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DCC Controller List basic review by owners.

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I thought I'd start this thread as a list of DCC controllers.

Many forum members have different systems and I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea if we had a single thread with basic reviews of the systems we have.

This is not a I have this controller because it's better than that one, it's basically a review written by an owner, hopefully we can all add to it with our own views on the systems we own, be it good or bad.


If you can include what the system is such as handheld,  console, wireless(radio or infra-red) PC based etc.

Power supply, such as Volts and amps as this helps with how many locos it can run.

Then your own personal findings how you use it, what things you don't use or like or improvements that you would like if you were to improve it.

Hopefully we can then have a single thread with USERS reviews of the different DCC systems out there which will I think be a useful resource.


If there are any questions by other members it might be better to start a new thread in the Questions or information relating to the DCC controllers list thread in there you can post a link to the review in question, that way this thread can stay clean and just contain DCC system reviews.


Here's the first!


Bachmann E-Z Command.




Console type system

Firmware :- Can't be upgraded.

Basic 1amp system as supplied in the Bachmann digital train sets.


The E-Z Command is a very basic DCC system, it can't read or write CV's but will allow locos fitted with a decoder to be re-addressed by using PoM or programming on the main.

You must remove all locos from the track apart from the one you want to program, or it will reprogram all those on the track!

It is a fairly bullet proof system and has been around for years.

I really like it for it's simplistic use and the nice large round speed control knob and it's reliability.


It can't control any accessories such as points decoders, it's purely for controlling locos.

You can run 10 digital locos assigning them addresses 1 to 10 or you can run 9 digital locos on addresses 1 to 9 with a DC loco on address 10.

It is possible to plug the power supply into a basic Bachmann DC controller, then taking the link wire from the track output from this controller and plugging into the E-Z Command DC Controller input.

This way you can use the DC controller to control the DC loco and still use addresses 1 to 10 for digital locos.

I have never been able to get that to work correctly!

As it's possible to damage DC locos running them on DCC it's not really ideal anyway.


You can also operate functions, press the address of the loco you want say number 3 if you now press the yellow function button the LED next to number 3 will flash, this shows that loco 3 is under control and it's flashing because you're in function mode.

Pressing button 10 will turn the direction lights on/off if fitted, F1 to F8 will control functions that are assigned to these function numbers in the decoder.


In the box the controller comes with the link wire for the DC controller to the E-Z Command, a 240v to 16v ac transformer.

It also has a clear plastic cover and some ID labels which fit on the controller between the address buttons.

I measured this up and printed off my own so you could see which Loco was on which address:-

This photo shows my printed off label, I have put DC loco only on address 10, but as you can see it does show a lamp, so if controlling a digital loco you press the yellow button to turn on function mode and then press button 10 and the direction lights can be switched on off.




You can do a consist but both engines have to be set to the same address, never tried this so I can't say how effective this is.


There are a few connections on the back:-




The I/O port is for a Command Companion to plug into, this looks identical to the E-Z Command but has no power point and comes in a black plastic case.

It comes with a cable to plug in to this port, this allows two locos to be controlled simultaneously one loco on each controller, I have tried this and it does work really well.

You can also control the functions of each loco on the two controllers as well.


The track output is the two wires that go to the track the lead is supplied, it has the brass track connecting clips on one end and both wires go to the 3.5mm jack plug, this breaks fairly easily I've found and it takes a bit of working out where the wires need to be soldered in a new plug.

the next port is for the 16vac 1amp power supply which can run 4 OO locos, although they were standard and not Heljan heavy ones or Sound fitted which may reduce the amount you can run.

The last port is for the link wire which runs from the DC controller.




All in all a bullet proof DCC controller which does what it says on the box.

It would be better to have a plug & Socket or terminals for the track connections as the jack plug can get damaged.

The DC connection I've never managed to get working, although not too much of an issue as I don't like to run DC locos on DCC.

The 16v AC power supply gives out a huge voltage to the rails, I measured it at about 20volts.

I've never had an issue but this to me is very high, more so when using it for N-gauge.

Obviously Bachmann supply this, but for MY peace of mind I bought a different power supply with different outputs so I could lower the voltage going in which reduced the track voltage to about 15v.


For a start in DCC you can't really go wrong with the E-Z Command, when bought in a set it's the cheapest way of getting started in DCC and you will not lose money on it as you can easily sell it if wanting to upgrade to a better system.

If your happy with the limits of the system you won't want to change, it's that easy to use.







EDIT:- The I/O port can also be used for connecting the Smart Interface which will allow smart phones to connect to it and be used as handset controllers.

Thanks Ron for the information.



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A very good review (I have one too so concur with most of what you say). All I can add really is that for a small layout with a limited number of locos its ease of use makes you not want to upgrade. Being able to put the pictures by the buttons and having a button for each loco is a feature not found on any other system.


Might be worth adding a few corrections to this:-

...Can't be upgraded...

Bachmann have a booster available to increase the current, and add-on slave controllers (E-Z Command companion) which you mentioned are available too and you have already mentioned the wireless interface.




...it can't read or write CV's but will allow locos fitted with a decoder to be re-addressed by using PoM or programming on the main...

Programming on the main is a very different thing that means you can leave all the locos on the track when programming. What you get with the E-Z Command is service mode programming of just CV1 to a value between 1 and 9. The manual is wrong/misleading on this matter.




...You can do a consist but both engines have to be set to the same address, never tried this so I can't say how effective this is...

There are two methods to do consisting, either:-

  • Set both to the same address (which can be done by the E-Z Command) as you describe.
  • Set CV19 to an address between 1 and 9 (which has to be done elsewhere using an external programmer such as a Sprog or another command station).

Both methods work. The CV19 method is jolly handy if you want to run a visiting loco that has an unsuitable address and you don't want to reprogram the address.

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This Review is for the Hornby Select controller.

Before starting this I would just like to point out that this controller has received lots of negative comments because it's not NMRA compliant.

Some of the NMRA specifications have not been met by this controller so it's only classed as compatible.

In the early days there were lots of reports that it wouldn't work with some manufacturer’s decoders, amongst other things.

I've had one of these from very early on and never had any issues with it.

I have lots of different decoders and all have worked fine, but that's just my findings other people definitely have had issues.


