Did you recently get into sim racing? Maybe you’ve been doing it casually for a while, but now you want to enter the pro side. Either way, one recommendation you’d get from most pros is to go for a Direct Drive Wheel (DDW).
In simple terms, a Direct Drive Wheel is a specialized sim racing steering wheel that has a ”direct-drive mechanism” between the output and the drive. It offers more machine-human interaction than its counterparts.
If you’re still a little unsure about what a Direct Drive steering wheel is or how it works, keep reading. We also give you some suggestions for the best DDW wheels to buy.
Performance Indicators of a Direct Drive Wheel
When you’re in the process of buying a Direct Drive Wheel, you’ll come across many unfamiliar terms. Many of these are meant to indicate the wheel’s performance. Let’s look at some of these indicators.
- Force Feedback: In any sim racing wheel, force feedback refers to the ability of the wheel to simulate the forces and sensations that a real vehicle would create through its steering mechanism. The feedback has more fidelity and detail in a DDW.
- Dynamic Range: The dynamic range is the degree to which the wheel’s mechanism can replicate a wide range of forces and torque. A high dynamic range means better fidelity and a more realistic driving experience.
- Zero Backlash: (Read near-zero) Backlash is the gap or free-moving space between the components of the wheel’s mechanism. In Direct Drive Wheels, this gap is almost negligible.
- Damping: Damping simply means energy loss. When you turn the wheel, some of the energy you put in is lost due to various factors. The lower the damping value, the less energy loss. Low damping is a characteristic of Direct Drive Wheels.
- Torque Transmission: Torque is the force that is generated when you turn the wheel. The efficiency with which this torque is transferred to the vehicle in the simulation varies from wheel to wheel. DDWs have a smooth torque transmission to prevent lags during racing.
Some other features of a Direct Drive sim wheel are low inertia, fast response, high resolution, and signal filtering.
Applications of a Direct Drive Wheel
Most racers might think a Direct Drive sim wheel is the only type of DDW, but these wheels actually have several applications. For instance, the 1919 Milwaukee Road class EP-2 also uses the direct-drive mechanism in its locomotive.
The same is true for the East Japan Railway Company E331. Cars in the late 19th century also used direct-drive hub motors.
Besides wheels, direct-drive mechanisms are also used in other places. These include gearless wind turbines, telescope mounts, phonographs, ski lifts, and CNC machines.
What to Look For In a Direct Drive Sim Wheel?
Are you looking for a Direct Drive steering wheel for your sim racing setup? We’d recommend checking these features before purchasing.
Yes, we’re starting with cost because some wheels can be up to $1,000. If you have that much to spare, go ahead and treat yourself.
But we understand that everyone’s budget might be different. So, we’ll tell you to keep an eye out for reviews of lower-priced options, which can sometimes be just as good.
Do you play on your PC? Or the Xbox? Maybe you’re more of a PlayStation fan.
Compatibility is a must. You might get the most expensive and best-reviewed Direct Drive Wheel, but if it’s not compatible with the platform you play on, it’s of no use. So, make sure to double-check compatibility before purchasing.
Don’t make the direct-drive mechanism the only deciding factor. Look for additional features that come with the wheel. Some of these include:
- Adjustable force feedback
- Quick release mechanism
- Rotary encoder for precise steering control
- Adjustable pedals
- Customizable button layout
The torque rating or torque output tells you how powerful the wheel is. It’s measured in Nm or Newton meters.
A high torque means the wheel will give you a more realistic and immersive driving experience. However, you don’t necessarily have to go for the highest value.
Decide which type of racing you’ll be doing and choose a torque rating accordingly. For example, a lower torque rating may work fine for rally racing, while a higher rating might be better for F1.
Ideally, you want a Direct Drive steering wheel that can last the test of time. If it has a carbon fiber or aluminum build, that’s a good sign.
We’d recommend buying a Direct Drive sim wheel from a brand that offers timely firmware and software updates. The updates ensure you’re always getting the best optimization and performance.
Best Direct Drive Wheel Options for Sim Racers
By now, you should be familiar with the functioning of a Direct Drive Wheel. We share a few options below to help you get started.
Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro
If you don’t mind buying a sim wheel at a slightly pricier range, check out the Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro wheel. It is the official DDW for Gran Turismo and has been licensed for PS4 and PS5 consoles. Its direct-drive system offers detailed forced feedback with a linear performance.
The wheel also comes with Fanatec’s Advanced Tuning Menu that you can use to fine-tune wheel settings, such as force feedback strength. Carbon-fiber-enhanced composite is used to make the steering axis, which makes the wheel lightweight.
T818 Ferrari SF1000 Simulator
The T818 Ferrari SF1000 Simulator is another great option since it’s a 1:1 replica of Ferrari’s single-seater racing car of the same name. Featuring 21 LEDs and 69 game options, this wheel allows you to recreate the real-life racing experience.
It also has 25 buttons, including seven encoders to control various settings. As for the build, the 100% carbon fiber chassis minimizes weight without compromising on stability.
Logitech Pro Racing Wheel
We have to warn you this one’s a bit heavy on the pocket. But the Logitech Direct Drive Wheel is one of the best options with Tru Force Feedback. Its layout is not only intuitive but also customizable. Simply adjust it the way you want.
The contactless hall-effect sensors on the gear shift paddles make for precise control. Logitech claims that it is durable enough to last for not one but ”millions of gear shifts.”
Another cool feature of this Direct Drive steering wheel is its dual-clutch analog paddles that you can configure your way. Plus, the RPM LED patterns can be configured with five racing profiles.
Moza Racing R5 Bundle
If you’re on a budget and want a couple of things in a single package without breaking the bank, we’d say the Moza Racing R5 bundle is the way to go. The 5.5 Nm torque of the ES Steering Wheel is coupled with its support for Intelligent Telemetry and a microfiber leather build.
Other items in the package include the SR-P Lite pedals and the DD R5 Direct Drive system. The latter has an aviation-grade aluminum alloy housing material and offers infinite rotation for the steering wheel angle. As for the pedals, they are made using high-strength steel and can be adjusted based on your preferences for height and spacing.
SIMUCUBE 2 Sport Direct Drive System
If you already have a non-DDW but you want to amp up its functionality, you can get the SIMUCUBE 2 DDW system. It offers torque up to 17 Nm, which gives the system a high price but also makes it extremely responsive and accurate.
The ultra-low latency of this system further makes your gaming experience a hit. You’ll be able to correct your slides quicker than your opponents.
The SIMUCUBE 2 also features a quick-release system, which is precision-machined for a rock-solid feel. On top of that, the direct-drive system has a high-efficiency motor that guides the heat in a way to prevent overheating.
We can sum up this discussion by saying that a Direct Drive Wheel can do wonders for your sim racing experience. It won’t only make you faster on the track but also provide a more immersive and realistic feel.
Some brands that make DDWs are Moza Racing, Logitech, Thrustmaster, Fanatec, and Track Racer. It’s up to you to decide which brand you want to buy from. Besides DDW, check out the wheel’s compatibility, additional features, price, build, and warranty before making the purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
Direct Drive Wheels have a phenomenon called torque ripple, which happens due to the motor’s magnetic field. Torque ripple can cause vibration in the wheel, rocking your seat or pedal slightly. The extent of vibration will depend on the quality of the DDW system you are using.
It depends on the ventilation system in the housing of your DDW system. Some systems have ventilation fans or holes to dissipate heat, while others use materials with high thermal conductivity to prevent overheating. If your DDW doesn’t have a cooling fan, don’t worry. It’s likely the system vents heat via ambient air. The mechanism is common in Thrustmaster wheels, such as the T818.