Bachmann Message Board

Discussion Boards => General Discussion => Topic started by: pdlethbridge on June 01, 2009, 06:17:22 AM

Title: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 01, 2009, 06:17:22 AM
  I have used the Digitrax dh-123 on most of my installs. After trying more modern types, IE, dh163 or 5, I found that the 123 was easier to install and troubleshoot than the other ones. Example, I use 14 v GOR bulbs in my installs with out problems with the dh 123 but a dh165 gave me flickering lights no matter what I did, including cutting the tracer. I suspect it has something to do with the more modern decoders being keyed to led's and not bulbs. If I get a chance, I may change out the Bachmann decoders for digitrax, as they are not as customizable as the dh 123's.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Nathan on June 01, 2009, 09:22:44 AM
One problem in choosing a 'best' decoder is that very few people get a chance to work with more then a few.  The second problem is that not all places that sell DCC equipment carry all the brands, and even within a brand will not carry all the decoders.

In Large scale I have had a chance to work with Digitrax, NCE, and the Soundtraxx that comes in the 3 truck Shay.  We have some members of our club that have the QSI decoder.  None of us have had a chance to work with the MRC, Lenz, Zimo, or other brands that will work with large scale.

I have had good luck with the ones I have used.  I have 'standardized' on the NCE DS408SR for my non sound decoders because I have been able to make them work in the various locomotives I have.

I will be ordering the MRC Large Scale sound /  motor decoder to try in one of my low cost Big Hauler locomotives.  If it creates reasonable sound, and at most I have to change the speaker, then it will probably use some more in other Big Haulers I buy.  Why should I spend more for a decoder the I did for the locomotive.  I am not a 'rivet' counter, I use sound at train shows because the public likes it.  If it sounds like a steam locomotive the are happy.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 01, 2009, 12:43:15 PM
You have standardized on NCE decoder and I, the digitrax. We both are happy with the results.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Jim Banner on June 01, 2009, 06:12:37 PM
Actually, I have rarely met a decoder I didn't like.  But if cornered and threatened, I would say I like the following:

Small scales (up to and including 0N30)
     - silent - the Digitrax DZ125 - powerful enough for most locomotives, will fit just about anything
     - sound - Tsunami - has the playable whistle if you use Digitrax

Large scales
     - silent - Digitrax DG583 - absolutely transparent on dc and hefty enough to handle even the 4 motor locomotives.
     - sound - QSI - easy install, powerful enough for most locomotives

When someone brings me a locomotive, I will happily install whatever he wants or has on hand, with only one exception - if what he wants will be a waste of my time and his money, I won't do it.  Better to have a friend mad at me for a day than to lose the friend.  Human nature dictates that no matter how good the friend and how bad the decoder, if I install a decoder that he chose and he later has trouble with it, he will be convinced that the trouble lies with my installation, not in the decoder.  Psychology 101 - he knows the decoders has to be okay because he is the one that picked it out.

Fortunately, most decoders never give any problem once they are installed and properly programmed.  Those panic phone calls - "my engine won't run" ... "it must have been a bad decoder" ... "a wire must have broken" - almost always turn out to be operator error - forgetting to turn the power on or forgetting that yesterday the locomotive was put in a consist or even trying to acquire the wrong locomotive.  It is always nice to be able to help sort out these problems, particularly the big ones when the person is having a full blown panic attack because someone, anyone, from old Uncle Joe who worked for the railroad to the Editor in Chief of the country's largest model railroad magazine is due in 10 minutes and absolutely nothing will run.


Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 01, 2009, 06:35:27 PM
Jim, it sounds like your pretty comfortable with your installations and decoders. I noticed you said the tsunami whistle was playable with digitrax. Won't work with NCE power Cab?
Dz125 or dh123. I've been doing a lot of installs in older Athearn, Bowser, mantua and brass. Some with can motors but most with open frame. (Athearn) I'd hate to fry a decoder if I went with the DZ125 in an Athearn or my Bowser light Mike with the DC71 DCC ready motor.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Yampa Bob on June 01, 2009, 07:58:33 PM
In my Bachmann locomotives, I use only "Bachmann" decoders. My Athearn and Roundhouse have DH123. For sound I use only Tsunami.

All the locomotives are well matched to my EZ Command controller with no adjustments needed, and run velvety smooth from creep to max speed.

I have two AC4400s. One has a DH123, the other a Tsunami. The two locos are extremely well speed matched throughout the throttle range, so I run them in consist all the time.

FWIW, I don't have any of the problems I read about on this forum, I must be doing something right. 

When I find something I like, I stick with it. If I only had one choice for a non-sound decoder, it would be Digitrax DH123.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: klrwhizkid on June 01, 2009, 08:19:05 PM
My favorite silent decoder is the TCS M1.  Excellent lighting configuration control, Back EMF for much smoother creep and slow speeds, very small (thing little finger fingernail) and best of all - their goof-proof warranty.

