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Key Sound Generator Better Mechanical Keyboard Soun

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Tik-tak, Click-clack, Bump-thump and million of other noises your mechanical keyboard can make. For some a feature and others a nuisance. They would keep their distance or tell you to throw it away, but Stop! there are ways to dampen your mechanical keyboard noises.

It’s not uncommon for people that are convinced to buy a mechanical keyboard and narrowed down the mechanical switch to underestimate the noise it can make… for others. Once you start typing, it sounds like music in your ears, a perfect rhythm of up following keystrokes magically creating text in front of you, but to others, it might sound as inconsistent, nerve wrecking and unending clacks. Similar to somebody playing League of Legends next to you, mouse clicking like there is no tomorrow.

Mechanical keyboards are best known for their (extremely satisfying) click-clack sound and it’s considered part of the experience, but in a public environment, not everybody will be too happy about it.Especially if you use a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX blue switches, those are literally engineered to make noise. So other than apologizing, what can you do about it?

What makes that click sound

There are different methods to dampen the sound, but first you need some keyboard knowledge to understand what’s actually producing that sound.

Let’s take the most popular switch brand on the market, Cherry MX switches, as an example. You know, that mechanism that defines mechanical keyboards.

When you press the key all the way down, also known as bottom-out, the keycap stem will hit the switch box. This produces the infamous and most noisy “clack” sound.

However, when you use Cherry MX blue switches there is another sound produced by the switch itself.

There is a small mechanism inside this particular switch that will produce an amplified “click sound.

Furthermore, if you use particular thick keycaps, such as ABS double-shot or PBT keycaps, it will alter the sound produced.

That leaves one last factor that can influence the sound of your keyboard, PCB or plate mounted switches.

The plate mounted holds the switch firmly in its place, while PCB mounted will flex a bit and thereby reducing the sound vibrations. We could go further into this and how the build quality of a keyboard can further influence the sound, but heck that would get too boring!

So, now that we know all this, what does it mean? Well, that “clack” sound I mentioned earlier, you can dampen that sound with o-rings, soft pads or just, well, not bottom-out.

O-ring Rainbow Wonder

O-O-O-rings, are those lovely rubber rings that your dental orthopedist gives when you’re walking around with metal in your mouth. Actually, that’s exactly what you’ll be using here, a small thick rubber ring that you can slide underneath the keycap on its stem.

The most common type of o-ring is the 40A-L, 40A-R and 50A-L. The numeric stands for the hardness of the rubber on the shore durometer (follow by letter) A scale. The last letter represents the thickness of the O-ring. R being twice the thickness of L. Mind blowing right?

OK, here comes the interesting part. The O-ring will catch the blow between the keycap stem and switch, changing the “clack” sound into a less audible “thud” sound, but, yes, but, here comes the catch, the o-ring will also shorten the travel distance to bottom-out.

That’s where the thickness plays a role. It doesn’t influence the sound but shortens the travel distance. According to different sources, L will shorten the distance by 0.2mm and R by 0.4mm but I believe this is probably inaccurate, as many people feel that R bottoms-out half way actuation and L shortly after, which is strange considering bottom-out is at 4mm and actuation at 2mm.

OK! Take a breather… It’s a lot of detailed nerd information to take in, and yes we’re still talking about keyboards.

WASD keyboards made a great sample video using all the different switches with O-rings.

If none of those o-rings can satisfy you, then you can also make them yourself. If you’re on it anyway, you might as well use a DIY keycap puller as well.

Keyboard Soft Pads

You can imagine that installing o-rings is quite tedious. So a less popular alternative are soft(landing) pads, basically a piece a foam cloth you can place on the switch itself.

The effect will be the same, the foam catches the “clack” between the keycap stem and switch. Also, the travel distance is shorter, depending on the thickness. Just watch out you can only use them with Cherry MX or similar type of switches.

The feel, however, is different from o-rings. Elitekeyboard supplies the soft pads in a gray or black version, the latter being much stiffer similar to the 50A-R o-rings. Of course, you can easily make some DIY soft pads.

GMK Switch Clip

If you’re more a neat type of person, then you might consider this clean solution from GMK electronic design, the QMX clip.

Basically, they’re identical to the soft pad solution but glorified with a bracket you can click on the switch. Neat right?

The guy(s) from Keychatter.com made a nice sound sample video of it.

Other methods to sound dampen

So now that we’ve addressed immediate solutions to reduce the noise produced by the keyboard, there are also some external factors. Hold your breath, it’s your table.

