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I am thinking of building a new layout with DCC operation including sound decoders in all Motive Power.
Having always been an Analogue user DCC will be something new to me.
The thing that is confusing is the different pin types of decoders,they seem to range from 6 to 21 pin,
is this because different manufacturers use different decoders in their Loco's, and how will i know what type of
decoder fits what type of Loco?
I am also thinking of using the NCE Power Cab as my control system, is this a good entry level system?
 

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C55
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Hi,
NCE is very good and can be expanded very simply, should you want to. It's not the only one, but is simple and good to use.

The number of pins for any, fitted, loco socket is normally stated on the box and in the detailed description of any loco. There are many manufacturers who make the various decoders, with the appropriate number of pins to fit the sockets. Some are better than others, particularly the sound equipped ones. There is plenty of advice from many experienced people on this Forum and I will refrain from adding anything here, as I only have 9 with sound, of a variety of sources.

There are also a number of very good suppliers, who are very willing to talk you through purchases, from getting the right sounds, through to how best to fit them.

Best regards

Julian
 

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In depth idiot
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Tell us more, specifically about what locos you intend to have with sound. The D+E hobby has gone hog wild on sound, and it is much easier to fit inside the roomy boxes of a typical loco, than in rather more awkwardly shaped steam locos.

Don't worry about the connections. One option is to buy with sound installed, available on an increasing number of more recently released locos.

For D+E, the sound typically comes on decoders with the right fitting, and the more recent introductions have internal layouts designed to accomodate the kit, so there's quite a lot of 'plug and play' on offer.

For steam, quite often the best way forward is to remove the socket and solder the decoder installation to make best use of the (often limited) internal space. There's now a usefully wide choice of steam locos, but many were introduced before DCC caught on in the UK, and well before sound on DCC was readily available, and have not had revisions to simplify decoder installation.

I would suggest using your existing layout to trial DCC sound with a couple of locos, unless you have already heard it and definitely like it.

DCC system choice; try a specialist dealer who can allow you hands on with a good range of kit. It's much like cars, they all do the same basic job: what you want is one that is 'right' in your hands, so that you are quickly 'unconciously competent' at operating it. (If you are in the Southern half of East Anglia, I would suggest Coastal DCC in Ipswich without hesitation.) Two essentials to look for, a DCC system must have a programme track output, and a short circuit cut out.
 

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The decoders are all pretty much the same, it is just the sockets that are different. Unfortunately the manufacturers cannot just pick the best socket and stick to it, they have to use a whole load of different ones. You just need to buy the version of the decoder that has a plug on it to match the socket.

For sound you want to get locos that have either a PluX, MTC21, or Next-18s socket as these sockets have enough pins so that you can wire the speaker to the loco (if it does not come with a speaker already fitted). The PluX and Next-18 sockets define a space for the decoder so that you know that the decoder will fit, for MTC-21 you need to measure the space!

If you have a NEM652 8-pin, or NEM651 6-pin socket you will get a decoder with the speaker wired to the decoder and hope there will be some space for it, there usually will not be enough space for a sound decoder without some modification.
 

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Re what decoder will fit aside from getting one with the correct pins for the socket there is also often a space issue with 6 and 8 pin decoders - suggest a web search for decoder fit {make of model} { model} should bring up peoples experiences. One 6/8 pin decoder can be huge and another quite small.
 

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Generally speaking if you are installing sound you don't have a lot of decoder choice since virtually all sound projects are for either ESU or Zimo.

For Zimo:-
MTC-21 - MX644D (for UK models, some foreign ones require MX644C)
PluX-22 - MX645p22 (normally for 00 or H0). The smaller MX648p16 will also fit but has less functionality.
PluX-16 - MX648p16 (normally for N)
Next-18s - MX658N18
Next-18 - MX659N18 (smaller decoder to fit in the non sound decoder space)
NEM652 (8-pin) - MX648R (short) or MX649R (narrow) for tight spaces. Use MX645R if when loads of space.
NEM651 (6-pin) - MX649L (plug straight in if the space works) or MX649F (on longer wires).

