Remember the times when seeing a long Railtrack in the toy store would make you all excited? Surely, those tiny trains were and still are among the favorites of most children.
If you thought those days are behind you and entertaining train sets will never come again on your path, you are very wrong!
Digital Command Control or DCC systems can make it easier for all model train enthusiasts to enjoy their favorite hobby even now! These tools and devices help you to control each locomotive better for smooth operation.
It can be hard to choose the best DCC system from so many options available in the market. So here we are with some of the most popular picks in this category to share with you!
What Is the DCC System?
DCC is short for Digital Command Control used to digitally operate model railways. It takes your interest in model trains up a notch by letting you control the individual locomotives present in the same electrical section. Generally, a DCC system includes command stations, power supplies, decoders and boosters.
The power supply and the amplifier (often integrated into the command station) work together in order to modulate the track voltage, which in turn helps the system to encode digital messages. Each locomotive has a multifunction decoder for the track signals and routing the power to electric motors as per request.
Our Top 6 Best DCC Systems Review
01. NCE Power Cab DCC Starter Set
NCE is one of the most popular brands when it comes to model train devices. From beginners to experts – all levels of model train enthusiasts trust in NCE to provide them with superior performance and convenience at the same time.
In order to help the beginners try model trains without too many hiccups, NCE brought out the DCC starter set named Power Cab. By investing in this item alone, you will get all the components you need to start your very own railway operation experience!
What is included in the Package?
Each package includes 7-inch long cable, Pro Cab coiled cord, PCP power panel and power supply approved by EU/UK. Besides, the instruction manual provided with the system will walk you through each step in detail. Even if you never had any previous experience regarding model trains, you can easily set up this system.
You can use it to operate up to 8 N Scale trains or 4 HO sized locomotives. As a result, you can play with the models and their numbers to see which combination works the best for your setup. Keep an eye on the digital read-out to follow each detailed instruction to avoid confusion.
All in one system
This 2-amp DCC system for N Scale and HO Scale comes with all the standard features NCE has to offer. These include advanced consisting, momentum controls, easily operable stationary decoders, addressing of two or four digits, convenient programming tracks and more!
- 2-amp system supports all standard NCE options
- Can run up to 8 N Scale trains or 4 HO locomotives
- Digital read-out helps with detailed instructions
- Comes with all items required for installation
- Available at a reasonable price point
02. Bachmann Trains E-Z Command Digital Command Controller
Bachmann Trains can easily be considered as one of the few true veterans in the model train industry. The brand has been offering exciting tools and accessories in this area since 1833! After spending almost two centuries here, Bachmann Trains still continues their journey with the same enthusiasm to this day!
Color palettes and materials
The E-Z series has been one of its most popular launches so far. This kind of DCC system for beginners comes in two varieties of color palettes and materials. It can either be a sophisticated design of gray roadbed with nickel silver rail, or a contrasting design of black roadbed with street alloy rail.
Detailed instructions for assembling the parts and operating the entire system are provided with this package. Remember to place the terminal or rerailer section close to a power strip or outlet since it should be connected to a power pack.
Instructions are available
The instructions are available in both printed and DVD formats for your convenience. You can use this controller with all DC and DCC systems. It should not take you very long to learn the basics of its on-track programming.
So even if you are a beginner, you can start enjoying it like a pro quite fast!
- Works with all DCC and DC systems
- On-track programming is easy to learn
- Built for using in the plug-and-play mode
- 1-amp AC wall pack power supply included
- Instructions come in both printed and DVD forms
03. Model Rectifier Corporation Prodigy Express DCC Train Controller
Model trains might just be a hobby for many. However, Model Rectifier Corporation or MRC takes this hobby very seriously which is why they are among the leaders of DCC industry! They manufacture systems combining high-end technology and elegant designs without making the operation too complicated.
Wide range of CV compatibility
If you have been looking for a DCC starter system with a wide range of CV compatibility and convenient speed adjustments, this one from the Prodigy series can be the one for you!
