Decoder Advice

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andyjt
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Decoder Advice

Postby andyjt » Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:40 am

Hello, I'm in need of some 6 pin decoders for my N gauge locos. My other locos are using the older Bachmann 36-558A's and I've had no problems with them so far - but that may be because I've just really started with DCC (had the decoders for around a decade but nothing to control them with).

Looking at the 6 pins available I've seen the below in stock:

Dapol Imperium
Rail Connect (RoS rebranded DCCconcepts)
Gaugemaster Ruby series
Bachmann 36-568A
Lenz Digital Plus Silver/Gold Mini

There is about a £20 difference from the lowest to highest which would add up once I buy multiples of them so I'm thinking of going with the Dapol ones. Does anyone have experience with the Imperium decoders in N (or any other) gauge, are they good, and if not what would you recommend.
I do N gauge... just in case I forget to mention in any posts

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Flashbang
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby Flashbang » Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:48 am

Personally, other than the Lenz range, I would not use any of the others! I would also suggest the Zimo MX616 or MX617N 6pin direct fitting (MX616 is also available with leads too) as being a first class decoders. Though thankfully I'm a OO scale modeller, so the need for a small size decoder isn't always such an issue :D

I think its much like most things in life.... You get the quality you pay for! :o

11:00 on 22/06/21....Post edited to add the Zimo 617N reference.
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andyjt
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby andyjt » Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:51 am

Great, thanks for the advice - I'll take a look at the Zimo's as well
I do N gauge... just in case I forget to mention in any posts

Bigmet
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby Bigmet » Tue Jun 22, 2021 11:26 am

Another vote for Zimo. They have rather swept the board the last few years as the lowest price option for a high grade decoder by offering all the common connectors, of which the six pin mentioned already and Next18 (MX318) are probably going to be most useful for you.

(The only other contender is my long established favourite, Lenz Standard, marginally less money but not likely to be of interest for N gauge as it is an HO size decoder.)

andyjt
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby andyjt » Tue Jun 22, 2021 12:06 pm

Thanks both - the MX617N sounds like it would be perfect for my needs and price-wise matches up with the lower end of the ones I listed in the first post.

I guess I should ask the next question as I don't fully understand it - my current decoders are 2 function and those Zimo's are 6 function, as far as I know I'm only using a single function for the lights on/off... what defines what the functions are, is it the loco or decoder or a bit of both?

Is there maybe a generic dcc decoder / function guide that's out there that would clear it up a little?
I do N gauge... just in case I forget to mention in any posts

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SRman
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby SRman » Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:14 pm

Flashbang wrote:Personally, other than the Lenz range, I would not use any of the others! I would also suggest the Zimo MX616 or MX617N 6pin direct fitting (MX616 is also available with leads too) as being a first class decoders. Though thankfully I'm a OO scale modeller, so the need for a small size decoder isn't always such an issue :D

I think its much like most things in life.... You get the quality you pay for! :o

11:00 on 22/06/21....Post edited to add the Zimo 617N reference.


The Bachmann 36-568A is also a Zimo product, and as such, is a good 'un.

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SRman
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby SRman » Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:31 pm

andyjt wrote:Thanks both - the MX617N sounds like it would be perfect for my needs and price-wise matches up with the lower end of the ones I listed in the first post.

I guess I should ask the next question as I don't fully understand it - my current decoders are 2 function and those Zimo's are 6 function, as far as I know I'm only using a single function for the lights on/off... what defines what the functions are, is it the loco or decoder or a bit of both?

Is there maybe a generic dcc decoder / function guide that's out there that would clear it up a little?


If your lights are directional, then you are actually using two functions, one for forwards (F0f) and one for reverse (F0r).

Some of the larger Zimo decoders offer up to 10 functions, but if there are not enough pins to carry all of these function connections, then wires to those devices must be soldered to the decoder (if it doesn't already have the extra wires).

