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Which DCC system is the best?

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Which DCC system is the best?
Posted by cndash9 on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:04 PM

Hi all, so, which system is the best?  I'm sure we'll have many different posts for this. 

Here is my situation:  I have many locomotives, I want to use signals and eventually I may want to run things using a computer , radio is likely with tethered cabs in the yards and, no, I don't care for sound.  My biggest thing is Ease of Use.  Price is not a concern at this time.

I've seen Digitrax, NCE and have used CVP Rail Command.  I realy liked the simplicity of the CVP system.  Can you folks give me pros and cons of what you believe in or used please? 

Thanks everyone,

John

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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:15 PM

I use the Digitrax Super Chief.

I use Kato Unitrack. The switch machines are thrown by a DS-64 after they recieve the command from my DT400 throttle via the loconet.

The 8 amp command station is backed by a 2012 power supply that is capable of 20+ amps or feeding multipule boosters.

Practically, there are like 120 engine address can be stored, no limit to program options and I have not yet hit something that I cannot do with this system.

I bought this system at the hobby shop on discount and basically this will be the only system for the remainder of my life such as it is.

The signalling can be supported by the Digitrax Se8C (Either that spelling or the SEC8..) board. I have researched the future use of B&O CPL's with this system.

Yes I can patch into the chief with the computer but need a cable for that. Maybe will do that some day.

The only thing that I can or will do is upgrade to full two way radio someday, that is easily done.

Finally but not last, the reason I bought the Chief is that I understand and enjoy the system very much. Cost was secondary. I suppose it is my way of learning DCC. All in and learn as I need to make things work.

The basic starter stuff I knew will be a waste of my money, time and create frusterations as I did not want to be limited in any way in the future.

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Posted by tstage on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:19 PM

Well, John.  You didn't waste anytime in starting this brand new forum out with a topic that's a proverbial "can of worms".  Thank you for a least putting some constraints on it. Approve [^]Thumbs Up [tup]

Any one of the systems that you've mentioned will work well for you.  For ease of use, I personally find the NCE interface more to my liking.  I have tried Digitrax but the button layout of the Pro Cab or Power Cab throttle is more intuitive...to me.  For the needs that you've mentioned, the 5 amp Power House Pro would be better for you than the 1.7 amp Power Cab.

John, if you'd like to take a virtual tour of the Power Cab (essentially the same throttle used with the NCE Power House Pro sytem), click on the link at the bottom of my post and go the review page on my web site.  There's a short review of the Power Cab.  It also contains pictures and comments to give you an idea of what you'd see if you were holding and/or using one yourself.  And the review of the CAB-04p throttle and the Smart Booster might also be inciteful, if you should care to read them.

Hope that helps... 

Tom

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Posted by DigitalGriffin on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:35 PM

Where's that "opening kettle of fish" graphic when I need one?

As always I will reply with, "Whatever system you like is whatever system works for you"  They are pretty much all capable of the same things give or take.

Just pay attention to things like

1.  Will I need a walk around throttle?

2.  Will I need a wireless throttle?

3.  Will I want software support?

4.  Do I want to use a particular feedback system?

5.  How much current will I need?

6.  Will my layout be modular, and what do fellow modular users use?

7.  How important is an easy to use cab/throttle?  Will 1 or 2 extra button presses mean that much to me?

 

BTW: Joe Fugate is a wonderful source of information on this topic.

Don - Specializing in layout DC->DCC conversions

Modeling C&O transition era and steel industries There's Nothing Like Big Steam!

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Posted by cndash9 on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:38 PM

Thank you very much Tom and Falls Valley, exactly what I'm looking for in results and details.

John

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Posted by dehusman on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 6:13 PM

The CVP system is very easy to use.  A limitation with it is the programming must be done from a fixed panel.  If you are going to have a LOT of radio throttles working I have heard of people having problems when they have more than 8 EasyDCC radio throttles going.  I have had friends that had issues with the 4 digit addressing (they may be fixed for now).

I really don't like early Digitrax throttles, they are very hard to figure out.  i recently operated on a layout with the most recent radio throttle and it was a LOT more intuitive and user friendly. 

I have also used a Lenz system and it was OK too.

I personally have an NCE system with a mix of radio and tethered throttles.  I am happy with it.  Several others in this area also have NCE systems randing in size from my 300 sq ft layout to rooms with 2500 sq ft.

Dave H.

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Posted by jamnest on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 7:02 PM

My vote for best DCC system would be "Decoder Pro".  It is not a system but an indispensable free software program that has made my Digitrax Chief easier to use.