Hornby Select




Console type DCC controller

FIRMWARE:- Can be upgraded by sending back to Hornby a small charge applies.

Basic 1amp starter system as supplied in the Hornby Digital train sets.

It can't read CV's and writing CV's is very limited to a very basic starter system.


On first powering up, the display will flash 15-30-03

This relates to the following:-

15 is the software version so in this case V1.5 (latest version as at time of writing) 30 is the hardware version number and 03 is the loco address it defaults to.


This controller can control digital locos(those equipped with a decoder on addresses 1 to 59)

It can control one DC loco on address 0 (again running DC locos on DCC is not advised as it can damage the motors)

This controller can also control accessory decoders from addresses 61 to 99


To operate a loco and you don't know it's address, place the loco on the track press and hold the SELECT button until LA flashes on the display(loco Address) then type in the address you want for that loco from 1 to 59, which ever address you type in will be displayed on the LCD, then press the SELECT button again, the red LED will flash maybe 7 times, if it flashes more then try reprogramming it.

The loco will now run on the address you've just entered, the left and right arrows are for changing direction, when pressing either one the green LED below will light up to show which direction it's going in.


If you have a few locos on the track and you know the address you can just type in the address and press the SELECT button and you will then run that newly selected loco, if you've been running for a while you will have stored up a number of locos in the memory, so you can just press the SELECT button and it will scroll through all the locos that are in the memory, when arriving at the address you want which is shown on the LCD display will allow you to control that loco.

The Select controller can hold 10 locos in the memory, if you add more than that one of the others will be dropped out of the memory and you will need to type that address in again.


The Select can also do consists, without having to have both locos on the same address, I can't say anything about this as I've never tried it.


The Select is also capable of some basic programming, it can adjust the acceleration and deceleration of the loco, this is very easy to do.

Place the loco on the track you wish to change, press and hold the SELECT button until LA flashes, enter the address of the loco, then press the left arrow button, the display will flash AC for acceleration, enter a number between 1 to 99 then press the select button.

If you've entered a high number the loco will take a long time to speed up.

The same procedure is used for programming Deceleration but instead of pressing the left arrow you press the right arrow at which point the display will show dE for deceleration.


The Select controller can also change the default forward direction, so you can have the green direction LED swapped so for example you want the left arrow green LED to show forwards direction for all locos this can be changed using the controller.


You can also select the different speed steps that you want to use.


With the latest firmware V1.5 you can now control all 28 functions.

To operate a function type in the function number followed by the FUNCTION button, the display will flash "On" for on, type the function number again and press the FUNCTION button the display will flash "Of" for off.

If you have say a whistle or bell, these tend to run for a set time then stop, if you wish to operate that function again you will need to type in the function number and press the FUNCTION button which will flash up "Of" then do it again to switch it back on.

The Select can't set or use momentary buttons, they are either on or off, a bit of a faff, but at least there is all 28 functions now available.



There are a number of connections on the back of the unit:-




Very easy and quick spring release clamps, the two wires output to the track, Xpressnet connection, this allows an RJ12 connector cable to be plugged in so that other Selects can be plugged into it and used as extra controllers, these Select's that are plugged into the Master Select are known as Walkabouts, I don't know why as they are not exactly handheld controllers!


The Master Select is the only one that has the power pack plugged into it, all the other "Walkabouts" are only connected via the Xpressnet connection.

When plugging in the Walkabout it will display HC on the display you need to input and address for this, as you can add a maximum of 8 Walkabouts I just address the first one as 1 then press the SELECT button.

I use the correct Hornby R8266 connecting cable as it needs to be a twisted pair, if you use a flat cable it doesn't work, I've tried this hence why I have the correct cable!

It also allows the Select to be connected to the Hornby Elite, so if you do want to stick with the Hornby System the controller can still be used as an extra controller.

I've used this set up extensively on exhibitions and it works really well.


Next is the 15v DC power input the Select is supplied with a small light weight SMPS giving 15v DC 1amp.


You then have the 15v DC aux output connections, this is to supply accessories with 15v DC so it could be used to power lights etc

you must remember though, that if you put too much load on the auxiliary connection you will reduce how much power you have to run locos, as it's all supplied from the one power supply!



A note on the overload protection, the Select is designed to work with the 4amp power supply so you can easily add more power by just buying that.

The issue is, the Select will show OL (overload) on the LCD only if there is a short circuit when the 4amp power supply is connected.

If you have a short circuit when it's connected to the standard 1amp power supply then you are relying on the overload protection of the power supply,  Select will restart at first, if it's still present, then the LCD display will be dim or characters missing.




As per my initial note above about being DCC compatible, it is probably wise to use the Hornby accessory decoder, as I know this works very well, although I have managed to use other decoder types, it can get messy and awkward.

Using the Hornby accessory decoder R8247 is straight forward, connect the track output to the track input of the AD(accessory decoder)

Press and hold the SELECT button until LA flashes, then type in the address of 61, the red light will flash 7 times again if it flashes 8 or more try reprogramming it again.

This has now set the four outputs to 61, 62, 63 & 64, if you have another AD to put on the layout, you would address this from 65, which will automatically address the 4 outputs as 65, 66, 67 & 68.


To operate the accessory decoder, just type the address of the output and press the left or right arrow keys, to move the point left or right depending on which way you operate the point P5 or P6 will flash on the display.


This works very well and I've used this on my exhibition layout.

Personally I really don't like operating points via the controller, its great to set it up that way as there is very little wiring but like most controllers as soon as you type in the accessory address you are not in control of a loco.

Also I much prefer to use separate switches it just seems more fun and realistic to me.




As a starter system it is what it is and works as expected.

I've never had a problem with it running on it's own or connected as a Walkabout unit to another Select or the Elite.

It's a real shame Hornby didn't get it NMRA compliant and with the issues of the early versions it has got a very poor name.

I personally don't think it's as bad as people make out and having used one for years on an exhibition layout that children play with I think that speaks for itself.

It's also nice that you don't have to get rid of it, if you go for the Hornby Elite as it can be used as an extra controller remembering that it will only use addresses 1-59 for locos and 61 to 99 for accessory addresses.


The function operation is fairly clumsy like most of the controllers I've used and unless you have a really big controller with all 28 buttons on there for easy access it's always going to be a compromise.


