FAQ

VKB

When was VKB founded? What does VKB stand for?

VKB was founded in 2004 in Russia, and is now headquartered in China.

  • The name VKB stems from the abbreviation ВКБ for the Russian phrase“Виртуальное Конструкторское Бюро” and may be literally translated as “Virtual Design Bureau”.
  • Virtual Design Bureau stuck as a name because VKB’s engineers are working from different locations all across the globe.

For the international market, the abbreviation VKB was chosen (VKB itself does not mean anything; it is simply a transliteration of the abbreviation ВКБ).

What about VKB product ETAs and release announcements?

VKB North America, as instructed by VKB HQ, will no longer announce estimated release dates of products currently in development.

The reason is that any PLANNED estimate given by VKB HQ – which is also relayed on various forums and VKB partner sites, will be taken out of context by those who perceive them as a PROMISE given by VKB to release on a guaranteed date. As we all know, a plan is not a promise, and an estimate is not a guarantee – especially when it comes to designing and manufacturing complex hardware, and then developing the software that drives it.

That said, if estimates slip and delays are announced, some forum trolls come out of the woodwork and find joy in spreading damaging drivel about VKB online.

Therefore, VKB HQ decided to remain silent about release dates for products in developement; instead, an official announcement will be made once the respective product is available and ready to ship.

How is shipping handled?

When an order comes in to VKB North America, we handle it usually within minutes – meaning that we prepare (and email) all the info needed for VKB HQ’s logistics department to ship the ordered product(s) from their warehouse.

However, once we’ve done our part, we’re then waiting for VKB HQ to do their part – that is, creating a shipping label, and then actually shipping the parcel to the customer’s address. Mostly they are quick about it, and sometimes they are slow. And that’s totally out of our control.

Once we receive the tracking number from VKB HQ, we will then update the still processing order by sending the tracking info to the customer, changing the order status to complete, and lastly emailing the customer a VKB North America receipt with pertinent information.

That’s the process in a nutshell.

Note: Deliveries for North America usually ship direct via Hong Kong; orders from Australia and New Zealand are usually transshipped via Singapore or Malaysia.

Note: VKB HQ uses DHL Express as their preferred carrier.

Please read our Terms & Conditions about order cancellation (and other) policies.

Documentation and Howtos

Can I use my Gladiator stick in MacOS?

Yes, you should be able to calibrate a VKB Gladiator without the need for the Windows-based VKB software apps WIZZO and VKBdevCfg.

The Gladiator Mk.I/II and Gladiator Pro Mk.I/II joysticks come with a “non-software” calibration function; here’s how to use it:

  1. Plug your Gladiator into a USB port
  2. Within 10 seconds, press both EJECT+Flaps buttons simultaneously
  3. The stick goes into calibration mode (LED starts flashing)
  4. Calibrate by moving all axes (pitch, roll, yaw & throttle) through their full ranges
  5. Press the trigger (the joystick will restart)

Done; your joystick is calibrated. Calibration is required only one time (calibration data is saved in joystick memory).

Now, you should be able to go to your respective MacOS-based flightsim and assign axes and buttons from within.

PS: This function is not available on other VKB controllers besides the Gladiator series at this time.

How does VKBJoytester work?

You might find this graphic useful (right-click to ‘open in a new tab’ or to ‘save as…’ for the full size version):

