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?? Motors & MRC decoders

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  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: Elyria, OH
  • 2,428 posts
Posted by BRVRR on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 10:09 PM

The general wisdom is that MRC decoders are not much good. I can't speak to their basic decoders for motor control (no sound) but I have had good luck with their sound decoders. I have a steam sound decoder installed in a Bachmann Niagara that has been working flawlessly for several years. The motor control is admittedly not the best, but adequate for my needs.

I have another MRC sound decoder installed in a dummy F7. The motor circuit isn't used, just a light-bulb across the motor leads to provide a load, but it to has been working without a problem for nearly as long as the steam decoder in the Niagara.

My grandson has an Athearn Challenger with a MRC sound decoder in it. Motor control is quite good and so is the sound. The kid loves it. The loco is more than a year old now and get almost constant use on the BRVRR layout. No problems to date.

I have a feeling the elevated voltages with some DCC systems may be part of the problem. My Zephyr puts out just 12 volts. Some of the other systems go to 14 or even 16 volts.

As far as sound decoders and motor control go, I don't think you can beat a BLI (Quantum) decoder. I just wish they had an after market decoder available. I have several of the Soundtraxx LC decoders too. The motor control could be better, but has been adequate for my needs.

I haven't tried the Tsunami, or the Loco Sound and Digitrax Sound decoders yet. I'm reluctant to invest in the necessary programmers for the latter two. But who knows what the future will bring.

One or more of my MRC sound decoders will probably fail tomorrow, now that I have lent them some support.

In today's marketplace, I think I would stick with the new generation of Soundtraxx decoders. Whatever system/decoder you decide to use, I wish you luck.

Remember its your railroad


  Track to the BRVRR Website:

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: S.E. Adirondacks, NY
  • 3,246 posts
Posted by modelmaker51 on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 4:35 PM

I agree with Joe. When I switched to DCC about a year ago, I had 3 engines with MRC decoders (I got them for free). They all failed within 2 weeks. I found the NCE D13SRJ @ $11.90ea in a 10 pack, (I have since bought 2 more 10 packs). These are good quality 4-function decoders, I have had no trouble with them at all. 

On the Atlas engines, they've all been excellent runners since the '80s when they started using the Kato drives. They are now made in China and the drives are now clones of the Kato drives and run just as well or better. No jack rabbit starts, period. All the Atlas engines run smooth and quiet as can be. Most people consider them the best runners of all. Your info is wrong. If you are having problems, it's most likely the MRC decoder.

With DCC, the old resistor trick is obsolete and could actually be harmfull. All loco adjustment are done with the CV's in the decoder. You can adjust everything from starting voltage to momentum and much, much more. It's kinda like having a TAT IV or V throttle built right into each decoder/engine.


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  • Member since
    October 2005
  • From: Nashua, NH
  • 430 posts
Posted by Cannoli on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 3:05 PM

I have to agree with Joe's advice on the MRC decoders. When I first got started with DCC two years ago, I purchased a Prodigy Express system and a handful of MRC 1650 decoders at my LHS. The Prodigy Express has been great, meeting all the needs of my small layout, but the decoders have been awful. Of the five that I purchased only one is still working, and that is primarily because the unit, a Proto1000 RDC, it is in does not get used all that often. I have since replaced all the others with Digitrax DH123's.

As for the questions regarding Atlas performance, I have an Atlas Classic RS3 with a DH123 in it and it runs great. It is very slow to start, no jack rabbit issues there. Even when it did have the MRC decoder, first install I ever did, it ran great, until the decoder died that is Wink [;)]

Modeling the fictional B&M Dowe, NH branch in the early 50's.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • From: Portland, OR
  • 3,119 posts
Posted by jfugate on Tuesday, February 12, 2008 10:27 AM

The general wisdom of those "in the know" is that MRC decoders are some of the worst in the hobby.

For example, Gerry Hopkins, an MMR (Master Model Railroader -- a title earned through a rigorous NMRA program), was given 8 MRC sound decoders. He installed them in locos and took them to a weekend-long show, and ran the locos all weekend long.

By the end of the weekend, all 8 decoders had failed. He posted on my website forum that in his opinion the best thing you could do with MRC decoders was to "go give them a good hit with a hammer" ... in other words he was NOT impressed.

I've heard similar stories. For this reason, I recommend you get rid of any MRC decoders you have -- they will likely give you nothing but headaches. With very nice fleet decoders by NCE selling for $12 in quantity, there is no reason to put up with cheap junk decoders from MRC. I hate to even be saying that about MRC -- which otherwise makes fine products, but their decoders (unless they have changed their practices lately) are unreliable, cheaply made, and inconsistent in their behavior. They are a complete waste of money.

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

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • From: Eastern Shore Virginia
  • 3,290 posts
?? Motors & MRC decoders
Posted by gandydancer19 on Monday, February 11, 2008 11:51 AM

I have been modeling for longer than I care to remember, but am sort of new to DCC.  I am a retired Electronics tech., so electronics is something I sort of understand for the most part. 

I am starting to learn that MRC sound decoders aren't the greatest when used for motor control, but what I have been reading here suggests or implies that there are some locomotives that they will work OK with.

Also I have been reading here about the differences in motors used from one manufacturer to another. I have two relatively new models (to me), one is a LifeLike proto 1000 RS2, the other is an Atlas Classic RS1. I have also read here that the Atlas motors are not very good. However, between these two locomotives, the Atlas starts and runs faster with less voltage than the LifeLike one. So doesn't that make the Atlas motor better?

Someone also said on another DCC / MRC thread that the Atlas with an MRC decoder would perform "jack rabbit" starts. Back before Pulse Power on DC power packs, we used to add a resistor across the output terminals of the track power to reduce "jack rabbit" starts. (Does that tell you how old I am?) Since the MRC decoders seem to have extra current capability (i.e. 1.5 amp ratting) has anyone tried to add a resistor across the Atlas motor to slow it down and prevent or reduce the "jack rabbit" starts when used with MRC sound & power decoders?



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.) at home, and N scale at the Club.

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