The MRC Tech 6 Sound Controller 2.0 is a significant improvement over the previous sound controller options and continues to be a useful device for modelers with analog DC layouts who want to take advantage of the sound features on the many dual-mode locomotives on the market.
MRC Tech 6 Sound Controller 2.0
by Gary Quale
About two years ago Railroad Model Craftsman reviewed the then-new MRC No. 1050 “Blackbox” Sound Activation Unit. This provided operators using analog DC control for their layouts with an inexpensive add-on device to enjoy all the sound features offered on many new DCC locomotives. MRC has recently released a new sound controller that offers all the features of the Blackbox and some desirable additional capabilities as well.
First, where the Blackbox relied on the DC output from a conventional power pack as its power source, the Tech 6 Sound Controller comes with its own DC switching power supply module rated at 2.0 amps output. This unit is designed to automatically accept AC input from 110 to 240 volts at either 50 or 60 Hz so that it can be used internationally with only the addition of an appropriate adapter plug or power cord. A low voltage cord with concentric DC plug connects the power to the Tech 6 Sound Controller.
The Sound Controller itself has a throttle knob, 15 pushbuttons, and four LED indicators. Another new feature of the Sound Controller is that it has two operating modes, selectable with the “Mode” pushbutton. One is “Standard” analog DC control, and the other is “Dual” for DCC digital motor and sound control. Two of the LEDs indicate the selected operating mode. In the standard mode, the throttle controls locomotive speed, a “< >” button controls direction, and the other two LEDs indicate whether the locomotive is going forward or reverse.
Another pushbutton marked “P” enters the programming mode. This can be used when operating in the standard analog DC mode to program the starting voltage, acceleration momentum, deceleration momentum (braking rate), and maximum voltage. The operator simply selects function 2, 3, 4, or 5 respectively, enters the desired value between 0 and 32 (representing steps in a range of 0 to 15 volts or minimum to maximum acceleration / deceleration), and locks the selected value into the controller with an “Enter” button. The LEDs indicate when the controller is in the programming mode, but do not indicate which parameter is being programmed or what value has been selected.
In the “Dual” mode, basic operation of the Tech 6 Sound Controller is just like the Blackbox. The throttle controls the speed, the “< >” button controls direction, and “0” through “9“ buttons control the headlight and basic sound functions F0 – F9 on the locomotive. Pressing a “Shift” button followed by two numbers will activate functions F10 through F28 if used on the locomotive.
As on the Blackbox, the Tech 6 Sound Controller 2.0 operating in the “Dual” mode depends on the locomotive motor / sound decoder’s address being set to address 03. This is the address set at the factory, so is not a problem for basic operation. If a locomotive has been programmed to a different address, the Sound Controller can reset it to address 03 by simply pressing pushbuttons Shift, 9, 9. However, doing this resets ALL of the decoder CVs to their factory values. DCC operators who have programmed different bells and whistles or motor curves will want to reset the address using their DCC system to avoid losing these other CV values.
Another new feature of the Sound Controller is the capability to program any CV on the locomotive decoder. When in the “Dual” operating mode, this programming feature is activated just the same way that the voltage and momentum settings were made in the “Standard” mode. Instead of just selecting functions 2, 3, 4, or 5, the operator selects the desired CV listed in the data for the locomotive decoder, and instead of using just a 32 step range of values, uses a 32 or 256 or other range as appropriate for the decoder being programmed.
We tested the unit on several brands of locomotives and several decoders. The MRC sound decoder worked as advertised with all our samples. We did find that the instructions for the Sound Controller that can be downloaded from the MRC web site at www.modelrectifier.com are more specific and easier to use than the printed instructions packed with the controller.
The Tech 6 Sound Controller also includes an 8-conductor telephone-type modular jack on the front of the controller. MRC indicates this is for the addition of a walk-around controller. This is not presently available, but will be a nice future addition for this product.
The MRC Tech 6 Sound Controller 2.0 is a significant improvement over the previous sound controller options and continues to be a useful device for modelers with analog DC layouts who want to take advantage of the sound features on the many dual-mode locomotives on the market. The new features on the Sound Controller facilitate the use DCC sound equipped locomotives on conventional DC layouts.
This review originally appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman in 2010.