If you’re using a wooden or glass table, it will definitely influence the noise produced by the keyboard as it resonates all the key presses. An immediate fix for this is using a desk/mousepad or placing a towel underneath the keyboard or anything that can absorb vibrations.

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Personally, I would just recommend buying a Topre switch keyboard, they are already much more silent thanks to its rubber attribute. But I’m extremely biased at the moment.

Soun

Now you’re a qualified Keyboard Ninja

Well, as in, you know how to get around silently and not to disturb anybody in your surrounding. All the dampen methods might help reduce noise by 10 dB, but it will never be unnoticeable and it shouldn’t. Every keyboard will have its particular sound and with a mechanical keyboard, the sound is specifically a satisfying feeling.

You could also choose to make one of the upgrades to change the feeling of the keyboard, by shortening the distance.

Do you have any tips or tricks?

You’re welcome to share any tips, tricks or your opinion.

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With many keyboard manufacturers building their newest keyboards with optical switches, it leaves many wondering if they are actually better than mechanical.

We decided to test for ourselves to see which we switch type we preferred and if optical switches are actually faster than mechanical when gaming.

Optical switches are usually better for gaming, while mechanical are better for general usage. We found Razer optical switches actuate 30 ms faster than normal mechanical switches, which makes them superior for gaming.

We’ll go over all of the different testing that we went through to make this determination to prove we’re not pulling this info out of thin air. We’ll also take a deeper look at which switch wins in each category.

Optical vs Mechanical: Which is Better?

When comparing optical and mechanical switches, most just look at the overall speed of the switch when determining the winner, but when picking out a switch you want it to be super satisfying, comfortable, and durable.

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That being said, optical switches are faster actuating than mechanical switches, which makes them better for ultra-competitive games where you need the extra millisecond advantage.

While being a little slower, mechanical switches do typically feel better and are much more fun to use. In addition, they are quieter, have a ton more options, and are easier to mod.

So if you’re looking to eek out a slight competitive advantage in-game, optical switches are better, but if you want to have a better more-rounded typing experience, mechanical is the way to go.

Overall Feel: Winner = Mechanical

When looking at the overall feel of the switch, mechanical wins hands-down, at least in my opinion.

Mechanical switches have a certain feel to them that makes them more significant and consistent than optical. Although they are slightly smoother, optical switches just feel hollow and almost fake. It’s hard to explain.

The sound produced by an optical is not as satisfying either. While there are a few different options out there when picking a mechanical or optical switch, across the board, I have found mechanical switches to make a more satisfying sound on impact.

Of course, everything I’m saying in this section is just my preference, but when it comes to the feel and sound, that’s usually what it comes down to. Some may prefer optical, but I’m a bit old-fashioned with my taste for mechanical switches.

When it comes down to feel, I’m always going with mechanical as the winner.

Speed: Winner = Razer Optical

Mechanical Keyboard Sound Effect

For this section, I actually did some testing to calculate the speed of each switch type. I did multiple trials of each switch, the Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Speed Silver, Gateron Optical Black, and Razer Optical Purple.

I ran each switch through a reaction speed tester, which calculates the time it takes for me to react and for the computer the register the change. The theory is that my reaction speed will stay consistent, but the switch type will change.

Basically, any difference in reaction time should be attributed to the switch. It’s not exactly a peer-approved study, but it works in theory.

The results were quite surprising. You would expect that Cherry MX Speed Silver switches would be faster than the MX Reds, but in reality they had a similar reaction time. The shorter actuation distance made no difference between both mechanical switches even though they are advertised by Cherry to be really fast.

Here are where things get really interesting. The Gateron Optical switch was actually slower than the mechanical switch. At this point, nothing made sense, because the light operating switch is supposed to be faster. I chalked the small difference to testing error and called it a tie.

At this point, I was ready to stop, but then I remembered I still had the Razer Huntsman Mini from a recent review, so I grabbed it out of the closet and tested it as well.

The Razer Optical switches are screaming fast. There was a huge difference with the Razer Optical Purple. A 30 ms advantage over mechanical to be exact, which is a pretty big deal.

The Razer Optical switch is super fast, but not all optical switches are. The Gateron switch saw no increase in reaction time over the mechanical switches.

Price: Winner = Mechanical

When looking at price, mechanical switches beat out the optical. The reason is the sheer number of super budget clone switches out there. You can find a mechanical switch for a super low cost if you look in the right areas.

Also if you want an optical switch that is actually fast, you’ll need to shell out some extra dough for the Razer Huntsman. The keyboards are usually in the mid-to-high price range, so it can be a little costly.

Whereas with a mechanical switch, you can get a super cheap switch that a will work just as fast as an expensive one. Although the budget option may not feel or sound as great.

