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choosing the right DCC system

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choosing the right DCC system
Posted by mac82 on Sunday, April 27, 2008 7:40 PM

   I'm just getting into the hobby(love affair) and I'm doing some research on control systems. DCC is the direction I'm going but I'm haveing trouble choosing which system to get. And the two candidates are Digitrax Super Chief or the MRC Prodigy Advance 2.

   I like the look of the MRC and the reviews given both systems sound like they're both great products. Digitrax does have more accessories to compliment its' systems. I would like to get feed back for both systems, the good and the bad. Would even like to hear about any other system that I haven't mentioned. All comments welcomed.

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, April 27, 2008 9:12 PM

mac,

First off: Sign - Welcome [#welcome] to the forum!  Good to have you aboard! Smile [:)] 

Your answers might be found in the following link from a thread that's already in this forum:

FORUM CLINIC: Picking the best DCC system

Hope that helps. Smile [:)]

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

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Posted by ARTHILL on Sunday, April 27, 2008 9:25 PM
Welcome to the forum. I have the Super Chief radio and love it. The radio is the best toy in the train room. Other systems will have their fans as well. Let the fun begin.
If you think you have it right, your standards are too low. my photos http://s12.photobucket.com/albums/a235/ARTHILL/ Art
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Posted by Texas Zepher on Sunday, April 27, 2008 10:37 PM

 mac82 wrote:
I'm haveing trouble choosing which system to get.
Yes, our club researched the "which system" for over a year and finally sort of just did the flip a coin deal.

And the two candidates are Digitrax Super Chief or the MRC Prodigy Advance 2.
That does seem to be a strange pair to end up with on the short list.  The SuperChief is Digitrax's top system.  The MRC is usually considered a starter or middle-of-the-road system.   I usually compare the SuperChief to the NCE Pro-cab, Lenz Set-100, and CVP's EZ-DCC.  There is also a Zimo set in this high end category.  I would compare the MRC more to the Digitrax Zephyr or Empire Builder, and NCE Power-cab.  

Digitrax does have more accessories to compliment its' systems.
They have to.  One of the major differences between Digitrax and most of the others is that Digitrax uses "loco-net" for inter device communications.  The others mostly use "express net".  What this means is any other vendors express net throttle can be used on another (example I use CVP wireless throttles on my Lenz system).  One can only use loco-net throttles on the Digitrax system.  I believe there are only a couple minor players wo make loco-net besides Digitrax.

As others have said.  Often a good choice of a system is what other people in your area or club use.  Another good choice is what your local hobby store specializes in.  In this way you have more local experience and support. 

I personally have a Lenz set-100, a Digitrax Zephyr, and an older MRC (not the Prodigy you are considering).

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Posted by Paul3 on Monday, April 28, 2008 8:34 AM

Texas Zepher,
I'm sorry, but you are somewhat incorrect about your assertions about LocoNet and "express net" ("XpressNet").

Throttle compatibility between systems is limited to CVP and Lenz.  They are the only two manufacturers in DCC that use the same throttle control bus, XpressNet.  Just like one cannot use a Lenz throttle on a Digitrax system, one cannot use an NCE throttle on an MRC system.  Only CVP and Lenz are interchangable.  NCE, MRC, Lenz, & CVP all use the same technology to transmit throttle commands (an industry standard control bus) in a master/slave style, while Digitrax uses their own invention, which is like LAN or peer-to-peer style.

There are a dozen companies/individuals that make LocoNet Certified products, not "a couple".|
http://www.digitrax.com/faqloconetq.php

Paul A. Cutler III
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Posted by jwils1 on Monday, April 28, 2008 1:27 PM

Actually, the MRC Prodigy Advance2 is a pretty nifty and complete full-featured system and is definitely more comparable to the Super Chief than to the Zephyr or Power Cab. One difference between the PA2 and the Chief is 3.5 amps vs. 5.0 amps. However 3.5 amps is plenty for many home systems. And if the system grows boosters are available. Also, the PA2 costs considerably less that the Chief, the upgrade to MRC's duplex radio system is very economical and ease of use is hands down in favor of PA2 (although this becomes a non-issue after you've used a system for awhile).

Other than no computer interface available for the PA2 (although it is in the works and will be available), I can't think of anything really important for the typical home user that the Chief can do that the PA2 can't. But there probably are some things and it might be helpful if someone could point these out and then mac82 could decide if these features are worth the extra cost to him.

One thing about a thread like this is lack of info from the original poster. One can't really offer much specific help without knowing more. In addition to David's points, it would be good to know: modeling scale; size of train room; size and shape of the layout; will he operate alone or have others operating with him; does he have a computer available in or very near the train room; will he be running sound equipped locos; is wireless control something he will be interested in, etc. Even approximate age, occupation, hobby skills and geographical location of the poster might be helpful.

If just starting out he may not even know answers to some of the above questions but knowing which way he is leaning could allow better input from forum members.

