As the mechanical keyboard interest has risen in reputation, a brand new technology of typists and avid gamers have embraced the thrill of keyboards that each sound and really feel nice to make use of. Some of the preferred customized keyboards, just like the Jelly Epoch, have gained traction largely resulting from their satisfying and distinctive typing sounds. Modifying and tweaking the greatest keyboards to realize sure sound profiles has turn into nearly a pastime of its personal.
Over the final two years, I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with tweaking each keyboard that crosses my desk till it sounds and feels precisely how I need it to. With just a little know-how, it’s potential to show even a finances keyboard, customized or not, into a formidable and satisfying instrument of its commerce. If you don’t have the cash for an costly DIY equipment, or just wish to push your current keyboard to its restrict, that is the information for you.
Glossary of Important Terms
- Thock: Low pitched typing sounds, generally described as “deep.”
- Clack: Higher pitched typing sounds.
- Hollowness: The empty sound that happens from an excessive amount of empty area inside a keyboard case or the best way through which sounds reverberate in what empty area stays
- Ping: The high-pitched ringing sound that accompanies typing. Most distinguished on keyboards with steel circumstances or high plates. Can be brought on by the springs inside switches.
- Lube: Synthetic grease used on switches and stabilizers. This will be dielectric grease (for stabilizers) or a thinner lube, like Krytox, for switches.
- Stem: The central, transferring a part of a change or stabilizer. Features a cross-shaped high.
- Stabilizer: A stabilizer is a pair of dummy switches positioned beneath the bigger keys related by a wire. This element retains these keys balanced and prevents the keycap from tipping to 1 aspect or the opposite. Most pre-built keyboards use plate-mount stabilizers, which clip into the identical plate because the switches. Screw-in or Clip-in stabilizers join on to the PCB and are tougher to take away with out uninstalling the switches and eradicating the change plate.
- Plate: The fundamental panel switches lock into. Metal plates are typically increased pitched. Plastic plates are typically decrease pitched.
- Bottom-out: When a change is pressed all the best way down and might journey no additional. Results in a louder typing sound.
- PCB: Printed Circuit Board. This is the principle digital interface of your keyboard.
- Hot-Swap Sockets: Small sockets included on some keyboards that enable switches to be plugged and unplugged with out the necessity for soldering.
- Flex: How the keys transfer below the finger when typed or pressed on.
- Mounting Style: How the PCB and plate connect to the keyboard case. Mounting kinds that use steel fasteners are often extra stiff to kind on. Other kinds, comparable to gasket mount, use foam strips or rubber o-rings to soak up vibrations from typing to create a softer typing expertise that always has the aspect impact of elevated flex. Popular mounting kinds embody: gasket mount, high mount, tray mount, and friction-fit (o-ring mount).
A Word About This Guide
Since this information is all about modding your mechanical keyboard, it’s written across the concept of with the ability to entry its totally different components. This is most simply finished with a DIY equipment of some type, however many of those mods will be utilized to any keyboard you’re capable of disassemble. Depending on the keyboard you propose to mod and your individual familiarity with tech, the problem of this course of will range. Bear in thoughts disassembling a premade keyboard will probably void its guarantee, so proceed with warning.
Whether you’re disassembling a gaming keyboard or constructing your individual, you’ll want a precision screwdriver set. This one from VMAN is great and is comparatively cheap. The ever-popular Pro Tech Toolkit from iFixIt is one other good possibility. Take care when eradicating components, be aware the place totally different fasteners go and keep in mind that taking it aside will probably void its guarantee, so proceed with warning.
Mod and Lube the Stabilizers
Modding and lubing the stabilizers is among the most essential components of any customized keyboard construct. In reality, it’s so essential that whereas, sure, primary preparation of stabilizers is a mod, it’s borderline necessary for an excellent sound profile. Anyone constructing a customized keyboard ought to be lubing the stabilizers at a minimal. Not doing so will immediately undermine some other efforts you’ve made to reinforce the sound.
That stated, primary lubing is easy sufficient that it may be finished in minutes. It will be more difficult on pre-made keyboards with soldered switches (stopping you from eradicating the stabilizer), however continues to be potential and pretty easy with the usage of a syringe. This additionally makes re-lubing sooner or later simpler, and that eventuality is a certainty as lube shifts. Combining it with secondary mods, just like the holee mod (mentioned afterward), can ward that off, nonetheless.
If your keyboard helps hot-swappable switches, take away the stabilizer earlier than trying to mod it. Do this by first eradicating the change after which utilizing a pair of tweezers or a change puller to squeeze the tabs holding it in place. Screw-in and clip-in stabilizers are a lot much less widespread on pre-built keyboards however are often bought with customized keyboard kits. If you will have a keyboard with one among these stabilizers already put in, they have to be unclipped or unscrewed from the underside of the PCB. Perform all mods earlier than putting in these stabilizers.
One last be aware: in case you plan to holee mod your stabs (brief for stabilizers), you have to achieve this earlier than lubing them.
Basic Preparation and Lubing of the Stabilizers (Stabilizers Removed)
What You’ll Need
Basic preparation of stabilizers is a staple of keyboard constructing and a straightforward manner to enhance keyboards that come pre-built. The purpose of this set of mods is to cut back any rattle created by the wire contacting the plastic housing of the stabilizer, in addition to to melt bottom-outs. The following steps assume you’re capable of take away the stabilizer. If you aren’t, skip to the subsequent part which describes stabilizers that can’t be eliminated.