If your loco has lots of room but no socket fit a Zimo ADAPLU PCB and plug in a MX645p22 for maximum functionality.

Hopefully someone has the details for the ESU range.
 

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C55
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Re what decoder will fit aside from getting one with the correct pins for the socket there is also often a space issue with 6 and 8 pin decoders - suggest a web search for decoder fit {make of model} { model} should bring up peoples experiences. One 6/8 pin decoder can be huge and another quite small.
As said above, size / shape will, absolutely, be an issue that you will need to look at. That said, a solution can be found, when purchasing the sound decoder, if you buy the decoder, ready loaded from one of the companies that sell the complete packages. As an example, a company called Youchoos, do exactly that [along with Coastal Digital, DC - Kits, South West Digital, Legomanbiffo - a Google for Sound Decoders will give several more - all good]. Not for any specific reason, other than as an example, you could browse through Youchoos web pages to see how detailed / specific their packages are, in relation to a loco you would want to add sound to.
YouChoos
Each one is specific to a loco and manufacturer. They also have very detailed guides for how to fit to various loco types, if you are doing it yourself. They solve many of the questions you might have, as they have been there many times before you / us.

They [and others] will also fit it for you, if you would like them to. I asked a gentleman to fit some German N Gauge sounds, because he had the decoders and loaded the sounds - because getting one of the German manufacturer's decoders, from them / their suppliers, was about as successful as shouting up at Everest and expecting the Yeti to come on out, for a chat!!! 🤬

Julian
PS. Youchoos are very good - as are the others I mentioned and several more - similar services are offered by all the good ones, so you can see what help you can get, before chatting to them, they do make life so, very much, easier.
 

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For ESU:-
MTC-21 - 58419 Loksound 5 DCC
PluX-22 - 58412 Loksound 5 DCC
PluX-16 - Nothing suitable, but 58814 Loksound 5 Micro might fit.
Next-18s - 58818 Loksound Micro
Next-18 - Nothing suitable, but 58818 Loksound 5 Micro might fit.
NEM652 (8-pin) - 58810 Loksound 5 Micro or 58410 Loksound 5 DCC if there is more space.
NEM651 (6-pin) - 58416 Loksound 5 DCC

Perhaps some of the older ESU products might fill the gaps in the range which is not as comprehensive as Zimo.
 

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Unless you are going to convert locos to DCC the decoder choice is determined by which one the manufacturer specifies for a particular loco, is usually says so on the box. So if the loco needs a 21 pin one then that is what it generally says on the box. As to controllers, I have just upgraded my Hornby Elite to a DigiKeijs and if you are familiar with windows it is a superb device. What a lot of people do is buy the cheap Hornby Select because it is cheap and then find it doesn't work very well. The biggest issue I have with DCC is getting the loco apart to fit the decoder without the separately fitted parts falling off. Now if you are going to convert your old locos to DCC then the 8 pin decoder is the easiest to wire up and if the loco is lets say a 0-6-0 then a 6 pin one is a better option as it is a much smaller decoder.
 

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Probably covering some of what's been said but it sounds (no pun intended) as though you have your loco's. If this is the case they may or may not have sockets. If you have the boxes it's usually marked on them by the manufacturer. In quite a few cases you can have a 'DCC ready' loco that doesn't actually have space for a sound decoder and a speaker. I and numerous others have been doing away with the sockets and hard wiring, which with most loco's isn't too difficult. Sometimes the loco or tender has to be modified a bit for all of this to fit, including stay alive* units for faultless running. Being able to solder small components is a help.
I use Zimo decoders from Digitrains in Lincoln with Paul Chetter sound files, also from them. I'm not knocking ESU but their decoders are just too complicated for me to set up/adjust. I have one ESU sound decoder because Paul didn't do a file for my Bachmann Deltic. I can't get it to start as smoothly as any Zimo so I'll stay with them.

