DCC Decoders - Choosing a DCC Decoder

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Choosing a decoder for a dcc conversion can be difficult whether it relates to a hardwire fitting or simply a plug and play fitting where a model is "dcc ready". Questions like the most suitable current output, available space, functions required  can be off putting when you are considering an expensive purchase. Getting it wrong can result in possessing an item of little or no use. Possibly only about half of the purchase value at best to dispose of the item and start again. All this in addition to the frustration of wasted time. The following guide demonstrates the use of a number of commonly available dcc decoders for standard drive, additional function and sound possibilities against specific model and manufacturer types. The guide is not intended as a comparison in advanced programming, rather a practical assessment of each decoders basic characteristics. A good starting point is to stop worrying about current output for individual decoders, most dcc decoders from 0.5Amps upwards will drive models in uk outline in both N and OO gauges and most decoders and controllers have protective circuits which will avoid the possibility of damage provided the decoders are wired correctly in the first place. The best rule of thumb is that as long as you have a 1 Amp decoder for OO gauge and at least 0.5 Amp for N you will be ok but its not definative. This guide therefore takes the stance of looking at various popular decoders and assessing them against their suitability for different applications, here goes.....:
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Digitrax DZ126 Wired DCC Decoder

A multipurpose 1 Amp decoder for hard wiring which crosses all  boundaries in gauge terms (11.6 x 9.4 x 3.2 mm). Wickness Models has used this decoder in N Gauge and OO gauge models for many years(previously the DZ125). The decoder has 2 functions for drive and wiring in directional lighting. The picture speaks for itself, against a uk five pence piece, its tiny and will fit in the smallest of n gauge models yet power larger OO gauge models where space is at a premium and a small decoder is required. The most recent version has been noted to cause some compatibility problems with older basic controllers such as the Hornby Select and Bachmann EZ Command but works well with all current budget controllers like the excellent NCE Powercab and Digitrax Zephyr. This is the basic decoder of choice for Wickness Models in terms of N gauge drive function and will fit in models as small as the Graham Farish Class 03 (trim the ends of the heat shrink wrap and it fits in the cab) and equally drive large OO gauge models like Heljan, Hornby or Bachmann Class 47's, Steamers etc. It has also been used been used successfully in Bachmann Split Chassis steamers where space is at a premium. This decoder is a safe bet for most hard wire applications where power and space are in question and can be purchased in the decoder store section here Digitrax DZ126
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Lenz standard 8 pin decoder

A multipurpose 1 Amp decoder with 3 functions, ideal for large OO gauge (L 25mm x W 15.4mm x H 3.1mm) Hornby and Bachmann 8 pin dcc ready locos or many European locos like Marklin 2 rail or Hag when hard wiring. Always remember with this decoder to fit in a location where no live chassis parts can contact the decoder as it is uninsulated with heat shrink like many of its counterparts. You can overcome this by insulating the entire decoder with kapton tape. Lenz technology is excellent with few compatibility issues of any kind with different dcc control systems. One of the very best European decoder manufacturers whose decoders will work well with different versions of firmware on almost all dcc controllers. Wickness models has used this decoder in Hornby steamers and diesels, bachmann steamers and diesels, Marklin, Hag, Atlas, Heljan etc. It is a relatively large decoder so an assessment of space is required prior to purchase. The decoder can be purchased in the decoder store section here Lenz Standard Decoder
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Digitrax DZ126PS 8 Pin Micro Wired DCC Decoder


This is a true powerhouse decoder rated at 1 Amp which can be used where space is at a premium (11.56mm x 9.37mm x 3.2mm) in OO gauge applications. The decoder has all the features of the hard wire version designed for n gauge and like its brother it crosses all boundaries in terms of gauge. Ideal for OO gauge 8 pin models where a standard larger 1 Amp OO gauge decoder will not fit. If you are in doubt as to space in a OO gauge loco with 8 pin socket then this is the one to try. The most recent version has been noted to cause some compatibility problems with older basic controllers such as the Hornby Select and Bachmann EZ Command but works well with all current budget controllers like the excellent NCE Powercab and Digitrax Zephyr. Wickness Models has used this in hornby, bachmann, heljan, and dapol OO gauge locos. It is a safe bet if you are concerned about space. This one can be purchased in the decoder store section here Digitrax DZ126PS

