Simucube, the sim racing product line of Granite Devices, produce some of the most powerful, robust, and immersive direct drive (DD) wheelbases money can buy. With roots in the open sim wheel (OSW) and self-build field, for many years, Simucube products were only a viable option for the more technically-minded.
But now, thanks to the introduction of the Simucube 2 range of wheelbases that are simple enough not to frustrate or intimidate people who are new to the direct drive force feedback market, the company enjoys more widespread success in the sim racing market than ever.
With its current product roster offering three choices in the Simucube 2 collection; Sport, Pro, and Ultimate, the company aims to serve the top-end spectrum of the direct-drive scene. Built to serve different market segments, each model offers its unique selling points, with the Sport catering to DD newbies, the Pro serving more experienced drivers, while hard-core professionals, who crave the ultimate experience, are best matched with, you guessed it, the Ultimate, which to me looks satisfyingly Kollmorgenesque.
Constructed with industrial-grade direct drive torque motors, all three models essentially have zero torque ripple or magnetic cogging. The angle sensors, drive electronics, and CNC machined full-metal parts are all made by Granite Devices to complete the monstrous motor and unleash its maximum potential.
I’ll go into more features present in each model soon, like the Simucube Quick Release (SQR) system, ultra-low latency mode, high dynamic range, and natural signal processing, but before that, I’d like to share a bit of Simucube’s history and why it’s parent company Granite Devices, make it a reliable and skilled producer of sim racing hardware.
Company background and highlights
Granite Devices began as a hobby project of its co-founder, Kontkanen Tero, who embarked on a project to build a seriously performing CNC mill/router. According to the company’s bio, he came by a set of very nice AC servo motors but lacked suitable servo drives.
After realizing the limitations of affordability and availability of choices at the time, Kontkanen dug deeper into the inner workings of servo motors. After a while, he realized that a fully competent AC servo control was attainable with just a handful of the latest electric components with the help of sophisticated real-time algorithms.
This idea led to a yearlong project to accomplish a competent yet straightforward AC servo motor drive with state-of-the-art high-bandwidth field-oriented control (FOC).
Since the founder’s core philosophies included making products rock-solid, reliable, and flawless in operation, the name Granite Devices seemed appropriate.
More than simulation
Like I said earlier, one of the great things about Granite Devices is that it’s much more than just a sim racing hardware manufacturer. The company specializes in producing commercial-grade control chips for stepping motors, drives for servo motors, and many other industrial-use components, meaning it has expert-knowledge relating to all sorts of industrial-type applications.
Seeing an opportunity to enter into a very targeted market, Granite Devices took its knowledge of motors and control chips into the simulation world, resulting in the SimuCUBE force feedback controller, the predecessor to the Simucube 2.
A quick look at Granite Device’s website will demonstrate the number of motors and controllers it makes, and the key advantage to this is that it means the company does not need to source components from other manufacturers. This is just something to keep in mind when you’re thinking about value and reliability, as constructing everything in-house undoubtedly results in better quality control.
Also, as of today, the founders of Granite Devices are still personally in charge of inspiring the creation of new designs, and it’s nice to see that they continue to take an active role in the development and fabrication of the latest products.
First of all, I want to quickly run you through the three different models that Granite Devices offers in the Simucube 2 range.
We have the Simucube 2 Sport, the Simucube 2 Pro, and the Simucube 2 Ultimate. Each model in the Simucube 2 range has been optimized to perform at the highest level and with sub-millisecond latency, while the main differences between the three lie in the maximum torque, slew rate, and angle sensor used. Each wheelbase ensures rigid mechanical coupling with the wheel, which is the fundamental requirement for direct drive, and they all feature SQR as standard. Furthermore, thanks to the Simucube 2’s dedicated processor for motor control, and another processor for interfacing with PC simulators, the ultra-low latency is stable and consistent.
Another new addition that comes with the Simucube 2 is True Drive; a PC configuration application for all the Simucube 2 devices. This intuitive and easy to use app makes tweaking the wheelbases to one’s taste easier than ever.
Of course, there are more variables between the three wheelbases, like different emergency stop buttons, power supply wattages, and different dimensions, but one key difference is in the warranty offered with each model. The Sport and the Pro both come with a 24-month warranty, while the Ultimate comes with a fantastic 60-month warranty. It’s reassuring to see that the company believe in its devices longevity and offer such excellent worldwide guarantees.