Not being able to write CV's can be a pain, for this type of controller it would be nice to be able to write all CV's, doesn't need to be able to read, but write so you can at least do a decoder reset or change the volume level on sound decoders.


Remember, if you wish to comment or add further information please post in the

Questions or information relating to the DCC controllers list thread

and in that thread post a link to here, that way it will keep this thread clean and will only have DCC controller reviews.





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MRC or Model Rectifier Corporation based in USA are the manufacturers of the Prodigy Express and Advanced² controllers amongst other things.


Gaugemaster buy them and rebadge them and put their own colours on them here in the UK.

The latest model is the MRC Prodigy Explorer a simple starter DCC controller.

When I asked Gaugemaster it wasn't on their list of stock items so I don't know if they will add it or not.


MRC Prodigy Explorer.




A console type system.

Firmware can't be upgraded as far as I know.

Can be used with the other Prodigy Hand sets

Supplied with a SMPS 15v 2amps. It is supplied with an American type 2pin lead to figure 8 connector that plugs into the transformer part. I already had a 13amp plug to figure 8 connector cable spare so just used this, they can be bought online for a few quid or you buy the Gaugemaster one for I think about £9.


Yes it's a 2amp max output system, but you can send it back to MRC and for $59 they will upgrade it to a 4amp system.


It can control 4 locos, to operate the loco press the LOCO button followed by its address 1, 2, 3 or 4 the LED at the top next to the address number will light to tell you which loco you're controlling.

Control knob for speed control and direction arrows to change direction, all really simple stuff.

So you put a loco on the track but don't know what address it is, remembering this controller can only operate locos with addresses 1, 2, 3 or 4 it's dead easy to change the address, place loco on the track press the P button to enter program mode both direction LED's turn on to indicate program mode.

press LOCO button input the address you want the loco to be 1, 2, 3 or 4 after a few seconds it will program the address and revert to operation mode.

You need to remove all locos from the track when programming the address, those that are on the track will all be programmed to the same address.


This little controller will operate ALL 28 functions, F0-F9 just press numbers 1 to 9 for F10 to F28 press the SHIFT button followed by the full number.


You can leave a loco running in the background and press LOCO followed by the address of a different loco, if the speeds are different the newly selected loco will try to run at the set throttle speed, a bit of a shocker if the last loco was running at full speed, the newly selected one tries to run off pretty quickly!!

I just select a loco that's not assigned an address change the speed control knob then select the loco I want, as a work around.

Now the thing about this controller is it can write to all CV's by using PoM.

So if you select a loco you can program this loco's CV's only press P button then CV number then ENTER

enter the CV value you want then press ENTER takes a second or two but that's it.

So other locos can be running as it will only change the CV's of the loco that you've currently addressed

OK you can't read CV's but being able to write to them is very useful in a little simple controller like this.

It's not too difficult to write down the CV number and what you've programmed it to anyway.






As you can see there are very few connections, the green plug is the output to the track, next to that is the input from the power supply.


On the front you can see a socket for the Hand Held Cabs that can be plugged in.

Yes you can carry on using this by plugging in one of the Prodigy Advanced² hand held Cabs, this then enables you to control accessory decoders and 4 digit addressing, consisting etc (remembering that the Explorer will still only operate locos 1, 2, 3 or 4!)

The hand held cab will run any of them!

You can also plug in the USB PC interface or even the Wireless conversion set, which means you can have the wireless cab.




A very simple and easy to use controller, I bought it to use on my exhibition layouts for the children to use.

Having used many controllers, I have found that most of the children do prefer to use a traditional speed control knob type of controller, I think the hand held cabs are a little too big for some of their hands and with all the buttons on a little off putting.

Not saying this is true of all the children who come and play with the layouts and with a little more time and tuition they will not doubt be fine, but at an exhibition you don't have that sort of time.


It's also nice that you can upgrade the power on this little unit although at 2amps it will run 3 or 4 OO loco's I've only used it on my N-gauge locos and it runs 3 no problem.


I do like the fact in can operate all 28 functions, like most of the others not that fluid and needs a few button presses to operate all functions and no ability to select momentary or latching.


Also it's not a dead end system, you can plug one of the hand held controllers in and have most of the options available.

What is lacking is the program track mode, if you plan on doing lots of decoder installs then you really do have to be careful as a program track lowers the power to give you a chance of checking your installation without blowing up the decoder!

With this it's PoM so full power no second chance.

Also you can't read CV values, for me personally this has never been an issue, I tend to only alter the standard ones anyway and never really go into any of the others, so CV3, 4 (acceleration , Deceleration) CV 2, 6 and 5 for the minimum, middle and top speed settings.

With this controller if you do have a sound loco at least you will be able to alter the volume level!


Got to say though it's a great little controller and at least you can reset decoders with it as it can program CV's

Don't know if Gaugemaster will buy this one and rebadge it, but I bought it from a shop advertising on Ebay I think with shipping and all the import duty and taxes it was about £85 so I don't think that's bad value for money for what it can do.

I haven't tried my wireless conversion set or a tethered hand held cab for it yet to see how it works with that, but will need to check and update as and when I get chance. Saying that there are other controllers I would like to buy and try!





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Hornby Elite




Console type controller

Firmware upgradeable by user, download file from Hornby and connect Elite to PC via USB cable.

Select units can be plugged in and used as walkabout controllers.

Can be used as a PC interface to use any of the train software packages available including Hornby RailMaster.

Supports Railcom.

240v to15v DC 4amp power supply included.


The Hornby Elite is a fully featured DCC controller that has two control knobs on the front, these control the speed of the locomotive and by pressing down on them they will change the loco direction, they are also used to scroll through the numerous menus and pressing the control knob will act as the Enter button.




The photo above shows the start up sequence, it first shows the mode the unit is in, either standard or classic and then this screen which highlights the speed control segments and shows the 1.42 which is the latest version of firmware as at time of writing.


This controller can operate all 28 functions

Can read and write CV's

Has all the different program modes

Has a separate program track output

Can program and operate accessory decoders.


As I've stated this controller is heavily menu orientated and takes a bit of getting used to, but you do get the hang of it.


CV29 is handled by a series of menus which you can just select, so for example one of the settings in CV29 is direction:- Normal or Reverse so instead of having to add numbers to bit what ever it is, you can just select what you need.