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Lokpilot V4 54 611 8 Pin Wired DCC Decoder

A wonderfull 1.1 Amp 4 function decoder (21.3mm x 15.5mm x 5.5mm), Wickness Models uses this as decoder of choice for European diesel locos from Marklin and Hag which involve hard wiring to run on dcc but it is also ideally suited for use in standard uk outline locos from the likes of Hornby, Bachmann, Heljan etc with 8 pin sockets. Excellent motor control at all speeds, highly tuneable via cv settings and 2 spare functions to run additional lighting etc. This one can be seen in the decoder store section here Lokpilot 54611
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High quality 8 pin on harness type decoder which solves many problems where space is at a premium (20 x 8.5 x 3.5mm) on many OO gauge locos with 8 pin socket. It can equally be used to hard wire locos where high quality drive control is required. Considerably smaller than many of its counterparts in the same price range but packed with control and power. 4 function decoder so 2 spare functions beyond drive and standard directional lighting. The model is heat shrink wrapped so fully insulated against possible shorting in the loco chassis. Zimo decoders are known to provide particularly smooth drive performance with most locomotives without the need to do advanced cv programming. The decoder has a peak output of 1.5 Amp with 0.8 Amp continuous. Wickness Models have used this decoder on a large number of OO and HO gauge locos where quality is at a premium, ideally suited to use with good mid to high end systems like the Uhlenbrock Daisy II, the Lenz Set 100, or the Digitrax Super Empire Set. The Zimo MX623R can be purchased in the decoder store section here Zimo MX623R
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Digitrax Decoder DZ126IN 6 Pin

1 Amp (Peak 1.5Amp) plug and play 6 Pin decoder (9.05mm x 10.61mm x 2.67mm). 2 Function decoder ideal for most applications involving a six pin socket, this decoder is an affordable mid price option for the likes of Graham Farish and Dapol DCC ready locomotives, note that it will fit in any Farish DCC ready loco but some Dapol locos including the Pannier have been poorly designed and need modification to allow a fit with a 6 pin decoder despite being apparantly dcc ready. You can get a fit even in Dapol 6 pin locos however by loosening the socket inside the loco cavity and re insulating it and the DZ126IN is ideal for this, Also excellent for smaller OO gauge with 6 pin socket like the Hornby Class 08. This is a higher quality decoder than the basic bachmann 6 pin chip and Wickness Models decoder of choice for N Gauge DCC ready locos. It can be tuned by programming the multiple back emf cv settings available. We would recomend this for Graham Farish Steamers, Diesels, Dapol Steamers(some have limited space) and Diesels, and DMU units from both manufacturers. Highest quality 6 pin decoder in its price bracket. The DZ126 can be purchased in the decoder store section here Digitrax DZ126IN
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Lenz Silver Mini Micro Wired DCC Decoder

Top of the range micro decoder for hardwiring small n gauge locos (L 10.6 x W 7.5 x H 2.6mm) The decoder supports the Lenz Railcom system and ABC advanced braking system. This is our decoder of choice for locomotives like the Graham Farish range of small diesels including the new chassis Class 03, 04, 08, 14 models. All of these models drive incredibly well at low throttle with this decoder, superb shunting speed and control. The decoder is not heat shrink wrapped as supplied so does need insulating with a kapton tape wrap but this is no problem. Other applications for this decoder are in the Union Mills range of locomotives which run absolutely superbly on it and all of the non dcc ready Dapol Small steamers where speace is an absolute premium. Also suited to getting the best out of older Farish small steamers using the Poole chassis design ie Pannier, Jinty, Prairie etc. Wickness models has dozens of test runs showing the performance possible using this decoder on its youtube channel, a few examples below. You can buy the Lenz Silver Mini in the decoder store section here Lenz Silver Mini
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Lokpilot V4 Micro DCC Decoder

