“MJOLNIR” - The Avant Hammer Controller
By now, word has spread concerning a new electronic slot car controller that is new to the North American market. This controller is the Avant Hammer M Controller produced by Avant Slot. Green in color, the Hammer has a rather awkward appearance. Do not be fooled by this appearance as this is a powerful new adversary on the slot car controller market.
Most slot car racers are driven by a controller’s features then by its’ price. The Hammer offers a wide range of adjustable functions for a very affordable price in the $130 USD range. In fact, the Hammer is a tough controller to beat for the price considering the adjustability and features.
The Hammer is designed for use with analog slot car tracks and is capable of handling the power required by larger 1/24 scale slot car motors. By design the Hammer runs from 9 volts to 22 volts, and will handle amperage draw of all the modern European Slot Car Motors such as Avant Slot, Slot.it NSR etc. I have even tested with a Group 12 motor which draws 20 amps and the controller ran fine.
It comes with a “female” XLR jack ready to interface with other XLR jacks. “Male to male” XLR jack converters are available to use if your local track has “female” XLR jacks built into the drivers’ stations. If you prefer to remove the XLR jack, the standard red/black/white wires can be soldered to alligator clips. Perhaps the one fault with the slot car industry as a whole is the lack of a universal set up concerning XLR jacks. In other words, do not take it for granted that the controller will work just by plugging it into another XLR jack. Fortunately, the Hammer will not have a melt down should wires get crossed. If the receiving XLR jack does not match the wire locations on the Hammer’s XLR jack, the controller will simply not function (in fact, the controller will tell you there is a short circuit via the LED display on the top.)
To keep matters simple, I removed the XLR jack from the end of my Hammer controller and soldered alligator clips on the end of each lead wire. Connection to a drivers’ station is then straightforward: white to white, black to black, and red to red. If wired and connected correctly, the LED display will show the voltage of the power supply, the x and y acceleration settings as well as the standard brake setting. If you see the numbers and letters 1, 2, V, 7, 3, 9, this means the track power is set at 12 volts (1, 2, V), the X acceleration is set at 7, the Y acceleration is set at 3 and the brakes are set at 9. It is very important to remember that your car MUST be on the track and the track power must be on for the controller to register these values. Having the car on the track and the power set to “on” completes the circuit and allows the controller to work. The circuit must be complete in order to adjust the Hammers’ features.
So what are the X acceleration, the Y acceleration and the brake settings? The brake setting is simple enough to understand. If the brakes are set at 0, the car has little or no braking potential. If the brakes are set at 9, the car will stop on a dime. When looking at the controller as if you were holding it, the brakes are adjusted by the buttons on either side closest to the trigger. The left side button decreases the brakes while the right side button increases the brakes. In addition to the regular function of the brakes, the Hammer features what is called “DYNAMIC BRAKING” (DB). The DB feature can be set in the following manner: first, hold either of the brake buttons down for 2 seconds until a “d” appears in the LED display. Second, use the left and right buttons to decrease (left button) or increase (right button) the dynamic brakes.
So what is “Dynamic Braking”? As most of us know, the typical brake features on a controller are set according to a complete release of the trigger. With the Hammer controller, the normal brake setting controls the power of the brakes when the trigger is released from full throttle. The DB setting comes into play when the trigger is released from a partial throttle position. The Hammer also has the ability to learn how much brake power to apply when the trigger is released from multiple partially-open throttle positions up to the maximum DB setting.
“SAY WHAT?” Ok, here it is in simpler terms: your prized Slot.It Porsche 956 comes screaming down the front straight into a sharp right hand turn. You will try to stay on the throttle wide open until the last possible second. When the trigger is released to apply the brakes, your 956 stops nearly instantaneously before accelerating through the first corner. Suddenly, your 956 is presented with turns 2,3,4,5, and 6 in rapid succession with each corner having a different radius. There is no time to open the throttle to full-blast to allow for maximum braking effect. This is where the dynamic brake feature comes into play. If the DB setting is 5, then the car will not brake as rapidly through this technical section of the track because you never open the throttle to full power. In fact, the controller adjusts the braking depending on how much throttle is applied before the trigger is released. The end result is that the car will appear to float through the technical sections rather than requiring the typical “point and shoot” method of controlling the car.