How to Flash/Reset/Calibrate your Gladiator w/ MCG grip
To get started, follow these initial steps:
  1. Download the latest (by date) VKBdevCfg-C app – (http://ftp.vkb-sim.pro/Programms/) and extract it to any folder you like.
  2. Download the latest (by date) ZBootloader-C app – (http://ftp.vkb-sim.pro/Programms/) and extract it into the same folder as above.
  3. Download the latest (by date) firmware for Gladiator (http://ftp.vkb-sim.pro/Firmware/Gladiator) and extract the firmware (*.vkb) for your MCG or MCG PRO respectively, and put it into the same folder where your VKBdevCfg app already is.
  4. If you have created a custom profile (i.e., different, or custom button assignment) be sure to save it first via VKBdevCfg > Action > Save; after flashing/resetting/calibrating, you can load your custom profile again via VKBdevCfg > Action > Load.
  5. Ensure that your new MCG grip is installed on the Gunfighter base, and that it’s seated correctly.
From here on out, there are three basic steps involved in the overall process:
  • Flash your Gladiator with the new firmware.
  • Reset your Gladiator to default.
  • Calibrate your Gladiator.
I. Flash your Gladiator with the new firmware:
  1. Launch VKBdevCfg-C (Note: It is highly recommended to right-click on the VKBdevCfg app and select ‘Run as Administrator’).
  2. In the top panel, click on the “VKBsim Gladiator…” name to select it.
  3. From the Tools tab, click on the “Bootloader” icon; this should close VKBdevCfg and automatically start ZBootloader-C (if you have it in the same folder).
  4. Point ZBootloader-C to the extracted *.vkb file and update the firmware of your Gladiator by clicking “Flash It”.
  5. The device will restart with the new firmware installed.
Q: Why do I have to flash? 
A: You will have to flash your your joystick base to make your new MCG work with it. Simply removing your current grip and installing your new MCG will not magically make the base understand what just happened; you need to tell the base (via firmware update) that there’s a new grip in town!
II. After Flashing, you need to Reset your Gladiator to default:
  1. Launch VKBdevCfg-C (Remember: It is highly recommended to right-click on the VKBdevCfg app and select ‘Run as Administrator’).
  2. In the top panel, click on the “VKBsim Gladiator…” name to select it.
  3. From the Tools tab, click on the “Default” button in the top-left corner.
  4. The device will restart with factory default settings.
III. After resetting, you need to Calibrate your Gladiator:
  • The goal is to be able to capture all available axes in the calibration procedure: the Gladiator’s throttle, pitch and roll axes, as well as the ministicks, trigger and brake axes in the MCG/MCG PRO.
  • Don’t use the MS Windows calibration utility! Use VKBdevCfg instead.

  1. Flip the foldable trigger to the “up” position, and then squeeze the trigger fully, and then let go of it to determine its middle position (MCG PRO only).
  2. Launch VKBdevCfg-C (Rember: It is highly recommended to right-click on the VKBdevCfg app and select ‘Run as Administrator’).
  3. In the top panel, click on the “VKBsim Gladiator…” name to select it.
  4. From the Tools tab, click the ‘Start Calibr’ button (Hint: switch to the Test > Axes1 tab to observe your calibration action).
  5. Move the grip through its full range (pitch and roll axes), move the throttle fully back and forth.
  6. On the grip, move the MASTER MODE (РЕЖИМ КБО) ministick through its full range (Hint: you might have to do a long-press on the ministick push button in order to enable relative axis mode first; otherwise, the ministick defaults to button mode and thus won’t calibrate).
  7. Move the GATE CONT (УПРАВ СТРОБ) ministick through its full range.
  8. Squeeze the MCG BRAKE lever fully and let go of it.
  9. Move the foldable trigger to the “up” position, squeeze it, and then let go of it – this moves it through its full range (MCG PRO only).
  10. If you have VKB T-Rudders connected to the Gladiator’s base: move the T-Rudder axis through its full range as well.
  11. Click the ‘End Calibr’ button; the Gladiator will restart.
  12. Done; calibration information is stored within the Gladiator’s MCU.
Reminder: Don’t forget to load your custom profile again via VKBdevCfg > Action > Load.
How to Flash/Reset/Calibrate your Gunfighter w/ MCG grip

To get started, follow these initial steps:

