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Lais DCC decoders. - Electrics - DCC - Getting You Started. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Wed Sep 16th, 2015 02:15 pm
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Keith M
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I've recently bought several 'Lais' DCC decoders, apparently designed in Hong Kong, made in China (isn't everything nowadays!)and despite being cheap at just under a tenner, seem to work just as well as the known and considerably more expensive brands. The motor current handling capacity is limited, so means you need to be careful which loco's you fit them to, which limits their use to smaller and probably the newer models with lower current demands, but they also have 'stay-alive' connections on most types as standard, which is a useful bonus. Has anyone else used these decoders, as I'm intending to upgrade many of my loco's to sound decoders eventually, so don't want to spend a fortune on expensive non-sound ones just because I want to be able to run new purchases in the meantime?

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 Posted: Wed Sep 16th, 2015 04:48 pm
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I would suggest spending a little bit more on decoders with recognized quality, especially as you're thinking of disposing of them eventually.  My preferred decoder is the Lenz Standard+, which with its 1-amp capacity is suitable for all OO gauge locos, subject as always to space being available internally.
 

With the current euro exchange rate, they can be had quite economically from one of the German box-shifters, eg this one:-
 
http://www.arstecnica.de/shop/digital-switching/lenz-10231-01.html
 
3 decoders will cost you around €51 which gets you free postage, so around £12.50 each.  Once you've finished with them, you're almost certainly going get your £12.50 back if you sell them on Ebay, due to their known quality and widespread use.  Same probably can't be said of the Lais ones.



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 Posted: Wed Sep 16th, 2015 09:21 pm
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Keith M
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Hi Robert.
My problem is that by the time I'm ready to update a model to sound decoder, (5 so far) I'll likely have bought more loco's! (I've amassed 31 in 18 months with two more on preorder) so I'll just swap the Lais ones into newly bought models. Last year, I bought a batch of Lenz decoders from the Modelbahnlippe website at a good price, so those will be the ones I sell on as I fit sound into models. Not all of my models will be sound fitted anyway, so I'll always need a few standard decoders. As an aside, this afternoon, I bought two Lais stay-alive kits for £6, so that means two decoders and stay-alives for £26, not a bad price in my opinion.
Keith.

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 Posted: Thu Sep 17th, 2015 01:55 am
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My experience would suggest Robert is talking sense.  I tried some "cheap" decoders - for exactly the same reason you quote Keith.  I "tried" them and my word, they certainly "tried" me !!!

I'm sticking with Lenz for non sound. :thumbs:thumbs



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 Posted: Thu Sep 17th, 2015 05:19 pm
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Manufacturers code is reported to be 153 (from the RM site), same as TCS. Not (yet?) listed on the NRMA manufacturers list, but that's of 2014. Or Code 81 (from the RMF site, which is GooVer Models in Belgium). Low power (0.75amp, peak 1amp, or 0.5amp, peak 1amp). OK for N-scale, very questionable for even newish OO/HO where 1amp/2amp peak would be acceptable. Function outputs are 100mamp, also low. Rebranded older TCS model or using some of the TCS hardware under license? (I've asked TCS about any relationship). The automatic BMF setup looks similar. The logo is also very similar to the one used by TCS, as is the chip wrapping (at least it's not yesterdays newspaper). If Lais are using TCS chip design then they should be OK.

TCS have a one year goof-proof warranty, I'd ask if Lais has the same if I was buying. And does it go back to HK or the UK? And is it goof-proof?

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Sep 17th, 2015 08:30 pm
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Keith M wrote: I've recently bought several 'Lais' DCC decoders, apparently designed in Hong Kong, made in China (isn't everything nowadays!)and despite being cheap at just under a tenner, seem to work just as well as the known and considerably more expensive brands. The motor current handling capacity is limited, so means you need to be careful which loco's you fit them to, which limits their use to smaller and probably the newer models with lower current demands, but they also have 'stay-alive' connections on most types as standard, which is a useful bonus. Has anyone else used these decoders, as I'm intending to upgrade many of my loco's to sound decoders eventually, so don't want to spend a fortune on expensive non-sound ones just because I want to be able to run new purchases in the meantime?
Hi Keith,

Did you notice the manufacturers code when installing? 153? Should come up when entering "programming mode".

Regards,

Nigel



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 Posted: Thu Sep 17th, 2015 11:33 pm
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I did a bit of checking on Lais, Caveat emptor. More later on this if I get permission to post some information I was sent.

I'll stick with Lenz Standard+ (around $28.00 US) or Silver (around $35.00 US) for the non-sound, and el cheapo Digitraxx (around $18.00 US for a DH126P with an 8-pin plug) for testing, etc. Provenance known.

