Bachmann Dynamis Review

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Squidbait, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    The following is an unsolicited review of the Bachmann Dynamis DCC system. The opinons expressed are those of the author, and not those of Zealot forums.

    When I first saw the Dynamis system, I was quite excited. I had seen the ESU ECoS system, and was impressed by its’ capabilities, but at a list price of $700, I thought it was quite a lot for only a base-station and too much for most model railroaders. The Dynamis appeared to offer a graphic interface similar to the EcOS unit in a wireless, handheld package.

    What’s in the box?

    When you open your Dynamis box, you will first see the handset, the Command Station, and the 28 page instruction manual.


    Under the manual is the wall-wart power supply, a neck strap for the handset, a set of leads with a phono jack and a connector for Bachmann E-Z Track, and a connector block for conventional wiring.


    Setting the system up

    Setup of the Dynamis is very simple. Insert the four included AAA batteries into the handset, place the Command Station somewhere near the layout where it has a good line of sight to everywhere you’re going to be, plug the power supply into the Command station and the wall, and connect the track wires to the Command station either using the supplied lead or the connector block.

    There’s not a lot that can go wrong, since the back of the Command Station only has three plugs, one for the power, one each for the pre-wired track leads and the connector block.


    On the bottom of the Command station is the receiver connection, for hooking the Command Station up to the Dynamis Pro box to expand the power and capacity of the system.


    Once the connections are made, you can turn on the handset, and start running your railroad.

    The Handset

    What sets the Dynamis system apart from most other DCC systems is its wireless handset with a joystick controller and large LCD display. The backlit 2.75” x 1.75” display gives quite a bit of information about the loco you are running. The middle of the screen will show the currently selected loco (address, name, type and speed/speed steps). On the right hand side is a bar graph showing the current throttle setting and just below it the direction. In the top right corner is the signal strength indicator, and just to the left of that is where the short circuit indicator and emergency stop icons appear. The active functions (F1-F20 ) are shown down the left hand side of the screen, and across the bottom are the icons for the active action keys.


    To the right of the LCD is the other unique feature of the Dynamis, the joystick. The joystick is used not just for throttle, but for navigating the various menus of the Dynamis system. Think of it as a throttle and mouse rolled into one. When used as a throttle, a quick push and release either up or down will increase or decrease a locomotive’s speed by one step. Holding the joystick up or down will continue to increase or decrease a loco’s speed. When navigating the Dynamis’s menus, the joystick can step through the next or previous options by pushing it either up/right or down/left.

    To the left of the LCD are the 10 function keys, and below those the light (F0) and Shift keys. The Shift key is used to access F11-F20 (e.g. hit Shift + F8 for F18 ). Below the LCD are the 4 action keys. Depending on where you are in the menu system, these keys will have different functions. When you are running locos, the leftmost key will let you select accessory decoders and activate them, the second from the left lets you set up and select consists, the second from the right lets you select locos, and the rightmost selects the system menu.

    Using the Dynamis

    Following the manuals directions, I set a loco on the track, and pressed the [LOCO] action key. The system asked me to select the loco’s address, which I entered using the numbered function keys to the left of the screen. In this menu, the action keys under the screen change to BACK (a left arrow and X), CANCEL (X) and ACCEPT (checkmark). Once I had typed in my loco’s address, I hit the ACCEPT action key, and the screen returned to the locomotive display, with my loco’s address and name in the middle of the screen.

    Tapping the joystick forwards (up) increased the speed step by one increment, holding it up increased the speed continuously. Tapping the joystick down decreased the speed, holding it down brought the speed back down to zero. There is also an emergency stop button below the direction button below the joystick. Pressing it causes all trains to stop instantly. Pressing it again, however, all the trains resume their speed and direction.

    The Dynamis system will let you assign a 16 character descriptive name to up to 40 locomotives, and one of three icons to indicate its’ type (diesel, electric or steam). When you press the joystick to either side in “run” mode, you can select the next locomotive in the queue, or add one if there isn’t one already selected.

