner is about 18" from the mainline and yard entrance so you do get a closeup view of the detail parts. Not the usual helicopter view.

    One thing about Kato, without them where would we be on passenger trains? They have done an excellent job filling that market.
  8. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    I sure hope they get your loco issues cleared up. I hate to hear of lemons hitting the street. I am sending back a brand new SD 70Ace with sound tomorrow for a refund. Heardlights are non functional and decoderwil not reset. There is thread on that one floating around.
  9. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member


    I was a Kato fan since the early days of the GP-50. I could make a DC guy very happy with units I don't run anymay more. IMHO, Kato equipment runs great but needs a facelift in the way of details. For Kobo prices, I think we should get a little more bang for the buck.

    The units with details falling off may have been Fox Valley. I'm not sure about that.
  10. catfan

    catfan TrainBoard Member


    Have you thought about the global Kato market? The fact that they sell the majority of their product outside of the US gives them the right to be a little.."arrogant"? Going through the motions to add all the details that some of the US mainline manufactures do here probably doesn't make a good business decision for them.

    We could discuss this until we are blue in the face, Detail vs running qualities.

    Kato- Never had a failed loco. In fact I'm installing an ESU decoder in and old blue box SD40 tonight

    Atlas- Other than older models..never a failure. pretty much tried and true.

    Scaletrains- Several reported issues but none from me. Gevo's ans C44's run like a champ and even the operator series doesn't disappoint.

    BLI- You just went through in a previous thread what we have seen with this company..You get a good one or you get a bad one. I'm sure the design was sound enough. Maybe the execution was lacking at the factory.

    To add to this rant I will refer back to my old friend mtntrainman..How much detail do we.. the consumer want to pay for? I will say this. When I bring visitors to my home for a visit. They never seem to notice the added grabs or the customer applied sunshades.

    Expecting Kato to revamp their vision strictly on the North American market simply isn't going to happen. Heck..we can't even get them to reproduce some of their best sellers.
    MK likes this.
  11. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    Very good points Mark. I do a lot of running at shows and events with many combined clubs. N-Trak and T-Trak. I went to one just this past weekend, 66' x 26', N-Trak, three clubs. The majority of the runners are Kato. Just like what you and many others have said, they just run and run and run. We have guys run them for hours on end, pulling 50+ cars. And most of them don't have sound since at these environments they are pretty noisey - lots of people, kids screaming and crying, PA announcements, etc. Those with sound like BLI, Scale Trains, etc., they have crank it up in order for them to be audible.

    Of course if you are running at home or at a friends place, even a club house (for those clubs that have them) it's a different story.

    One point you make is pretty interesting. No one from the public said "Sigh, look at that loco, it has molded in grab irons!" :D:LOL::ROFLMAO: For shows and events I don't want any locos with extreme details. If you've even been to one, there's a lot of handling (and sometimes the unexpectred reach out of a kid from the crowd!) and jostling, temporary placement of locos until you run to get the jewel case, etc. that details breaking off becomes inevitable.
  12. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    Good points Catfan and MK. I appreciate everyone adding to the conversation.

    I can add a unique perspective to this as I represent a very large Japanese manufacturer of machinery and their philosophy and mindset is totally different than what we are used to in the US. Their biggest focus at the factory is quality and endurance.

    If you have ever been to Japan, the homes and accommodations are much different and smaller than we are accustomed to. Their layouts are temporary as there is no space for permanent layouts. Trains do go in and out of jewel cases many times over their lifetime. Quality is paramount..trust me on that point.

    I also agree with everyone, when someone comes into my home, they turn a corner and are immediately overwhelmed with the overall affect of the layout. They only see the intense detail if you bring it to their attention on a particular piece of rolling stock, locomotive, or scene. They don't see the flaws that I know are there. They see the overall affect.

    I used to run at club shows and attend conventions. Now life is too busy and I've turned into a lone wolf. I purchase trains for me alone.

    Next April, I am going back to Japan for a week on business but we are spending 2 days in Tokyo sight seeing and "shopping". I am heading straight to Kato's factory store to really get a look at everything they do and spend some yen. I will have to spend enough money to operate on their store layout for a while. I have seen pictures, as we all have, of the Kato stores but I want to see it myself.

    It is agreed that Kato makes good equipment, let's all agree, they are machines and their biggest competitor is China.