It has been designed to keep things at an easy level so you don't have to worry about the different bit numbers.

You can also just select the actual CV number and read or write that number when the loco is on the program track.

You can also program using operate mode programming where the loco is left on the main track.


To control a locomotive press the LOCO button then rotate or type in the address of the loco you want, then press the control knob at the top of the screen will be the time then the number of the currently active control knob 1 or 2  then the address or name along the bottom.

(Yes you can name the locos and the points, so if you've already entered a loco in the menu and given it a name when you select it's address the name will appear)


To have a different loco on the other control knob again press the LOCO button type in or scroll through the addresses by rotating the control knob until you find the address you want press the control knob and that loco will be controlled.


NOTE:- Only ONE control knob is active at one time, you can't turn both control knobs at the same time to control two different locos!


If you've been running for a while you may have a number of locos stored in memory for each control knob.

If you keep pressing the ESCAPE button it will scroll through the last 10 locos that were controlled for that control knob and on the display it will show the address or the name along with the direction shown by the black arrow and the speed shown by how many segments are filled in on the lower centre red panel.









The above screens show the different functions available.

Press the FUNCTION button once gives you access to F0 to F9 pressing any of the numbers will highlight a number in black on the bottom of the display this shows which function you have switched on.

Press and let go will be latching, press and hold the number will be momentary.

Press the FUNCTION button again will give access to F10 to F19 again pressing the number will activate that function, so pressing number 5 will activate F15 the number 5 will turn on in the LCD display, press it again to turn it off and the 5 will switch off on the LCD.

Press the FUNCTION button again will give access to F20 to F28 and again pressing the number will turn the function on press again turns it off.


Another press of the Function button shows the following screen:-




This is the fuel simulation screen, it shows the fuel simulation is switched off on loco address 3

This is special menu that is on the Elite which is used when you have a Hornby Sapphire decoder fitted in your locos, you can set in another menu the amount of fuel to be carried, when you switch the function on the fuel will decrease depending on the speed of the loco.


You can check the amount remaining by coming back into this screen when it's switch on as shown below:-




The FXXX is because the Elite is connected to a track and is not reading a loco.

The fuel simulation is using Railcom to send the data back to the controller as it's running, so Railcom has to be switched on in the Elite and on the decoder.

When the fuel runs out the loco will stop, if the loco has lights they will flash, to reset the fuel you need to scroll through using the FUNCTION button turn fuel off and then back on again.


If you have a loco running on control knob 1 and go into it's functions you can leave it on the function page and just press control knob 2 to operate the loco on control knob 2.

When you press control knob 1 again it will still be on the function page you left it on.



As well as the fuel simulation page, the Elite also has a dedicated menu to set up the auto control cycle or ACC of the Sapphire decoder, these are a series of events and times that are easily set using a menu system.


The fuel and ACC in the Hornby Sapphire decoder can be set up using CV's but the Elites dedicated pages make it so much easier!




These can be programmed like everything else pressing the menu key and setting the address of the decoder.

You can see the black arrow in some of the photos above, this is pointing towards control knob 1 so if you press control knob 2 the arrow will point the other way which will operate the point.

To operate a point just press the ACC button then either type in the point address or turn the control knob until the address you want appears then press one of the control knobs. Pressing either control knob will switch the point in either direction.

If you've named your points once you've selected the address the name will show on the display.




There are a number of connections on the back.

most are self explanatory, the two Xpressnet ports are for connecting Selects into to be used as walkabout units, it can also be used to connect to the Hornby Booster.

The USB port used to connect to a PC for updating the firmware or using as an interface for train control software.

DC power input from transformer

The Booster connections output a low power version of the DCC track signal into the Hornby Booster.

15v DC Aux output to power lights etc, it will take power away from running trains as this is shared power from the one supply.




There has been lots of negative comments about the Hornby DCC equipment, some justified and some not really.

The Elite is actually a very capable DCC controller and I personally don't think it deserves the criticism it gets.

It can do everything thats needed and more with it's dedicated Sapphire Decoder menus, which I have used and set up a loco to run forwards at a set speed for set time, then stop then reverse at a set speed for a set time, then repeat.

It worked really well and was very easy to set up using the Sapphire menu(yes you scroll through the other menus and actually there is one called Sapphire!)

I've not used the fuel simulation function though.

I've used it to program and operate lots of different accessory decoders, it works with all the different types of Loco decoders I've got:-

Hornby, TCS, Digitrax, CT Electronik and Bachmann, I think there are a few others in there as well.

Never had any problem with reading or writing the CV's.

I've used it extensively on my exhibition layout, two Hornby Selects are connected to it as walkabouts these are at the front of the layout and the Elite is at the back behind a touch screen also connected to a PC running Hornby RailMaster software.




I've had the odd lock up where the children playing with everything has sent it to overload but just pressing the E-Stop has sorted it out.

It does get a bad press which I think is a bit unfair as it is an easy to use controller once you get used to all of the different menu structures and there are a few.


Programming CV's is no hard ship and once it's done, it's done, it's not like you buy the controller with it's only function is to change CV's if so you don't need a controller as it's not the best way to do it, IMHO

The main concern with a controller is how it stands up when you are actively running which is what you will spend most of your time doing and this works great.

It would be nice if you could operate two locos at once one on each controller but it takes a second to press the other control knob and run a different loco.


Updating the firmware can be tricky you need to follow the instructions to the letter or it just won't work, and when it fails the Elite doesn't even power up!!

But you can keep trying and eventually it will reprogram, if all else fails it can be sent to Hornby for them to upgrade it.

I've always managed to update mine without issue, maybe as I have an old Windows XP system it just works.


The biggest negative for me is the function control it really is a nightmare, not fluid or quick by any stretch of the imagination, it's the worst thing in my opinion about the controller.

I would much prefer Hornby release a 28 button keypad that can plug in the Xpressnet port and that is used to control functions, that would be ideal.

If you have sound locos, operating all of those sound functions with this will drive you insane, which is a real shame as apart from that it is actually IMHO a very good capable controller.

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I will say that I never had the 505 or 511, so can't remember the faults they had, I know one was with the direction lighting bias.

This doesn't do that, going forward lights are on, stop and as soon as you move the reversing lever the direction lights change.