  1. Download the latest (by date) VKBdevCfg-C app – (http://ftp.vkb-sim.pro/Programms/) and extract it to any folder you like.
  2. Download the latest (by date) ZBootloader-C app – (http://ftp.vkb-sim.pro/Programms/) and extract it into the same folder as above.
  3. Download the latest (by date) BlackBox firmware for Gunfighter (http://ftp.vkb-sim.pro/Firmware/BlackBox/) (usually identified by BB_GF_version) and extract the firmware (*.vkb) from the MCG or MCG PRO archive respectively, and put it into the same folder where your VKBdevCfg app already is.
  4. If you have created a custom profile (i.e., different, or custom button assignment) be sure to save it first via VKBdevCfg > Action > Save; after flashing/resetting/calibrating you can load your custom profile again via VKBdevCfg > Action > Load.
  5. Ensure that your new MCG grip is installed on the Gunfighter base, and that it’s seated correctly.
From here on out, there are three basic steps involved in the overall process:
  • Flash your Gunfighter’s BlackBox with the new firmware.
  • Reset your Gunfighter to default.
  • Calibrate your Gunfighter.
I. Flash your Gunfighter’s BlackBox firmware:
  1. Launch VKBdevCfg-C (Note: It is highly recommended to right-click on the VKBdevCfg app and select ‘Run as Administrator’).
  2. In the top panel, click on the “VKBsim Gunfighter…” name to select it.
  3. From the Tools tab, click on the “Bootloader” icon; this should close VKBdevCfg and automatically start ZBootloader-C (if you have it in the same folder).
  4. Point ZBootloader-C to the extracted *.vkb file and update the firmware of your BlackBox by clicking “Flash It”.
  5. The device will restart with the new firmware installed.
Q: Why do I have to flash? 
A: You will have to flash your your joystick base to make your new MCG work with it. Simply removing your current grip and installing your new MCG will not magically make the base understand what just happened; you need to tell the base (via firmware update) that there’s a new grip in town!
II. After Flashing, you need to Reset your Gunfighter’s BlackBox to default:
  1. Launch VKBdevCfg-C (Remember: It is highly recommended to right-click on the VKBdevCfg app and select ‘Run as Administrator’).
  2. In the top panel, click on the “VKBsim Gunfighter…” name to select it.
  3. From the Tools tab, click on the “Default” button in the top-left corner.
  4. The device will restart with factory default settings; any previously red blinking ‘Stick LED’ on the the BlackBox should turn solid green.
III. After resetting, you need to Calibrate your Gunfighter:
  • The goal is to be able to capture all available axes in the calibration procedure: the Gladiator’s throttle, pitch and roll axes, as well as the ministicks, trigger and brake axes in the MCG/MCG PRO.
  • Don’t use the MS Windows calibration utility! Use VKBdevCfg instead.

  1. Flip the foldable trigger to the “up” position, and then squeeze the trigger fully, and then let go of it to determine its middle position (MCG PRO only).
  2. Launch VKBdevCfg-C (Note: It is highly recommended to right-click on the VKBdevCfg app and select ‘Run as Administrator’).
  3. In the top panel, click on the “VKBsim Gunfighter Modern Combat” name to select it.
  4. From the Tools tab, click the ‘Start Calibr’ button; the SYS LED on the Blackbox starts blinking (Hint: switch to the Test > Axes1 tab to observe your calibration action).
  5. Move the stick through its full range (pitch and roll axes).
  6. Move the MASTER MODE (РЕЖИМ КБО) ministick through its full range (Hint: you might have to do a long-press on the ministick push button in order to enable relative axis mode first; otherwise the ministick defaults to button mode and thus won’t calibrate).
  7. Move the GATE CONT (УПРАВ СТРОБ) ministick through its full range.
  8. Squeeze the BRAKE lever fully and let go of it.
  9. Move the foldable trigger to the “up” position, squeeze it, and then let go of it – this moves it through its full range (MCG PRO only).
  10. If you have VKB T-Rudders connected to the Gunfighter’s BlackBox – move the T-Rudder axis through its full range as well.
  11. Click the ‘End Calibr’ button; the BlackBox will restart.
  12. Done; calibration information is stored within the Gunfighter’s BlackBox.
Reminder: Don’t forget to load your custom profile again via VKBdevCfg > Action > Load.
Is there a ‘Howto’ Section on the official VKB Forum?

In case you’re looking for how to do things using VKBdevCfg, WIZZO, or your VKB controller hardware, there’s a howto section on the official VKB Forum – click here to get there.

Highly recommended!

Is there an official VKB Manual for the VKBdevCfg app?

