Are Budget DCC Decoders Worth It?

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I’ve recently discovered how much better a premium decoder can be compared to some cheaper, budget DCC decoders alternatives. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this one as there are so many decoders out there…

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5dmc1 says:

@EverardJunction will these Lenz Decoders work with my MRC Prodigy Advance 2?

Alex Jamieson says:

I agree, "ESTOP" should mean "stop the motor and lock up the brakes", not "turn off the motor" (on that scale: "gradually slow the motor")

Harshad Mahajan says:

Thanks for the informative video. Please can you make a video for controlling 2 or more locomotives simultaneously by using one controller? and also to couple two locomotive and run them together for more pulling power? I have seen that in only Baqchmann EZ controller.

paul surfield says:

Hi love your videos got a question do you have to have a lens controller for lens decoders as I'm just starting out so seeing what is the best controller lens or ecos

paul surfield says:

Many thanks for that

SSJChar says:

in the twoish years since this video was published, have there been any improvements on the cheaper decoders? or are you still using the higher priced ones?

RBXTrains says:

I was expecting you to look at those even cheaper hattons own brand decoders! I always use the Hornby Decoders – only because I use the Honrby Select though…

Sometimes I use the Hornby decoders and their emergency stop facility is very variable. Frequently I'll press it and the locomotive will continue for 3 or 4 laps of the layout before stopping or I have to intervene again and cut power or try and catch it off the tracks!

KayPeaThree Extra KP says:

I would dcc my layout but buying the controller decoders power track would cost me about £100+. I do want to though and if I did I would use your advice from this video.

HighlandSteam says:

Then noise is the ceramic capacitors.

paul m says:

Second comment,
Update: I have have fitted the Lenz decoder as recommended to several colleague loco's from our club. All I can say is top marks, the decoders work perfectly. I will only fit the Lenz decoder when requested in future.
So glad that you will have your layout published, I look forward to it.
Great video, your name came up in the Backmann hospitality suite at Alley Pally, especially Episode 19 Auto signalling.
Informative, helpful.

Murray Angus says:

You know the saying – buy cheap, you buy twice!

Rich Palmieri says:

Never really concerned myself with emergency stopping. However, Bachmann decoders ( non sound as well as sound) are very poor . I usually have to adjust CV2 to get an immediate start . Subsequent motor performance is also poor. I have replaced these with TCS KAT decoders that have THE BEST motor control I've ever experienced. KA means Keep Alive as these decoders are equipped with a bank of capacitors that store voltage to overcome dirty track and or bad connections. I suspect that given this feature, immediate stopping might be a concern …I will attempt it next time I run an engine with a KAT decoder …our cost for a typical KAT is about $49 US dollars …I regret I did not know the conversion rate of POUNDS to dollars while listening to your review …thanks for sharing this ..

Jerry Lawrence says:

I'm using Gaugemaster decoders, but that was for several reasons:
a) I have the Gaugemaster Prodigy 2 so decided to match decoders in an effort to minimise incompatibilities
b) I managed to obtain these far cheaper than other makes from my local model shop, so was a no brainer

However I did want to try other makes now that prices appear to have gone up for the newer 21 pin decoders, but I shall be wary based on your findings in this video.

ZimnySobi Vernos says:

Resistor is broken i see is black on one way this is problem….

dthead says:

Thanks, glad I found your video. A friends has a Lenz system and a class 47 and when placed on his test track it sits there with lights on, but runs ok on my NCE system. I now suspect the decoder.

Matthew Burke says:

Found this very helpful. On my layout today I had a Bachmann Class 166 Turbo being followed by a Hornby Class 43 HST. The Turbo derailed on the entrance to the bay road at my main station. Of course, I hit 'Stop' on my DCC Controller but the HST did this (as per the video) and slammed straight into the arse of the Turbo. I have ruined the imitation coupler on the Class 166 and chipped the lower coupler door on the HST. Grrrr! ?

kiwitrainguy says:

Hi, good vid. I have been finding out about Bachmann decoders in the last couple of days (and longer). For a start a Bachmann decoder whether it comes with a loco or not may actually be made by someone else. For example: 36-552, 44-913 & 44-915 are Bachmann, 36-553 & 36-554 are ESU and Bachmann sound decoders are usually SoundTraxx/Tsunami/ThrottleUp. The manufacturer of a decoder can be found by reading the value of CV 8. A reading of 101 means it's Bachmann, 151 means it's ESU, 141 means it's SoundTraxx, etc., etc.

