A second review from Richard Macnaughtan, this time analyzing and testing a DSD sequential shifter, one of the last DSD additions and first step in 3D printed simracing DSD devices also. A huge review exposing all different feelings and sensations obtained through this shifter. Happy reading!
Recently I have been lucky enough to test the prototype of the new Derek Speare Designs 2015 DSD Pro Sequential Shifter nicknamed the “funstick”. I have been following this shifter with great interest since Derek first announced it. I was really intrigued to see how well a 3D printed shifter would hold up to the abuses of Sim Racing. Overall I really love this shifter, it has replaced my old DSD sequential shifter as my shifter of choice. Mostly I love the aesthetics of it and the solidness of its design and function. I race a lot of GSCE and it looks right at home in a stock car as well as GT, rally and V8 supercars. Over the last while I have been beefing up my rig with tougher gear like the DSD pedals and Accuforce, this shifter really fits the bill as a tough as nails, bad ass race shifter. I am all about immersion in racing and I love to solid feeling of this shifter, I love the weight of the shifter and I love the looks of this shifter.
I want to run through a few of my points with the shifter, things that I liked, misconceptions I had about the shifter and things I learnt and enjoyed while using the shifter.
Keep in mind that my shifter was the prototype model so the design has changed a bit, more on that later.
First I will start off with my biggest misconception, the 3D printing. To be totally honest when I first saw that this shifter was going to be 3D printed I was highly sceptical about the strength of it. My only exposure to 3D printing was cheap home based extrusion 3D printers like the Ultimaker and Robo 3D printers, basically like an inkjet printer that squirts out plastic. I couldn’t have been proven more wrong when I got to shifter. It is built like a tank, my metal rig bends more than this shifter does and I have no doubt that this shifter will a last a life time. It is made using industrial SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D printing which is just worlds away from the type of 3D printers most people are used to. Seriously google it because it is really amazing (making a car intake manifold https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD9-QEo-qDk and some more on the process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E5MfBAV_tA ) It is done on a large industrial machine with lasers that fuse each layer together. The detail and resolution is crazy. The detail work on the shifter is amazing, those DSD logos on the side of the shifter and base and all those angles look like a thing of beauty. I also really like the finish on the shifter it has a somewhat rough texture on it, like it is made out of cast concrete or something, it looks very industrial and very tough. I am sure Derek can fill us in on more about the process but this form of 3D printing has blown my mind.
I love all the detail in the sharp bevelled edges
I have been abusing the heck out of this shifter. Derek asked me to give the shifter a good workout and I sure have. I really wanted to make sure it could handle the rigors of racing, I have been slamming it back and forth as hard as I can and I think my rig will give out first. With this shifter, my Accuforce, motion and DSD pedals I am sure one day my rig is just going to rip itself apart with all the stress but I know this shifter would outlast my rig.
Derek has always said that he builds Sim Racing gear to last a life time, this shows in my old DSD shifter, my DSD pedals and also my DSD button boxes. This shifter is no exception
The switches Derek uses have a rated service life of 1 million actuations and are the most durable of this class of switches. Also, he designed this shifter so that in the event a replacement is ever needed the customer can easily replace them with new ones Derek would supply at no charge. Since he changed to these switches almost 2 years ago he hasn’t had a single reported failure.
The shifting action is very different to what I am used to, at first it felt way too heavy, almost like it was pressure and not movement. This went away after my first race with the shifter, it has a nice heavy and deliberate shifting feel to it, there is no way to miss-shift or double shift with this shifter, each shift is a very forceful and deliberate shift, it really makes you feel like you are slamming though the gears. In something like the Brazilian stock cars or Metalmoro in GSCE or the V8 super cars the shifter feels really aesthetically right. The only time I do miss my old DSD shifter is in something like a Skip Barber or other open wheeler, the little bent shaft of the original DSD shifter looks just like what you find in an open wheeler so it does feel a bit weird using such a massive shifter when driving such a small car, I really need to have interchangeable shifter so I can use the old DSD for open wheelers and the new DSD shifter for GT cars, this is probably something I will do later down the track.
Now that I am used to the shifter the only time it feels heavy is when you are sitting in the car before the race, the moment you start the race and all the adrenaline is flowing then the shifting is sublime.
