Get what you pay for?

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by Chessie System, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. Chessie System

    Chessie System New Member

    Hey All, I am looking at getting a DCC controller befor my empire gets too large, however I am not sure what I am really looking for.

    I see plugs that connect (To what I dont know)
    I see Bachman for $80 or so,
    Others for a little less.
    Some for as much as $500

    Does anyone have an input for whats good for running maybe two engines? I would like to do some basic operations and such. I would like to stay under $100 if I can,

  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Just a reminder, Chessie, that as your empire grows, the cost of the all the locos and decoders themselves together, will outweigh the intial amount spent on the basic system. Sorta like a DVD player. The player itself can cost you so much, but how much will you pay for the DVDs themselves over a number of years?

    My DCC system (NCE) cost me around $600 US. (command station, 8 AMP power supply, radio cab, and tethered cab, computer interface etc), and probably spent more than that, just on decoders since. i.e. a decent sound decoder is $120+ US.

    So don't skimp on the initial DCC system. As you suggest. You get what you pay for.
  3. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    The Bachmann system will do what you want.....for now. You can outgrow it very fast as Woodie suggests.

    My Bachmann EZcommand has less than 20 hours on it, is less than a year old and will be replaced this spring as the layout comes together with a better system.

  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    What is your list of needs and wants for a DCC system? You mention running two trains (simultaneously?), but is there anything else you want or need it to do? A short list will go a long way to helping you decide what system may be right for you.

  5. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    And how "big" do you see your empire getting? The Bachmann system is very good for small layouts, where you have ~ 10 locos or less. It has very simplified controls, so consisting (running multiple locos together) is not an easy task.

    If you're thinking of growing your layout room-sized or bigger, with a large loco fleet, you probably at least want 4-digit addressing (where you can assign the loco's road # to the decoder - makes it easy to keep track of who's who).

    A control unit with a display makes it easier to see what you're doing in terms of operating and programming.

    If you're going to have a large layout, you probably want walkaround control, which means a controller that fits easily in your hand, and plugs into jacks you have located around your layout.

    DIgitrax, Lenz, MRC and NCE all have good systems, that have their pros and cons. Both MRC and NCE offer reasonable starter systems for less than $200 that you can grow as your layout grows.

    So I suppose in a sense you get what you pay for. If all you have is a 4x8, then the Bachmann system will work fine for you, and it is even expandable. It is, however, simplistic in its operation. But if all you want to do is run two trains in opposite directions without a lot of fancy wiring, it fits the bill.

    Anything more is going to cost you more, but yoiu don't necessarily need to spend more than $200 to get started for a modest layout.
  6. Chessie System

    Chessie System New Member

    Well I am 24 years old and I kinda look at this (trains) as something that will grow as my house grows. I need to buy one first, but for a good Ten years I plan on a 4x8. I would also kinda like sound.

    I call my layout now the round the tree set up

    Thanks all
  7. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Well, given that you're only able to fit so many locos on a 4x8, and only run so many trains, I think the Bachmann would be a good start. As I said, it's a simple system, but it's expandable (somewhat). It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of some of the other systems, but are you really going to use them anyways?

    I'm guessing that at 24, and with no house, budget is a concern... and again starting with the Bachmann system makes sense. Get started, have fun, and set aside a little for your "layout fund", along with your home down-payment fund, so that when the day comes, and you start filling the basement, you'll have the cash to spring for the newer, better, more advanced system a large layout will need. Who knows what advances there'll be in 10 years - look how far things have come in terms of features and price in the last 10 years!
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    So your list so far is:

    - operate two locos at once

    - sound operation
    - eventual expansion
    - stay under $100

    Sounds like the Bachmann system is ok. It will not do any advanced programming besides address, so may not be the best choice for sound; programming is limited to "programming on the main", which does not work for older decoders. It has limited expandibility, with the current focus seeming to be control of turnouts, rather than additional locos. You can add an analog (i.e. DC) controller to use as a second throttle. It does allow access to F1-8, which should let it operate most sound decoders.

    I think that a set-up like the Digitrax Zephyr might be a better choice if there is any chance that you will even consider more "advanced" operations in the next few years. Having said that though, the "law of electronics prices" does apply - the longer you wait to get it, the lower the price will be. Your call...

