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DCC Concepts Small decoder with Stay Alive

Review by pedromorgan


I just received my first box of the new DCC Concepts decoders.

They come beautifully presented in a bubble pack.

Its worth noting that these decoders have not been officially been released yet. And there are currently no instructions other than the rather helpful sticker that comes on the back of the packet.

The decoders 4 function decoders and are rated at 1amp continuous load with a 1.5amp peak load.

The decoders have 3 parts

The harness with the 8 pin plug on the end. Rather usefully it is in the UK arrangement with the wires soldered inline. And not with the plug at right angles. This is particularly useful in UK locos with narrower bodies.

Then there is the decoder itself. The decoder is small enough for the vast majority of OO loco's but is a squeeze for N.

One thing I want to point out is the depth of the plastic socket. It’s not huge but not insignificant either. I was looking to put one in a 009 loco and the problem is not the size of the board but the depth of that plug fouling the motor.

The size of the decoder is stated as 18.5mm x 10.5mm x 4.4mm

Lastly we have the Stay Alive unit.

A capacitor with some electronic wizardry that acts like a tiny battery and helps the loco to cope with interruptions in track power. This is particularly useful for loco's with short wheelbases and few pickups. Or if you have a garden layout then it's ideal.

Wiring up the stay alive unit is very simple.

Attach the 2 blue wires together. Then attach the 2 black wires together and pop a tiny bit of heat shrink over the joints to stop and electrical problems.

Frankly if you can't do this then the problem is not with the decoder!!

One thing to be aware of is the plug arrangement of your loco. I was very happy to receive the new decoders and went straight home and got out my Bachmann City of Truro only to find that it had a 21 pin socket. If that's the case with your loco then you will need to buy an adapter.

The next loco on my list of instillations was a Manchurian streamlined tank loco.

Surprisingly for a modern loco made at the Kader factory it has a relatively poor mechanism. They have done their best with pickups but there is a cheap motor and no flywheel meaning it gets stuck pretty easily.

I thought it would be a good test of the stay alive.

Instillation was very simple as there is loads of space in the back of the loco. But on smaller engines, the stay alive does give you something else to find a home for in what could be a very tight space.

Upon placing it on the test track I went to programme the chip. As usual it was factory set to address 3.

Manufacturer 36. I suspect that Richard has known for a very long time that he was going to manufacture these and bagged a low number many years ago!

Decoder version 18.

I set the long address and went to start the loco.

Nothing. Didn't move an inch. I knew it was receiving power because the decoder had programmed successfully but it wouldn't move an inch. I knew the motor was connected because it occasionally jerked as loco's do when they are being programmed. After some playing around I was just about to take the lid off again and it suddenly started working. I guess something was booting up either in the decoder or the controller.

The stay alive is a real treat. Under DC the loco was a pretty poor performer. With DCC and Stay Alive, the loco is silky smooth and despite throwing every type of crossing I can muster I can’t get it to stall.

Low speed performance is very good straight out of the box. Acceleration is a bit steep for me and top speed was about mach 7 but I am not going to mess with CV settings until the proper instructions are available.

I look forward to going into a bit more detail once more details and specifications are available.



Response from DCC concepts

Some "added data from the horses mouth"

We apologise for the delayed availability: Our official release was delayed due to the need for some final tweaking of one design (and we never release anything until I'm really happy with it as you know).

We are really short of stock now but we will have most of the range to hand within 2 weeks and all will be revealed then for all models.... (more than anyone expects :-)

Stockists will include Gaugemaster, Bromsgrove, DCCsupplies, Digitrains, Hobby Goblin and others.... But be patient with them as they will find full range info about the same time it goes live and stock may be a few days arriving there...

2/ Acknowledging the issue with the connector thickness, for those wanting a thinner profile, DCCconcepts will also release this decoder with wires soldered directly to the PCB - reducing thickness and making it more "N and narrow gauge" friendly.

3/ Instructions will be online very soon now, with a really interesting option available for those who really want to learn how to adjust decoders without difficulty....



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