One thing to note when switching to heavy duty gear like this, it does take a little getting used to the extra forces required. This happened with my DSD pedal, my Accuforce and also this shifter, it does take a little bit of time accustomed to using something with more realistic forces instead of the weak gear that you are used to. So the first time you use this sort of stuff you think there is no way you would be able to use this, just give it some time and you will be amazed how quickly you get used to it. I remember with my DSD pedals I had a sore leg for the first week of using them, the Accuforce felt like it was trying to rip my shoulders out of their sockets. This shifter wasn’t anywhere as bad as the AF and pedals but just keep in mind that there is a bit of readjustment needed when you switch up to this shifter but it is all worth it in the end.
This was another thing I was sceptical about. I really liked the old knob on the old DSD shifter and I thought this one would be too small for my big hands. Again I was totally wrong, I love the shape of this stubbo knob, if you watch my video below it fits the hand perfectly, on up shifts I will rest my thumb on the flat top, the little diamond shape sides fit perfectly between my index and middle finger. On downshifts I rest my index finger on the flat top of the knob and push with my palm, again the diamond shaped knob fits my hand perfectly. I tried it with the knob off my old DSD shifter and it didn’t feel good at all. My only potential downside to the knob is that it has rubber finish on it with does feel sticky if you don’t have gloves on, but great news for people like me who do wear gloves because it is really grippy with gloves on, which is a really good thing. When I tried the old knob it felt so slippery. I think the old knob works perfectly on the old bent shaft and this stubbo knob feels great on this one. It really goes to show that Derek had done his homework and created two shifters which both feel great in the hand. I am big on ergonomics so it might seem silly to write a whole section on a knob but it is these little things that are important to me when picking parts.
The shifter with the Stubbo knob
And the knob off the old DSD shifter
Close up of the Stubbo knob
This shifter does require some heavy duty mounting. Mine is a bit different to the production units. My shifter is the prototype shifter so the design has changed a little. In the production units the base will be thicker, it will also only use 4 bolts and the USB board will be attached to the front of the shifter itself. I created a custom mount for my shifter, it needs to mount to a flat surface so if you have a 8020 rig then I could so you making a mounting platform very easily. For positioning of my in watched some V8 supercars and stock car in car footage to see where they mounted theirs. I decided to mount it close to my rim so I can shift quickly, with the Accuforce you don’t want to take your hand off the wheel for too long. I also decided to mount it quite high so I could use my bicep and forearm for shifter, this was a good call because I have tons of leverage so shifting is easier, I had my old DSD shifter mounted out to the side and I could see you having a bit of trouble with this shifter if mounted in a weird place. So take a moment to plan where you want the shifter to be and it will be all good.
My mounting bracket
Unlike the last bent shaft DSD shifter this one has some adjustability. You can adjust the position of the micro switches independently. This means you can have them really close so you only need a small light push to change gear, or you can move them right out which means that you will need a longer throw and it will be much harder to shift. I have mine setup in the middle of the adjustment and it is perfect for me. I might adjust them out to make it a little heavier now that I am used to them.
In this photo you can see the sliders for the micro switches.
This shifter is super quiet, it uses rubber buffers instead of springs so the only thing you hear is the click of the micro switches, my mechanical keyboard makes more noise. I recorded a little video of the CSS SQ vs the old DSD vs the new DSD below. In Sony Vegas the CSS peaked at -4dB, the old DSD shifter peaked at 0dB, almost clipping my mic and the new DSD peaked at -17.1dB. I am pretty sure my camera mic was boosting that also so it was probably even quieter.
While it is not anywhere near as big as the full metal behemoth that Derek brought out a while back, it is still a big shifter, This isn’t a bad thing because it feels very substantial in your hands. I would say it is the perfect size for me but some others might need to take this in to account then working out where to mount this. When you line it up next to other shifter on the market it doesn’t look that big but it does need to be mounted from below unlike most shifters that mount on the side. The actual footprint of the production units is quite small so your mounting bracket doesn’t need to be that big, It is just very tall and has a small body.
Here is a size comparison of the CSS SQ vs the new DSD vs the old DSD
In side profile
One thing I really love about this shifter is how simple it is, there is only a handful of parts. There is only two 3D printed parts, the lever and the base. The base is one solid piece, there is one bolt that goes through the fulcrum, two micro switches and two rubber buffers. There is pretty much nothing to wear out, and if something does go like a micro switch then Derek will send out replacements free of charge, You would only need to undo the 2 bolts holding on the switches, no dismantling things for hours.