“What is this X and Y acceleration about?” The X and Y acceleration settings refer to the sensitivity of the trigger. Avant Slot describes X as the slow component of acceleration and Y as the fast component. Let me try to bring this into simpler terms. The X setting determines the sensitivity of the trigger as it is first depressed. The Y setting controls the sensitivity of the trigger as it nears “wide-open”. Both X and Y can be set from 0 to 9. When X is set to a high number, the power is applied in a more gradual manner to the car. If Y is set to a high value, the car will literally jump off the line at high speeds. Some drivers like a slower starting car that has a wide range of trigger sensitivity. In this case, a setting of 7 or 8 for X and a setting of 2 or 3 for Y results in a slower start with a wide range of acceleration.
While some drivers enjoy a wide range of throttle response, other drivers want to car to jump off the line and be at full speed almost immediately. In this case, set X between 4 or 5 and Y between 6 or 7. This gives the car a very short slow start while accelerating to maximum speed quickly. In other words, if X is high and Y is low, the driver has a complete range of speeds to work with as the trigger is depressed. If X is low and Y is high, the driver has a car that accelerates quickly yet sacrifices a range of different speeds to work with. Either setting is correct based on how the driver likes his controller and car to respond to his input to the trigger. The X component is set by the buttons closest to you as if you are holding the controller and the Y component is set by the middle buttons. As with the brake features, the X and Y buttons on the left side decrease their values while the right side buttons increase their values.
Ok, so now you may understand the basics of throttle response with the Hammer M Controller. Let us turn our attention to the “anti-spin” system or launch control, if you will, with the Hammer M. The anti-spin system is activated by pressing the middle button on either side for 2 seconds. A “t” will appear in the electronic display indicating that the system is active. As with the normal trigger sensitivity adjustments, there is an X and Y component to this system as well. As long as the “t” is displayed, you can adjust the speed of power change by pressing the buttons on either side of the controller that are farthest away from you. Pressing the right side button will increase the speed while pressing the left button will decrease the speed of the power change.
Trigger sensitivity for the anti-spin system is controlled by the button closest to you. As with the speed of power change, you can increase the trigger sensitivity with the right side button and decrease it with the left side button.
So how does the anti-spin system work? The system works by reducing the power applied to the car as it is accelerating out of a corner. The system essentially decreases the amperage applied to the motor thereby reducing wheel spin. How fast the power is applied to the car is determined by the speed of power change buttons. If the value is set at 1, the power is applied slowly whereas a setting of 9 will apply full power almost immediately. These values are further enhanced by the ability to control the trigger sensitivity as described above. In other words, the anti-spin system allows you to control how much power is applied to the car as it exit’s a corner as well as adjusting the trigger sensitivity. The lower the sensitivity number the slower the car accelerates. The higher the sensitivity number, the faster the car will accelerate.
What is the difference between “speed of power change” and “trigger sensitivity?” The speed of power change is a measure of how far the trigger must move to reach maximum acceleration. Trigger sensitivity is a measure of how much power is applied throughout the movement of the trigger.
So how good is the Hammer M ? It is the writers’ opinion that this is a very good controller. I would highly suggest removing the XLR plug and adding alligator clips to the controller wires. By doing this, connecting the controller to your track is simple: black to black, white to white and red to red. The anti-spin system is good, however, I find it lacking when compared to my Engage Controller. On the other hand, the dynamic braking system is highly useful, perhaps more so than any anti-spin system. The Hammer M is far more adjustable than my Third Eye Controller and is very close to the adjustability found on the Engage Controllers. Also consider the price of the three controllers I have mentioned. A Third Eye Controller costs nearly $275.00 USD, the Engage Controller retails for nearly $400.00 USD while the Hammer M will only cost $135.00 - $150.00 USD. For the adjustability found with the Hammer M, it is a bargain. I have found my Hammer M Controller to be the equal of my Engage Controller and far superior to my Third Eye Controller. In general, lap times and car control are identical between the Engage and Hammer M while the Third Eye demands very precise control of the car upon entrance and exiting a corner.
In closing, although it is difficult to make minute adjustments to the Hammer M during a race as opposed to the other controllers, it is a very powerful controller with a wide range of settings so it can be adjusted to the drivers’ preference. I have won several races using my Hammer M . I find it most useful when running cars in classes that do not allow weighting of no-mag cars. I will frequently use the Hammer M interchangeably with my Engage Controller.