I’ve been working with the stunning Simucube 2 pro DD sim racing wheelbase over the past week so, today I’m going to review my experience of unboxing, installation, setting it up and most importantly, driving with it. With some trepidation over a migration from the Fanatec ecosystem, I’m keenly excited to get this wheelbase installed and running. Read on to find out more…
The boxes from G-Performance arrived in the UK about 12 hours after I ordered them. A Simucube 2 Pro, a Cube Controls Formula Sport Wireless wheel and a Cube Controls GT PRO OMP steering wheel. Clearly Christmas has come early for me this year.
Striking build quality
The thing that strikes you about the Simucube 2 Pro is its immense weight. It takes you a little by surprise; and, as a result you find yourself well aware of the care you need to take removing from its box and handling it. I’m sure dropping it before it’s even installed would not go down well!
The case and hub are clearly, very beautifully machined. The case is solid metal with a strong, industrial feel. The case also acts as the heat sink for the device. It’s very quiet – no noisy fans here.
As a contained unit, just like the Fanatec DD2, all of the control electronics are situated in the wheelbase casing, rather than needing a separate controller box. This makes it easier from a cable management point of view although the two power supply units with this earlier revision unit took me a little by surprise. At a peak current of 24 amps, you can see why this might be necessary – although with the units shipped at the end of October 2020, one PSU is all that is required.
It struck me that Simucube’s ethos must be to over engineer everything and leave plenty of ceiling for peak loads and large torque events. It’s so sturdy you get the sense that this Simucube will still be here, and possibly functioning, in thousands of years from now.
On the back of the wheelbase, the sockets include the USB interface, the remote power switch (E-Stop Connector), the power switch, the Simucube Expansion connector and the Wireless Wheel receiver – for which a wireless aerial is supplied.
Simucube 2 pro – the review
I worked with this wheel for a total of 5 days. 3 full time days of driving (~20 hours at the wheel) with a Dallara F3 car and the Global Mazda MX5 cup car. I spent about a day on installation and familiarization with Simucube’s excellent software, TrueDrive and another day fine tuning setups modified from the preset library provided in the TrueDrive software.
I’m currently running an RSEAT RS1 rig before my new 80/20 rig arrives in a few weeks time. No matter, while the RSEAT RS1 rigs are known to have some flex in the pedal base, they’re still just about adequate for direct drive wheelbases.
Fitting this Simucube to the small mounting plate on the RSEAT though is a fiddly job compared to the simplicity of mounting to the wheelbase plate of an 80/20 rig (for example the Sim Lab P1 X would be the ideal solution), and so I did have to drill some holes and do some proper fitting work to make sure the wheelbase was mounted nicely.
It’s times like this you wish you had a proper bench drill in your garage. I carefully marked out the wheelbase plate from the RSEAT, and drilled 2mm pilot holes first, being sure to use a good metal drill bit.
This made drilling the 8.5mm holes much easier. Just be sure not to apply too much pressure or you’ll end up with nasty burrs on the underneath of the metal plate:
Because of the narrow plate, I found that inverting the side mounting plates of the Simucube wheel mount worked well.
Here are all of the component parts assembled and ready to be put together:
The wheel mount fits very snugly around the raised center of the wheelbase face. This makes assembly very simple, just insert the bolts (provided), let them find the thread and tighten:
I chose to install the RSEAT base plate to the unit and then attach the completed assembly to the rig. Here we are, fitted and ready for the next stage:
Assembling the Simucube SQR hub
Simucube’s SQR quick release hub is a very high quality item indeed. The machining at the factory must be almost perfect, because the QR adapter slots together perfectly. There’s absolutely no movement in the hub (unlike the proprietary Fanatec system that flexes and has play) – it’s be far the best hub I’ve ever tested.
There’s a quick release pin (pictured above) to secure the QR system which fits very snugly, again the tolerances are such that there won’t be any play once fitted.
All of the bolts required for hub assembly are provided with the Simucube (the wheel comes with very little).
I elected to use the 70mm PCD front and back mounting – but there are various options depending on personal preference:
All of the SQR hub components and the back of the Formula Sport Wheel pictured above.
Take care that while you’re assembling the hub mounts, everything lines up so that the wheel will be as close to square to the ground when removing from the SC2. Be sure to tighten every bolt or they will come loose during use (something I discovered from experience).
Attach the completed hub (above) to the wheel and mount on the hub. Once fitted to the wheelbase, it all looks like a really serious bit of kit:
Simucube’s TrueDrive software has a well polished UI which works outside of the Windows Game Controllers properties system. The software doesn’t need installation as such – you download and unzip it to a folder of your choice. Simply run the executable, and that’s it. With the Simucube powered, it will detect that a firmware update is required:
I must say, the process is very slick and intuitive. Just follow the prompts and let TrueDrive install the firmware. There are various prompts and a progress counter along the way, which is all designed for you to feel like you know what’s going on.
Once you’re done with the firmware, reset the wheel center, which is very self-explanatory:
Next, activate high torque mode by clicking “enable high torque”, scroll through the terms and conditions and accept. You only need to do this once!
When high torque mode is set, you need to connect your wireless wheel.
The Cube Controls wireless system is activated when the wheel is switched on, provided the battery is charged (if not, use the USB cable to charge the wheel). On power on, the wheel goes into discovery mode (flashing green led) for 30 seconds. It will automatically identify itself to the wheelbase and appear in the wireless tab (icon on the left).