Same as all my other controllers, no bias as far as I can see.


ZTC 611




This is a console type controller, actually more like a driving desk.

The firmware can be upgraded. The file is downloaded and put on a USB stick, plug it in the back of the ZTC and turn the power on, it will auto load.

You can buy additional slave controllers that plug in the back and there are boosters available.

There is a USB port on the back to connect to a PC, Unknown if any software actually works yet.

240v to 15v AC 5amp or 12v AC 5amp power supply included depending on what is ordered, lower voltage for N and Z gauge locos.


First thing to say is forget the old ZTC, this is new and improved!


It can control all 28 functions.

All functions can be set for latching or momentary operation.

It has a separate program track output.

It does only have two programming modes, PAGED and DIRECT both are done on the program track.

It can control accessories, such as points or signals etc.

You can set up routes(presets) so that entering one address can operate multiple points to create a route.

It can be set up as a DC controller so you can run analogue locos, this is pure DC or PWM, it's NOT running an analogue loco on address 0

You can set the maximum output voltage and current in the controller set up.


This controller uses multiple button presses to carry out operations.


to select a Loco you would do the following:-


Press LOCO - loco address - ENTER R


The loco number will be shown in the display with a series of dashes below it, these change depending on what functions have been switched on.

it will also show HALTED if the loco is stopped and below that the current or whatever you've set it to display.

When running the Halted will change to speed steps or KPH or MPH again the display is customisable depending on what you want to see.


This shows loco 15 is selected and the asterisk shows the F0 (Direction Lights) are switched on, it's halted and it's drawing a little current 0.1amps

There are only 9 dashes, so it will only show F0 to F9 that are in operation.




To change the address of the loco you will need to place it on the program track.


you would then press:-


PRESET - LOCO - 1(CV1 is short address) - PRESET - new address - ENTER R ( A message will be shown on the display saying "confirm?" ENTER R) so press ENTER R again.


The loco will now have the new short address.


If you want a long or extended address make sure bit 5 in CV29 is on( it turns on extended addressing)

You would then use the same key sequence but type in 17 instead of 1 CV17 and 18 are for the long address, with the ZTC you just use CV17 and it does the rest for you.


To control another locomotive just select it, using the LOCO - loco address - ENTER  R sequence.


The regulator will need to be in the off position and the reverser lever in the MID position, you can now control the loco.

It does this so you don't have a loco which will try and run off to match the speed setting.


As you enter loco addresses, these are stored in the memory known as the Loco Command Roster, to switch between locos you can press the ENTER R or ENTER L keys and it will scroll through all the locos when you get to the one you want a short wait and you will see the loco address in the top of the display with the speed steps it's currently running at, you need to move the regulator so it matches the speed steps to allow you to take control, again so it doesn't shoot off at rapid speed.


Driving the loco is a mixture of the reverser, regulator and brake control!

The reverser can move forward or to the back position, moving it a little regulates the speed set by the position of the main regulator, or you can leave the reverser all the way forwards or backwards and control the speed by the main regulator


You can set a TRAIN inertia level, this is not to be confused with the CV3 and 4 of the loco decoder(Acceleration & Deceleration)

The train inertia is stored in the 611 and you set an inertia level to the loco address you are controlling.

So if you have a Loco on your layout that always pulls a long rake of say full coal wagons you would want the TRAIN INERTIA to be fairly high.

Whenever you call up that loco the TRAIN INERTIA will effect how long it takes to pull away and how long it takes to stop the train.

In the handbook it gives some suggested values to try, and if they are large it will take the train a long time to stop!

You can cheat a little using the brake wheel.




By turning the brake wheel gradually clockwise the train will slow to a stop, turning it back the train will carry on going, if you turn it clockwise all the way into the red area it will act as an emergency brake and stop the loco dead,

Turning it back anti-clockwise the train will move off again, obviously depending on what you have the regulator and reverser set at.



The photo below shows the yellow LED lit, below the LOCK & FUNCTION key.




When this LED is lit, it means you can immediately operate the functions of that decoder just by pressing the function number.

To operate a function press the number to turn it on, press it again to turn it off, dead easy!

So for F0 (directional lights) type in 00 for F19 type in 19 thats all you need do.

All the function buttons can be programmed to momentary or latching as well.


One thing that I do like and I have no idea why, is how it shows some of the more complex CV numbers.

For instance CV29 has 8 bits that we sometimes need to change.


The following photo shows the decoder CV29 read back.




It shows the BITS 1 and 2 are select and the decimal value is in brackets (6)


To enable extended addressing so you can do 4 digit you need to turn on bit 5 in CV29

So pressing the sequence of buttons to program the CV:-


PRESET - LOCO - 29 - SIGNAL - then any of the bits you want to turn on - ENTER R - ENTER R


The photo below shows I'm in PROGRAM DIRECT mode for CV29 and going to set it.

I have turned on bits, 7, 5, 3 & 1 (bit 7 nearest the colon on the left hand side)when you type in the position number it shows on the display as switching to a 1 and the decimal value increases automatically.

I've shown that as I think it's a really neat way of doing it.

Yes I'm a bit sad! I'm sure most people would just prefer the menu driven operation where it asks you if you want extended addressing or the direction reversed etc!




Accessory Operation


You can program the accessory decoders by using similar key sequences as above

to operate them you would just type in:-


POINT - accessory address - ENTER L or ENTER R


Depending on which way you want it turn.

If you have an accessory decoder which is connected to signals you can use the SIGNAL key instead of the POINT key, it just keeps it easy to follow what you're controlling.


The other feature of this controller is you can set it up to be a DC controller.

Once powered up you can set the mode to be a proper DC controller, not only that but you can set it to work in two different DC modes.

A pure DC waveform or a PWM DC waveform to control standard analogue locos.

This is NOT the same as running a DCC loco on address 0 this is using the controller as a standard DC controller.


As you can see there are lots of button presses to achieve things and it takes time to remember them, there is a key chart that you can refer to, which makes it that bit easier:-




So for Loco selection you would press LOCO button first and as it's a solo button you would just follow that with the loco address then ENTER R


Some of the other operations require the first and second key presses along with a few more after values have been entered.