A closer look at the technical details
Going through the specs in a bit more detail, we can see that the Sport comes with a 17 Nm max-torque motor, the Pro has 25 Nm, and the Ultimate has 32 Nm. To put that in perspective, the forces you feel in an actual streetcar are usually somewhere around 7-10 Nm, so what’s on offer from all three Simucube 2 wheelbases is above and beyond the torque levels most people are going to require for driving in simulations.
However, what you get with that additional torque and the additional slew rate are increased responsiveness and an overall amplified sensation of realism, which are the keys to DD wheelbases’ superiority over other force feedback technologies.
Looking at the angle sensors used in the three Simucube 2 iterations, we can see that both the Sport and the Pro have a 22-bit absolute sensor, and the Ultimate uses a 24-bit Hiperface sensor. A higher angle sensor number represents more points of data throughout the rotation of the wheel. Basically, with a higher value, more subtle movements in the steering are transmitted into the sim; thus, the more accurate the steering will be. That said, you eventually reach a point where it becomes indistinguishable, and it’s often a hot topic that’s debated on various sim racing forums as to what that value is.
As for slew rate, this refers to the speed at which an amplifier can respond to a signal. In sim racing is relates to how quickly a wheelbase can respond to steering wheel rotation. The lower the slew rate, the sloppier the steering starts to feel, diminishing the overall experience. While each of the Simucube 2 wheelbases offer fantastic slew rates, it’s wise to bear this in mind when deciding which model is suitable for you. The Sport offers 4.8 Nm/ms, the Pro provides 8 Nm/ms, and the Ultimate delivers a whopping 9.5 Nm/ms.
All three models also incorporate Simucube Wireless Wheel (SWW), which automatically connects to a Simucube Wireless Wheel by briefly pressing both paddle shifters simultaneously. The wireless wheel transmission protocol has been specially engineered to provide consistent and unbreakable millisecond range response times and an extremely long battery life of over five years.
Simucube’s SQR hub is a very high-quality item with what seems to be perfectly machined parts. The QR adapter slots together perfectly, and there’s absolutely no movement in the hub whatsoever. In my opinion, while there are plenty of other mounting options available it’s probably the best QR hub currently available for DD wheelbases from any brand. Not to mention that it’s included with the Simucube 2 Sport and Pro!
The SQR guarantees zero-backlash and rock-solid operation with full-metal construction even under the direct drive wheelbase’s extreme torques. Moreover, its guided rail design ensures perfect lock-in every time, and the spring preloaded pin mechanism will ensure non-degrading tight coupling over thousands of swap cycles. Just like the rest of Simucube’s products, it’s been built to be virtually indestructible. The only theoretically wearing part is the spring-loaded pin mechanism; however, to combat this, Simucube has made it out of standard stock parts, making it more user-serviceable and easy to replace.
Simucube development and progression
What was once a complex DIY DD wheel system has become a complete and user-friendly package, and the Simucube 2 wheelbases are the next logical step in the ongoing DD wheel revolution. I think the guys at Simucube have certainly raised the bar with this new family of wheelbases with everything except the power supplies now contained within the wheelbase. Compared to the original SimuCUBE solution, it’s a noticeably smaller package but at the same time brings more and faster processing power to the table.
The True Drive software makes setting up painless and completes the overall sim racing system offered by Granite Devices. There’s also speculation that the Simucube team is working on an even more straightforward user interface for those who want to adjust some sliders and get on with their driving fun.
Speaking of driving fun, you’ll most certainly get your fair share with any of the three Simucube 2 wheelbases, thanks to the newly developed motors. These are noticeably smoother than the midge motors from the SimuCUBE 1, and the developers have definitely achieved what they set out to do. I am incredibly impressed with the new SQR solution that they’ve come up with here. It’s a very solid physical connection with no perceivable flex.
Another piece I like in this kit is the emergency stop assembly; with the front plate made of metal and a very clever power switch integration, it’s a pleasure to use. Overall, I think this is a clear winner for the team at Simucube. You can tell they put a lot of time and effort into the Simucube 2, and I think it has really paid off for them.