JIM

Jim, Modeling the Kansas City Southern Lines in HO scale.

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Posted by selector on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 7:04 PM

I am very content with my Digitrax Super Empire Builder DB 150 and the 5 amps of power it offers.  What I really like, though, are the twin DT400 throttles, each with twin clickable encoders that allow me to run two engines on one throttle simultaneously, and four if I have the nerve...hasn't happened yet.

I find my Digitrax to be easy enough to read and use.  I would agree that you can't expect to pick up a DT400 and get trains running just like that.  But, manual open on the bench and throttle in hand, it soon becomes very clear and the rest is pure enjoyment.  Whatever Digitrax decides to offer in the future, twin clickable encoders should stay on their premier throttles.

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 7:05 PM

Which system is best is like asking which car is best.  There will be as many opinions as there are members.

Perhaps a better question would have been:

 

1-  Which DCC system do YOU use, and why did you choose it.

2-  Now that you have had it for a while, do you still feel you made the right choice, or would you choose differently if you had it to do over?

 

I like the Digitrax response.   I would like to see other systems recommended the same way by an actual user.

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

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Posted by CMLewis on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 8:32 PM
 Phoebe Vet wrote:

1-  Which DCC system do YOU use, and why did you choose it.

2-  Now that you have had it for a while, do you still feel you made the right choice, or would you choose differently if you had it to do over?

Yep, good questions.  I'll start.

1- Digitrax SuperChief.  It's probably more system than I'll ever need (certainly more than I need now!) but I'm a belt-and-braces kind of guy and don't like to have to buy things twice.  There are a few things that helped me decide:  discussions with system owners and three LHS's, availability of add-ons, (especially locally), reasonably priced and ease of setup and use.

2- Yes, absolutely.  Instructions are clear and simple, easy to use, does everything I ask of it.  Is there a better system out there? Oh, probably; there's always something better coming along.  But the Super Chief  does what I want it to do, will grow with me, and I don't feel that I spent too much.  I have no complaints.

Chris

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Posted by Texas Zepher on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 8:35 PM
 cndash9 wrote:
which system is the best?
Short answer - None.  There is no best.  Do a search and see the zillions of threads on this exact topic.

I want to use signals
define signals.  Do you mean like ABS and CTC traffic control signals for the trains?   Digitrax has a signal system that uses and integrates with their loco-net.  Our club is using the Digitrax signal modules on our layout which is a Lenz DCC system.

My biggest thing is Ease of Use.
Ok, now there is something to work with.  Personally I would say the MRC Prodigy comes close there.  A big dial with channel numbers on it.  Dial up and go.

I realy liked the simplicity of the CVP system.
Then you might consider the CVP Easy DCC system.  It has almost the same console interface as the Railcommand.  In addition it comes with two built in throttles.  Their wireless system is probably the best out there if you can live with only 8 wireless throttles.    I use the CVP wireless with my Lenz.

------------------------

I own a Digitax Zephyr, several MRC Command 2000s, a Lenz, and a non-DCC Railcommand. 

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Posted by jstift on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 9:07 PM

Check out Tony's Train Exchange. There are a lot of articles about DCC there. I am in the begining construction of my 3rd layout and this one will have DCC. I have used the Digitrax on my dad's layout, and it works fine, but the one thing I don't care for is the small knobs for un the UT-4 handheld, not good for short fat fingers. I have really been looking hard at the Lenz set 100. It seems very easy to use and I liked the 10 yr warranty,and big buttonsSmile [:)].

Good Luck

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Posted by ARTHILL on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 9:57 PM

I have Digitrax Super Chief with radio. I love it. The radio is the best toy in the train room. It must be sort of simple, I made it work.

I got a sound decoder in a brass steamer, so that can't be too hard either. I wired for both DC and DCC but have never used the DC since the DCC was set up. My layout was wired for DC and it took less than an hour to get DCC running. I have since replaced some of the wiring, but not all.

 

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Posted by jfugate on Thursday, January 31, 2008 1:09 AM
 cndash9 wrote:

Hi all, so, which system is the best?  I'm sure we'll have many different posts for this. 

Here is my situation:  I have many locomotives, I want to use signals and eventually I may want to run things using a computer , radio is likely with tethered cabs in the yards and, no, I don't care for sound.  My biggest thing is Ease of Use.  Price is not a concern at this time.

I've seen Digitrax, NCE and have used CVP Rail Command.  I realy liked the simplicity of the CVP system.  Can you folks give me pros and cons of what you believe in or used please? 