Powerhouse of a micro decoder( 10.5mm x 8.1mm x 2.8mm), with continuous output of 0.75 Amps. Ideal for n gauge applications(check the space against the dimensions though). This is a multi protocol decoder supporting Motorolla and Selectrix digital systems as well as DCC. It supports Railcom and Railcom plus systems for automatic recognition without programming using ESU and Lenz Control Systems, also ABC advanced breaking systems. The decoder also has an interesting auto tune feature which optimises back emf and torque response cv's to set up best running for you. Wickness Models has used this decoder in many N gauge applications and some OO gauge, normally used as a hardwire option. The Lokpilot V4 Micro decoder can be purchased in the decoder store section here  Lokpilot V4 Micro
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Lenz Silver Mini 6 pin decoders

Very close to smallest 6 pin decoder available (L 10.6 x W 7.5 x H 2.6), the Lenz Silver Mini provides superb all round drive performance. As supplied it provides super smooth low throttle control and directional lighting, the decoder supports the Lenz and ESU Railcom systems and advance braking ABC system. This is a high end 6 pin decoder from one of the very best and most reliable European manufacturers, we cant recommend this one enough for use in N  Gauge Graham Farish, Dapol, Fleischmann etc dcc locos from Steamers to Diesels and DMU's, also works superbly well on the new Hornby Arnold N gauge Brighton Belle. The Lenz Silver Mini 6 pin can be purchased in the decoder store section here Lenz Silver Mini 6 Pin
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TCS Z2 Wired Micro Decoder


Tiny wired micro decoder from excellent US based Train Control Systems 12.95mm. X 6.65mm. X 2.79mm. Wickness Models uses this in many smaller Graham Farish Steamers and Diesels and dapol Steamers. It is particularly handy in some of the small Dapol steamers as the decoder can be hidden in the bunker without any appearance in the cab area. Provides very smooth drive control and is a little more affordable than the lenz silver mini. Known to work well with the majority of modern control systems and particularly suited to NCE Powercab and Digitrax Systems. All TCS decoders are covered by their "Goof Proof" warranty which basically means that they will replace the decoder even if damage has occurred as a result of user mishandling, the way this works is to register the purchase with TCS via their website and if you have damaged it you can send it direct to their head office with purchase details  and they will replace it. You will normally receive the replacement within 3 weeks if you need to take advantage of this warranty. Obviously a wait for the replacement but it does mean you do not lose out as a result of damage.It can be purchased in the decoder store section here  TCS Z2 Decoder
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Digitrax DCC decoder DH126D Wired

Probably the best budget decoder in the business for OO gauge delivering a whopping 1.5Amps and having an extra 2 functions available for lighting, firebox glow etc. It is fairly large (17.08mm x 27.28mm x 6.6mm) so you need to check your available space but it does provide good drive control in many Hornby and Bachmann steamers and diesels. Also a good budget alternative to using Lokpilot and Lenz decoders in European hard wired locos like Marklin and Hag. Works well with most of the modern DCC systems from US systems to European systems, best in the business for its price. It can be purchased in the decoder store section here  Digitrax DH126P
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Loksound V4 Sound Decoder

The loksound V4 range is the most famous range of sound decoders suitable for uk outline locos, the standard V4 is 30.3mm x 15.5mm x 5.5mm and the micro version 25.0mm x 10.6mm x 3.8mm. These can be purchased with specific UK outline soundtracks pre installed. The standard V4 is generally suitable for uk Hornby, Bachmann and Heljan OO locos, also other manufacturers like VI Trains. The micro version is suitable for smaller OO gauge steamers and diesels, and can also be fitted to many n gauge diesels and steamers including DMU's from Graham Farish and Dapol but with considerable chassis modification in most n gauge cases. Sound fitting can be difficult and often requires a close assessment of available space and planning, often dcc sockets need to be removed to create space and the loco hard wired. If you are thinking of doing this it is worth asking the question on suitability from experts in the field before purchase. Wickness Models is happy to answer any questions you may have. The V4 range of decoders can be purchased in the decoder store section here Sound Decoders
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Zimo MX Range of Sound Decoders

