DCC Interfaces

Since my May 2018 DCC Corner article deals with using the LokProgrammer and also DecoderPro I thought it would be a good time to review the various computer interfaces that allow you to use these programs. For additional information please also take a look at my article in the June 2015 MR and do a search on this website for the particular device you have a question about–I have done a few posts in the past on this subject. I am going to cover the Digitrax PR3, Locobuffer, NCE USB, Sprog 3, and ESU LokProgrammer.

First let’s talk about what these interfaces do. In most cases they do what the name suggests–they act as an interface between your DCC system and your computer. Several also can function as stand alone programmers without having to be connected to your DCC system. The LokProgrammer is designed to only be used as a stand alone programmer. So let’s start with the true computer command station interfaces. I will give a brief description of each and get into the details in later posts.

The Digitrax PR3 is designed to operate as a computer’s interface with Digitrax systems. However, it can also function as a stand alone programmer. Digitrax also provides another program, SoundLoader, designed for loading new sound files into Digitrax sound decoders.

The Locobuffer has been around in various forms the longest and is designed to function only as an interface on Digitrax systems. It cannot do any stand alone programming and acts only as an interface between the computer and the Digitrax system.

The NCE USB interface is similar to the Locobuffer in that it acts only as a computer’s interface with NCE systems. It is not a stand alone programmer per se. However the PowerCab system is light enough to be portable and can be used as a stand alone programmer.

Sprog 3 is a very interesting device as it is a self contained DCC system and interface. It is my go to programmer because it can program everything I have ever tried it on.

Finally there is the LokProgrammer. This device works with the LokProgrammer software on Windows computers and is optimized for programming LokSound decoders. You can use it to modify and load sound files to your LokSound decoders. It will not work with DecoderPro.


  • Larry – I tried to order your new book for the fourth time and it punched thru! Good Deal – I look forward to it.

  • Larry, I tried to preorder your new book but received this error – “An unexpected error has occurred and we are unable to process your request at this time.” Not to criticize Kalmbach but in the last six months I have tried to order several items and have had problems. Will try to get hold of Customer Service, again. Looking forward to your book.

  • I have both a PR3 and a Sprog 3 which I use. Both work very well and I have had no issues with any of the new decoders. I use the Sprog 3 as as stand alone programmer and it stays on my desk in my office connected to a track and my laptop all the time. When I want to change a setting to a locomotive I just put the loco on the track and use Decoder Pro to make the change. The PR3 is used when I want to speed match locos on the layout or make other changes to locos on the layout. Most of the time I use it to program locos on the main but I also have an isolated programming track with a PTB 100 which I use on occasion. I am now wanting to add a Lok Programmer since I really like ESU Lok Sound decoders and would like to have the ability to change some of the sounds but I need to wait until I see what you write about the Lok Sound decoders that is coming up before pulling the trigger on this.

    • I do pretty much the same thing except my PR3 is built into the DCS240 command station. The Sprog is nice and portable because of its small size so I can bring it upstairs to use on my iMac in my office.

  • Larry, I have a PR-3. Will that work with Soundtraxx decoders, Economi’s in particular.

    • I have not used my old PR3 in some time and would need to crank my old PR3 up for a test. Also, I have always used a Soundtraxx PTB-100 with it, which regulates the programming track power at 12 volts whereas the PR3 is unregulated. If you keep your wires to the programming track short it may work fine, but with long wires voltage may drop some. Also my PR3 is very old, it was one of the first off the assembly line so it may be different than more recent models. They also just released a new and improved version which I have not seen or tested. Your best bet is give it a try and see what happens. If all else fails I have never had any issues programming them on the main. In my experience the Econami seems to have fewer programming issues than any of the other sound decoders.

      • I use a PR3 exclusively for programming and yes, it works very nicely with all Soundtraxx decoders and DecoderPro. I have over a 100 Tsunamis and Tsunami2’s