6 Best DCC Systems for Model Trains

  • By: Richard
  • Time to read: 12 min.

Do you have a model train set and wish you could take it to the next level? If so, you need to invest in a DCC system. DCC systems allow you to control your trains with digital precision, creating a more realistic and immersive experience. With so many different DCC systems on the market, choosing the right one for your needs can be challenging. That’s why I created this guide! This blog post will discuss the six best DCC systems available and help you decide which one is right for you. Let’s get started!

[best_choice amz_url=”https://amzn.to/3iqW8GN” img_url=”https://bestscalemodel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Bachmann-Industries-E-Z-Command-Dcc-Controller.jpg” best_name=”Bachmann Industries E Z Command DCC Controller” sub_name=”Best DCC System” best_text=”The Bachmann Industries E-Z Command DCC Controller is the perfect way to get started in digital command control! This easy-to-use system is both affordable and compatible with all DC and DCC systems. Plus, it features simple, on-track programming for a fast, hassle-free experience. Get up and running in no time with the Bachmann Industries E-Z Command DCC Controller!”]

What Is the DCC System (Digital Command Control)?

The DCC system is a set of digital controls that can manage different aspects of your model train. Enthusiasts often use it to get better control over their locomotives and make the trains run more smoothly.

DCC systems can control things like speed, direction, and lighting. Many people find them helpful because they can make it easier to operate multiple trains simultaneously without constantly adjusting each one individually.

There are many different DCC systems on the market, so it is essential to research before purchasing one. This guide will provide information about the different kinds of DCC systems available and help you choose the best one for your needs.

6 Best DCC Systems – Comparison Table

ImageProduct 
Best Overall
Bachmann Trains E Z Command DCC Controller review
Bachmann Trains E Z Command DCC Controller
  • DCC system that is both easy to use and affordable
  • Plug-and-play compatibility with all DC and DCC systems
  • Simple, on-track programming

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Price Quality
Piko G Scale Model Trains - Basic Analog Throttle 22V / 1.6A + 16V DC review
Piko G Scale Model Trains - Basic Analog Throttle 22V / 1.6A + 16V DC
  • Analog power allows for more realistic train operation
  • This specific set is very affordable
  • This set is perfect for beginners

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Best Analog Power Set
Piko G Scale Model Train Power - 45 WATT Power Set 120V review
Piko G Scale Model Train Power - 45 WATT Power Set 120V
  • This power set is compatible with a wide range of G gauge trains
  • It has a voltage rating that is suitable for G gauge trains
  • It includes a 0-22 volt DC variable power supply

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Worked on G, O, and HO
Bachmann Trains 44217 Large Scale Power Pack with Speed Controller Train review
Bachmann Trains 44217 Large Scale Power Pack with Speed Controller Train
  • Includes power pack & control
  • Includes speed control knob
  • Includes direction control switch

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Best for Smooth Running
Kato N Gauge Pawa-Pakkusutanda-do SX review
Kato N Gauge Pawa-Pakkusutanda-do SX
  • The product is designed to be compatible with the N / HO
  • The power pack body is detachable
  • It can be used with an AC adapter

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Top 6 DCC Systems – Review

1. Bachmann Trains E Z Command DCC Controller – Best Overall

[img_block amz_url=”https://amzn.to/3toGVMS” img_url=”https://bestscalemodel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Bachmann-Industries-E-Z-Command-Dcc-Controller.jpg” prod_name=”Bachmann Trains E Z Command DCC Controller”]

The Bachmann Trains E-Z Command DCC Controller is the perfect way to start digital command control! This controller is easy to use and affordable, making it an excellent choice for any hobbyist. Plus, it’s plug-and-play compatible with all DC and DCC systems, making it easy to get up and running. The on-track programming feature makes setup a breeze, while the two included throttles make controlling your trains a breeze. So if you’re looking for an easy way to take your model train layout to the next level, look no further than the Bachmann Trains E-Z Command DCC Controller!

Pros
  • Easy to use and affordable
  • Plug and play compatible with all DCC systems
  • On track programming feature
  • Includes two throttles for easier controlling of locomotives
Cons
  • n/a

2. Piko – Basic Analog Throttle 22V / 1.6A + 16V DC– Price Quality

[img_block amz_url=”https://amzn.to/3tlrjtB” img_url=”https://bestscalemodel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Piko-G-Scale-Model-Trains-Basic-Analog-Throttle-22V-1.6A-16V-DC.jpg” prod_name=”Piko G Scale Model Trains – Basic Analog Throttle 22V / 1.6A + 16V DC”]

Looking to get started in model railroading? This Piko G Scale Model Train set is perfect for beginners! It features a primary analog throttle, making it easy to control the speed and direction of your train. Plus, it’s affordably priced, so you can get started without breaking the bank.