This particular Prodigy Express model mainly focuses on making the entire system and its functions easier for a beginner to learn.
CVs or configuration variables
You can use it to read and program all CVs or configuration variables with ease. It can work with both 2-digit and 4-digit addressing. You can adjust its speed between 14 to 28 or up to 128 steps depending on your addressing mode.
The device allows you to continue programming without affecting the active tools.
Besides, this DCC system offers 28 accessory functions and can work with multi-function sound systems. Train yourself to play with it easily by following the instructions printed on the back of its handheld.
You don’t need to have knowledge of hexadecimals or any advanced technical topics for using it.
- Supports both 2-digit and 4-digit addressing
- Speed can be changed within 14-28 or up to 128 steps
- Allows to program without affecting active tools
- Capable of handling 28 accessory functions
- Can read and program all configuration variables
04. Digitrax Zephyr Express ZEPE
Another great DCC system for beginners is this Zephyr Express model made by Digitrax. This brand is dedicated to providing model trains with superior engineering and improving the features continuously while not putting up an exorbitant price tag on the products.
The DCC model has one of the cleanest and most user-friendly interfaces available nowadays. With one glance on the device, you will know exactly what to press or move for ensuring smooth operation of your locomotives.
But what makes it the best DCC controller, is the support for both 2-digit and 4-digit addressing. You can use it to run up to 20 throttles at the same time!
There are two dedicated knobs for accurately adjusting the direction and speed of your DCC locomotives. You can make the locos move forward or reverse with the first knob having a red handle for easier manipulation.
It also has a brake which makes the train stop before something bad happens! Use the other white knob with a giant black marker for modifying the speed at six different levels!
The Large Screen
The biggest area of this controller is taken by the large screen that appears with buttons bearing numbers and functions beside it. This keypad’s screen also has a backlight so that you don’t have to struggle to read in darker environments.
- Advanced and simplified train operation
- Large keypad with backlight for easy reading
- Supports both 2-digit and 4-digit addressing
- Can run up to 20 throttles simultaneously
- Smooth control with a speed knob
05. MRC Prodigy Advance2
The Prodigy series of MRC comes back on our list with another popular DCC system called Advance2. This is meant for those who love getting creative with their railroad layouts and feel happy with the resulting complexities. By using this system, you can enjoy a smooth ride on the tiny trains with easy operations.
Entire operation is simple enough
Even when your layout is complicated, the Prodigy Advance2 system can make the entire operation simple enough for you to follow, without compromising with the comprehensive features and sophisticated technology.
As a result, you can enjoy playing with your favorite model trains and tracks easily.
Two and four-digit addressing
This DCC system for model trains can work with both two and four-digit addressing, which means you can use addresses between 0 and 9999! There are 28 accessory functions in it to take advantage of.
You can run multiple throttles with it at the same time and read the numbers easily with its backlit display.
The computer interface
The computer interface is also adaptable and its software can be upgraded according to your necessity. As a result, you can modify the entire system to suit your taste and operational preferences.
For all these reasons, many train-lovers consider it as the best DCC system available.
- Works great for complex rail track layouts
- Runs multiple throttles simultaneously
- Requires a power supply of over 3.5 amps
- Capable of 28 accessory functions
- Can work with both 2 and 4-digit addressing
06. Digitrax DGTEVO Evolution Advanced Starter Set
For those of you who have the pleasure of a higher budget than usual, you can consider investing in this high-end DCC system made by Digitrax. It caters to both the advanced players of model trains and the ones who are just discovering this front.
A little different design
Its user interface looks a little different from the usual design. The simple UI comes with dual throttle knobs so that you can control two locomotives at the same time without any confusion. This also makes consisting easier by allowing advanced replication or prototyping for the modeller.
It comes with a full numeric keypad which allows you to carry out operations like loco selection, decoder programming and function control.
How to operate with the DCC?
The 4-digit addressing comes in a simplified form here so that the beginners can quickly catch on with its basics. You can easily learn how to operate with the DCC wiring as well.