Yes, there is! Click here to download the PDF file (updated May 10, 2018).

Where can I get help with VKB software, firmware, and device configurations?

Have a look at the official VKB-Sim Technical Support forum. VKB engineers and developers are able to help you out!

VKB Hardware

How do I replace cams and springs (Gunfighter and Gladiator Pro)?

Here’s a great little video that shows how it’s done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x6RdEJJ_PM

  • Even though the video pertains to the Gladiator Pro, the gimbal design (including cams and springs), is pretty much the same for the Gunfighter.

This video is thus highly recommended to help visualize how to replace cams and springs for you VKB controller that ships with swappable cams and springs.

Replacing the springs (refer to the video above to access the gimbal)

Useful tools: needle-nose pliers, small zip ties, x-acto knife (or cable cutters)

Installing a spring (do this for each axis):

  1. Thread a small zip tie down to a small loop.
  2.  Attach it to the hook of one side of the spring you want to install.
  3. Slide the opposite end of the spring’s hook over the cam shaft pin.
  4. With needle nose pliers, pull the zip tie to attach the other end of the spring hook over opposite cam shaft pin.
  5. Once hooked on, use an x-acto knife (or cable cutters) to cut the zip tie loop and remove it.

Removing a spring (do this for each axis):

  1. Thread the end of a small zip tie through the spring hook you want to remove, and pull the zip tie tight.
  2. With needle nose pliers, pull the zip tie to remove the spring from the cam shaft pin.

Hint: You might want to use your opposite hand’s thumb to press down on the spring coil while installing or
removing the spring to prevent it from jumping off when released.

Replacing the cams (refer to the video to acess the gimbal)

  1. Remove the springs (use above technique).
  2. Unscrew the M4 nut and detach the cam from the gimbal.
    Caution: Do not use the hex key to loosen these screws! Only the nut can withstand the force needed to loosen the screw. Use the hex key to only counter the rotation.
  3.  Pay close attention to the position of the washers between the cam and the bearing!
  4. Replace the cam, tighten the M4 nut.
    Caution: Do not use the hex key to tighten these screws! Only the nut can withstand the force needed to tighten the screw. Use the hex key to only counter the rotation.
  5. Install the springs(use above technique).
  6. When done, assemble in reverse order (pay attention to the washers between the cam and the bearing, as these washers need to be installed in the same location as identified in #3. above!)
What are ‘Dry Clutches’ available in the VKB Gunfighter?

Force-adjustable dry clutches allow the user to change the friction of the stick’s movement along its way of travel independently for each axis (roll and pitch).

  • With this feature, the Gunfighter series of controllers will enhance the overall feeling of VKB sticks even further – the Gunfighter’s stick movement feels “heavier”, and the added friction prevents oscillations when letting go of the stick.
  • By adjusting these dry clutches, a user could thus overcome a spring-loaded stick’s tendency to return back to center – which might be especially useful during helicopter flight (or wherever else desired). With the right amount of friction dialed in, the stick will stay put where the user wants it to stay – even off-center! At the same time, it might be necessary to increase the spring tension by using a heavier spring per axis to overcome some of the friction these dry clutches provide.

A user’s goal should be to find the right balance between damper friction and spring tension to suit his or her needs.

Here’s a quick video that shows the pitch axis dry clutch dialed in all the way, and only some dry clutch for the roll axis:

What are Cams and Gimbals?

VKB uses ball bearing based steel gimbals as centering mechanisms for their high-end joysticks (e.g., the Gunfighter series). Each joystick axis (pitch and roll) is embedded within a steel gimbal that provides structural support; the axes themselves use ball bearings for longevity and smooth operations.

As part of the gimbal, VKB uses spring loaded steel cams to define the feeling of the movement of the stick itself, as well as the feeling of the center of the stick.

  • Cams are curved steel “arms” – one per axis, along which the gimbal’s steel roller runs as the stick is moved along an axis.
  • The stronger the spring per cam, the more resistance the user feels when moving the stick through its range of movement.
  • The cams’ curvature towards the end of each cam provides increasing resistance, the further the stick is moved toward its extremes.