    Infrared Wireless

    The Dynamis system relies on an infrared light beam to communicate between the handset and the Commandstation. Just like your TV remote control, the Dynamis handset needs to be either in direct line-of-sight with the Command station, or be able to reflect its signal off a surface, like a smooth wall or mirror. I found that as long as I was within about a 60 degree angle of the Command station I had no problems, but if I turned my back on it, or something got between it and the handset (like a chair) the handset would lose signal. If that happens, the signal strength indicator on the handset drops to zero bars (just like your cell phone) and the LEDs on the Command station begin to flash. The trains continue doing what they were doing if you lose the signal. Reacquiring the signal doesn’t affect the movement of trains, other than that you can control them again. The handset reacquires the signal within seconds of being aimed back at the Command station. I believe you can set the system to stop the trains if you lose signal, but at the rate the signal was acquired and lost as I walked around the room, I felt there would be a lot of stopping and starting that would be hard on the trains.


    There were quite a few things I liked about this system. The handset fits easily into my (admittedly large) hand, but if you can hold a gamepad, you can use this system. The joystick is a novel approach to controlling the trains, and certainly makes navigating the menus easy. The backlit display shows a lot of information about what’s going on. I like that you can name and describe the locomotives, in addition to giving them individual numbers. It’s very easy to change from one loco to the next for multiple trains, and consisting was also very easy to do. The menu system is easy to navigate, but it’s not really intuitive. Once you get the hang of what the menus are, though, it’s easy to work through them.


    While there is a lot to like about this system, it does have some shortcomings. Some are minor, while I feel others are quite serious. On the minor end of the scale, you have to wire a programming track separate from the layout, and have a switch to direct the output from the Command station to the layout or programming track. I much prefer systems that offer a separate programming track output. The Dynamis cannot do 4 digit addressing on the main track, you have to use the programming track. If you try making the layout your programming track, you risk reprogramming all your locos if you try it.

    While the LCD offers a lot of information, and is part of what makes this system unique, the multi-segment text can be hard to read, especially characters that use diagonal lines like Y, Z and 7.

    While I liked the feel of the handset, I realized after awhile that you need to use two hands to operate this system. The function keys, being on the opposite side of the controller from the joystick, require that you use your left hand while your right holds the handset. My personal preference is for a system that lets me run the throttle and hit the function keys for bell and whistle and direction one-handed, leaving my other hand free for uncoupling and throwing turnouts.

    Programming some of the more common CV’s is difficult, since you need to know the actual CV numbers. Unlike other systems which will give you a menu option to set start voltage, top voltage, acceleration and deceleration CVs, the Dynamis requires that you know the numbers for them. While not a huge issue, the basic Dynamis system cannot read CVs from decoders. To do that, you need to get the Pro Box expansion, and that leads to what I feel is the biggest failing of the Dynamis sytem – the cost of expansion.

    If you want to have more than one handset (so you can have more than one operator), you need to get the Pro Box expansion unit. In addition to letting you use up to 4 handsets, it will also read CVs and provide a bus for a computer interface, tethered throttles and accessories. But this box is not cheap. Suggested list is $450, and while the street price will likely be lower, this raises the price of the system to well over $600 for functionality that many other systems offer for less than half the price. As well, the Pro Box is just a box. There is no extra power included, nor an extra handset ($185) for the $450. If you need more power, the 5A booster lists for almost $300, while other systems offer a comparable booster for about half that price.


    If you are going to run a small layout by yourself, and have no interest in adding a computer interface or other operators, the Dynamis is a very nice DCC system. However, if you are considering it as the start of a system for a larger, multi-user system, you may want to consider other less flashy, but considerably less expensive systems.
  2. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Very nice review - thank you for taking the time to post it! I'm still sitting on the fence as to which DCC system to go with and whatever else you discover with this system, I'd be interested in reading. I plan on running an non-computer interfaced, three or less operator layout with decoder equipt and a non-decoder equipt diesels. So whatever system I decide on has to be able to run a non-decoder engine. Thanks!
  3. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    I'd really give up on the idea of the DCC + non-DCC layout. Go either-or, but not both at the same time. You can throw a toggle switch on the main feed to the layout to swap between regular DC and DCC, but if you try to wire the layout to run DC with a regular DCC throttle at the same time, you're asking for trouble.

    Driving a non-DCC loco sucks a lot of power away from the system, makes a lot of irritating noise, and compared to DCC-controlled locos the DC loco doesn't run that well.

    If it's an issue of cost, I'd just run regular DC, and gradually equip my locos with dual-mode decoders. Most decoders nowadays will run in dual mode, so it won't be an issue. Then when you've got the bulk of your fleet converted, go to a DCC system.