There are a few connections on the back, obviously power in from transformer, two track outputs, program track output, USB port for plugging in the memory stick for upgrades, the SLAVE and Booster sockets, then the PC USB socket.




If you want to act as engine driver sitting in the cab driving the engine then this controller really can't be beaten.

That's what it's all about with the ZTC 611 and "Real Feel" experience.

You can spend hours just messing about with the Regulator, reverser and brake trying all different ways of controlling the loco.

Function operation isn't bad either, OK so you can't see all of those that have been operated, but that's a limit of the display and Graham is working on a new bigger display, although it won't be any time soon.


It's still a bit basic old school? when it comes to CV programming, such as for short address program CV1, for extended address program CV17, I didn't know that, all other controllers I've used have the menu structure that just ask if you want long address and then you type it in!


It does explain in the handbook, which is a thin reference type of manual so not too much of an issue , I downloaded the 511 full user guide as a lot of that is still relevant to the 611

It can program, Read and write CV's just in a different way than I was used to, I've not had any problems, one decoder didn't program using the DIRECT mode so used the PAGED mode as stated in the manual and all was fine.

It is a very expensive controller there's no getting away from that.

You can see where it's gone though and the premium price for what is a really beautifully made controller, all metal body and controls and the ultimate "Real Feel" driving experience.

It also looks the business, well it does to me anyway. The green colour really grows on you and sets the printing off really well.

It has the ability to turn into a full DC controller, either pure DC or PWM, so if you have a huge fleet of DC locos and just want to run the odd DCC loco this could be ideal, you can flick all the section switches to on and use this to run the DCC loco.

Once finished turn the section switches back off set the ZTC 611 to your DC mode and you can run the DC loco, it will allow different parameters to be set and stored in it for different DC motors as well.


As it's such an expensive bit of kit I can only advise people try it at exhibitions first, it is a bit addictive, when you start playing with it!

If your into programming CV's and speed matching different locos to run consists then you might want to look elsewhere, with something that has a better more up to date/intuitive? CV programming interface.

This controller can do consists, and can program CV's but I think the CV adjustment would tend to get you down if you were doing it all the time.


I have to say I do really like it and it's a pleasure to drive locos using it, the function operation is one of the easiest I've ever used, so if you have sound locos you will be happy!

The firmware update is very easy, like I say download the update save it to a USB stick plug it in the back of the 611 and turn on the power, it just does what it needs to do.

I've not used the USB PC interface so I can't comment on that, hopefully there will be other reviews saying they've used it.

The numerous combination of button presses can be tedious, but with the Key guide and practice its not too much bother.

Once I've set my Loco addresses and the usual CV's I don't really go back and change them, so you don't need to change everything all the time, so for me not a show stopper.

There is loads more as well, such as saving locos in the roster, select how you want it to start up; last loco or complete roster etc, there is a lot that you can customise with the ZTC 611.

In the end though it's all about the driving, which is really what the ZTC 611 is made for and in all honesty excels at.



Remember any comments or questions please post in the other thread:-

Questions or information relating to the DCC controllers list thread





Edited by traction
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DCC Concepts Cobalt Alpha


The DCC Concepts Cobalt Alpha range is not – as at 2 April 2016 at any rate – a complete DCC system.  Some of the early publicity has been somewhat confusing, so this is intended to help readers to decide whether what’s on offer is worth investigating, noting on the way that DCC Concept prices on the Gaugemaster (the importer) web site have recently been reduced.


The intentions behind Cobalt Alpha seem to be as follows:


·      To provide extra power to a starter DCC system, and enable the creation of one or more extra operating zones

·      To improve the smoothness of the power delivery.

·      To simplify the operation of points and signals, either via a pre-made-up box (Alpha Central) or by enabling the user to create a track diagram and install operation buttons thereon.

·      To safeguard delicate components with a superior short circuit protection system.

·      To minimise wiring for points and signals on systems that retain DC control for traction rather than DCC.


I have a Cobalt Alpha Central, a Cobalt Alpha Box, a Gaugemaster/MRC 3.5A PSU and a set of adapter cables to connect to my Gaugemaster Prodigy2 DCC system.



My point motors are Cobalt iP Digital, designed to be operated by DCC without external decoders.  I also have some Dapol signals controlled via Traintech DCC decoders. I didn’t have to do anything to my layout wiring beyond connections into the Alpha Box from the Prodigy2 and output from the Alpha Box, instead of the Prodigy2, to track and points.


You may legitimately ask why I don’t use solenoid motors and switches in the conventional way to achieve the same result more cheaply.  The answer is as much to do with laziness, stinking pride and cack-handedness as any technical merit, though I do have the advantage of slow-moving servo point motors, each with 2 built-in SPDT switches that I can use for subsidiary bells and whistles. 


Does it work? Yes – much easier than with the Prodigy2; there is only one button to press to change a point on the Alpha Central, whereas you have at least 4 button presses on the Prodigy2, and you can see from the illuminated buttons on the Alpha Central the position of each point.


So – if you wish to introduce DCC onto your pointwork (on a DC or DCC layout) , or expand your existing DCC system, Cobalt Alpha may do the trick, provided you use the correct adapter leads.  Don’t kid yourself (as I did) that you can save money and omit the Box, and do look at the manual carefully when connecting everything up. 

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I've had this a while, just haven't done a review until now.


One of my previous reviews was on the MRC Explorer.

This is a basic DCC controller, a bit like the EZ-Command but can operate all 28 functions and can write to all CV's using programming on the main.

It also has one CAB socket to allow a tethered or wireless conversion set to be plugged in.


MRC:- Model Rectifier Corporation actually make the Prodigy range of DCC systems, they are bought over here and rebadged for Gaugemaster as their DCC controllers.

I find the Explorer a very simple and easy controller to use on my small layouts where there are normally only one or possibly 2 locos running.

The layout is again for children to use if I get invited to exhibitions, so a very easy to use controller is a must.

What I wanted was the ability to regain control if anything untoward happens so having another controller is a great idea.

The main thing is the socket for an extra CAB is on the front of the Explorer, so in the way for a tethered CAB so I went for the Gaugemaster Wireless Conversion set DCC51


I could just standby and take control very easily.




So what do we get:-








There is also an A4 sheet of paper explaining what the extra buttons mean and about the batteries, other than that nothing of note, so I downloaded the Prodigy Advanced² manual to give me some idea to what can be done.