* Lais, sold by Digitrains and others no doubt are four tiny high capacity capacitors that come in a package with a charging circuit ready to use. Using these and live frog (electrofrog) points gives perfectly smooth slow running.
 

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I am thinking of building a new layout with DCC operation including sound decoders in all Motive Power.
Having always been an Analogue user DCC will be something new to me.
The thing that is confusing is the different pin types of decoders,they seem to range from 6 to 21 pin,
is this because different manufacturers use different decoders in their Loco's, and how will i know what type of
decoder fits what type of Loco?
I am also thinking of using the NCE Power Cab as my control system, is this a good entry level system?
I would say 'go for it'. It adds a whole new dimension to the hobby. For me, it also encourages more realistic operation because you tend to drive trains to get the realistic sounds.
If you can, I'd suggest you go for the Powerhouse Pro: it will do everything and you'll never need to purchase another system.

With regards different pins configurations, the reason for this is that there are a number of different standards which have evolved over time to meet changing needs. For example, the original 8 pin connector was fine for motor control and 3 functions (2 for lights and 1 for something else) but beyond that, extra wires became necessary which defeated the point of the 8 pin plug, hence other plugs were introduced which handled more connections.

In terms of which standard a given manufacturer uses, Hornby have stuck with the 8 pin as have Heljan, although this is in the process of changing. Bachmann started with the 8 pin but haven't 'standardised' and different locos have different sockets, but they do indicate which on the box.

The type of socket used often relates to the physical size of the model. Large diesel locos are pretty flexible and can technically accomodate any socket, but small steam locos like the Hattons P and a number of smaller Bachman locos have adopted the 6 pin.

There are really only two decoders of choice for sound: ESU and Zimo. Sound suppliers will nearly always supply the sound preloaded on a decoder if you wish so that you only have to plug the decoder in and connect the speaker.

Choosing sound packages is like anything else: ya gets what ya pays for. I am particularly fussy about how sound synchronises with motion. There are plenty of Youtube video's of the real thing to check what a given loco should sound like. I always look for sound packages which closely match the prototype in this respect. It is fairly easy to determine because a model sound package will either rev or idle at inappropriate times or it won't be revving at the right rate for its motion (see youtube videos). Sadly, a lot of sound packages are like that and they indicate to me that insufficient research has been done by the programmer to match the model sound to the real thing. Taking sound recording of the real thing is all very well, but if the wrong sounds are played at the wrong time, it becomes irrelevant. Without pointing fingers, Youchoose falls into that category for me: a loco that makes a noise doesn't sound or look right if the motion doesn't match. And from what I have seen on Youtube, I don't think all Youchoose sounds are actually correct - they seem to use generic sounds in some cases.
Southwest Digital sounds are very good, but just watch the sound/motion synchronisation. I don't think Howes is produced any more - perhaps someone can chip (pub intended) in ?

In my opinion, they best sounds for ESU decoders are produced by Legomanbiffo. He actually hires real locos for a day to record them and synchronise their motion with the sound. I haven't actually used Paul Chetter's sounds, but all the Youtubes I have seen of them indicate that that are the best in the Zimo world.

Hope this helps,
 

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If you go to a sound retailer like CoastalDCC you will have a choice of sounds, and often a choice of decoder. Just because there is no sound package offered already does not mean that Kevin cannot rustle something up based on what is available for similar locos perhaps with a different horn for example. There is a lot that a good retailer can do in the loading that you might not get if you go direct to a sound producer that can only offer his own range of sounds in a specific brand of decoder.

My experience with Zimo and ESU is the same as has been mentioned above - the Zimo decoders you just plug them in and they work, but the ESU ones take an awful lot of faffing about to get them optimised. Why the loco manufacturers persist in using ESU, and fitting a limited range of legacy sockets just to accommodate ESU decoders I don't know when they could standardise on the PLuX sockets and just use Zimo decoders and make us all happy.