    OK, my prejudices aside, the Dynamis likely isn't the system for you. If you want multiple operators, you need to get the Pro box on top of the base system, and then extra throttles on top of that. Dynamis also won't run DC locos the way the EZ command does.
  4. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Ahhh...again good details - thank you.

    I've got 50+ engines (I'm a power freak, what can I say) so the cost of converting most of them would be staggering right now. I understand the DC/DCC throttle issues and thought I'd use a completely seperate DC power pack to run "DC only" and completely disconnect the DC power pack and connect the DCC pack to run DCC. Like you "either/or" but never at the same time. In the future, I'd only like to run one DC engine at a time when running DCC, though I know there's even issues with that on most DCC systems and only a select few DCC systems can handle a non-decoder equipt engine. I only have two DCC/DC decoder equipt engines now and they run fine on DC-only power, so running DC isn't a problem, but for the layout's future, DCC will be the way to go.

    Thanks for the intel!
  5. bob_suruncle

    bob_suruncle Member

    Easy solution for that: simply hook up both to a 3 way switch: one way is DC other is DCC and the center is off.. thats what we did at the store so we can easily demo DCC or DC loco's and systems

    by the way good job on the review Squid.
  6. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    Great review, I was debating buying one for my dad, looks like I'll just got NCE Powercab.
  7. CPRailer

    CPRailer New Member

    Thanks for the great review! I've been looking at this system. The price is dirt cheap on it right now. 3 questions.
    1-Can you run a tether from the controller to the base?
    2-Can you recharge the batteries in the unit, or do they have to be removed from the hand held?
    3-Can you run 1 DC loco with this like the EZ Command can?
    I think this might be a good system for my small one man layout.
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    "Dirt Cheap" is a relative term, especially if you wind up with a pig in a poke. My feeling is that retailers are blowing these things out at or near cost because they realize it's a dog.

    No. To use tethered throttles, you would need to buy the $450 Pro Box expansion.

    No. The 4 AAA batteries have to be removed/replaced from the handset.

    No. I think you will find as time goes on that fewer and fewer systems offer this feature. In fact, I believe only the EZ DCC and the Digitrax Zephyr offer this now. It's not as big a plus as you might think. First, it draws a lot of power from the system, and affects how many other locos you can operate, and second, the locos make a high-pitched noise and their throttle response is nowhere near as nice as DCC or regular DC control.

    If you never want to expand to multiple throttles, or add more power, then it would be fine for a small layout. If you ever think you might want to grow the system in the future, you're looking at some serious $$$ given the current price structure. If you think there's a possibility of ever wanting more than the Dynamis offers, you should really consider another system. You'll get more for your money.
  9. diburning

    diburning Member

    All digitrax systems can run one DC engine (more than one if you desire but they will all run in the same diretion and in the same speed). All you need to do is run with the address 00
  10. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    I stand corrected. I wasn't sure about the bigger Digitrax systems. I still stand by my statement that it's overrated as a feature.
  11. Walrii

    Walrii New Member

    Very nice review but I'm a little confused: is the power supply described just to power the Dynamis system or does this also power the track/locos? Is there an easy way to boost/expand the power supply if more is needed? Thanks.
  12. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    That power supply powers the track/trains. The handset is powered by AAA batteries.

    There is an easy way to expand the power supply, but it's not cheap since the Pro Box lists for $450. Street price will probably be lower, but it's still (IMHO) a ridiculous price to pay to get more amps, when most other systems offer a simple booster for $100-200.
  13. admont

    admont New Member

    Thank you for the review I seen this system at a local hobbie shop yesterday and was thinking about getting it.
    I wounder how this system would work with a digitrax Zypher which I have now?
    I should stick with Digitrax and expand it its just a little complicated to use.
  14. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Thank you!

    This system won't work with Digitrax as it stands. I believe if you add the Pro Box, you get the DCC sniffer function, which will let it work with Digitrax's LocoNet. But by that time you will have spent the $600-700 you could have spent on a Super Chief or similar system.

    If you already have a Zephyr and want to go wireless, just get a DT402D and UR92, or a DT402 and a UR91.
  15. admont

    admont New Member

    Thanks again thats what I'll do than you have been very helpful.
  16. armisteadab

    armisteadab New Member

    My Dynamis controller is having a problem- when I increase speed to a loco, it begins cycling through all the other locos at high speed, until I hit the joystick. I may post a video and see what you guys think. Strangely, it only happens when the IR link is present (if the base unit is off, I cannot recreate the problem).

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