We're starting to get a reasonable amount of experience with these decoders now. And we like them, we really, really do! The Gold, in particular, has a lot of useful features; the main one of interest to the authors of this site is the USP (Uninterruptible Signal Processing). USP is Lenz' name for the proprietary technology employing a small energy store called a Power1 module. This allows the loco the run without hestitation, repetition or deviation; even when over dirt or bad track.
There are several different outlines of these decoders, including high power Maxi versions and Mini versions that are small enough to be employed successfully in N-gauge, or small HO scale locos. There are, of course, 'normal' versions available for HO with leads and NEM 652 (8-pin) plugs. There are even odd special forms such as a version of the Silver that can be directly mounted in an NEM 652 socket and versions of the Mini that directly mounts in an NEM 651 (6-pin) socket.
We've now used a few of these in various locos - there are many details of their notable successes on this 'site!. Included are my scratchbuilt BR38.2 where it's used with a Power1 module, but also in models from Roco and other manufacturers. On the whole we've found that the performance is best under most conditions with the drive parameters left at their factory defaults. And we've managed to tie ourselves in knots getting the decoders to run as well as we'd hoped with Fleischmann 'ringfield' motored locos and modern Liliput. Though both of those can be very tricky to get running really quietly and smoothly, under any circumstances.
It's a shame, but the biggest niggle I have with the Gold isn't the product; it's the instructions. What exactly do the motor configuration CVs do? Zimo and ESU explain what the various motor set-up CVs do and how they work, then provide a set of example settings and routines to optimise them. Lenz suggest you try one of the four settings in-built or make a new one up of your own. Great; so what do they do? And am I going to couple an expensive, vulnerable coreless motor on the end of my Lenz Gold decoder knowing that if I get the CVs wrong I could destroy it? Don't think so...
The number of locos we've got on this site that use Lenz Gold decoders is a good indication of the high esteem in which we hold this decoder family. You'll note that none of them are in use with locos that have coreless motors; but that several Mashima motored locos do use this particular decoder. You'll also note that a great many of them are connected to Power1 modules.
Great stuff. Though after installing and testing the Gold decoder and Power 1 you'll want to go to CV29 and turn off Bit3 to disable the operation under analogue control. Not only does this improve the running anyway, it also allows the Power1 to function properly. You remember what I said about the instructions? Well that little snippet isn't in the manuals either...
Why would you want a Power1 module? After all it roughly doubles the price of the DCC installation. Well the party trick is something like this: I have one of Brawa's excellent V15 diesel shunters. As can be seen from the pictures above this loco is both tiny and orange, yet it's fitted with a Lenz Gold Mini and a Power1 module. It has a rigid 0-4-0 chassis and can be driven, faultlessly, along pretty much any length of track whether it has pointwork or other features, whether it's clean or not. Well that'd be pretty good at any reasonable speed. But what about at a crawl? No problem! In fact the Gold + Power1 combination is so good that you can drive the loco across a piece of paper!
And it's proved to be a repeatable experiment. The BR38.2 has a Gold + Power1 and has turned a slightly hesitant runner into one of the best locos I've got. A friend of mine fitted one to an 0-gauge shunting loco with a rigid chassis and it's now a faultless performer...
The Lenz Silver uses much of the same drive technology as the Lenz Gold, only has fewer features and no USP. I have used a couple of them in modern Roco steam locos; in the interests of standardisation this has become the de-facto decoder for my Roco BR50s (as shown in the picture above). Like the Gold the drive is smooth, quiet and powerful when used with pretty much any conventional motor. As such it's a recommended beastie, though the ESU LokPilotv3.0 is now giving it a run for my money having better instructions on how to set up the motor CVs and comes at a slightly cheaper price.
Both the Gold and Silver decoders represent the current state of the art in their respective fields. There's no doubt that the Gold is the real star of the show, though that's primarily because it can be used with the Power1 module.
Additionally the compatibility of these decoders with your control system is pretty much guaranteed, Lenz is still the only system conforming to both NEM and NMRA standards.
As has been well covered in these pages I identified that on-board power storage was possible with DCC decoders not long after I started fiddling with the technology. To the best of my knowledge the Gold and Power1 is the only system available off the shelf to offer that particular advantage. What's also interesting is that it's more effective than the energy storage capability that can be attached to Zimo decoders; particularly when you consider the size of the Power1 module. It would be good if the Power1 circuit was available for those of us who aren't afraid of wielding our soldering irons...
Very good with conventional motors, performance is largely unknown with others. Peerless running of Gold when combined with Power1 module. Excellent warranty. Widely available. Good compatibility with a variety of DCC control equipment.
Instructions need amending to include better details on how to tailor motor drive CVs and the need to alter CV29 to get the Power1 working on the Gold. Power1 doubles price of DCC installation.