Choosing a DCC set

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Snowbound, Apr 2, 2005.

  1. Snowbound

    Snowbound New Member

    Bear with me -- I'm still a newbie, so some of this may be completely wrong or misinformed, but I am looking at all the DCC sets out there & I am not sure which one to get for the N scale layout I am currently dreaming up. Here is what I am looking for:

    1. Unit must have computer interface & must be supported by CTI which pretty much means Lenz, Digitrax, NCE, or Atlas.
    2. I want to be able to do multiple-unit consists, but still break up the MUs & use the locos individually which means I want to be able to create MUs where the locos have different addresses. If I understand correctly, the Zephyr requires all the locos in a MU to have the same address.
    3. I want to be able to switch from one loco to another without disturbing throttle settings. I understand that with most knob-type cabs, when you select a loco, it immediately gets the throttle setting you have set whereas with a push-button throttle, the cab will "remember" the throttle setting for the loco.
    4. I want an easy to use cab -- I like the look of the MRC Prodigy Advance throttle a lot, but it fails my requirement #1. The NCE PH cab is probably the next best from a useability standpoint. The Lenz controllers look like the least user-friendly, but I haven't used any of these, so this is purely theoretical based on reading the manuals.
    5. I will be running 2-3 locos at first, but I want to be able to expand to probably 10-15 eventually.
    6. Cost isn't really so much an issue, but I don't want to buy more than I need. I suspect the Zephyr is really all I need, but I want to understand its MU limitiations better if there really are limitations, although I think the Zephyr will also fail requirement #3.

    I think the NCE PH will meet all these requirements, but I am sure that's a lot more than I need. Then again 10 years from now the $200 or so extra spent on the PH won't matter at all, whereas changing DCC sets along the way will only add to the cost. I want to do this right the first time. The Lenz Set-100 seems like it meets all the requirements as well, but I am not sure I like the cab.

    --Snowbound in NH (although ice-out is probably mere weeks away)
  2. SteamerFan

    SteamerFan Member

    I was stuck between the NCE and Lenz myself, and it did come down to the throttles, and the NCE throttles was what i liked better out of the two, otherwise the two systems are functionally identical (read not compatable, but very similar in how it works). The other deciding factor what that NCE offers a radio addon module and radio cabs that are exacly like their plug ins. Lenz's wireless was a cordless phone. NCE won out over this, as I was thinking long term fo possibly going wireless later on.
  3. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    While I don't own one (I use the Chief) from what I read there are no limitations on the consisting abilities of the Zephyr. See the info at this link:

    It has basic, universal and advanced consisting, same as my Chief. It is limited to 10 addresses. Purchase of a hand held throttle, either the DT300 or 400 (I like the 300) will enable you to run two sets of mu'd locos with the one throttle, never having to toggle back and forth between them. Digitrax throttles come with IR, or you can pay more for radio. I use IR and am happy with it, you do need to get in the habit of aiming in at least the general direction of the receiver tho. The radio is superior to IR, but I'll say from my experience you needn't spend the extra unless you want to. The NCE radio, I understand, allows you to select locos as well as run them. Digitrax radio (and IR) will not allow loco selection, you need to plug in.

    Enjoy whatever you select!

  4. Alan B

    Alan B Member

    The Zephyr uses universal consisting. The locomotives retain their previously assigned addresses. The "top" locomotive address becomes the consist address.

    Here's how I do flipping back and forth between locos with a knob throttle. Set Loco 1, then dial in Loco 2. Set Loco 2's speed and direction, then flip back to 1. Before selecting 1, I reset the knob to approximately 1's speed. Usually this works. But you do have to remember the speed.

    I like the Lenz 90 controller. I find it very intuitive. I don't like the Digitrax DT400R, not at all intuitive. Also it's expensive and requires far too many key strokes to do what I want to do. I think the DT400R would be a good dispatcher's throttle, but for the road engineer it's difficult at best. The NCE PH cab looks complicated, but they have nice road throttles. The Digitrax UT4 and UT4R look very handy. But, I haven't used one yet.

    Long term, it will be cheaper to buy a Lenz Set 90 than anything else.