Thanks everyone,

John

If you're serious that ease of use is your highest priority, then NCE would be the system I recommend. There are other considerations, though.

Do you want to have local support and a high likelihood other modelers could bring cabs to an op session? If yes, then Digitrax would likely be your best choice.

If ultra-reliable wireless (true wireless, not wireless that requires you to plug in to acquire), then I would have said EasyDCC until recently. With the most recent release of EasyDCC, there have been isolated reports of more loco runaways -- and NCE is now shipping throttles that use their new Rev 3 wireless that is super-reliable and super-fast response.

So at this point regarding reliable wireless it's something of a toss up between EasyDCC and NCE. The one big thing in NCE's favor is the fact their wireless allows 40-some throttles on a single receiver, while EasyDCC requires a second recevier if you go beyond 8 throttles, and EasyDCC maxes out at 16 wireless throttles.

NCE also has true wireless programming on the main and very robust consisting options, with automatic double-ended consisting built in. Double-ended consisting allows you to quickly make a consist with a mix of locos having lights and sound, and then the function keys will run the lights on the "front" end loco just like you want, and play the sounds in the consist like you want.

If you select the loco on the other end, then that end becomes the front and the light function keys operate the lights on the loco at that end, and all the sound function keys also work against all the locos in the consist. It's very well thought out and very fast to set up.

I also have a forum clinic thread on selecting a DCC system here

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by BlueHillsCPR on Thursday, January 31, 2008 2:02 AM
 jfugate wrote:

I also have a forum clinic thread on selecting a DCC system here

Hi Joe, I was hoping to see you jump in here.  Joe's clinics are a really good read! Thumbs Up [tup]

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Posted by pastorbob on Thursday, January 31, 2008 1:57 PM

I will jump in behind Joe and say that I have been using NCE since 1999.  Before that I used another non DCC command system called Dynatrol.  The switch was like going from midnight to noon day sun.

I use NCE Pro, I have four boosters for the four power districts on the layout (3 decks).  I have never fallen in love with the T bone Procab, but it is needed, so I have 5 of them.  I really like the small cab04pr cabs for just plain running, but as sound moves in, they don't do so good.  That is why I keep the procabs around.

I had some early issues with the radio but it is working like a champ now.  Layout is 35ft by 28ft, 3 decks.  I have no dead spots anywhere I can find.

I keep a second command station on my workbench with one booster for testing, programming, etc. so I do no programming on the main railroad.

I did put in a cab buss at the beginning and I keep it up as there are times a tethered cab is just fine, especially in local switching.

Support?  I don't know of any other NCE user around me, and I am electronically challenged.  However, the NCE group on Yahoo has some very knowledgable people, though some are very opinionated (but nice).  Because I am challenged I am encouraged by the simplicity of the NCE in programming, setting CV's, etc. and I certainly do not plan to switch to any other system.

Bob 

 

 

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Posted by cndash9 on Thursday, January 31, 2008 2:15 PM

Thank you Joe, a ton of usefull reading, I did read and skimmer the whole thing this morning.  Lots of info!!!

Thank you to EVERYONE who has posted, lots of usefull things to consider!!!

John 

 

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Posted by ChrisNH on Friday, February 1, 2008 8:59 AM

As a solo operator on a VERY small layout I have grown to like the two throttles on my digitrax DT400 controller. It makes working with two locos very easy. I am not sure this would be much use on a layout with multiple operators. The ballistic control of the knobs (the throttle changes faster if you move them quickly) allows a really nice touch on speed.

The biggest downside to digitrax is the menus can be a bit cryptic when programming. This will be a non-issue (I hope) when I finally hook the PC up to the layout but I have not had the time to do that thanks to a new Baby. A small down side is the rubber buttons get stuck crooked sometimes.

Digitrax keeps saying they will come out with a duplex radio system but I have seen no evidence that it will actually appear.  

I originally bought my system over 6 years ago because at the time it had the cheapest computer interface. I ended up storing it for 5 years and if I was shopping now I would take a hard look at NCE. At the time I bought, it was not as attactive an option.

I would suggest seeing if you can find a store that sells both and seeing which throttle is most comfortable to you. 

