Brendan Hobbart received a new set of pedals a few weeks ago. He wrote this extensive review about his new HPP PRX-SE and shared his feelings with iRacing community.
Almost 2 years ago I purchased one of the early sets of HPP PHT pedals. I was very impressed with them and in retrospect they have been the best investment I have made in my sim-gear. I wrote a review of them at the time, which you can read here:
Over the past couple of years Mark (Hargett, as in Hargett Precision Products) has continued to develop the pedals, improving both design and performance along the way. Innovations such as the reservoir-less master/slave brake cylinder configuration have really put the HPP pedals in a league of their own. The biggest news from HPP since the initial pedal release came earlier this year when Mark announced a whole new pedal set called the PRX. Aside from being stunningly beautiful they delivered some great advances, not the least of which was the ability to use them in floor-mounted or hanging configurations. I was fortunate enough to receive my new set of PRX pedals a few weeks ago. Now that I have had a little time with them I figured I would write a new review, so here we go…
First off, these pedals are just gorgeous to see and hold in person. No detail has been overlooked and with the exception of a few minor parts here and there you won’t find off-the-shelf components here. It has often been said that this is a great time to be a sim-racer and we need look no further than the quality of the HPPs to see that is true. They are fully custom designed for sim-racing and are built with the help of HPP’s in-house CNC machine to ultra-tight tolerances. These are something you could put on a shelf and not be totally ridiculed for your sim-racing obsession. They are simply a great example of what can be done when quality comes first.
Of course HPP did not go to such lengths just for looks. Building pedals from custom components allows them to be fine-tuned for our purposes. Everything from the master/slave cylinder ratios to the substantial flexibility in mounting options combine to deliver a product that is hard to find lacking in any area. Personally I love the most recent reservoir-less design of the brake assembly. Mark is now even integrating the pressure transducer mount into the core assembly itself. It just looks super slick and is one less potential point of failure. Not that failure will ever be a concern with these.
The PRX series can be mounted in multiple configurations. The major options are of course floor-mounted or hanging. Both are supported. Because each pedal is a separate unit, they can be swapped around and inverted very easily. The reservoir-less brake assembly comes in handy here as you don’t need to worry about its orientation. In addition to the floor/inverted options each pedal can be set up in a forward, straight or slanted position. Then you can fine tune the pedal angle within each of those major starting points. The travel end-points are also adjustable on the throttle and clutch. The brake end-point is not exactly a hard stop but will depend on how stiff you set up the bumpers and preload. More on that later.
Basically, if you can’t find a way to mount these securely, you’re probably not trying hard enough
Software & Calibration
There is no manual driver installation or anything else required to get these up and running in Windows. They use the well known Bodnar board and so they are immediately recognized as a gaming controller. Just connect them via USB to your PC and you’re ready to calibrate them in iRacing. The iRacing calibration is an important extension of the physical configuration of the pedals so let’s get into that next.
The throttle pedal on my set came with a stiffer throttle spring compared to my set of PHTs. At first I wondered if it was too stiff but I soon realized that the increased tension gave me better control, particularly in delicate throttle adjustments from turn-in to apex. It was also an improvement for those tricky limited grip scenarios when you are trying to get back in the throttle on exit. Try the Williams F1 exiting the first chicane at Monza So I stuck with the stiffer throttle spring and left the softer option in the tuning kit. I also slightly reduced the throw of the throttle as it felt a little longer than my PHT setup. There is no added magic here for the iRacing calibration step. Just calibrate the full throw and off you go.
This was my first exposure to the HPP clutch mechanism as my PHTs were a 2-pedal set. In the past I figured I really didn’t need a clutch since many of the cars I am interested in driving don’t need one. The skippy can be shifted without a clutch too, but it seemed like there might be a benefit to having one given the option. I will need more time with it to fully realize the benefits but I’m already seeing some slight improvement in my off-the-line speed vs using a button clutch. More importantly I am starting to use it for some gear changes where there is an increased chance of missing a shift. That will vary according to the track and your own driving style but for example I have found it to be more reliable to clutch my upshift coming out of the final chicane at Zolder. More than all that however, the added immersion from having not just the third pedal but one that feels so great is definitely worth the price of admission. That said, the beauty of the PRX system is that you can start with a 2-pedal unit and add the clutch later when you realize your mistake (or can sneak it in under your spouse’s radar).
