Decoder choices

When it comes to DCC, the options are almost unlimited. This is especially true of decoders, the electronics that live in locomotives and control the motor(s), lights, and other functions. You can find simple large scale decoders for under $50, or full-featured ones for over $200. Some have more functions, some sounds, some have features like special lighting effects or control of a fan-driven smoke generator. Obviously, those that have more features cost more…

I’ve purchased a mix of decoders over the last few months, mainly focused on price. This is because I have lot of locomotives (if you count Eggliners 🙂 ) and most of them don’t require anything fancy. In fact, I’ve purchased decoders from most of the major suppliers: ESU, Digitrax, NCE, Lenz, and Zimo. I even picked up a few off-brand decoders direct from China. As far as I can tell, the best ones cost the most–with the caveat that I always buy the least expensive decoder that meets my needs.

For my LGB Mallet, I chose a Zimo sound decoder. This is because the sounds are high quality, the number of functions (including servo drivers) is high, and there’s support for fan-driven pulsed smoke. I put one each of a low-end NCE, Drigitrax, Lenz, and ESU decoder into a set of Eggliners. These have generally done well–but there have been issues due to the power pick-up problems that Eggliners are prone to.