I have used the Lenz Compact and the Set 100 and the NCE PowerCAB. The lenz Set 100 is really easy to use and to understand. It is widely used because of these reasons. The compact is very basic, its on the same level as the Hornby Select just much more expencive (double the price). The NCE PowerCAB is about the same price as the Lenz Compact but has the features of a much higher controller. I will be using it on my forthcoming layout.
If you want a Zimo radio controlled system it will cost about £1000. It is very good, and if anyone is interested in seeing it in action we will have it at Kidderminster in March (that's if I can ever find time to finish the layout!).
I note that in the DCC chart the NCE PowerPro is shown as having a radio controlled option. This is true, it is available, but totally illegal to use in the UK because of the wavelength used and NCE won't sell you one!
As no one wants to give Digitrax a plug I'll give it a go.
Probably the most stable of all DCC systems, it's great strength is Loconet. It had both Radio control (illegal in the UK until next winter when new frequencies come into use) Digitrax will then have legal radio control in the UK) It has never need a software update unlike almost all the other systems (Lenz 4 major software changes). It communications bus is loconet (network cable) which makes it both reliable and dependable. It has a totally flexible approach with the options of handsets. By far the best set-up is the chef a DCS100 (5amp control unit
and the DT400 handset. Everything you need for DCC control is available from stationary decoders, mobile decoders, sensors, auto reversing, signalling, routing you name it Digitrax has it. It's also the most popular DCC system in the world.
Check out the new "Commander" from Viessmann. Like other recent DCC command stations, it has a large LCD but this one's in colour. They are also introducing a companion modular track diagram accessory. You can download Viessmann's 2007/2007 catalogue on the lokshop website.
If I was more interested in the "gee whizz" side of DCC, I would be sorely tempted by the Zimo system since I think it is the only system which allows trackside devices to transmit speed settings to passing locomotives. I believe this mimics current practice in Germany and elsewhere for setting top speed on trains.
QUOTE problem with the whole DCC thing is its going to be like buying a computer or TV - they are out of date when you buy them etc. My turn, as said above you want to buy a recent system which is made by someone at the fore front of digital technology. Many systems were designed and made a while ago are a bit out of date. Todays budget systems such as the Dynamis and MultiMouse have features which seven year old top end systems had.
Most of the worlds major train manufacturers (other than Hornby) use decoders by ESU. As such it would make sense to use a system which was made by the same manufacturer to get the maximum benefit from these decoders. Their top end system the Ecos, is compatible with almost everything via the Ecosniffer feature. It has many features such as the shuttle feature (going back and forward between point A and B and back to A with predetermined time stops in station) and switching triggered by occupancy detectors built in to the system. This is a new state of the art system which is currently having add on accessories released this year. The only other systems I would consider would be Zimo and Veissmanns Commander if it's cutting edge technology your after.
I'll drop my two cents. If I had to do it all over again I would look at these 3 systems, Digitrax, ESU and Viesmann. Of these the Digitrax is the most tried and true system; it just works but their interfaces are not as sophisticated as the other two. Viesmann's main controller integrates well with their track controls (block, signal, etc), ESU has the best combination of controller and decoders but are still lacking the other bits.
Which would I buy? Viesmann.
Why? Lights, Track Control Decoders, Special Effects, Catenary, Signals, Central Station and Control Panel. I saw an entire layout under Viesmann control and it had more bells and whistles than I can remember.
Please check which systems can be updated. For instance all existing NCE systems are to be updated soon to 20 functions and a few other developments. NCE will charge a $10 to send out a new Eprom for you to fit into your existing system and you will be updated. I have only had my system for a matter of months but I understand fron the NCE Yahoo group that an update has been done before.
Quite frankly when someone says that a particular make has never been updated I would steer clear because you need a system that can be updated. If you look at the comarison table as Doug suggested you will see Digitrax has only 12 functions so it is falling behind other systems unlss they do update it. 20 functions are needed especially for sound etc.
Everyone likes their own system and there is no definate answer to your question. Best thing is to get hands on a few systems and make your own mind up, but make sure you ensure that future upgrades are possible, that and ease of use made me choose an NCE Pro Cab
Why? Lights, Track Control Decoders, Special Effects, Catenary, Signals, Central Station and Control Panel. I saw an entire layout under Viesmann control and it had more bells and whistles than I can remember. These should all work well with the Ecos too. At least they better,
I have just ordered Viessmann occupancy detectors to go with my system. The Ecos manual says that Viessmann electronic equipment was tested with it as well as Maerklin and LDT.
While Veissmann has a great current set of digital accessories (probably the best), ESU is currently developing and creating new ones so there is a lot planned in terms of expansion. New items were announced this week like the power boosters and switch pilot accessory decoders. There is plenty more to come.
Also ESU are one of the worlds biggest manufacturers of decoders. Viessman don't make decoders.
Both systems can be updated via a computer connected to the web for updates when neccessary.
Another consideration is what are your needs. Digitrax has a very good walk about controller. ESU has a mobile controller too.
It's unfortunate but you will have to trawl through a lot of manuals and the such to find what best suits your individual needs.
However hopefully we have shortened down the amount of manuals for you to look at.
I looked with interest at the ZTC system before buying Digitrax. ZTC aim to offer something slightly different particularly in the user interface. This looks like it could be better than many others in terms of ease of use and "feeling right". Having said that, I've never tried one so I'm only going on what the manual says.
The Digitrax Zephyr is not the most advanced system but I chose it because it suited our needs. I'm pleased with my choice.
However, like a previous person commented, I think that the fact they haven't updated the software is not necessarily a good sign. Having said that, I haven't yet noticed a single problem with it that I would describe as a software bug. (Methinks it's time a Zephyr2 came out, though. A clearer display is on the wish list.)
In summary, have a look at whether ZTC offer what you want. (For me, it was too expensive.)
The problematic issue with ZTC - and if I'm wrong about this and if someone can correct me then please do - is that it has a 'regulator' to control the speed of a loco.
If you switch over to another loco on the track that is already moving, you can't match exactly the speed of the loco with the position of the regulator and you will get a rapid acceleration or deceleration due to the difference in settings.
It is fine if you control one loco at a time, bring it to a stop and then switch over to another loco that is stationary.
Since this topic started, I have now had a play with Zimo (see the second post) and can confirm that you get what you pay for. Perhaps it is the ultimate DCC system available. I haven't seen or tried anything better.
There are many systems around and most people are happy with what they have. I'm not going to dump my Lenz as it does everything that I want to do on my layout.
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