Chris 

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Posted by C&O Fan on Friday, February 1, 2008 9:16 AM

I use a Digitrax Zephyr and found it very easy to use

 It has some features not offered on the higher end models

It's ability to read back CVs and display values on the display pannel

is a great feature

Some think it's underpowered at only 2 amps but i have yet to overload it

You can also reduce the speed of locos with out effecting the other hand throttles

Which is great when the grandkids come over

I'm very happy with my $160 purchase 

TerryinTexas

See my Web Site Here

http://conewriversubdivision.yolasite.com/

 

 

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Posted by Bapou on Friday, February 1, 2008 9:33 AM
NCE is the easiest to use, I know Tony from Tonys Train Exchange, and helped him at the Springfield show, and most of his employees agree on NCE.
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Posted by steamfreightboy on Saturday, March 1, 2008 12:52 PM
I have a NCE power cab. I'm 10 and find my system very easy to use. I haven't done many CVs and that stuff but I like it. I have had it over-heat and go to the cab parameters in the middle of oporation and for anything larger than 32sqft would recomend the pro cab.
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Posted by CTValleyRR on Saturday, March 1, 2008 7:37 PM

Now this is an honest question, and I would like someone to try to answer it logically and with a factual argument, not an emotional one.

Why is it that everyone seems to ignore MRC systems?  I mean, I could see if everyone posted and said, "they're no good, because XYZ".  But no one even seems to mention them when discussing pros and cons of the various systems (Joe managed to get through about 5 pages of posts on his DCC clinic before anyone really mentioned MRC).

Not that I'm particularly in favor of them (although I'll admit I have 5 of their DC Tech 4 units which have been going for years without trouble); but the Prodigy seems comparably priced, readily available, upgradable, and generally comparable to the others.  Based on a couple minutes of puttering with the Prodigy Advance2 at a train show, it seemed very intuitive and easy to operate.  Are they just such a Johnny-come-lately to the DCC scene that everyone already has other systems?

Some intelligent clarification would be appreciated.

Connecticut Valley Railroad A Branch of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford

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Posted by simon1966 on Sunday, March 2, 2008 7:41 AM

CTV

IMO MRC has not taken the DCC revolution very seriously, or they simply got taken by surprise and did not know how to respond to the challenge to their dominance of the DC control market. 

I do believe that this is changing with the latest offerings.  The current Prodigy family of DCC systems is I believe their 3rd attempt in a decade with DCC.  The prior efforts are now obsolete, have no support and are not compatible with the latest offerings. Couple that with an appalling reputation for DCC decoder performance and reliability and I think you have the answer.  Twice bitten, once shy comes to mind.

Contrast this with the companies that would be considered the major players in the last decade and you can see a marked difference in the strategies.

This is all a bit puzzling because MRC has a superb reputation for reliable well made product for DC control.  For some reason they got it wrong with their initial efforts into DCC.  I have to say that the current product range looks to be very easy to use, well engineered and full featured.  Given its obvious similar look to the NCE products, one can see it giving NCE a real run for the money.  MRC can likely out-gun NCE in both distribution channels and marketing.

I suspect that they will become a major player in DCC in the coming years. 

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, March 2, 2008 10:28 AM

MRC Got caught asleep at the switch.

They are trying to write themselves into the hobby DCC world and infect the globe with decoders that are fine examples of the early DCC era. /sarcasm.

From the looks of the ads in MR, MRC's Alamo has not yet fallen. They are getting rather creative with 12 volts.

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Posted by tsokolan on Sunday, March 2, 2008 3:30 PM

Ok, here we go,

 Since you live in Edmonton, the best place to look at a system in a store would be Hobby Wholesale on Gateway (Calgary Trail). Now the thing to note is in Alberta there are really onl a few systems that are being used, Digitrax and NCE. Hobby Wholesale stocks Digitrax, MRC, and I think NCE (not sure). Another important item: DO NOT BUY RIGHT AWAY!!! Shop around, and by around I mean online, (tony's train exchange is a good spot) to get the best deal. Find a system that you can expand on, that way whatever you buy will last you for a long time. Personnaly I'd avoid the MRC, and go with Digitrax, but thats becasue I've used Digitrax for a number of years now. The Zephyer would be a good start, but if you want to run lots of locomotives on a large layout, fork over the extra cash for a Super Empire Builder set. The big book of DCC (found at Hobby Wholesale) does a good job of explaining Digitrax and DCC in general, much better than the manual found in the DCC system. Digitrax makes a UT4 throttle that is simple to use (large knob for control).

Another method is to search out local modellers with layouts and ask if you can operate with them. The best way to learn is by trying! Once you have decided on a system ,consider TCS decoders. They are simple to program and use, and if you happen to fry one, TCS will replace it for free! I've heard good things about the NCE system ,but have no had the oppertunity to try it out. Hope this helps!