There are usually two types of cams – soft center and hard center detents for VKB products.

  • The soft center cam provides very smooth joystick (or rudder pedals) travel; even when crossing from the pitch into the roll axis, and vice versa, the user usually does not feel the transition between axes. This might be the most realistic way to enjoy helicopter and fixed-wing simulations.
  • The hard center cam provides a definite center detent to which the axes return to, based on the centering springs. The user would feel a hard center position when transition between axes. Using such hard center cam might be beneficial when the user desires precise cutoffs when transitioning between axes, avoiding axes bleeding into each other while maneuvering. Such hard center detents might be desirable – for example, for space simulation games.

VKB includes swappable cams for their high-end joysticks and rudder pedal sets; the user can thus customize their VKB product with the cam type they prefer – either soft or hard center cams all around, or a combination of both, with – for example – a hard center detent on the roll axis, and a soft center one for the pitch axis.

  • When combining different cams with different spring strengths per axis, VKB users can truly tweak their experience in many different ways and make their joystick or rudder pedal set a very unique and personal experience for their flight simulation enjoyment.
What are Swappable Grips?

VKB offers different grips for their high-end joysticks, such as the Gunfighter series.

  • This allows a user to purchase different grips and swap them with one another. Some grips, such as the Modern Combat Grip (MCG) series offer more programmable buttons and axes configurations for combat jet (or space) simulations, while other grips (e.g., the KG12) allow users to experience a more WWII-inspired setup.

The idea of offering swappable grips for existing joystick bases also allows for future proofing: As new grips become available, the user could continue to use an existing VKB base, while upgrading to a newer, more feature-rich grip down the line.

What is cam loading?

You might have noticed a small amount of lean to either side when your VKB Gunfighter or Gladiator Pro or Mamba is centered.

  • That slight lean is normal with any gimbal design that uses one cam per axis. This ‘cam loading’ (or the slight angle off) is compensated for by the VKB joystick’s MCU (micro controller unit) and does not affect the returning of the axis to dead-center within 0.01 degrees.
  • The VKB MaRS (magnetic resonance) sensor finds the center of the stick after calibrating at the cam level, not at the grip level, and is thus always precise – there is no need to ‘fix’ anything. It’s meant to operate like that.
What is the difference between 3-Pin and 3-Pin Rev.B?

It’s the way how the electrical connection is made between a swappable grip and its base:

  • 3-pin (or 3-pin original, or 3-pin Rev.A) has the 3 pins on top of the controller’s base (e.g., the Gunfighter Mk.I, or the Gladiator Pro Mk.II).
 (Rev.A)
  • 3-pin Rev.B has moved the 3 pins inside the grip, away from the controller’s base (the Gunfighter Mk.II being the first product with such pin layout).
(Rev.B)

The reason why this is mentioned across the different VKB products now is to allow customers that already own a VKB base, whether it’s a Gunfighter or a Gladiator Pro, to know exactly what swappable grip to purchases for their existing base. Nothing more frustrating than receiving a shiny new grip in the mail, only to find out that its pin layout doesn’t match the base it was intended to work with.

As a side note, over the years VKB has developed different pin layouts (from 5-pin to 3-pin designs) for their controllers with swappable grips, and keeps constantly improving things – the 3-pin Rev.B is just the latest development in this regard.

What is the VKB MaRS sensor technology? How is it different from Hall Effect?

VKB products use the effect of magnetic resistance (MaRS), instead of Hall effect.

  • Hall uses resistive effect ; MaRS uses magnetic field orientation

MaRS sensor:

  1. High sensitivity and a low-noise signal.
  2. A large operating distance from the magnet is possible.
  3. Angle of measurement is up to 180° but with higher angle sensitivity.
  4. Possible disturbance from external stray fields.

Hall sensor:

  1. Because of internal preamplification, sensitivity is comparable to MaRS.
  2. Sensor functions only within a near field of the magnet.
  3. Angle of measurement is up to 360°.
  4. Possible disturbance from external stray “dipole fields.”