Functions usually include head and tail lights (separately activated in more sophisticated locomotives/units), but other possible function outputs could be for firebox glows and flickers, destination screen lights, interior lights, cab lights, powered uncoupling, operating pantographs, smoke units, and so on. Things like separate tail lights or cab lights also depend on the wiring/pcb design within the loco or unit. A good many manufacturers are lazy when it comes to utilising the available functions possible with their chosen interfaces - I'm thinking particularly of wasted opportunities with 21-pin interfaces.

Just purely as an example, I have a German BR 112 electric locomotive that uses a PLuX 22 interface. I have a Zimo decoder in it that uses eight of the available function outputs through the 22-pin interface. There are directional headlights (operated on F0, but using 2 decoder functions), individual cab lights (2 functions), individually operated tail lights (2 functions), and individually lit destination screens in the cabs (2 functions).

6-pin decoders used largely with N scale and also with some smaller OO scale models can only have two function outputs using the actual 6-pin interface - two of the pins are for the track inputs, two more are for the brush outputs, leaving just two pins for the auxillary outputs (e.g. head/tail lights) - the seventh necessary connection for the common positive return (blue on wired decoders) is returned through the track wires. Any extra outputs would have to be through wires going from solder pads on the decoders, using the track return as per the built-in outputs.

I sincerely hope all that is not too confusing.

andyjt
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby andyjt » Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:52 pm

SRman wrote:I sincerely hope all that is not too confusing.


Absolutely not, makes perfect sense to me... so my current locos all take 6 pin decoders and have directional lighting but, as far as I know, no other special features so 2 functions is fine and both are used for that. If I popped in a Zimo 6 function decoder then 2 functions would be over the pins and the additional 4 functions would have to be wired onto the pads.

I've noticed that some newer N gauge locos are using Next18 so I'm guessing that they may offer additional functions, like cab lighting, that wouldn't need to be wired as it could go over the additional pins (assuming the vendor is not being lazy).
I do N gauge... just in case I forget to mention in any posts

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SRman
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby SRman » Wed Jun 23, 2021 3:51 am

andyjt wrote:I've noticed that some newer N gauge locos are using Next18 so I'm guessing that they may offer additional functions, like cab lighting, that wouldn't need to be wired as it could go over the additional pins (assuming the vendor is not being lazy).


Absolutely. The Next18 allows direct connection for extra functions, and would seem to me to be the way to go for the N scale future, while for OO and HO, the PLuX22 seems to be the way to go. The 21-pin standard actually has a few variations that can cause confusion and also frustration, whereas the PLuX standard seems to be a lot more consistent throughout the number of pin variations.

Now all we have to do is get manufacturers to not be lazy in their pcb designs, and separate the various function outputs such as tail lights so they can be independently controlled.

Sorry, I'm getting on my hobby horse there. :lol:

Paul-H
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby Paul-H » Wed Jun 23, 2021 9:51 am

Another vote for the Zimo decoders from me.

Don't touch the Dapol decoders with your own or even someone else's barge poll. They are just rebranded LaisDCC decoders and are rubbish at motor control, unless you like your locos shooting off like a rocket at speed step 1.

The £9.99 LaisDCC version is fine as a function only decoder but the Dapol version at their price its just a ripoff.

Paul

andyjt
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby andyjt » Wed Jun 23, 2021 9:59 am

Paul-H wrote:The £9.99 LaisDCC version is fine as a function only decoder but the Dapol version at their price its just a ripoff.


I actually never considered that so thanks... I have a class 150 and an HST that need 2 decoders each, so I could chuck a decent one in the engine end and a cheaper one in the dummy end.

Looks like I'll be re-jigging my existing decoders when I get new ones so that the engines all have the same ones and I can repurpose my older Bachmann's for function-only usage.
I do N gauge... just in case I forget to mention in any posts

Bigmet
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby Bigmet » Wed Jun 23, 2021 10:55 am

andyjt wrote:... I have a class 150 and an HST that need 2 decoders each, so I could chuck a decent one in the engine end and a cheaper one in the dummy end... I can repurpose my older Bachmann's for function-only usage.