A full wireless CAB complete with rechargeable batteries, note how the batteries are 1000mah, I think the original was only 600, probably had to increase it for the back lit display.

Receiver unit to plug into base station.

Cable to plug CAB into base station for charging batteries.

The cab can operate accessories, read/write CV's(Depending on base station) and everything else that a PA² wired controller can do.


*****This is NOT a DCC system on it's own it needs to be plugged into the Prodigy Express or PA² or in my case the Explorer systems*****



I plugged the wireless receiver into the socket on the base station in my case the Explorer and then turned the power on to it.

I then switched on the CAB, there is a power slide switch on the side, when turned on it has the blue back Lit display, which does give a nice clear sharp screen to look at.

Pressed the BAT VOLTAGE button which shows BV 5.4v so all was well and the batteries were ready charged!





Press the LOCO button selected the address of a loco and turned the control knob and there we go!

Tested the usual forwards/backwards, fast slow.

Also used the increment buttons all worked just as they should.

So there we go everything working as it should.


If you already have one of the PA² systems it is a great add on to give full wireless control and you can do everything with it just as though you were using the tethered CAB.




Now the limitation of the MRC Explorer is that it doesn't have a program track output, as such you can't read back CV's.

This doesn't change when adding the wireless conversion set!

It also means if I don't know what a loco address is I have no way of putting it on a program track and reading what it is.

This is actually not a problem at all, as I can just use the Explorer to assign an address to the loco, which will be 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Just need to make sure all locos are off the track first or the will all get programmed to that address.

Or have a DPDT(Double pole double throw switch) wired to a plain bit of track to use as a non programming, program track if you get me!


Once you know the address then it's just a case of pressing the PROG button a couple of times to show PRGM MAIN or as this is the wireless handset it has an extra button PROG CV On MAIN, which is exactly what it does, you press it and it goes straight to the CV's

The display shows CV# with dashes below it so you can type in the CV number you want to change, all very quick and very easy to do.


The CAB like all the others has some basic instructions printed on the back, but once you've used it you really don't need them everything is pretty easy and straight forward.




You've been playing and you press the BAT VOLTAGE button and it shows 4v or less, then it's time to plug the cable in to the CAB and plug the other end into the base station to charge the batteries.

As the Explorer only has one socket I had to unplug the receiver to plug the charging cable in.

Well a word of warning, if you do unplug the receiver cable you won't be able to use the wireless CAB at all.

I thought that if you plugged the CAB in, it would revert to a tethered CAB, it doesn't, the cable is purely to charge the batteries, the receiver must be kept plugged in for you to still be able to use the CAB.


Luckily I had bought the Gaugemaster DCC77 Prodigy Walkaround Adapter which at 10pounds is a much better value for money product than the MRC plate at over 30pounds!!!!










With the receiver plugged in and the charge cable plugged in I can still use the CAB whilst it charges the batteries although it does take longer while using it.


As I have seen comments on interference from other wireless controllers I asked the question to Gaugemaster and MRC.

Gaugemaster came back with change the CAB address which I can't see how that will stop anything.

If you have more than one wireless CAB each CAB has to have a different address so they work correctly.

How can having one layout owner with a wireless controller on one address be any different to me having say two controllers each with a different address??

I didn't get a reply to that.


MRC replied saying that if two wireless systems are operating it would show a short as they are operating on the same frequency, but it shouldn't be a problem if they are at least 100 feet away from each other.




For the freedom of of having no cables it's great!

It's worth considering if you have one of the more basic prodigy systems and want to upgrade it's features so you can have full accessory and route control(for instance)

Or you have a big home layout and want the freedom of just walking about being in control of the loco at all times.

You just need to be aware that all the software versions in the wireless handsets and your current system need to be the same latest version or it wont work correctly that goes for the PA² systems as well.

Factor in the price of the conversion kit and double check if you will need to pay anything to have your current system updated to the latest software.

You may find it's cheaper to go down a different route altogether, although there are not that many fully featured wireless systems about.


Also shop around, there is a huge price difference in the conversion kit from 200pounds to over 250pounds.

You also need to remember that if you attend exhibitions there could be some interference if another layout is also using a wireless system, and just plugging in the handset wont save you, you need to revert back to a proper wired CAB which sort of defeats the object.


It's a lot of money at 200-250pounds which can buy a complete DCC system, so you would expect it to be more robust and be able to run when other wireless systems are close by.

That is it's huge down fall and one that Gaugemaster really need to speak to MRC about and sort out somehow, otherwise at exhibitions where you really need it, you can't use it.






Any comments please write them in the other thread  here:-









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Roco/Fleischmann Multimaus




The Roco Multimaus is a walk around type of DCC controller. It is also available under the Fleischmann brand as both are subsidiaries of the parent company Modelleisenbahn GmbH.




It offers a good entry into DCC, and can control all 9999 loco address and 1024 accessory addresses. It has the ability to store 64 locos into an internal library, and each loco can have a 6 character loco identifier.


​The Multimaus can control the first 20 functions of a decoder, and offers simple CV programming on the main track. However it does not allow you to read back programmed CVs, nor does it offer a programming track output. Loco speed steps of 14, 28 & 128 are possible.


A wireless version, the Multimaus Pro was also made. This offered the ability to read CVs, although I'm not sure if it is still available to purchase and was significantly more expensive than the standard Multimaus.


Loco Control


User feed back is given by a large custom backlit LCD, and speed and direction control are done by a traditional rotary control. The rotary encoder has hard stops. It not a continuous type like some competitors, so there is no way of seeing a readout of the speed for a previously selected loco; you have to move the knob until the speed changes.




​Loco recall is either done by using the keypad (loco address), or by recalling the loco from the library using the arrow keys; the latter is the easier and preferred method. You have to select whether you want to use the loco address or library by pressing the loco and shift buttons together.




Loco decoder functions are simply toggled by pressing the relevant numeric key on the keypad. Functions 11-20 are accessed by using the shift key. There is a dedicated loco lighting button as well.


There is no automated way of building a loco consist using the Multimaus, you can however manually set the relevant CVs if you wish to control a consist.


Accessory control




The controller is switched into accessory mode by pressing the turnout/point button. The accessory decoder is recalled using the keypad, and the position of the point is controlled by the arrow keys. There is no facility for programming routes.