 

-Trevor 

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Posted by jwils1 on Monday, March 3, 2008 10:54 AM
 CTValleyRR wrote:

Now this is an honest question, and I would like someone to try to answer it logically and with a factual argument, not an emotional one.

Why is it that everyone seems to ignore MRC systems?

I think Simon has given a very accurate assesment of MRC.  You tend to hear a lot of negative MRC comments and I think that they primarily stem from experience with their decoders, and some are simply commenting, not from actual experience, but based just on what they have heard.

I don't know anything about their current sales volume but if they keep up a strong marketing program they should become a very major player.  There current DCC systems are simply outstanding, especially their Wireless offering.  Talking about ease of use, they actually top NCE in this category (IMO).  I would like for someone to tell me just what the average home user would want from a DCC system that MRC's current offering doesn't provide?  I know that there are some particular features and considerations that some might prefer, but overall, what makes NCE and Digitrax so much better, and worth the much greater price?  Don't get me wrong, as I fully appreciate and like the NCE and Digitrax products.

As far as decoders are concerned, MRC's newer ones may be a whole lot better than early offerings.  For example, their #1663 sound decoder for the Atlas S2/S4 switcher is excellent, with very good motor control and sound.

I just hate to see bad mouthing of a company based on hearsay.  I know that all DCC system manufacturers have problems.  I read a lot of the Yahoo Groups.  But that's just normal for a sophisticated product involving electronics.  I've worked in investigating quality control and know that that there are those that really can contribute to product improvement through sound, constructive reporting of the facts, as opposed to those who simply enjoy making negative attacks which contribute nothing to product improvement.  I say let's support all the DCC companies and help them continue to make our hobby better and better. 

I have to say that I really hope MRC has turned the corner in DCC quality, perfomance and reliability, because I for one am really pleased with their current offerings, and am looking forward to some new ones that are on the horizon.

 

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, March 3, 2008 11:07 AM

Ive got the MRC 2-8-0 on order. When it arrives, I'll run it through the JMRI and see what we have. Based on another Member's positive experience I really hope that this engine will be a good one.

Usually I dont order something a second time if I have problems with the first.

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Posted by jwils1 on Monday, March 3, 2008 11:44 AM

In my earlier post, I didn't mean to slight EasyDCC and Lenz by not mentioning them.  I've had some experience with both and they too can be a good solution depending upon your specific needs. 

I just think it's important to investigate all the major systems to find the one that best fits your specific needs.  And in the process of investigation, you really broaden your DCC knowledge. 

Jerry

Rio Grande vs. Santa Fe.....the battle is over but the glory remains!

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Posted by Texas Zepher on Monday, March 3, 2008 1:57 PM
 CTValleyRR wrote:
Why is it that everyone seems to ignore MRC systems?  I mean, I could see if everyone posted and said, "they're no good, because XYZ".  But no one even seems to mention them when discussing pros and cons of the various systems.
While I did mention them in my post in this thread, it is difficult to make comments about a system that one does not have hands-on access and experience with.  In all the layouts that I operate on, not a single one uses MRC.  I have two MRC Command 2000's but those are so old they are not worth mentioning and would just confuse the issue with their newer units.   So until every vendor who wants to get mentioned sends me a demo unit, I won't be mentioning them.
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Posted by jfugate on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 11:41 AM

MRC's Prodigy Advanced Squared seems to be making good inroads here and there with people. The wireless sounds like it works well.

MRC's throttles have a knob on them instead of a thumbwheel, which is a plus.

However, I consider any robust DCC system (by robust, I mean a system capable of expanding and growing to support any sized layout, not just smaller layouts) will also have a computer interface, and previous MRC Prodigy systems have not supported a computer interface.

The lastest Prodigy Advanced Squared lists a computer interface as coming, but when I go check the price, it's over $200!

Considering that NCE and EasyDCC come out of the box with a computer interface (no extra cost), and that Lenz or Digitrax charge $70-$100 for a computer interface, MRC setting their computer interface price at $200 is very disappointing.

It's like MRC wants to get you in the door by competitive pricing, then make you pay through the nose for the most important accessories. I'm not at all impressed with that strategy, and it's enough for me to NOT recommend their system to newcomers. 

NOTE on a computer interface: The power a computer interface gives you for programming decoders is almost essential with today's growing set of decoder features, especially with sound decoders. Once you've done decoder programming with your PC and seen how easy it is to program even the most complex of decoders with a few mouse clicks, you will never want to go back to having to do binary and hexadecimal math while pouring over decoder manuals to find which CV register you need to poke your painstakingly hand-computed value into. 

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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