I guess we just have to use our buying power and favour buying locos that have a PluX socket over the others! Next-18 and Next-18s is not too bad, but it is not as functional as the similar sized PluX-16, and why have two Next-18 standards when one will do!
 

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If you go to a sound retailer like CoastalDCC you will have a choice of sounds, and often a choice of decoder. Just because there is no sound package offered already does not mean that Kevin cannot rustle something up based on what is available for similar locos perhaps with a different horn for example. There is a lot that a good retailer can do in the loading that you might not get if you go direct to a sound producer that can only offer his own range of sounds in a specific brand of decoder.

My experience with Zimo and ESU is the same as has been mentioned above - the Zimo decoders you just plug them in and they work, but the ESU ones take an awful lot of faffing about to get them optimised.
When installing DCC sound, the vast majority of people will purchase a decoder from a supplier with a sound package already programmed on it. And they will go to the supplier who provides what they need. In most cases, the combined package will be for a specific prototype, purposely configured and optimised for a specific manufacturer's model of that prototype ie "I want a DCC sound decoder programmed with sound for a BR class 47 and I want it for a Bachmann class 47".
Generally, the only programming changes needed will be to set the loco address, change the volume setting and perhaps, adjust the inertia.

The 'awful lot of faffing about' relates to configuring motor control CV's on ESU decoders - and there are quite a few of them, offering a lot of control.
When buying a pre-programmed decoder, all of that will already be set up so the user will not normally need to touch it. ESU decoders can be plugged in 'and they work' just the same as Zimo.
The only time you need to touch the motor control settings is if you are programming a sound package yourself from scratch or there is a serious configuration problem, so let's not spread misinformation with the intention of directing the OP to your chosen brand of decoder - let them choose for themselves.

The only times I have ever had to fiddle with the motor settings on ESU decoders was for a Dapol class 22 when the vibration of the motor was being relayed to the motion of the model, but this wasn't a fault of the decoder - it was because of the gear ratio in the model was too high such that the motor couldn't go slow enough at low speed without vibrating. The other time was for the Kernow class 41 where I will agree that the ESU was an absolute pig to set up, but again, not a fault of the decoder. The choice of motor simply hadn't been tested with sound decoders and was a crap motor, not fit for purpose.

Why the loco manufacturers persist in using ESU, and fitting a limited range of legacy sockets just to accommodate ESU decoders I don't know when they could standardise on the PLuX sockets and just use Zimo decoders and make us all happy.
There are two simple answers to this question.
The first is history. When DCC sound first became popular, ESU were the first to become well known and the 8 pin socket was the only socket. Zimo wasn't well known in the UK and Zimo products were much more expensive. Of course today. that has changed.
Secondly, business arrangements. I believe that early DCC systems produced by Bachmann were essentially obsolete Lenz 2-digit products. I believe that today's 'Dynamis' is essentially a rebadged ESU product. Obviously, it makes sense to use decoders and sockets from the same manufacturer.
But times are changing and will almost certainly continue to do so as new developments emerge.

I guess we just have to use our buying power and favour buying locos that have a PluX socket over the others! Next-18 and Next-18s is not too bad, but it is not as functional as the similar sized PluX-16, and why have two Next-18 standards when one will do!
And what difference will that make ? Manufacturers will use the socket which they perceive as being the most suitable and cost effective for what they want to achieve. Not much point in mandating a Plux socket in a Hattons P tank when it won't even fit!
Certainly agree that one standard is desirable - I thought that's where the 21 pin socket was supposed to take over, but then a whole load of other 'standards' (Plux and Next) popped up! To me, the appropriate socket is one that has enough connections to service all the inputs and outputs of a decoder, which is proven reliable, cost effective and physically fits in a model. I would suggest that given the variety of different sizes of locos we have and the variation in function requirements (steam locos have no lights, diesels have plenty), there is no 'one size fits all' solution.
 
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