VKB Software

What about the MCG’s Relative Axis Mode?

VKB introduced relative axes to the MCG’s Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat. Relative axes are analog axes whose position stays where they are when you let go of the hat switch – even though the hat switch itself returns to center. Compare that to you standard analog axes that will return to center along with the physical hat switch when you let go of it (you can observe the behavior of these analog axes within the VKB JoyTester or the VKBdevCfg app).

  • The Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat switch can toggle between POV (digital) mode and Analog mode by pressing on it (0.3 sec).

To assign these relative analog axes to your simulation of choice, do the following using the Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat:

  1. Enter “axes” mode by long press on the Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat switch
  2. Center the axes by short press on the Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat switch
  3. Within your simulation of choice, get ready to assign your analog axes
  4. To assign the horizontal axis, move the Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat left/right for a few seconds until detected in the sim (relative mode takes longer compared to normal axes to reach the far end)
  5. To assign the vertical axis, move the Master Mode (РЕЖИМ КБО) hat up/down for a few seconds until detected in the sim (relative mode takes longer compared to normal axes to reach the far end)

You’re done.

What are VKB Profiles?

Profiles, in a nutshell, allow buttons and axes configurations within their VKB device to work correctly. Without a profile, grips don’t “talk” to bases, and buttons don’t work. Some form of profile is needed for VKB devices to function as expected.

  • Usually, VKB devices come preloaded with some default profile that provides the basic device functionality, including buttons, switches, axes, etc.

Users may use VKBdevCfg to:

  • create their own profiles to suite a specific need (or a specific simulation)
  • save/load profiles to/from disk
  • download custom and default profiles from VKB’s FTP site for their respective device
What is VKB Firmware?

Firmware is a “specific class of computer software that provides the low-level control for the device’s specific hardware” (thanks, Wikipedia).

In case of VKB’s hardware:

The main firmware (*.vkb) is stored in the respective device’s master controller (e.g., VKB BlackBox (Gunfighter or T-Rudders) or in the Microcontroller Unit (Gladiator)).

  • This type of firmware provides the raw data for axes, buttons, and encoders within a slave device (e.g., MCG or KG12 grips)
  • These functions are controlled and processed by the master-controller (BlackBox or MCU)
  • Usually, firmware updates provide bug fixes and/or feature enhancements, and can be installed by the user via ZBootloader.

In contrast, VKB bases and grips themselves have proprietary firmware that cannot be changed by the user.

  • This specific type of firmware provides communication protocols between the master (e.g., VKB BlackBox) and the slave (e.g., MCG or KG12 grips) via BUS-interface.
What VKB Software is available?

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most useful VKB programs available for the end user:

There are two types of VKB device configuration software available:

  1. WIZZO (*new* for Gunfighter Mk.II with MCG/MCG PRO grips, and well known for Gladiator Mk.I and Mk.II)
  2. VKBdevCfg (for all VKB devices, including Rudders)
  • WIZZO is far more basic, and more simplistic than VKBdevCfg. It allows a user to calibrate their device, adjust dead zones if desired, turn on/off axes, save & load configurations, and flash a device’s firmware. WIZZO covers what 90% of the end user needs to get their VKB device ready for their favorite sim.
  • VKBdevCfg is far more advanced than WIZZO; even though it covers the basics, just like WIZZO does, it allows the user to delve deeper into the device configuration. It’s highly recommended for advanced users who seek to really get into the nitty gritty of their VKB device.
  • Again, most users should be happy with WIZZO’s basic functionality.

Other software:

  • ‘T-Link’ allows a user to enable ‘virtual toe brakes’ (or, rather, differential brakes) for their VKB T-Rudders.
  • VKB_JoyTester’ allows a user to visualize (and test) a device’s axes.
  • VKB_BtnTester allows a user to test a device’s buttons.
  • ‘ZBootloader’ allows a user to install new firmware into their VKB device (e.g., to enable new features in older hardware, such as additional buttons or axes on a new grip). ZBootloader is usually called from within WIZZO or VKBdevCfg.

PS: You can find stable, up-to-date versions of each on VKB’s FTP Site.