    Get the Set 90 and use JMRI to program. The computer is the same on the 90 as the 100. However, if you are planning on running with sound, the LH100 does access all controllable functions.
  5. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Your computer interface hardware would be something like the LocoBuffer II (USB interface) an software like the JMRI. I've seen it used on Digitrax command station/boosters and it is real smooth!
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    The "knob" type controls on the Digitrax handheld throttles do not remember a setting - they turn infinitely in either direction. However, the knob on the Zephyr is designed to look like the old DC power pack throttles, and operates as such (i.e. 0% to 100%). (Actually the "UT" throttles may behave like this as well... come to think of it, but the DT series do not).

    There is a workaround for this though - when you release one loco, but before acquiring the second loco, set the throttle to whatever setting you need in order to match the speed of the second loco... Not very elegant, but it works. Of course if you use a DT throttle in combination with the Zephyr, then you should have no trouble.

  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I'm not sure what Masonjar means above, the DT series throttles definately remember the speed setting of the locos it is running, you can dispatch the loco, it will continue to run at same speed, reaquire it and it will still be at same speed. Yes, the knobs on these throttles turn infinitly, but it doesn't matter where the knob is, when you reaquire the loco will be at the same speed. The older UT throttle is not like this, it has a row of leds to indicate when you've matched the throttle to the speed of the loco. I don't care for this and never use it in that manner. I don't know how the new UT throttle, or the Zephyr throttle work. There are no speed matching problems with any of the DT throttles.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Gary -

    All I mean is that the position of the knob on the DT does not matter when switching from one loco to the next. There is no "0-100" scale associated with the knob, unlike the UT or the Zephyr, which goes from zero to max... so to speak. If you leave the Zephyr at 75% for example, the next loco you aquire will jump to that speed. When you acquire a new loco on the DT, the number of times you turned the knob for the old loco makes no difference...

    There, now it's clear as mud... I hope you know what I mean!?

  9. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Hey Masonjar, yes, I understand what you're saying now. Your previous post confused my when it said the "knob" type throttles don't remember a setting, they turn infinantly. "Knob" type I associate with the UT series and they do not remember, but the DT series are the ones which turn infinantly, therein the potential confusion to those not familiar.

    To sum up: No speed matching problems with DT series, the Zephyr and at least the early UT series do have speed matching problems. Jury still out on the new UT throttle, anybody have one and can let us know?
  10. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    The new UT-4 throttles are supposed to avoid the speed matching problem. I don't know if they actually do, but will be finding out soon.
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I used a UT-4 on the weekend, but did not test this situation. Since it has a large knob that operates more like the Zephyr/old DC powerpack, I would guess that it cannot speed match. Plus the fact that the user must dispatch the first loco, then dial and acquire the second loco, would probably make it difficult to do anyway.

  12. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member


    Hello all,
    Thanx for all the knowledgeable info regarding dcc. Does anyone know how th new MRC system comapres to the ones listed above. I am not familiar with dcc system at all except for their abilty to run multiple trains on one track. I am in the market for a somewhat reasonable system , $200 or so. I am not looking for the world, just the best bet on the market currently. Roughly 10 train operation. The track isnt laid as of yet, but once i get the controller, I will further be able to control it.
    Thanx for all your help.[​IMG]
  13. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    According to the Digitrax site, the UT4 will slowly adjust the speed of an acquired loco to its setting. Specifically, it says if you acquire a moving loco with the throttle of the UT4 set to 0 or stop, the loco will slowly come to a stop. There is no mention that momentum has to be in effect for this to happen. If someone with the throttle can check this, that would be great. This would mean that you can set the UT4 throttle somewhere near where you think it ought to be and the speed change will be subtle, and easily corrected. Which would be a major improvement over the previous UT throttles, if not quite perfect.

  14. CalFlash

    CalFlash Member

    I don't know if you plan on going wireless, but NCE will allow you to acquire engines and vary lashups while wireless. From what I understand, you must plug in with Digitrax to do the same.
  15. Snowbound

    Snowbound New Member

    Thanks for all the input. I am leaning towards the NCE at the moment for a number of reasons including the design of the cab, ability to go full-featured wireless, & the throttle stuff. The Zephyr is a close second simply because it's so much cheaper & offers about 90% of what I want. Either way I'm sure it'll work out.
    Thanks again

Share This Page