For sound, none can beat the Tsunami.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 01, 2009, 08:43:37 PM
This is getting interesting. It seems that tsunami is a leader. What, no QSI? I personally think that QSI is much better, but who am I?
Could the QSI decoders be second place because they are only now coming on the market as a separate item.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Jim Banner on June 02, 2009, 01:51:57 AM
PD, I am not sure if NCE Powercab supports the playable whistle or not.  I am only recently getting into sound decoders, although I have been installing separate sound cards for about 10 years.

The only QSI decoders I have installed were in large scale where they make two physical versions - a plug-in one for Aristo-Craft and a screw terminal one for others.  The owners were ecstatic, both with the sound and the price.  The sound is awesome coming out of a 3 inch speaker in a large scale locomotive.  And the price is less than half of what we were paying for a decoder plus a sound card just a few years ago.

Incidentally, I did a large scale installation about a year ago where I put a Soundtraxx Sierra sound card and a speaker in a B-unit, then added 1 watt amplifiers and speakers in both A-units that went with it.  I recently got the chance to hear all three running past, close up and personal, on an indoor layout.  The speakers are far enough apart (close to two feet) that you hear them as three distinct sound sources.  The fact that the same sound is coming out of all of them does not interfere with the illusion that all three are running under power.  I am hoping to hear them running outdoors this summer so that I can find out if this is still true from a distance.  I don't know if this would work in H0 or not.  I have been told that three locomotives, each with its own sound system, sound better in a consist if you turn two of the sound systems off.  I have not personally confirmed this, but would be interested in hearing opinions.

Latest project, when I get some time between working on my wife's garden, working on a couple of model wind turbines for our local museum, and doing some electronics consulting, is to put a Tsunami in an 0N30 2-6-0.  The tender looks huge (compared to an H0 one) but after cramming in a 2-1/4 round speaker (reworked into a 2-1/4 x 1-1/2 oval speaker) I ended up with one corner of the decoder sticking out the top.  Oh, well, that just means a bit more coal to pile on later.  Having heard it play, the owner is very happy with it.  And for once, the owner is me.


Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 02, 2009, 02:08:34 PM
   A couple of times I've had to do serious modifications to the coal bunker to get a speaker to fit. Maybe I should use a smaller speaker enclosure?  The soundtraxx dsd 101lc is a monster to put in the Bachmann's 2-8-0's tender, especially one handed. But it sounds good and works pretty well and everyone who hears it is impressed.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: grumpy on June 03, 2009, 01:23:09 AM
I have a couple of Athern F7s with dcc and sound . They are set up to run in consist . The sound is fantastic with the two running at the same time . Can't beat it.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 05, 2009, 11:04:31 PM
I'm on my brother's 15th install of a dh123. All have gone well but my biggest complaint is the lack of a good connector between the engine and tender. Diesels have been no problem. Every one has gone smooth as silk.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Yampa Bob on June 05, 2009, 11:26:04 PM
I thought you ordered the 6 pin NEM connectors from Litchfield's. I used them for an engine to tender connection, worked great. You just have to watch polarity, which is no problem by matching the wire colors, paint a small dot on each connector, etc.

I used two prewired female harnesses, with a male connector for a gender changer in between.   

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: pdlethbridge on June 05, 2009, 11:29:53 PM
I did, but I'm getting shorts in the install because of the thin wire cover. I'm going to try some connectors from scale shops. I have to solder wires on, but at least I can give them some wire that has better short protection.

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Yampa Bob on June 06, 2009, 01:29:13 AM
Hmmm, don't understand that, unless you're using too much heat and melting the insulation. I use a 15 watt pencil tip iron, didn't have a problem.  ???

I just ordered some more, thinking about converting all my Connies to the 6 pin, but making the connection in the tender to hide the plugs. I converted one with a flexible permanent drawbar similar to Roundhouse. (screws on both ends).

Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: ebtbob on June 06, 2009, 09:59:54 AM
Jim Banner,

     Would define playable whistle please.


Title: Re: favorite decoder and why
Post by: Jim Banner on June 06, 2009, 10:47:24 AM
In the real world, the sound that comes out of a whistle depends on how much steam is fed to the whistle.  The engineer can vary the tone by varying how far he opens the valve that admits steam to his whistle.  He does this by varying his pull on the whistle cord.  In this way, he can develop his own whistle "signature."

In the model world, this has been replicated by using a pressure sensitive button for function 2 on some throttles.  Digitrax's DT400 is one such throttle.  I do not know what the protocol is but obviously it is more than just turning function 2 on and off.  Some sound decoders are able to interpret this protocol in terms of whistle pitch.  The Soundraxx Tsunami is one of them.  Both the throttle and the sound decoder need some programming to make them play nice together.

I am still low on the learning curve when it comes to sound.  I was busy learning more about this aspect when a paying customer walked in the door needing immediate help, followed closely by my wife wanting me to get my butt out in the garden and get busy.  So much for trains for a little while.