Programming and settings




Pressing the shift and menu keys together allows you access to three menus: Loco, Program & Settings.


The loco menu allows you to store your various locos into the library and change name, speed steps and address. 


The program menu allows you simple programming of CVs, although with no ability to read back what you have programmed. You first type in the CV you want to program and then the value you want it programmed with. As there is no programming track you have to make sure you only have one loco or accessory connected to the DCC buss - otherwise you will program every attached device! 


I have not found the lack of being able to read CVs a problem in any way. You just have to remember what you have done and write it down. All my loco decoders respond with a 'jolt' to show that programming has been accepted - so at least there is a visual response.


There is a specific menu option to enable the programming of long decoder addresses. 


Finally, the settings menu allows you to set the language of the Multimaus, change the display brightness and contrast, access various child lock features and rather helpfully allow the transfer of libraries between two Multimaus.


Booster & PSU






The Multimaus needs to be attached to it's relevant Booster and PSU. The Roco 10764 booster allows connection of a master and slave Multimaus and also provides connection to further boosters if need be. All that remains is a PSU input and connection to the track. The track connector is a Roco specific two pin plug, but a track connection lead should always be provided.




The supplied PSU will most likely be a European two pin switch mode wall wart type. It provides enough power to give a track supply of around 1.5A.


The Multimaus connects to the booster via a 6 foot lead terminated with RJ12 connectors. You can use any suitable lead if longer lengths are required. Flashback Cables on eBay are a good source.




The Multimaus actually talks over the XpressNet standard from Lenz. Looking at the inner two wires on the RJ12 connector, these are the serial RS485 XpressNet connection. The next two outer middle pair of wires are the 0v & 12v supply to the Multimaus, and the outermost pair of wires are the actual DCC voltage provided by the Multimaus.


Although the Multimaus can be used as an XpressNet cab on any compatible system, it is actually a DCC command station in it's own right. The supplied booster has no DCC specific circuitry in it, it simply 'boosts' the DCC output that comes from the Multimaus itself.


Because most other XpressNet systems use a dedicated DCC Command Station, only the inner four connections of the Multimaus' XpressNet bus need to used when plugging into another manufacturers command station.




As already mentioned - you can expand the system buy using a suitable XpressNet compatible command station, such as the Lenz LZV100. In the case of the Lenz this gives you the ability to read CVs, a program track output and a higher track current supply.


You can also use the Multimaus as a wired cab controller for the Roco Z21 & z21 systems.


If you are not worried about the reading of CVs then a cheaper way of getting more power would be to use a dedicated DCC booster, such as the excellent unit offered by Tam Valley Depot for around £40.






Although not a popular brand for UK modellers, Roco is well known on the continent, so it is often easier to buy one of these systems from mainland Europe. Indeed the easiest way to pick up a Multimaus is from eBay, although be sure to make sure you include European and not just UK results in your search. Most units are sold split from starter train sets, and therefore offer a cheap way of entry into the world of DCC. Although not commonly available from UK dealers the price would usually be at least £200, but when split from a train set they can be purchased for as little as £60 or so from eBay.





  • Low Cost
  • Rotary Control
  • Clear Display
  • Loco Library




  • No program track output
  • Cannot read CVs
  • No automated loco consists
  • No accessory route programming


If you are after an affordable handheld DCC controller with a good display then I'd highly recommend the Multimaus. I was so pleased with it I bought a second one! Don't let the inability to read CVs put you off, it is easier to do this by using something like a SPROG. I've managed to program all by 7 locos successfully without reading a single CV, and that's not just programming the decoder address either. On average I'd guess I've had to program an additional 5-6 CVs for each decoder.


If you are going to buy a power booster anyway you can use the really inexpensive SPROG nano. For me, buying the Roco and Fleischmann Multimaus' and the Tam Valley Depot booster still left me with enough change from £200 to be able to afford a SPROG nano as well - that is next on my list.


If you want to know more, the Roco Multimaus manual is well written and shows you all the different functions and screens.



Edited by Matt Roe
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i have just brought the roco z21 white(yesterday)

first impressions

manual not very good thank god for you tube videos

have the new app and the previous release and find the old one clearer

love the fact it can run on any apple or android phone or tablet

as its a visual interface there is no need to remember numbers

to add a new train just take a picture of the train then set up the  functions again allocating a picture to the function although some of the picture are not the best eg it would be nice to have a key to use as start 


as a first time dcc user i have found it very easy to set up and use and as the layout is shared with my 6 year old grandson the visual way of controlling will be ideal with the added bonus i can control his train at the same time as i control mine and stop it if disaster looms 


grandson has just had a play and he took to it like a duck to water only problem was stopping him sounding the horns all the time 

Edited by lambretta
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Lenz 100 system


I have had one of these for some years, when Ver 3.6 firmware first arrived.



Bulletproof piece of kit that does everything it claims to do reliably.

Manuals are reasonably good so not too much problem learning the use of it.

+ Plenty of online documentaion on Lenz website.

The quality of the build is excellent.

28 functions. 4A output. Railcom.

Read & Write CVs, PoM & Prog track, Consists are easy.

Quite of lot of compatible accessories from Lenz & others.



Now somewhat old-fashioned as equipment upgrades have been minimal and slow to appear.

Alpha-numeric display only on handset.

Lenz although the originators of DCC are now losing ground to better kit.

LAN/USB interface is a not particularly cheap extra.

Only Expressnet protocol & RS bus supported



Was a market leader 5+ years ago, now would not be my first choice.



Edited by melmerby
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Are the Select and the Select walkabout the same. Can the Walkabout be use as the main one if I got the power pack for it.. Thanks

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Are the Select and the Select walkabout the same. Can the Walkabout be use as the main one if I got the power pack for it.. Thanks

You could try reading this:






EDIT reading other info suggests that the Select walkabout could be a normal Select but supplied without a PSU. Don't take that for gospel!

Edited by melmerby

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Yes, Select and Walkabouts are the same. The Select comes with a power supply. The Walkabout has no power supply but did come with the necessary RJ12 cable to connect it to the master controller, either a Select or an Elite. You cannot use an Elite as a Walkabout, they can only be used as master controllers.

Edited by smokebox

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