    With all that's said, I would stand in line if Kato made a "collector's series". Think about that!
  13. Boilerman

    Boilerman TrainBoard Supporter

    As for Kato not having any issues, that is not true, I got a brand new first run Kato Mike that had bad gears right out of the box, I ordered the required replacements and It has ran great since.
    I di have several Kato Diesel Locos and have not had any issues with them, yes there quality is good, however I would imagine that there other people out there that have had some issues with Kato Locos.
  14. freddy_fo

    freddy_fo TrainBoard Member

    I don't get too concerned that kato currently has no "collectors series" but then none of their engines are on my short list at this time either. There are others that are filling this gap quite nicely. I understand that if you have a trusted and true design that you don't bugger with it too much or too fast as that is when the issues begin to arise. That being said I would be first in line if they did come out with a finer detail model. I wouldn't even balk if I had to install the wire grabs and such myself... I would actually enjoy it.

    Scaletrains rivetcounter series is probably the best I've seen in person. Paint is as good as it gets and the applied details are just about perfect. Nice amount of relief for molded in details. I did have to clean up the motor settings with my ESU programmer to get it to run smooth like a kato but when I've converted my Kato's to dcc I've at times had to apply the same mods to get them to run smooth as well. Only problem with scaletrains for me is their lack of selection.

    Intermountain is another good one. Stand off scale they look as good as the scaletrains. It's not till I start looking at things under a magnifying glass that I can start to see imperfections so as far as I'm concerned that is more than good for me. It's not like it's an $8k+ mechanical watch LOL. And like the scaletrains with a bit of programming you can really clean up the smoothness. Not sure why they don't get that sorted from the factory... maybe it's a variation in the motor manufacturing?

    Rapido is soon going to release their Dash 8-40CM which has me intrigued. I have their GMD-1 first generation and love it. Looks perfect in every way and ran fantastic from the jewel case on day 1 of me owning it. There are some funky nit-picky issues I see from the photos of the 8-40 but if it comes close to being like their GMD-1 I'll be owning one.

    At this time I have two engines on my shortlist and neither are Kato which has changed from how it used to work for me. I'm the only one I know who even gives a second look at my trains so impressing myself is the only thing that matters except maybe my boys who get a kick out of blasting the horns as they run them around the track.
  15. NS Top Gon

    NS Top Gon TrainBoard Member

    I totally agree with MK about public shows. It didn't take me long to figure out that taking detailed locomotives and rolling stock to run at train shows was a bad idea. I have found that despite the member's best efforts, the well used and travelled N-Trak modules and T-Trak modules develop problems that lead to derailments. This results in damage to detail parts, especially when they (fortunately rolling stock only up to this point) rarely fall to the floor. Additionally, at least once at every show, a child manages to "touch" a train to cause a derailment despite us watching and the use of barriers.
    The most often asked question we get from children (and some adults) at shows is "Can you make the trains go faster?" I have only had other modelers comment about the detailed and weathered locos and cars when I ran them. Therefore, I have certain locos (currently two Katos and one Atlas} and rolling stock that I run at shows and my weathered, detailed fleet (Kato, Atlas, and FVM) stays at home for my enjoyment. We actually have club members who come to meetings and shows but do not run trains. They have their home layouts for their trains.
    MK likes this.
  16. Randy Clark

    Randy Clark TrainBoard Member

    Back in my "show off" days, a few of us would bring our brass steamers out or our Key Tunnel Motors, etc. Yu quickly learn to leave the good stuff at home. You are totally correct about how fast they will run. At home I shoot for no more than about scale 40 MPH. That gives me about 5 minutes before a train comes back to me. It's also fairly simple to run 2 trains on the loop at the same time.
  17. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    And don't forget the occasional rear ending by fellow memebers. :eek: Totally accidental as they get distracted by answering the public's quesitons. I once had a string of 12 beer can cars rammed into at "full" speed by the train behind me. Everything other than the engine off the track but luckily nothing on the floor. It was a "train wreck". (boo, hiss, groan).

    A funny side story about kids at train shows. Our club did a T-Trak show early this year. And the above scenario happened though not as severe and it wasn't my train. Again, due to distraction from the public's questions. When it happened I yelled across to the other side where it happened, something to these words, Now you've done it, you need to fill out an accident report and there will be a drug test. The adults laughed.

    There was the cutest little girl who was right in front of the mishap. She must have been around 7 years old. She got a chuckle out of it thinking it was funny. And you know how kids pick up on what adults say? Well, she picked up on what I yelled across the layout. Except only the words "Drug Test!" So she proceeded to walk around the layout yelling "Drug Test! Drug Test!".

    All the adults got a huge laugh out of that. Me? I just wanted to crawl under the table. :D
    mtntrainman likes this.
  18. Hoghead2

    Hoghead2 TrainBoard Member

    Last issue I had with Kato was in 1998 with a Mike with stripped gears. I've got a dozen mikes since and none have had bothers.
    As for Kato diesels, they rock! I have a Kobo Milwaukee Road SD40, but most of mine are standard, without sound.
    They've seen some mileage at exhibitions, but many of those have been clocked by our younger guests.
    MK and mtntrainman like this.

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