Pros
  • Analog power allows for more realistic train operation
  • This specific set is very affordable
  • This set is perfect for beginners
Cons
  • Not as many features as some of the more expensive options

3. Piko G Scale Model Train Power – 45 WATT Power Set 120V – Best Analog Power Set

[img_block amz_url=”https://amzn.to/3qlDOn8″ img_url=”https://bestscalemodel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Piko-G-Scale-Model-Train-Power-45-WATT-Power-Set-120V.jpg” prod_name=”Piko – 45 WATT Power Set 120V”]

Introducing the Piko G Scale Model Train Power set! This complete power solution includes a control panel, receiver, adapter, and connecting cable. With 45 watts of power, you can efficiently operate your model trains. The included manual makes it easy to get started.

Pros
  • 120V
  • 45 watts of power to run any model train efficiently
  • Professional quality and reliability with Piko brand name
  • Includes a control panel, receiver, adapter, and connecting cable
Cons
  • The price is higher than other brands out there on the market

4. Bachmann Large Scale Power Pack W/Speed Controller Train – Worked on G, O, and HO

[img_block amz_url=”https://amzn.to/3Jqb7wN” img_url=”https://bestscalemodel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Bachmann-Trains-44217-Large-Scale-Power-Pack-with-Speed-Controller-Train.jpg” prod_name=”Bachmann Trains 44217″]

The Bachmann 44217 Large Scale Power Pack with Speed Controller Train is a perfect addition to your large-scale train set. With the power pack and control, you can easily manage your train’s speed and direction. The included speed control knob and direction control switch makes it easy to get just the exemplary performance from your caravan.

Pros
  • Easy to manage train speed and direction
  • Includes power pack and control
  • Comes with a speed control knob
  • Direction control switch helps get the best performance from your caravan
Cons
  • Some users have found the speed control knob to be finicky

5. Kato N Gauge Pawa-Pakkusutanda-do SX – Best for Smooth Running

[img_block amz_url=”https://amzn.to/37LejFl” img_url=”https://bestscalemodel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Kato-N-Gauge-Pawa-Pakkusutanda-do-SX.jpg” prod_name=”Kato 22-018 SX Standard Controller “]

Kato’s new Pawa-Pakkusutanda-do SX is the perfect power source for all your N / HO locomotives. This top-of-the-line product is loaded with features, including a detachable body and compatibility with AC adapters. Whether you’re just starting out in the hobby or a seasoned pro, Kato’s Pawa-Pakkusutanda-do SX is the ideal choice for powering your locomotives.

Pros
  • The product is designed to be compatible with the N / HO gauge
  • It can be used with an AC adapter
  • The power pack body is detachable
Cons
  • AC adapters not included

What are Some Features to Consider when Buying a DCC System?

What are Some Features to Consider when Buying a DCC System

Addressing

Addressing in model train refers to the addresses used by multifunction decoders. Based on the hexadecimal numbering system, these addresses can be two or four digits.

Different computers have different addresses. The address for a two-digit computer can be anywhere from 1 to 127, except 3. For a four-digit computer, the address can be anywhere from 1 to 10239. It is best to have a controller that has both of these addressing systems so that the user can choose whichever he wants.

Other features make an excellent DCC system such as:

  • support for multiple languages
  • expandability through additional throttles and accessories
  • easy configuration and customization
  • compatibility with various types of locomotives and trains

Consisting

To make a DCC system, you need to program all the multifunction decoders with the same address. This way, all the locomotives will move in the same direction. A good command station can take care of this process, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Multiple Unit Consist helps in prototyping by making multiple locomotives respond to a single throttle.

Number Of Locomotives

If you usually only use one or two locomotives, you should invest in a basic DCC system with low current (3 to 5 amps). This is often represented on the Package as 3A and 5A. If you have more locomotives, the current will need to increase. DEPENDING ON YOUR COLLECTION, the DCC system is for HO Scale or N Scale, or both.

Number Of Throttles

Choose a DCC system that can support the number of throttles you need. Different methods can help other numbers of throttles. You can choose one that supports up to 20 throttles or one that supports up to 100!

How to Install a DCC System in Your Model Train Layout?

If you’re looking to install a DCC system in your model train layout, there are a few things you’ll need to do first. You’ll need to purchase a DCC system, of course, and any necessary cables or wiring. You’ll also need to create or buy a template for your track layout. Once you have all of these things, you can begin installing your DCC system according to the instructions that come with it.

Most DCC systems will require you to connect the positive and negative terminals of the system to the rails of your track. This is typically done using special clips or connectors that come with the system. Once the terminals are connected, you can begin attaching other system components, such as controllers, decoders, and boosters. The exact process will vary depending on the method you’re using, so be sure to consult the instructions that come with it.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your DCC System

If you’re new to the world of DCC systems or just looking to upgrade your current one, here are a few tips to get the most out of your system.

  • Make sure you research which system is suitable for you and your needs. There are many great options, but not all of them will be perfect for everyone.
  • Once you’ve got your new system, take some time to learn how it works and how to use all its features. Most manufacturers offer excellent documentation and support resources to help you get started.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! One of the great things about DCC systems is that they allow you to customize your model railroad to your liking. Try out different settings and see what works best for you.

