Digitrax or NCE?

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by CNWman, Nov 8, 2008.

  1. diburning

    diburning Member


    I've had sound units with dc units one in front of the other and nothing happened. As long as I don't try to MU them. nothing gets harmed.
  2. I appreciate the thoughts on this subject

    The more I understand the whole DCC operations and capabilites the better spent my money will be and my expectations of the new equipment. So what I am getting to understand is that not all decoders do sound, and not all will do both sound and motor, the choice is in the purchase and what you want. What about the speakers, is that a separate purchse or do some sound decoders have them attached to them.

    I have it in my mind that since I will be rebuilding the layout, Katrina kind of mixed some moisture into it, that I would save some parts and keep an external loop track as just DC not connected to any other part of the layout and the main body of the layout as DCC. In this way as I transition I can still run some DC locos tha I like and when all are converted to DCC I will then rewire the loop and add it to the main layout. I am not even sure if all locos can be converted, I have some very small 4-4-0 old timers that have very limited internal space.
  3. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Well, I made my choice: the NCE PowerCab it is! I got it ordered yesterday and should be here by Thanksgiving, just in time to install it.

    A question though: How easy is it to wire the NCE set to alternate DCC/DC control? What I mean is, can I have it so I can just plug in a wire for DCC, then when I want to run DC I just switch one or a few wires in and out? I ask because the possibility of wiring up another engine for DCC outside of my Spectrum only starts next year, and I want to run all my engines still.
  4. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    The easiest way to do it is to use a double-pole, double-throw switch. It will have 6 terminals. Wire 2 of the outside terminals to your DC power pack, wire the other 2 to the PowerCab. The centre pair go to your track, or your control panel (if you have block switches).

    Wiring it this way means you will have either DC or DCC, but you can never have both together, and avoid any nastyness. ;)
  5. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Yes. For all intents and purposes, a PowerCab is functionally identical to a ProCab.

    Pretty much correct. Don't overbuy on your latter point. I have a ProCab and in hindsight would have done just fine with a Powercab plus the Smart Booster (raises amperage available at the rail). If you're a one or two train at a time kind of guy, you'll likely never need more power than the ProCab can provide.

    No, not all decoders are sound decoders. However, virtually all sound decoders are also motor / light decoders. The days of needing both a motor/light decoder and a sound decoder are passing into history. Yes, speakers are an additional purchase. Soldering skills need to provided by the end user (you) :)

    A programming track is a low-power track that is electrically isolated from the rest of the layout. This means you can program your new locomotive without affecting any others on the layout. ( you don't want every one of your locomotives responding to the same address afterall - that'd be like DC!). In addition, since it is lower power, it's a safer place to the initial programming of a new loco, in case you've wired something up incorrectly. You can also "read back" the CV values on the programming track in some cases, although this is a very inefficient way to do it.
  6. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Good choice - that's a solid piece of equipment.

  7. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    yes it is. I have an MRC prodigy express at home, but my clube uses the NCE system. For the price, i thin NCE beats out the Express, simply because you get more out of it.

    I have to say though, Digitrax seems to be falling behind. When i first joined this forum, everyone was telling me "Digitrax Zephyr". I never went with it because i want a walk around throttle, and i didn't feel like paying more to "expand".

    That said, i'm surprised Digitrax has not come out with an updated DCC system that can handle the same capablities as the NCE and Lenz options in their price range. I see them come out with new decoders, but i have a few and they don't always work right. I guess they figure they have a solid customer base
  8. gcrawford

    gcrawford New Member

  9. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    The thing is, with the MRC Prodigy Express (the Powercab and Prodigy Express are competing systems, and the express was the one i was referring to), it will remember 25 while on, but the second the cab is turned off, it will only remember the last 5.

    Its true that the NCE only remember 2 adresses, but If you are using either of these systems, you aren't using more than 4-5 locomotives at any one time (especially if any of them have sound). If you have a larger layout, don't even waste your time on either the power cab or the express, because you'll just end up buying a more high powered system later. that said, more of the NCE components can be reused than the MRC ones.

    Also, you are wrong about the power rating. Prodigy Express only has 1.6 amps. NCE Powercab has just under 2 amps.

    Again, NCE is a more fully equipped handheld. It has 29 functions, much more than is available to the Express, and it is very helpful in programming, and even has shortcuts that the MRC does not have. There are just so many extra features that you get from the NCE at the starting level.

    If you have a small layout and are just entering DCC, NCE is the way to go.
  10. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    gcrawford, I know you question wasn't intended for me, but I'll pitch in a couple thoughts anyway...

    I have the Pro-cab, which allows you to build a bigger "stack" of recallable addresses (8, I believe - not sure that this is possible with PowerCab). After experimenting with this, I went back to the default of two - trying to find the right locomotive to slow down in a larger stack while said locomotive is heading toward some bad outcome is stressful! :D It's simple enough to re-select a locomotive.

    The Pro-cab, can of course be powered up with a new booster, but that would run up the price. I'm reading the Express as being 1.6 amps, so there isn't much difference there.

    Best thing is to find somewhere to run them both, or write a very specific list of requirements and see which system most closely matches it. A lot of this comes down to what "feels" good.

  11. gcrawford

    gcrawford New Member

    Thanks for the quick responses. I was referring to the Prodigy Advance Squared which claims 3 amps. Well, still thinking it over..... And I would like to have my locos available to run in the yards or on a turnout, park one, operate one and so on which would be cool to do with say 4 or 5 locos, and I thought being able to recall them would be a neat feature without having to call them up by 4 digit address all over again.

    Of course I would also like to be able to use computer control and programming using my laptop, which I could do with NCE or Digitrax but not currently with PA 2'd.

    I guess at some point you just have to decide on one and take the plunge....
  12. Fluesheet

    Fluesheet Member

    Yes do it! DO IT! :mrgreen:
  13. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    ... yet. MRC is apparently working on a wireless computer interface for the Prodigy system. Walthers has it in their system, delivery date TBA. $139.

    My $0.02. The MRC is much easier to use for programming locomotives. The menu steps through address (no hoops to jump through for 2- or 4- digit addressing, just punch it in, either on the main or programming track), set the start and top voltage, acceleration and deceleration without having to remember what the CV #'s are, 20 functions accessible from the keypad, and a big display that shows you more info than NCE or Digitrax.

    As for upgradability, you can change your Express to an Advance2 by buying the Advance2 handset ($110) or the Wireless Advance conversion ($229). You can also buy 3A boosters ($165, on sale for $129) if you need more power.

    So, the only thing I see that's a hiccough with the MRC plan is that you need (apparently) the wireless system to get the computer interface. If that's a really big deal for you and you're on a budget, then NCE or Digitrax may be a better choice.

    For ease of use, and all-round good performance, it's hard to fault the MRC, IMHO.

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