The clutch mechanism itself is a very clever design that uses spring-loaded cams to simulate the buildup of pressure as you press the clutch, followed by that over the top release as the clutch is fully engaged. This allows you to easily feel the bite point when revving up for a standing start. I think this is where I have gained a little versus my previous button clutch setup. I can feel where my foot needs to be so that when I start to release the clutch pedal it immediately starts to bite. That combined with the slight traction advantage you get by not just dumping the clutch does seem to help me get away a little quicker than before. You will need to engage in a little trial and error in the iRacing clutch calibration to get it set up just right. I found that I was better off not calibrating to the full travel of the clutch pedal but instead I use a little past that over the top point as my 100% clutch value. I’m still getting used to this however, so others may have better advice on how to best set this up.
Well, as I’m sure you know, the brake is the real meat here. This is where a high-end set of pedals like the HPPs really deliver a large leap in immersion and performance. I realize that there are many very fast drivers out there using basic DFGT pedals and they are doing great. I don’t dispute that but I can tell you beyond any shadow of a doubt that for this 40-something year old wannabe, the hydraulic brake pedal in my HPPs delivered a big improvement in my braking performance. My car control has greatly improved and my resulting lap times are much better than they used to be when I was using CSPs. Trail braking and threshold braking are now much more repeatable than they were pre-HPP and my iRating has improved substantially as a result. That was all true with the PHTs that my current set replaced and of course it will continue to be so with the PRXs.
It is hard to clearly identify how the brake has improved in the PRX as I don’t fully understand all the inner workings and math involved in the ever-evolving cylinder design Mark has employed here. I’ll try to explain where I am feeling the improvement and hopefully that will give you some idea of what to expect.
My ideal brake pedal feel is a relatively soft initial travel (still firmer than my CSPs ever were), progressing into a fairly sudden ramp-up in pressure and then a more gradual incline in pressure after that. Basically I’m looking for that feeling where you can put in some small amounts of braking quite easily but you can still clearly feel when you are really starting to squeeze those brake pads. I can find that feeling with the PRXs better than I could with the PHTs. That’s not to say the PHTs did not do a great job in this area. They absolutely did and I’m more than a little surprised that Mark was able to improve on it. (Chances are the most recent PHTs are benefitting from the latest iteration of the brake assembly also, so take my comparison to the PHTs as relevant only to more dated versions). That easy-in followed by hitting a wall of brake pressure feeling is a big big help with the skippy. There is no ABS in the skippy and if you hit 100% brake you will without doubt fully lock ‘em up and continue on your merry way off track The key is to be able to repeatedly hit somewhere around 80% brake when braking from high speed and then smoothly bleed off the pressure as the car slows down. The PHTs allowed me to feel like I could get close to that for the first time, but the PRXs have sealed the deal. I’m in more control than ever and I have no doubt the new brake pedal is helping a lot. Of course, they are not miracle workers and I still have a long way to go before challenging the big guns, but it sure is good to feel some progress every now and then.
One of the most important adjustments you can make to the brake setup is via the bumpers at the back of the assembly. To get that feeling I described above (if that interests you) you need to have a combination of a soft and a harder bumper. The greater the separation in the bumper hardness, the greater a ramp-up sensation you will feel as you press the brake. Mark gave me an interesting experimental bumper setup that I have been using and you may want to try it if you already have a set of HPPs. Instead of one soft and one harder bumper, I have been trying out three quite soft rubber grommets in front of a harder bumper. I then add about 3 or 4 turns of preload on the nut holding the bumpers in place to stiffen up the initial travel a little. The feeling is really great for my preferences but of course everyone will differ. I recently purchased a tire durometer to test the various bumper configurations that I might want to try. It seems like it could be helpful in further tuning the configuration. I would encourage anyone with HPPs to try out some new arrangements. You might find an improvement and you can always easily return to your previous setup.
iRacing calibration is also very important for the brake pedal. As you tinker with it you will find your own preferences. For me, I like to rest my foot on the brake pedal a little while I’m not actually braking. That can result in accidental brake input if you don’t calibrate carefully to avoid it. It’s fairly easy to handle though. While you are on the brake calibration screen, put a little pressure on the brake pedal. You’re looking for the max amount of pressure that you feel you might accidentally deliver while resting your foot there. When you have that dialed in you press the reset button while continuing to hold in that base level of pressure. This tells the iRacing calibration tool to reset the bottom end of the desired raw output range from the brake pedal. Next you need to increase the brake pressure to whatever level you want to represent 100% braking force. In the case of the skippy that will be more than I actually want to use for max braking since you can really only use about 80% without locking up. Once you have reached that max brake pressure you need to ease off the pressure but be careful not to let the raw output drop below the bottom end you set earlier in the process. While still holding in some pressure above that bottom end press the Done button. That will lock in the calibration with a little dead-zone built in for your lazy left foot Numerically I calibrate from about 650 to 1850. That will vary based on your bumper configuration and preload. After all that you are ready to go racing.