Nigel



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 Posted: Fri Sep 18th, 2015 12:43 am
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I have permission from TCS to share the following on Lais:

"On September 17, 2015, at 1:00 PM, Train Control Systems <sales@tcsdcc.com> wrote:

Hi Nigel,
    Thanks for the links and notes. We have documented everything currently available from Lais and will soon have decoders in hand.

    As for why or how these decoders came to be it probably is tied to a counterfeiting operation (started a few years ago) which reverse engineered our decoders (including the software) and began selling 3-5 styles of "our" decoders under the names DCC Concepts and Gaugemaster. We have since blocked those brands for import to the US and UK, but it appears the chinese manufacturer is still cranking them out and having them rebranded.

     All of our decoders are made, tested, and (if they fail tests and are unrepairable) stored/destroyed here in the sleepy little town of Blooming Glen, PA so I would be really surprised if anyone got our failed decoders (they'd have to walk right by us! :-) ).

Thanks again for bringing this to our attention. It is really encouraging to have customers who stand beside us in believing that hard work shouldn't be counterfeited.

Best Regards,
Jordan
Train Control Systems
http://www.tcsdcc.com"

A decoder manufacturer with 3 NMRA ID's? (153, 81 and 134). Should raise anyone's suspicions. The list is freely available - http://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/appendix_a2c_s-9.2.2.pdf

As I said, Caveat emptor.

Nigel





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 Posted: Fri Sep 18th, 2015 01:04 pm
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nice work Nigel,and thanks for the info,I wondered why there was a sudden lack of some chips in my local dealers, now we know,
:thumbs:thumbs;-):cool:



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 Posted: Sat Sep 19th, 2015 08:40 pm
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Keith M
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I had seen the manufacturer identification number of 153 when I was modifying the program. Of the 2 decoders I've recently bought, one is installed in a Heljan class 20, the other in a Bachmann "N" class, with no problems so far, both loco's having been thoroughly run in on my rolling road before decoder fitting. I did take the precaution of checking running and stall current with my "Fluke" multimeter (I'm a retired Electrician!) and this was sufficiently within the decoders specified limits as not to cause me any concern, and the online manual as you say, does state that the decoders are NMRA registered manufacturing. As I'm gradually moving many of my loco's to Zimo sound decoders ( after 2 bad experiences with ESU, you can keep those!!!-but that's another story), I doubt I'll need to buy any more non-sound ones. If, as you say, these Lais decoders are indeed a "knockoff" brand, then I've no wish to support this kind of thing, so won't bother again. I've now received the 'stay-alives', basically a small capacitor with a couple of diodes on a tiny circuit board, so I'll fit these in due course and see how things go,-any problems and I'll report on the forum.
Keith.

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 Posted: Sat Sep 19th, 2015 09:50 pm
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BCDR
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Hi Keith,

153 is TCS, and as TCS do not appear to have licensed anything to Lais, yes, they would be pirated.

Nigel



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 Posted: Tue Sep 22nd, 2015 11:10 pm
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John Forsythe at TCS has my deepest sympathy  - I have only just come across a couple of threads concerning these counterfeit decoders and I know only too well how much John was affected by this pirating first time around.  It must be soul destroying having to revisit a similar scenario once again.

I do wonder if Gaugemaster and Hattons are aware of what went on a few years ago prior to them producing their "own brand" decoders.

I also wonder how original Chinese products are!!  Is it possible that the nuclear deal recently done is based on a British Design??!!



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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2015 01:08 am
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BromsMods wrote: ........................................................

I also wonder how original Chinese products are!!  Is it possible that the nuclear deal recently done is based on a British Design??!!

That's just being cynical John ...............:roll::roll::mutley I'm sure they wouldn't think of copying the "Made in Britain" logo ...........;-)



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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2015 05:21 pm
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BromsMods wrote: John Forsythe at TCS has my deepest sympathy  - I have only just come across a couple of threads concerning these counterfeit decoders and I know only too well how much John was affected by this pirating first time around.  It must be soul destroying having to revisit a similar scenario once again.

I do wonder if Gaugemaster and Hattons are aware of what went on a few years ago prior to them producing their "own brand" decoders.

I also wonder how original Chinese products are!!  Is it possible that the nuclear deal recently done is based on a British Design??!!
 
Hi John,

One way to address this issue would be to always note the manufacturers ID (which comes up when programming), the decoder number, and the NMRA list when installing a "cheap" own brand decoder. Rather than a role of the eyes emoticon (which I've seen in one thread on this topic, not this site) if it looks a bit iffy, contact the owner of the ID and ask if it's correct.

