ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

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Jkelly
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ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Jkelly » Sun Mar 31, 2019 8:57 pm

Hi all,
As you may have seen in a previous thread I am probably going to swap to n gauge. I currently use a Hornby Select controller but I want to upgrade it. I have been looking around at various controllers. I really like the look of the ZTC Controllers. The regulator, brakes and forward/backwards knob look very attractive as you feel that you are driving the trains, not just controlling the voltage going through the track. I have seen many posts where people warn not to get these controllers. I am asking why do people not like these controllers? Also, can you use the ZTC controller with locos that have graham farish decoders? Or other decoders? I have been looking at gaugemaster walk around DCC controllers, and if I was to buy the 'proper one' (prodigy advance) it would actually be 40 quid more expensive than the ZTC 511 that I'm looking at.
Thoughts?
Thanks

Bigmet
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Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 2:19 pm

Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Bigmet » Sun Mar 31, 2019 10:13 pm

It is the 'Marmite' of DCC systems choices. I know two owners, and they wouldn't use anything else, despite both having had reliability issues. (In particular the mechanical encoders for the nice tactile controls are not that robust.) But for those who like this control interface, it is the best thing out there.

(Personally I wouldn't touch it, have a Lenz 100 system that was half the price of the 511 at time of purchase and has been completely reliable for over a dozen years, and offers far more functionality and flexibility, with a neat handset which I can operate single handed.)

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Peterm
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Location: Bribie Island. Australia

Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Peterm » Sun Mar 31, 2019 11:13 pm

I don't know anyone that has a ZTC set up but have read numerous tales of woe on the forums. I've had my Lenz set 100 with an extra LH90 handset since 2004/5. The only time I've had to have it repaired was after dropping it one to many times. There's also the new model; the LH101. Worth looking at.
Pete.

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Mountain
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Mountain » Sun Mar 31, 2019 11:30 pm

I have a Lenz Compact and a Lenz set 01 (The set 100 has a combined booster and command control unit while the slightly older set 01 had them seperate so is slightly more versitile in certain situations though both are excellent) and I found them to be very good. The Compact can be used as a slave to the better sets (Or to another Compact) if required and is very easy to use. It is the old entry level Lenz controller and the only practical limitation is there are only 3 functions so if you use DCC sound it is limiting. The set 01 and 02 can do a lot more but are more complicated because of this. Even though they are old now, they are certainly still as good as many new controllers. Even though my set 01 was made before DCC sound was available, it still can obtain the majority of sounds of some more comprehensive sound decoders.
I do recommend Lenz. I am out of touch with what they are making today as my controllers were purchased around the tail end of 2000 to 2004 approx. (I purchased extras).

Before I went to buy Lenz I was going to buy ZTC as they looked cool, but they had production issues. I ended up with Lenz as I was rudely told off over the phone by ZTC for enquiring. I guess things were stressful for them at that time. I was relieved to buy Lenz as they had such a good trade support by Mckay Models in those days that I couldn't go wrong.
I am amazed how cheap secondhand Lenz systems are selling for these days as they are what I call the DCC version of what a H&M Clipper or Duette is to DC. Quality controllers built to last.

There are other really good controllers available. Keep your eyes open and see what you can find. Digitrax were Lenz main competitor years ago. In the early years of DCC Gaugemaster wasn't around as Guagemaster, Hornby and Bachmann were all relatively newcomers into thw DCC world. Lenz and Roco (Locomaus) handsets can be used on either system (As long as the versions are not too many years apart) which was a great advantage as many would buy H0 trainsets with Roco controllers and upgrade to Lenz at a later date, or buy Roco handsets if they preferred them and had a Lenz system etc., as Roco worked with Lenz and shared their communicationative technology. One may need to do a quick check to confirm this as though both Lenz and Roco were designed to be forward and backward compatable as the technology progresses, there maybe limits now we are over 20 years on from the early versions...

Suzie
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Suzie » Mon Apr 01, 2019 7:37 am

I think that the big issues to watch out for with the ZTC apart from the reliability (which may be improved now) are:-

1. If you are going in reverse and stop (at a station or signal for example) the headlight will come on until you pull away.

2. While the ZTC uses Xbus for its control interface it does not follow the standard split between short address and long address so you will not automatically be able to move your trains to another layout without changing the addresses if they are between 100 and 127 inclusive.

3. Accessory addressing is completely different to the NMRA standard (in all of its interpretations) so you will have to ignore the instructions that come with most accessory decoders when setting the address and work out how to do it for ZTC.

Other systems have their foibles too so I would not automatically choose Lenz as a better system - it might not be depending on what you are doing!

Bigmet
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Bigmet » Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:29 am

Now I don't know every DCC user obviously, but I do know a fair number and here's the the thing I do know about Lenz, compared to 'all the others'. It's so reliable. Coming up to fifteen years use, and never a problem - bear in mind I operate every day I am home - you really have to make an effort to break it! I think it was £230 all those years ago, so it's now at less than a cost of a good decoder (and that'll be a Lenz standard or Zimo MX 600 series) per year. Some folks I know are by now on their 3rd system over the same time! If I broke mine, straight out and buy another one...

Suzie
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Suzie » Mon Apr 01, 2019 9:56 pm

Just don't try and operate a point while the Lenz is in stop mode - it will crash and you have to power it off and on. It depends what you do as to whether you see its shortcomings - there are a few others as well.

Bigmet
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Bigmet » Tue Apr 02, 2019 9:42 am

That's simply not necessarily true. (I suspect that's information from an incorrectly wired system.) On the rare occasions I have a system all stop, I can change any point without trouble.

Do please list any further shortcomings.

Suzie
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Suzie » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:42 am

Bigmet wrote:That's simply not necessarily true. (I suspect that's information from an incorrectly wired system.) On the rare occasions I have a system all stop, I can change any point without trouble.

Do please list any further shortcomings.


Wires break in the handsets with frequent use - a bit of a pain on the ones that don't have detachable cables.

Can't control signals when using the USB interface.

Generally supplied with a big heavy transformer and is a bit fussy about the mains voltage not being too low.

It is all swings and roundabouts but don't think that the Lenz is perfect - it is showing its age a bit now when compared to some of the newer entrants.

Bigmet
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Re: ZTC Controllers... Are they any good?

Postby Bigmet » Tue Apr 02, 2019 9:43 pm

Showing its age like good wine in my opinion!

No broken wires in handsets for me, but then I am careful. I know someone who hung up his Lenz handset and then tripped over the wire: he broke a few wires alright, but I think the fractured wrist mattered more.

Controlling signals, never tried that so no experience.

The transformer is the right weight for a 5A output unit. Doesn't heat appreciably even if asked for continuous near maximum output on a hot day, always silent, not a hint of hum. No troubles with low mains voltage in my home location, heavy duty supply provision for several 'guaranteed power' customers.

Regarding voltage on track, I like the output voltage adjustment which means that locos incapable of scale maximum speed when tested on nominal 12VDC can be made to go as they should on DCC. I have the track voltage well above the centre value of the available range (default setting) such that there is 15V available at the motor terminals. That makes even most notorious RTR OO slug among my locos - Bachmann's BR std 5MT - whizz along at scale for 90mph.


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