The Zimo MX range of sound decoders is excellent in uk outline locos combining excellent drive control with multiple sound functions, the standard MX645 is 30 x 15 x 4 (mm) and the micro version MX648 is 20 x 11 x 4mm. These can be purchased with specific UK outline soundtracks pre installed. The standard V4 is generally suitable for uk Hornby, Bachmann and Heljan OO locos, also other manufacturers like VI Trains. The micro version is suitable for smaller OO gauge steamers and diesels, and can also be fitted to many n gauge diesels and steamers including DMU's from Graham Farish and Dapol but with considerable chassis modification in most n gauge cases. Sound fitting can be difficult and often requires a close assessment of available space and planning, often dcc sockets need to be removed to create space and the loco hard wired. If you are thinking of doing this it is worth asking the question on suitability from experts in the field before purchase. Wickness Models is happy to answer any questions you may have. The Zimo MX range of decoders can be purchased in the decoder store section here  Sound Decoders

Below you can see a few examples of sound decoders at work
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TCS EU621 21 Pin DCC Decoder

This is a 21 Pin 6 function decoder from US company Train Control Systems (20 mm X 15mm X 3.5mm). It is ideal for any 21 pin dcc ready loco. Examples include the Bachmann and Dapol ranges of OO gauge Diesels and Steamers. This operates all built in functions like directional lights, cab lights etc automatically on separate functions. All TCS decoders are covered by their "Goof Proof" warranty which basically means that they will replace the decoder even if damage has occurred as a result of user mishandling, the way this works is to register the purchase with TCS via their website and if you have damaged it you can send it direct to their head office with purchase details  and they will replace it. You will normally receive the replacement within 3 weeks if you need to take advantage of this warranty. Obviously a wait for the replacement but it does mean you do not lose out as a result of damage. This one can be purchased in the decoder store section here  TCS EU621
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Lococruiser LC205 21 Pin Decoder

This is an excellent budget 21 pin decoder (28 mm x 15.5 mm x 5 mm) for models including the Bachmann and Dapol ranges of OO gauge Diesels and Steamers. This is a 4 function decoder which operates all built in functions like directional lights, cab lights etc automatically on separate functions. This new version incorporates a reset function by writing 08 to CV08 so you can restore it to factory settings in seconds if you lose your way in programming terms. This one can be purchased in the decoder store section here  Lococruiser LC205
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Digitrax DN136PS 8 Pin DCC Locomotive Decoder

This is an excellent 3 function 8 pin 1 Amp decoder (13.9mm x 10.3mm x 5 mm). An affordable option where space is in doubt in 8 pin dcc ready OO locos from the likes of Bachmann, Hornby, Heljan etc. All the functions and programability of its other Digitrax counterparts. Good compatability with all current dcc systems from US to European origin. This is the default 8 pin decoder that Wickness Models recommends for any 8 pin OO gauge model. This one can be purchased in the decoder store section here  Digitrax DN136PS
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TCS M1 Micro Wired DCC Decoder for HO & N Scale

Excellent micro wired decoder from excellent US based Train Control Systems (14.4mm x 9.12mm x 3.43mm). Wickness Models uses this in many smaller Graham Farish Steamers and Diesels and dapol Steamers. Very handy for hard wiring older chassis Graham Farish 08s and many Graham Farish split chassis diesels. Very straightforward programming through cv settings. Known to work well with the majority of modern control systems and particularly suited to NCE Powercab and Digitrax Systems. All TCS decoders are covered by their "Goof Proof" warranty which basically means that they will replace the decoder even if damage has occurred as a result of user mishandling, the way this works is to register the purchase with TCS via their website and if you have damaged it you can send it direct to their head office with purchase details  and they will replace it. You will normally receive the replacement within 3 weeks if you need to take advantage of this warranty. Obviously a wait for the replacement but it does mean you do not lose out as a result of damage. This one can be purchased in the decoder store section here  TCS M1
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