I've never bought a Hattons, DCC Controls or Gaugemaster OB decoder, if other members of the club have perhaps they could check the ID and report back. 

I strongly suspect that most decoder manufacturers do not license their technology to or allow re-branding by other companies (especially Chinese ones), given the effort and time invested. Many manufacturers do OE decoders for locomotive manufacturers (Bachmann and Soundtraxx are a recent example in the UK, ESU have been quite successful in penetrating this segment of the market in the USA). That however is always stated and is used as a selling point.

I have no connection with any decoder manufacturer except as a customer.

Nigel





 













 



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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2015 05:27 pm
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Just remembered, Hattons, Gaugemaster and DCC Concepts now have their own manufacturing NMRA ID's, although I doubt very much that they are actually manufacturers of the decoders.

Nigel



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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2015 07:17 pm
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Hi Nigel. 

I'm afraid just looking at the manufacturer ID won't reveal if the decoder has been pirated as anyone pirating a technology such as this and being of any competence will inevitably change the manufacturer ID from the original.  There are other ways of identifying if a TCS decoder has been pirated, though!



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 Posted: Thu Sep 24th, 2015 05:08 am
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Hi John,

At least it's a check. I'm sure the legit manufacturers know how to identify their hardware/software. Lais seem to have 153 as the ID (plus a few others have been reported). So :Red Card

 The issue that really concerns me is that manufacturing IDs have been allocated to "own brand" decoders (including Hattons, DCC Concepts and Gaugemaster), which makes life a bit more tougher when trying to identify a rip-off or a genuine licensed and re-branded decoder.

Nigel




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 Posted: Fri Sep 25th, 2015 06:44 pm
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Keith M
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I seem to have opened a can of worms with my initial post! I contacted the Castle Donington, Derby based Ebay seller from whom I bought the two decoders, enquiring about the 'stay-alives', on the email address given on my invoice, but never got a reply. Suspicious? A few days later, I found another Ebay seller, this time in Great Yarmouth, who had the 'stay-alives', so ordered 2 and received them a few days later. It would seem to me that perhaps these sellers are modellers themselves, maybe even viewers of this forum, and have now decided to keep their heads down in case the brown stuff hits the fan since Nigel has brought this apparent 'scam' to our notice. It does indeed make you wonder who is making the 'own brand' decoders sold by some of the larger UK dealers,- I'm sure that these retailers will have done some research prior to putting their faith in the manufacturer and risking their own reputation by selling them on as 'own brand', but it just shows how easy it is for 'dodgy' products to be passed off as genuine purely by a kind of 'electronic jiggery-pokery' in the programming identity. A case for the UK's "Watchdog" TV programme maybe??? Forewarned is forearmed!
Keith.

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 Posted: Sat Oct 3rd, 2015 10:36 pm
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Thanks to our UK & Australian friends for exposing this.  Haven't seen enough on USA websites.  The TCS guys are a real labor-of-love operation and it's sad to see this kind of piracy.  Makes you wonder when we'll start seeing fake Hornby & Bachmann locomotives on AliBaba.

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 Posted: Sun Oct 4th, 2015 11:59 pm
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Hi George (and Keith),

This is perhaps an issue that the NMRA should be addressing. I've voiced my concerns as an NMRA member to them, hopefully they'll be coming up with something soon. The ID allocation is intended to identify the decoder manufacturer, there are unfortunately now many suppliers of "own- brand"  or "re-branded" decoders that use their own ID rather than the manufacturers' ID (if they even have one). This is not uniform, some do, some don't. Not a good situation, as a buyer and user I want to know who made my decoder. Having a barrier between the buyer/user and the actual manufacturer is of course an advantage for any counterfeiting operations.

I've been writing (emailing actually) and asking various own-brand sellers who actually makes their decoders. Some are re-branded known-names, some are "own designs" manufactured by presumably an anonymous company in China without an NMRA ID, some are re-branded "own designs". I question the ability of such a system to have a decent warranty policy, or to protect against counterfeiting.

Personally I'm sticking with the decoder manufacturers who sell their own products. "No-name" in my book means "no way!". These days the price differential is not that great anyway. If Atlas, Athearn, Bachmann, etc. can tell us who makes the decoder they put in their locomotives, why not re-sellers and re-branders?

If you (or any other readers) are NMRA member with concerns about this, please let the organization know. If you come across a decoder with a funny ID on it (as has happened with Lais), please let the manufacturer know. I'm sure they will be very interested.

Nigel



 




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