Troubleshooting Common Problems with DCC Systems

If you’re having trouble with your DCC system, you can do a few things to troubleshoot the problem.

First, let’s check all of the connections to ensure they are secure. Next, we’ll review the power supply to provide enough power. Finally, if we’re still having trouble, we’ll consult the manual or contact customer support. With a little bit of effort, you should be able to get your DCC system up and running again in no time!

Common problems with Digital Command Control systems can include: 

  • Loose connections
  • Insufficient power supply
  • Dirty track
  • Damaged locomotives
  • Incorrect wiring

Be sure to check for these issues before contacting customer support. With a bit of troubleshooting, you should be able to get your DCC system back up and running in no time!

What is the Best DCC System? Digitrax? NCE? Other?

The answer to this question depends on what you are looking for in a DCC system and your budget. With that said, here are six of the best DCC systems currently on the market:

NCE Power Cab

This is one of the most popular entry-level DCC controllers on the market. It is relatively easy to use and very affordable. If you are starting with DCC, this is a great option to consider.

Digitrax Zephyr Xtra

This system is an excellent option for those who want a little more control than what the NCE Power Cab offers. It has more features and buttons, which can be helpful if you are more experienced with DCC.

MRC AD360

This is a top-of-the-line DCC system that offers the most features and controls. It is also the most expensive option on this list. If you are serious about model trains, this is your system.

NCE Phoenix

This system is similar to the NCE Power Cab, but it offers more power options and expandability. If you think you may want to add more locomotives or accessories to your layout in the future, this is a great option to consider.

Digitrax Super Chief

This system offers everything you could want in a DCC system, including wireless control and expandability options. It is the most expensive option on this list, but it is also the best.

Lenz Gold+

This system is a good middle-of-the-road option. It offers more features than the NCE Power Cab, but it isn’t as expensive or feature-rich as the Digitrax Super Chief. If you are looking for an excellent all-around DCC system, this is a great option to consider.

FAQs

Can You Use DCC Trains On The DC Track?

If you are still using a DC power pack to operate your trains, you might wonder if it is possible to use a DCC system with your existing track. The answer is yes! You can use a DCC system with a DC track. However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First, you will need to get a DCC-compatible decoder for each locomotive. Additionally, you will need to make sure that the DCC system that you choose is compatible with the voltage output of your DC power pack. If everything is consistent, you should be able to use your DCC system without any problems!

What’s The Difference Between DCC Ready And DCC Fitted?

Looking at DCC systems, you might come across “DCC Ready” and “DCC Fitted.” But what’s the difference between the two?

DCC Ready means that a locomotive is designed to be used with a DCC system but doesn’t have a decoder installed. This usually requires adding a decoder to get up and running.

DCC Fitted means that a locomotive comes with a decoder already installed. All you need to do is connect it to your system and start using it!

So which one should you choose? If you’re just getting started with DCC, we recommend going for something that’s Fitted. You don’t have to worry about installing a decoder yourself.

Can DCC Fitted Trains Run On Analog?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not as simple as that. DCC fitted locomotives can run on analog layouts; however, they will not be able to take advantage of a DCC system’s benefits. For a locomotive to be controlled by a DCC system, it must be equipped with a decoder. This device converts the incoming digital signals into the various functions that control the locomotive – such as speed, direction, and lighting. If you attempt to run a DCC fitted locomotive on an analog layout without a decoder, it will likely just sit there and do nothing.

How Do You Install A DCC Decoder?

Installing a DCC decoder is not as difficult as it may sound. You will need to solder some wires and connect them to the proper terminals on the decoder. Once that is done, you can then program the decoder to your desired settings.

If you are new to soldering, there are plenty of helpful guides and videos online to show you how to do it properly. Once you have installed the decoder, please test it out before running your trains on it to ensure everything is working correctly.

How Do You Add Sound To A DCC Locomotive?

You can add sound to a DCC locomotive in several ways, but the most common is to purchase a sound decoder. This device you install inside the locomotive allows you to play sounds through an external speaker. Many different companies make sound decoders, so it’s essential to do your research and find one that will work well with your particular locomotive. Another option is to purchase a pre-installed sound system from a company like MTH or Lionel. These systems come with everything you need to get started, and they’re usually straightforward to install.

Can Any Locomotive Be Converted To DCC?

The answer is both yes and no. All locomotives can be run on a DCC system, but not all of them will have the same level of control or functionality. If you want to install a DCC system in an older locomotive, you may need to make some modifications first. Newer locomotives usually come with DCC-ready decoders installed from the factory.

Conclusion

I hope this guide has helped you understand more about DCC systems and how they can benefit your model train hobby. If you’re thinking about adding one to your layout, do your research and find the best system for your needs. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you’ll be up and running!

Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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