Jerry

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Posted by gandydancer19 on Monday, April 28, 2008 2:55 PM

I have NCE and I find that it is extremely easy to use. I see a lot of questions from users of other systems that are really basic and don't have to be asked by NCE users.

You should try and get a test drive on whatever system you are going to buy so you can see what you are getting. (Either from a hobby shop, club, or someone willing to show off their system.) Ask to program a locomotive, don't just run the trains.

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, April 28, 2008 10:16 PM

The throttle unit is how you will interact with the system, so it should be very high in your decision tree.  If you can, hold each of the throttles, and play with the controls.  The Lenz-100 throttle has very large buttons, and I like that for my equally large hands and fingers.  The Digitrax throttle (not sure which model) can control 2 engines, one on each side, but to do that they use very small cell-phone sized buttons.  That's a personal choice, and you're the one that has to make it.

The good news is that you will be happy with pretty much any of today's DCC systems.  They're good products, and the standards are sufficient to maintain interoperability of systems and locomotives, no matter what decoder you're using.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by Stevert on Monday, April 28, 2008 10:24 PM

 Texas Zephyr wrote:

The others mostly use "express net".  What this means is any other vendors express net throttle can be used on another (example I use CVP wireless throttles on my Lenz system).

 Paul3 wrote:

Texas Zepher,
I'm sorry, but you are somewhat incorrect about your assertions about LocoNet and "express net" ("XpressNet").

Throttle compatibility between systems is limited to CVP and Lenz. 

 

Actually, I think you may both be somewhat incorrect.

  I'm not aware of any instances where one manufacturer's throttles will directly plug into another manufacturer's throttle buss.  Of course, that excludes those instances where one manufacturer supplied multiple brands (NCE/Wangrow and Lenz/Atlas).

  CVP lists different part numbers for their NCE/Wangrow receiver (RX900NS), their Lenz/Atlas receiver (RX900AL), and their EasyDCC receivers (RX900-E, SECRX2E, RX904-E, and SECRX4E).

  That's because they need to accommodate the different buss protocols (or in their own case, 2 digit vs 4 digit addressing).

   So while the CVP throttle to receiver protocol may be the same in all cases, each of those receivers is designed to translate that CVP wireless protocol into the protocol of the particular DCC system it was designed to work with.

(The exceptions are the EasyDCC receivers themselves - Although they also have a different buss protocol than the other manufacturers, they don't have four different protocols.  They simply have different receivers for 2 or 4 digit primary, and 2 or 4 digit secondary.  They all plug into the same buss, you just have to match the Command Station as far as 2 or 4 digit.)

HTH,
Steve 

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Posted by rolleiman on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 8:17 AM
 mac82 wrote:

   I'm just getting into the hobby(love affair) and I'm doing some research on control systems. DCC is the direction I'm going but I'm haveing trouble choosing which system to get. And the two candidates are Digitrax Super Chief or the MRC Prodigy Advance 2.

   I like the look of the MRC and the reviews given both systems sound like they're both great products. Digitrax does have more accessories to compliment its' systems. I would like to get feed back for both systems, the good and the bad. Would even like to hear about any other system that I haven't mentioned. All comments welcomed.

Well, here's my 3¢...

First, Check out the DCC clinic thread that tstage recommended. You'll either be completely dizzy after reading through it or you'll know all you can stand to know about the different systems (best info somewhere in the middle of the thread iirc).

Second, while I do believe the people who say they are happy with their prodigy systems, my general experience with MRC DCC products (not their power packs) is that they suck. I should probably qualify that statement with this.. It's been many years since I've tried any MRC DCC products.  That is, with the exception of the sound decoders in my Athearn Genesis F units, and they, didn't do anything to change my opinion of the company's DCC offerings.

Third, I'm sure you've considered your pricing options. While I love the Chief with the DT400 throttles, the ability of purchasing less expensive throttles for other users, it Is a top end system and priced accordingly so. Of the two you listed, this would definately be the one I'd go for (and did). If pricing is a concern however, do consider the Zephyr. It gives much of the capability of the Chief at a lower total power (which only really becomes a concern when you want to RUN Many trains) at more of a budget concious price. 

I'll add a 4th ¢.. I wouldn't bother with Digitrax's middle of the road offering, the Empire builder. For one reason, it doesn't have the capability of a seperate programming track. Get the entry system or go full out on the chief. For the one time big investment, you'll be scale miles ahead. 

Good luck and enjoy running your trains rather than your track..

Modeling the Wabash from Detroit to Montpelier Jeff
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Posted by mac82 on Monday, May 5, 2008 4:07 PM

  1. My LHS carries Digitrax, but can order whatever is avalibale through Walthers catalog.

  2. Computer connection is part of layout planning. Signal control and such.

  3. Not at the moment, not sure about down the road.

  4. Not sure? That depends on the wife.

  5. Radio control would be something I'm willing to invest in.

                                                                             James 

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Posted by mac82 on Monday, May 5, 2008 4:10 PM

        Tom

        Thank you for the valuable information. I will definatly use it.

                                                                     James

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