  9. Skammer

    Skammer Member

    I have a slightly larger (6.5' x 10') layout with a Digitrax Zephyr and I'm really pleased with it. I don't remember what I paid but it was less than $200. Since I can't really operate one side of the layout while standing on the other, I'll be getting a small handheld throttle soon. What I like about the Digitrax -- and this probably applies to most systems -- is that it's very easy to expand as the layout grows.
  10. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    NCE's PowerCab is only $179, and it can handle 6. If you need more, it can be hooked up to a command station later on.
  11. Chessie System

    Chessie System New Member

    Hmmm, some great input here. I am likely going to go with the Bachmann. Truth be told I like the weathering and detail aspect of this hobby. Not so much all the decoders and such
  12. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    I think that given the size of your proposed layout, and where you're at in the hobby, it's not a bad choice. You'll find out over time whether you feel limited by the system or not, and at that point, you can invest in something more elaborate.
  13. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    That Bachmann system will work on a small layout where only a number of trains can be ran at any one time.However,if you plan on building a larger layout in the near future then save yourself the trouble of having to upgrade later and go with the bigger system now.
  14. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    i have NO problem with ANYONE wanting the Bachmann DCC system:thumb:...HOWEVER, i noticed you mentioned you wanted to run engines with SOUND. if you want to run engines WITH SOUND, announce1 DON'T GET THE BACHMANN SYSTEM!!! that system DOES NOT SUPPORT SOUND ENGINES. sure they WILL run on it, but the controller has NO BUTTONS TO OPERATE THE SOUNDS!:(:rolleyes:. ANY other DCC system WILL operate the sounds on sound equipped engines:thumb:. AGAIN, i have NOTHING AGAINST THE BACHMANN SYSTEM;), but for running sound equipped engines, this would NOT be the system for you;).

  15. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Bachmann system will operate sound within limits. I have heard that the sound functions are not the greatest in the world but don't know for sure as I have no engines with sound.

    Page 6 in the instruction manual covers running sound. In the function mode, buttons F-1 to F-8 controls sound and flashing lights. F10 controls the main lighting on the engine.

  16. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Interesting. Is this based on experience? On my QSI engines, F1 is the bell, F2 is the horn/whistle, F3 is couplers, F4 is steam blower/fans, F5 is dynamic brakes, ... I could go on. It's not until you get above F10 that the Bachmann runs out of options, it only supports 10, [edit well 9, really. F0 is on the F10 button]

    So which of those sounds doesn't it support?
  17. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    THANKS!, for setting me straight on that system Rick!:thumb: i DON'T have it, but have looked at the controllers, and couldn't figure out how you would make the sounds work:confused:. i have also read quite a few posts that "others" with that system had complained about the lack of sound control. BUT HEY, seeing i don't have that system, and you do, I'll definitely take your word on it!:thumb: THANKS RICK!:D-Deano
  18. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Deano, yea I have the system. It works OK but the expansions for it can get real pricey real fast. For example the higher amp booster so you can rum more than 3 engines at one time is over $100. The 2nd controller it think list for around $70. For the $170 to expand the system I can get a better system.

    I got the EZ-Command to try DCC as a low cost experiment. That was right before I found The Gauge and a few other sites. Had I known then what I know now I would have just bought a better system to start with.

    No big deal, I can sell/trade it or give it to one of my grandkids.

  19. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    i have 59 sound equipped engines, some have QSI, one has Digitrax sound, and the rest i used Loksound, and MRC Brilliance decoders on:thumb:. on my MRC, and Loksound decoders, i have them programed like this:

    FO- directional lighting
    F1- bell
    F2- horn
    F3- air release(while moving)
    F4- coupling
    F5- brake release(idle) brake squeal(while moving)
    F6- dynamic brake
    F7- air hose firing
    F8- notch down
    F9- notch up
    F10- rail wheel clack
    F11- traction air compressor
    F12- engine cooling fan
    F13- short air release
    F14- mars light effects(if applicable)
    F15- air pump
    F16- ditch light effects(if applicable)
    F17- flange noise
    F18- change bell type
    F19- change horn type

    i hope this answered your question;). BTW, i use MRC Prodigy Advance:D

    :D -Deano
  20. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Deano, just send one of those sound equipped engines here and I can do a tech write up on it for the board......with the Bachmann systemsign1 .

    I promise to send it back when I'm done!!!!hamr sign1

    The Bachmann EZ-Command only supports 8 functions for sound equipped engines.:oops:

    I'd say in response to the original question that he would be better off with a somewhat better system that is not known for poor sound.announce1


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