I really love to looks of this shifter, even more so than the huge full metal shifter because it is a practical size but still has that total bad ass race car look. Those who know me know I like my real race car look, that is why I like the DSD pedals and handbrake because they are both real world parts that you would use on a real race car, this fits that ethos perfectly. The texture on the shifter just adds to that bad ass feel. It looks really industrial and utilitarian with the exposed switches and shaft. I love that you can see all the working bits, you can see the shaft depressing the rubber buffers and hitting the switches. It isn’t just a black box like the CSS or old DSD shifter, the detail work on it is gorgeous with bevelled edges and debossed DSD logos. The finish on the plastic just looks amazing looks almost like stone rather than plastic. I have shown it to a few people and they were all amazed that it was 3D printed
I am a massive tinkerer on my rig so one of the cool things that I spotted is that it comes with an 8 button controller and only uses 2 of the buttons, It would be really simple to make up a small button box and connect it up to the spare buttons.
Although this will be covered up in the production version.
This shifter will be $297.75 USD with free worldwide shipping. This is much cheaper than the massive full metal DSD shifter and is also a lot cheaper than other large GT style shifters. I really like the 3D printing route that Derek has taken with this shifter, remember this isn’t cheap homemade 3D printing, this is industrial quality shifting done on a seriously big laser 3D printer.
Changes since the prototype
As I said earlier. My shifter was the prototype one featured in Derek’s earlier videos. He has since tidied up the shifter a lot for the production version. It now features a thicker base, he has also shortened the base and mounted the USB controller on the shifter itself and covered it in a nice 3D printed cover. It is now very compact and looks a lot more polished.
Here is a photo of the production version
Pros and Cons
Now to my pros and cons. Keep in mind that none of my cons where cons for me, in fact most of the cons are pros for me but I could see some people seeing them as cons so I will list them anyway.
Heavy duty feel: It feels like you can abuse the heck out of this and it won’t bat an eyelid
Great looks: Great finish and great design
Solid dependable shifting action: You feel like you are really involved in the shifting action
Gives a great stock car feel: I am all about immersion and this shifter makes me feel like I am in a Brazilian stock car or a V8 supercar
The size: It feels really substantial in your hands
Heaviness: It is impossible to miss-shift or accidentally shift because it is so heavy
Adjustability: You can tweak the shifter to how you like it. It would be even better if you could swap out the rubber buffers for different stiffness
The Stubbo knob: it feels really good in the hand and it is really grippy when wearing gloves
After sales support: Derek really stands behind everything he sells, so you know that if anything goes wrong you will be looked after well.
The size: it could be too big for some people and I think you need to think a lot about mounting it correctly
Heaviness: Some people coming from cheap shifters might not be used to such a heavy shifter
Short range of movement: Again some people are used to moving a shifter with a much longer throw, going from something with a long soft throw to a short hard throw shifter might be a bit of a learning curve. I put a short throw kit in my 1975 Avenger and that was the same kind of learning curve
The rubber on the stubby knob: It feels a bit sticky without gloves, it is the most minor of gripes and it is fine for me because I wear gloves but bare hand the knob does feel a bit sticky
Conclusion and final thoughts
I really like the design and ruggedness of this shifter. I went in to this thinking it would be a 3D printed toy but it is the polar opposite. This shifter is strong and tough and will take any abuse that you will throw at it. I like the feeling you get when you use it, it feel really right, like you are actually shifting something big. I like the simplicity of the design, I feel this is bullet proof and love seeing all the moving parts. If you drive a lot of GT, rally or stock cars and you want a shifter that looks and feels the part then this shifter fits the bill perfectly, but if you have a more cramped cockpit or like the style of shifter that you would find in an open wheeler then go for the old DSD shifter. Both of them are great shifters so you can’t go wrong either way.
Due to its size and stiffness this shifter might not be for everyone but if you are look for a tough as nails GT style shifter at a good price then this might be the shifter for you.
I found that this shifter really enhanced my driving experience, it isn’t going to make you any faster but I get a really satisfying feeling with the quick hard shift you need to do with this shifter.
I have recorded a video comparing the CSS SQ, old DSD and new DSD below, in this video I cover the noise and movement of each shifter as well as some of my thoughts on what they are like to use while racing.
I have also recorded another video of me turning a few laps with this shifter. It is in GSCE with the Metalmoro. This car feels great to drive with this shifter, the blowoff valve as you shift sounds great. If you look down in the cockpit of the Metalmoro then this shifter is very similar to the one in that car. Real fun slamming down through the gears.
Thank you for reading my review and I hope you found it interesting and enlightening.