The Evolution starter pack makes address browsing and selection easier as well. If you are confused at any point, just look at the user-friendly text messages which are there to guide you!
With this DCC system, you can run up to 100 throttles and 100 addresses at the same time.
- Simplified 4-digit addressing
- Offers high speed control and prototypical consisting
- It includes one LocoNet cable and decoder test
- It is easier to operate
- Runs up to 100 throttles and addresses simultaneously
- Offers 30 control functions
- It includes F0Rev and F0Fwd
What Features to Consider When Purchasing The Best DCC System?
Addressing in the field of model train refers to the addresses used in multifunction decoders. These addresses can be in either two digits or four digits based on the hexadecimal numbering system.
For two digits, the address can be anywhere from 1 to 127 except 3. On the other hand, it can be anywhere from 1 to 10239 for four digit addresses. The best DCC controller would be the model that has both of these addressing systems so that the user can choose whichever he wants.
For a DCC system, consisting means programming all the multifunction decoders in a set with the same address. This enables all the locomotives to run in the same direction. A good command station would take off the burden from your shoulders by creating and managing the consisting process by itself.
Multiple Unit Consist helps in prototyping by making multiple locomotives respond to a single throttle.
3. Number Of Locomotives
The right kind of DCC system should work well for the number of locomotives you usually play with.
For instance, if you only use one or two locos at most, invest in a basic system that needs low current of 3 to 5 amps, often represented as 3A and 5A on the package. Of course, the current will need to increase for more locos.
Remember to make sure if it is a DCC system for HO Scale, N Scale or both depending on your current collection or preferences.
4. Number Of Throttles
Keep an eye on the number of throttles your chosen DCC system can support at a time. There are enough varieties available based on this feature. You can go for a system that can support 20 throttles simultaneously or one that allows you to work with 100 throttles at the same time!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Can You Use DCC Trains On The DC Track?
Answer: Yes, you can use DCC trains on a DC track. However, the decoder fitted on the locomotive will not work since it was meant for working with DCC specifically.
No signal will reach that decoder as none is being sent from a compatible DCC system. As a result, it will not be a satisfying experience at all.
Question: What’s The Difference Between DCC Ready And DCC Fitted?
Answer: DCC ready usually refers to the locomotives which bear a fitted socket for decoders. After removing the blanking plug, you can easily fit the decoder into this socket.
On the other hand, a DCC fitted locomotive already has a decoder attached to it. This kind of locos is also called DCC onboard sometimes.
Question: Can DCC Fitted Trains Run On Analog?
Answer: Yes, DCC fitted trains can run on an analog layout since it already has a decoder in its body. However, the speed may take a hit since the trains will take more time to respond on an analog layout.
Remember that running an analog loco on a digital layout is not at all recommended as it can cause internal damage.
Question: How Do You Install A DCC Decoder?
Answer: Firstly, get rid of the locomotive shell and isolate the motor.
Then start connecting all the components one by one – track leads, motor leads, headlights, and any other additional feature, if available in the package or set.
Then secure the decoder and reattach the shell. See if it is working to move on to the next step.
Question: How Do You Add Sound To A DCC Locomotive?
Answer: If you already have a DCC locomotive, you can just take out the existing decoder and replace it with a new one that is capable of both producing sound and controlling the motor.
Alternatively, add another decoder to the current setup so that its only job is to take care of the sound.
Question: Can Any Locomotive Be Converted To DCC?
Answer: Most of the locomotives present in the market already come with a socket for plugging in the decoder. As a result, these modern models can easily be converted to a DCC locomotive by attaching the decoder to them.
However, the older models built during the 1980s or earlier cannot be converted to DCC.
We’ve done thorough research to find the best DCC system for you. But more importantly, now you know what to look for in a DCC system if these options don’t work for you. There are plenty to choose from for both the beginners and the experts when it comes to model trains.
Go for the affordable ones if you are just starting and level up your game once you are better at your DCC operation skills!
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