Just highlight the device and click “Connect selected device”.
With the wheel connected, you’re ready to drive!
Initial test drive – first response
I wanted to see what the wheel felt like “out of the box”.
The wheel in its default state was very easy to come to terms with, with torque set very low, there were no surprises. Obviously it worked first time which is testament to the intuitiveness of the software installation and firmware update procedure.
I found the wheel to be really smooth and a technically really satisfying drive, with bags of track detail felt through the wheel. Inputs and corresponding outputs were all really refined – it drove really well.
Tuning is everything, of course and my initial reaction to the wheel’s settings were that the overall level of force feedback was very low and as a result, track details and opposing forces were also very low. Not my preferred level of feedback!
Here are some early settings after my first test session in the MX5. These were based on the default, “read only” settings in advanced mode, rather than a preset profile, with overall strength, damping, friction and inertia modified.
While my own settings needed some work; I found the preset iRacing profile almost perfect. If you want something that just works – use the presets! I like to understand the settings though; which I think is important for any serious sim racer interested in their gear.
What do the Simucube force feedback settings mean?
As you’ll be making changes to the settings, it’s good to understand how to manage your profiles for iRacing and other simulation packages in TrueDrive. To access the preset profiles, click “Add”. You’ll be presented with a dropdown list of profiles for most major sim racing packages.
You can copy existing profiles and rename them and choose a default that the wheel will run when powered. This is useful feature as (unlike the Fanatec DD2) the Simucube needs quite different settings depending on the sim package and car you’re running.
When setting up Force Feedback, it’s good to take notes on what the wheel is doing, with a view to focusing on these behaviors as areas for improvement.
With the Simucube, I found a few key issues to resolve:
- Low sense of rotation in the car even if FFB was set quite high (very low opposing force)
- Too much track noise for the softness of the car (bumps and kerb detail was too much)
With these two items tackled, I’d be driving a perfect wheelbase! It definitely pays to research the settings yourself, so you understand what you’re going to be changing before you start.
In my case, my steering felt overly light even though I was happy with the overall strength and damping settings. Adding Friction added the opposing force I was looking for. Reducing the damping after adding friction helped too.
To cut out some of the aggressiveness of the track detail, altering the Slew Rate Limit (Nm/ms) helped. Slew rate will slow down the ramp of a force (how quickly do sudden forces manifest themselves at the wheel), which helped to dial down the notchy feeling from the track details.
The options for tuning the Simucube are huge, and without a doubt different cars need differing settings in iRacing. My own MX5 setup was quite different to the setup I created for the Dallara F3.
Simucube 2 PRO settings for Mazda MX5 in iRacing:
Initially I struggled with a light, vague but very smooth feel. There was initially very little resistance and no Spring (the wheel didn’t want to return to center). I found increasing the overall strength and using damping / friction settings gave me a better sense of weight in the rack and critically I found a good opposing force feel in the mid corner, with a strong sense of rotation (what I mean here is when the car is rotating into a corner, the wheel gives you a sense of how much grip there is available with a constant resistant force. In a real car you feel this through the seat). The SC is probably a little too smooth overall for this type of car but I found a setup that allowed really accurate and rewarding driving.
vs. Simucube 2 PRO settings for Dallara F3 in iRacing:
I never really got on top of the setup of this car. The problem is always in finding feedback in the opposing force under rotation. The window (where you’re rotating the car and need to feel that the tyres are on the edge of their available grip) is extremely narrow in the F3 anyway. A strong opposing force that ramps up as you hit mid corner is the way a wheel communicates rotation, over rotation or a slide!
I found that no matter what I did, I never really got this feedback through the wheel. The other problem is that the track detail (kerb vibration, bumps and so on) seemed really over emphasised compared to the chassis stiffness of the car. Put simply, the vibrations and bumps were too much for a car even of this stiffness. Like the MX5, however, the car was very easy to drive consistently and the feel was very smooth. With more time spent I’m confident I could find settings to my taste to get the wheel perfect.
I must add that I did my best time around Silverstone GP with this setup!
The Simucube 2 Pro is a really, really nice piece of sim racing gear. It’s among the smoothest and by far the most intuitive wheels I’ve ever driven. The feedback makes a lot of sense and you can really drive accurately and consistently with this wheel.
For me the build quality and the SQR hub really stand out. The wireless wheel worked seamlessly for me with no issues over almost 5 days of driving, tweaking and poking around. I enjoyed pumping in lap after lap and had no problem improving my pace consistently.
I think with all sim racing wheelbases, there are pros and cons to ownership, and I found myself reflecting on the advantages over Fanatec’s flagship DD2:
Fanatec DD2 vs Simucube 2 Pro
- Enabling torque on power up is easier with the DD2
- You can tune the wheel via the controller menu on the DD2 display with the wheel
- Less initial config is required with the SC2 and the presets for iRacing are really good
- The Simucube is smoother and has a higher build quality
- The hub on the SC beats the Fanatec hands down with no play whatsoever
- The Simucube won’t lock you into their ecosystem the way the Fanatec does which means a wider choice of hubs and wheels
- The Simucube needs more attention to the FFB settings to get the feel exactly right for each car or sim package you’re running, which can make it a more specialist / professional wheel – if you’re the type to just want to plug and play, there are some great presets for you, but if you’re a sim racing enthusiast who wants a platform to develop on; the Simucube 2 Pro really ticks the boxes.