If you’ve been playing racing sims for a while and want to upgrade from an affordable steering wheel, a direct drive wheel is the perfect choice. These expensive wheels might not be for beginners, but feel just like stepping into a real race car. After having done extensive research, we can safely recommend a few incredible picks:
The Top-Rated Direct Drive Wheel Bases for Sim Racing
|Editor's Pick||Wheel||Peak Torque||Score|
|Top Pick||Fanatec Podium DD1||20Nm||92%|
|Runner-Up||Fanatec Podium DD2||25Nm||90%|
|Third Place||SimXperience AccuForce Pro V2||16Nm||87%|
|Fourth Place||Simucube 2 Sport||17Nm||80%|
|Fifth Place||Sim-Plicity SW30||15Nm||74%|
Top Pick: Fanatec Podium DD1
The Fanatec Podium DD1 is, simply put, mastery in the field of direct drive technology. Other than being made of very high-quality metals, and looking the part of a professional simulator set-up, it shines in all it does.
The ultra-low torque will ensure a smooth driving sensation, like the one of belt-driven wheels, while still leaving space for all the other incredible additions. The OLED display allows for incredible levels of data retrieval and, thus, customisation. The upgrade tuning menu hence matches like a wonder, allowing you to adjust things such as steering lock, force-feedback strength, shock, ABS, drift mode, force, spring, damper, and force affect intensity. The integrated electronics within wheel base housing make it so that you will never experience latency issues, instead getting immediate feedback from your sim.
Finally, Fanatec has assured buyers that the DD1 is not only compatible with all their peripherals that are currently on the market, but with all the peripherals Fanatec will make in the future.
The DD1 does not come cheap, as very few direct drive wheels do, but it does everything commendably. If you’re looking for a racing sim investment, you’ve found it. For more information, read our complete review of the Fanatec DD1.
Runner-Up: Fanatec Podium DD2
The Fanatec Podium DD2 can simply be described with one word: peak. Imagine taking all the excellent features of the DD1, dialling those to 11, and adding some select new features. The only reason it takes second place is the significant jump in price from the DD1.
The DD2 is the first ever wheel to have a direct drive motor optimised for racing simulator applications, and it shows. It achieves a peak torque of 25Nm, which is identical to the torque output in most real race cars which use power steering, and even in the harshest racing conditions the holding torque is never less than 18Nm. If you have a preferred wheel which is heavier and are thus afraid it might have a negative impact on your simulating experience fear not. The DD2’s motor speed and acceleration does not suffer from heavy wheels.
The last detail we will mention (amongst this sea of excellent features) is the possibility to attach both an h-shift and sequential shifter contemporarily, giving you the liberty to freely choose one or the other depending on preference and situation.
The excellence of DD wheels does not come cheap, but it’s no joke when we say that this is truly the pinnacle of racing sim equipment. Read our full review of the DD2 here.
Third Place: Accuforce Pro V2
The feedback this wheel gives the user is truly unparalleled, balancing the torque and torque resolution perfectly. And don’t worry, much like the wheel gives you precise feedback, it also gives the sim pinpoint accurate data. The motor updated 50,000 times per second, and the game is provided the information you input in less than 2 milliseconds. Even for races which are decided by a split hair this is incredibly fast.
One of the most impressive additions is the auto-optimize feature. This means that the wheel will be able to change its settings to best mirror what you need. It can be auto-optimized to fit your driving style, your driving line, what track you’re on, what car you’re using, how these two interact. Simply put it’s your own little engineering department inside the wheel itself.
The wheel itself is still built with high quality items and materials, but they simply don’t feel as top of the range as the ones the DD1 or DD2 uses. This is perhaps the only criticism we have for this wheel, and if that’s not praise enough then nothing will be able to satisfy your needs.
Fourth Place: Simucube 2 Sport
Another impressive addition to the DD wheel family, the Simucube 2 Sport will have you feeling every grain of dust your wheels touch
- Natural Signal Processing
- Unmatched grade angle precision
- Passive cooling
The Simcube 2 also laudably fills the shoes of direct drive wheels. Perhaps not as well-known as Fanatec, this wheel will have you loving every second of the ultra-accurate feedback it shoots back at you. Thanks to the natural signal processing it employs, you will be able to feel the force feedback exactly as was intended by the physics engine of your sim game. Of course this means the wheel is only as good as the game your running (if you’re not sure what to get while you wait for 2020’s new releases check out our guide on the best sim games available thus far) but it means that the game you’re running can perform exactly as it was meant to. Natural sign processing also includes natural damping, inertia and friction filters. Coupled with the robotics grade angle sensors which grant unmatched angle precision, every damp part of the track, every time you graze the gravel when you understeer a turn, every little physical phenomenon will be indistinguishable from its real world counterpart. The added benefit of the passive cooling system also means that your wheel will consume less and make less noise, allowing you for a totally immersive experience. All in all, a great choice.
Fifth Place: Sim-Plicity SW30
Perhaps not at the same levels as others on this list, the SW30 is still a great DD wheel
- High adjustability
- Slightly cheaper
- Long warranty
The SW30 is not the top pick in terms of DD wheels, although it remains a very good one. By far its biggest praise is the adjustability it allows for, and the simplicity with which changes can be made. A simple window on your computer will have you adjusting everything from its rotation and torque, to advanced telemetry options and the creation of profiles. This wheel will leave you tinkering in order to find what options work best for you for hours. And this is by all means a positive. It will obviously take some time and trial and error, but the satisfaction of improving your time by a few seconds because you took the effort to test out what works best, will have you feeling like a bona fide Niki Lauda. The fact that the wheel is covered by a 2 year warranty is also definitely a bonus, as the wheel is cheaper, but still not cheap. Speaking of price this is where it’s difficult to make a judgment call. It’s true that the SW30 is cheaper than the other options on this list, but it’s not excessively cheaper. Considering the very high price for any direct wheel, perhaps it’s better to save up for the DD1 or any of the above options unless you simply can’t wait to get your hands on any (still excellent) DD wheel.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the benefits of direct drive steering wheels?
Direct drive wheels have a few advantages over other types of steering wheels, such as belt- or gear-driven wheels. For starters, they are considerably more precise, giving the user 1:1 feedback with the game. This hence means that no detail is lost. Another benefit is that they are less susceptible to wear than wheels based on other technologies.
- Can you use any rim with a direct drive wheel base?
Not all rims will work with direct drive wheel bases. That being said, companies have taken steps to make most rims work on most of their products. In order to be safe we always recommend you check on the product’s website for compatibility.
Open Sim Wheel: Build Your Own Direct Drive Wheel
Open Sim Wheel is an online movement centred on creating homemade direct drive wheels by utilizing separate servo motors, motor drives, USB interfaces, motor mounts, wheel hubs, wheels, paddle shifters and many other materials. This allows for a very powerful and tailored DD set-up for a cost slightly lower than those of premade wheels from brands such as Fanatec. The process is complicated, and not intended for those with little experience, but can be hugely rewarding. Think of it as slightly akin to building your own PC, but for sim racing.