I have found that the basic Bachmann decoder is set up for running a loco that is installed with the very basic type of motor that is found in most Hornby locos. If you try to use this decoder in a loco with the type of motor that most locos are made with these days then the loco does not even start moving until speed step 7 or 8 out of a total of 28 speed steps. At the lower speed steps (1-7) it just buzzes and doesn't move at all.

I had a Bachmann decoder 44-915 come with a NYC Niagara loco which I did not use as I was putting sound in instead. I have just got another Bachmann loco and got the problems mentioned above. The solution was to grab my Hornby Class 97 electric loco and put the bachmann decoder in to that. It moves off at speed step 1 although it still buzzes at the lower speeds and reaches half speed at step 10 instead of step 14 and there is no way to adjust this on this particular decoder that I have found. Also the Acceleration Delay can be set as high as 255 and when I did this I found that the loco took 6 minutes (!) to reach full speed. I have now set it to 40 (CV 3) and the Braking Delay to 30 (CV 4). But I will replace this decoder eventually with an ESU one so that it does not make the buzzing sound when it is starting off.

If you want good, relatively cheap decoders then ESU do a budget model. The numbers are: 56311 (8 pin), 56314 (21 pin) and 53616 (PluX). These would be well worth checking out. Zimo would be just as good but cost a bit more, likewise Lenz.

As for price I've found that a product is cheapest in the country where that brand is based. So: a UK brand is the lowest price in the UK, a US brand is the lowest price in the US, a German brand is the lowest price in Germany, and so on. – Dennis

dingo dring says:

firstly nice to see you in the magazine well done,
can you or have you done a video on installing dcc into a non dcc loco? and choice of decoders (8 pin 21 pin etc)
keep up the good work, you really should do some books or videos as a job, because you have a great clam relaxed voice ,easy to listen to, and you could be making a lot of money my friend.
kindest regards
nick d

James Cleevely says:

I just did a quick check on the Hattons decoders fitted to some of my fleet, both the direct 8 pin and 21 pin decoders both have a slight buzz when on the track which is not too intrusive, however when the lights are on the LED's buzz. More importantly, they both respond to the emergency stop button on my controller. Personally I would say (that for someone just starting with dcc, someone who doesn't mind the buzzing or someone who is on a budget) that they are worth the money as they are currently only £12 each.The Gaugemaster chip in my 60 is better however, as it doesn't have the buzzing noise, is smoother in operation and doesn't cause the LED's in the lighting circuits to buss when they are on like the Hattons ones do.Personally, I am happy to use cheap decoders so I can use my fleet until I can afford DCC sound.

David Hersman says:

Good video. I appreciate comparison like this. Have been DC for decades, and just recently transitioning to DCC. So far using NCE system with some Digitrax decoders. Pretty pleased.

71000 71000 says:

Someone should give you a fully paid job teaching (DCC) exhibition layout owners how to use this kit. Because as your posting here clearly reveals you at least clearly demonstrate that DCC can accelerate, control, and decelerate models without the obscene jittery jerky behaviour I see on virtually every DCC exhibition layout ! I do not personally use DCC as it is totally imcompatable with my track circuitry and is unadvisable when locomotives have coreless motors, amongst other issues. On a home layout however you at least seem to demonstrate sensible operational skill and understanding of this system. Maybe Lentz should give you a well paid contract !!!!

Nancy Williams says:

do you have any steam locomotives?

Hungry Guy says:

I don't trust stop buttons on DCC controllers. I have a Great Big Threatening Button on the facade of my layout that cuts mains power to the whole layout.

Jtag Sheep says:

I have a couple of 8 pin bachmann decoders and they are about 5+ years old now they work flawless in my Class 108 DMU however I have found the same issues with the newer ones not stopping properly or been noisy. When I come to build my new layout and gather stock to run I will most likely use Lenz decoders silver or gold not sure but I have found Lenz to make flawless decoders.

Neil Thaler says:

I have a lot of old (Pre 2000) Lima and Hornby locos so needed a decent decoder. I contacted Kevin at Coastal DCC and he suggested Zimo MX600R decoders. At £20 they are good value and they perform well on my depot layout.

Also Coastal DCC are EXCELLENT for advice and Customer Service.

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