For this reason, mechanical switches win in the price department, even though mechanical switches can get quite pricey if you choose a high-end option.

Durability: Winner = Optical

The average life expectancy of an optical switch is 100 million keystrokes. Instead of the electrical actuation, the light-operated switch is more durable.

It’s worth noting that some mechanical switches do hit the 100 million keystroke mark as well, so some of them are just as durable. Cherry MX switches, for example, have that sweet 100 million keystroke rating, so you can put them on the same level for durability.

The clone mechanical switches will usually last about half that amount, so 50 million keystrokes. In that case, optical will outlast mechanical. For that reason, optical switches win in the durability department.

Noise Level: Winner = Mechanical

From my experience with optical switches, they are quite loud. The standard design of an optical switch produces sounds that are very noisy and hollow. Each keystroke produces a ton of noise.

The closest optical switch to solving this issue is the Gen 2 Razer Red switch found on the Razer Huntsman Mini. The switch has some dampening rings to reduce the sound output on impact, but even with the dampening, the Razer Red switch is still pretty loud.

Mechanical switches, on the other hand, have silent switches which are a great option for a quiet typing and gaming experience.

Silent switches have rubber dampening on the switch stem, which decrease the sound on impact of the switch. Perfect for gaming at night when everybody else is asleep.

Mechanical switches are just way better supported for noise as you have so many different options to choose how loud you want your switches to be.

Better

Variety: Winner = Mechanical

Mechanical switches have been around for decades and for that reason they have the most options available. There are hundreds of different mechanical switch types out there, but optical maybe has a few dozen.

In addition, mechanical switches come in more niche options such as low-profile, silent, speed, and more. With optical you’ll have the main bases covered, such as linear, clicky, and tactile, but you’ll definitely miss out on most of the specialty switches.

There are only a few companies that actively manufacture optical switches. For example, Cherry MX the leading mechanical switch producer, does not make optical switches.

Perhaps if Cherry MX entered the optical switch market and brought their strict testing requirements, optical switches may become more reliable and commonly used.

Easier to Find: Winner = Mechanical

Due to how common mechanical keyboards are, they are much easier to find. On the other hand, there are only a few keyboards out there that come standard with optical switches.

If you go to a big box store, almost every keyboard available will be mechanical, while their might be one or two optical. Razer was one of the first big mechanical keyboard manufacturers to bring optical switches into the main stream, so you’re most likely to find the Razer Huntsman as the only keyboard with an optical switch option.

Optical keyboards are just more difficult to come across, not to mention they require a different PCB to install, so they aren’t compatible with a normal hot-swappable mechanical keyboard. You’ll need a keyboard designed specifically for optical switches to be able to install them.

Easier to Mod: Winner = Mechanical

Due to the large amount of community support and the time they’ve been out there, mechanical switches are much easier to mod. You can easily find resources online to learn how to lube mechanical switches or install switch film.

On the other hand, optical switches have almost no guides available. You can still mod them to improve the feel, but you’ll struggle to find tutorials that explain how to do it.

Mechanical switches are just way easier to mod until the community starts to make resources teaching others how to mod optical switches.

How do Optical and Mechanical Switches Work?

Now that we’ve compared which switch type is better in every category, let’s break down how mechanical and optical switches actually work.

Optical switches operate through a combination of light and mechanical components. When the switch is lowered past a certain point, the light will hit the sensor and log the keystroke.

With a mechanical switch, the electrical plate needs to be activated through direct contact, while with optical everything is contactless (meaning it doesn’t actually touch). Because of the contactless design, optical switches are usually longer-lasting as there is less wear-and-tear.

The advantage to a switch being actuated with light is it should be slightly faster than the electrical plates touching.

For that reason, optical switches are generally preferred for gaming.

Conclusion

Choosing between a mechanical and optical keyboard can be quite difficult, there are a lot of factors at play when picking between the two. Mechanical switches have been around the block for a long time now, so they are a much safer bet if you’re looking to purchase your first mechanical keyboard.

But if you really want to get that split second advantage in-game, an optical switch could be a better option. I could see you gaining a slight advantage in a game like Fortnite where you need to build walls extremely fast to win a fight.

Key Sound Generator Better Mechanical Keyboard Sound

In other games, the extra speed from optical switches might not be as important.

For me, the pick is a no-brainer. I’ll go with mechanical any day of the week. But it’s nice to know I can always try out optical if I ever get back into serious gaming.

Key Sound Generator Better Mechanical Keyboard Sound

Let me know what your opinions are.

Happy Typing!