Reassigning decoders to function control only is a good cost saving. Even decoders that have failed because motor control has been lost may still be useful for this purpose, always worth testing.

I had great advice from a German retailer very early in my DCC journey, provided a failed decoder isn't manifestly dead - very fried components, no response at all in programme mode - keep trying resets over a period of time. It can take multiple reset attempts to recover, he couldn't explain why and neither can I, but it works. Lost count of how many decoders I have revived by this method, some to full performance, others to have at least some functions working, and those can be assigned to function control duties.

andyjt wrote:... Looks like I'll be re-jigging my existing decoders when I get new ones so that the engines all have the same ones ...

There's much to be said for this, for uniform motor control. I started with Lenz, then bought some Zimo for their extra adjustments useful in 'taming' some older less sophisticated mechanisms, and happily these two brands match very closely in on track performance - I set up my locos in matched groups for speed and acceleration - so that 'trots' of steam locos and DMU's working in multiple all run sweetly together. My take on DCC is that it is a utility: I want the lowest price for the required performance, so if the Lenz standard will fit, that goes in as it remains the cheapest; if not 10% more is spent on one of the Zimo MX6xx series. This is a very useful choice to have, and I have become lazy as a result, no more cutting away at interiors to fit the Lenz, the Zimo's are smaller and go in.

I have seen plenty of other brands, thanks to DCC fitted new and s/h purchases, and by helping friends over the years. None of them as stable and easily adjusted for optimal performance as my preferred brands, and some actually degrade mechanism performance compared to what the mechanism alone can do on a basic DC resistance controller! Guess what, these are my 'function control' decoders, fit to be light switches and little else...

andyjt
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby andyjt » Wed Jun 23, 2021 6:05 pm

Thanks to everyone that's replied to me in this thread.

I ordered some Zimo's yesterday, received and fitted them today, and now have my modest selection of loco's all DCC'ed up :)

IMG_20210623_175650.jpg
I do N gauge... just in case I forget to mention in any posts

Suzie
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby Suzie » Wed Jun 23, 2021 10:45 pm

SRman wrote:
andyjt wrote:I've noticed that some newer N gauge locos are using Next18 so I'm guessing that they may offer additional functions, like cab lighting, that wouldn't need to be wired as it could go over the additional pins (assuming the vendor is not being lazy).


Absolutely. The Next18 allows direct connection for extra functions, and would seem to me to be the way to go for the N scale future, while for OO and HO, the PLuX22 seems to be the way to go. The 21-pin standard actually has a few variations that can cause confusion and also frustration, whereas the PLuX standard seems to be a lot more consistent throughout the number of pin variations.

Now all we have to do is get manufacturers to not be lazy in their pcb designs, and separate the various function outputs such as tail lights so they can be independently controlled.

Sorry, I'm getting on my hobby horse there. :lol:


PluX-16 is also an N-Gauge socket with quite a few decoders available for it, but not many locos use it yet, unfortunately the Next-18 socket appears to be more popular.

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SRman
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Re: Decoder Advice

Postby SRman » Thu Jun 24, 2021 1:33 am

Suzie wrote:
PluX-16 is also an N-Gauge socket with quite a few decoders available for it, but not many locos use it yet, unfortunately the Next-18 socket appears to be more popular.



The PLuX format is a little bulkier than Next18, but is also more flexible, with 12, 16 or 22 pin versions readily available, and all usable in any of the PLuX sockets. Next18 is really nice and compact, so ideal for the smaller models, including small HO/OO models.

As I said earlier, where there is space, I think the PLuX format is the way forward, with Next18 filling the gap for smaller models. Certainly it is time, in my opinion, to retire the 6-pin and 8-pin sockets (Hornby, please note ... and get rid of that ridiculous 4-pin version of yours).


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