The PRX-SE (The SE stands for Special Edition) comes with some nice added goodies vs the regular PRX set.
- fully machined pedal arms
- PRX throttle tuning kit
- PRX clutch tuning kit
- PRX adjustable heel rest system
- 2 of the PRX pedal pad stops
- PRX long throttle pad
- PRX wide brake pad
This is a lot of extra gear for a relatively modest bump in purchase price and all of them add some real value to the set. Well, I guess the fully machined pedal arms are just for bling but they are so so gorgeous. All of these extras with the exception of the fully machined pedal arms (and also machined rears on the pedals pads afaik) are available to purchase separately but it is cheaper to get them as part of the SE bundle.
The throttle and clutch tuning kits consist of additional heavy duty springs of varying tension to help you dial in exactly the feel you want from those pedals. Also included is an alternative spring that puts tension on the clutch mechanism cams. I believe it is a softer option than the one installed by default. I have not tried any of these alternative springs yet but it is only a matter of time. It is nice to have them on-hand so you can play around with different configurations. Even if you love the setup you are already using you never know when a small change can make things even better.
The wide brake pad and long throttle pad are must-haves in my opinion. The wide brake pad spreads the pressure over a larger area of my foot so I can configure higher brake pressures without discomfort. I also just like to have a wider area to aim for when hunting for the brake. As you will see in the pic above, I removed the grip tape from the front of my long throttle pad. I like to allow my foot to slide over it so that my heel can stay put on the heel rest. I find I get better throttle modulation that way since I am just adjusting the angle of my ankle rather than moving my entire leg.
The PRX pedal pad stops are nice options to have if you have a tendency to allow your foot to move laterally on the pedals. The stops can be installed between the rear of the pedal pads and the pedal arms and extended out to whichever side of the pedal you prefer. This helps you to keep your foot in the same position which will improve how consistent the feeling is for that pedal. I think it is most useful for the brake and I think I’ll be installing one of mine to the right of the brake pad since I only use my left foot for braking. This will help me transition from the clutch back to the brake consistently. Come to think of it I may put one on the left side of the clutch too….
Finally, the PRX heel rest is another absolute must-have. It is highly configurable and rock solid in use. You can adjust the distance from the pedals, the height and the angle of the rest. I had the heel rest on my PHTs also and I was surprised just how much of a difference it can make when you can get the rest in just the right spot. All three of the adjustments combine to create a stable platform that will support your foot at exactly the right height and allow your heel to slide without stubbing or lifting off the rest. Mark advised me that when setting it up I should find the right position and then remove the tray to get better access to the bolts that need to be further tightened to hold the rest in place. This was useful advice as those bolts really do need to be tight to hold the rest firmly. Once tightened sufficiently however the rest will not budge. As with everything else on this set, the heel rest also looks great 😉
Let’s face it, none of the high-end pedal sets on the market are cheap. They are all a significant investment and you need to feel confident you will get the best possible return for your money. When you consider the relative price points of the HPPs and its competitors, in my opinion the HPPs are a stand-out value due to the ultra high quality and the sim-racing customized CNC milled components. I think if you are going to spend this kind of money you had better get the best and I honestly think the HPPs are that choice. Some understandably don’t like the fact that there tends to be a waiting period to get the HPPs but you need to ask yourself, why is that the case? It is not because they are the cheapest option, nor is it because there are no other options available. The effort it takes to produce something like this is very substantial and so it naturally takes time. Many of us have been happy to wait because we know what will arrive if we can have some patience. Those of us that have them know that they are well worth waiting for. I’m confident you will too.
I hope this was helpful to anyone considering these pedals. I will try to update it as necessary if I have forgotten anything and to answer any questions you might have.
PRX SE (set reviewed): http://www.hppsimulation.com/hpp-3-pedal/26-phtv2p.html