Begin by disassembling the stabilizer. Do this by turning the housing 90-degrees till the wire pops out of its retention clip (take note of the place that is). Then, slide the wire out of the housing. The stem is eliminated by pushing it down and out of the housing. Complete this step for each side, wipe down the elements with a clear paper towel.
With the items separated, it’s time to chop the ft off of every stabilizer stem. Note that some stabilizers have this step finished for you. If the underside is flat, transfer onto the subsequent step. If it’s not, start by turning the stabilizer the wrong way up. You ought to see two forked ft. These contact the PCB on backside outs and trigger a plasticky noise. Use the nail trimmers or flush cutters to take away these two ft from every stem.
Next, it’s time to lube the housing. Using a skinny lube like Krytox or Glorious G Lube (or a very skinny layer or dielectric grease), paint a skinny layer of lube alongside the within of the housing. This must be simply sufficient to make the floor look moist. If you’re utilizing Krytox or G Lube, you shouldn’t be capable of see any coloration to the lube being painted or else you’ve added an excessive amount of. Should this occur, use a little bit of alcohol and a cotton swab to wash and dry the housing, then strive once more.
If you don’t plan to holee mod, insert the stem again into the underside of the housing. The entrance, which faces the wire clip, has two holes. The rear has just one. If you do plan to holee mod the stabilizer, depart the stems out for now and skip to that step.
With the housings and stems reassembled, it’s time to lube the wire. Paint a layer of thick dielectric grease (Krytox or G Lube additionally work) alongside each ends of the wire, passing the bend by a couple of centimeter. You ought to fully cowl the wire however don’t glob it on or the stabilizer can turn into sluggish. Add a contact of lube to the housing the place the wire snaps in. A fine-tipped syringe full of grease is a simple strategy to cleanly add this dollop.
Insert the wire again into the stabilizer. When doing this, the wire must be positioned into the underside gap. To assist align it appropriately, look into the center of the stabilizer (the place the wire inserts into the housing) and double examine by flipping the stabilizer over to make sure it’s positioned correctly. When it’s in place, flip the housing an reverse 90-degrees till the wire snaps again into its retention clip.
Test the stabilizer to make sure the entire rattle has subsided. Do this by reinstalling the stab into the plate (slide it into place after which press down till it clicks), reinstall the change and keycap, after which faucet it as you usually would when typing. If it nonetheless rattles, take away it once more and add extra lube. If it’s sluggish, take away it, clear off the wire and paint on a thinner layer earlier than making an attempt once more.
Lubing Stabilizers (Stabilizers Installed)
What You’ll Need
If you weren’t capable of take away the stabilizer, you’ll be able to nonetheless lube your stabs! For this, you’ll want a fine-tipped syringe stuffed along with your lube of selection. You’ll be injecting the lubricant instantly into the required areas. Fill a small syringe with two-to-three milliliters of lubricant (you received’t want a lot).
For this technique, it’s essential to not add an excessive amount of lube to your stabilizer as it’s tougher to wash out. Begin by including small quantities after which testing whether or not it removes the rattle. If not, add extra. If you do occur to over-lube and don’t like the texture of your stabilizer, you’ll have to dig that extra lube out utilizing a skinny instrument like a paperclip or needle.
Begin by eradicating the keycaps for the stabilized keys. Examine the place the wire enters the housing. This is the entrance. Turn your keyboard so that you’re trying behind the stabilizer. Using tweezers, seize the stem and elevate it up. This will expose the opening within the stem which holds the wire. Inject a small quantity of lubricant into this gap till it covers the wire. Repeat with the alternative aspect.
Now, look intently on the entrance of the stabilizer. If you’re capable of see the place the wire clips in, add a small quantity of lubricant on high of this space. Work it round with the tip of the syringe and by transferring the stem up and down along with your tweezers to rotate the wire. If you can not see the place the wire clicks in, skip this step.
Finally, utilizing your paint brush, lube the edges of the stem. Do this by holding the stem up as excessive as it should go utilizing your tweezers. Paint a skinny layer (sufficient to look moist) on each side of the stem and repeat for the alternative aspect.
Band-aid Mod (Cushion Bottom-outs)
What You’ll Need
The band-aid mod is a traditional within the mechanical keyboard world. In reality, it has turn into such a staple that it’s now not needed to make use of precise band-aids as corporations like KBDFans now promote special foam stickers to make it simpler to use. It makes a noticeable change to the sound of stabilizers and is completely price contemplating in case your purpose is to tune and tame the sound of these bigger keys.
The objective of the band-aid mod is to create a cushion beneath the stabilizer stems, softening the sound of bottom-outs. This mod pairs with clipping the ft off the stabilizers and reduces the excessive pitched sound of plastic smacking towards the PCB. A aspect profit is that it additionally makes urgent these keys really feel barely softer.
For this mod, you’ll have to take away the switches and stabilizers for every of the stabilized keys. Then, minimize out a small strip of band-aid, in regards to the dimension of the stabilizers and paste it on the PCB, instantly the place the stabilizers can be sitting. Then, apply a small quantity of lube to the floor and rub it in till the material begins to darken.
To save time, contemplate selecting up a set of stabilizer stickers. These are skinny, pre-cut items of adhesive foam that take the place of band-aids. They’re simple to use and affordably priced at $2 for a set of 20. Because of delivery, the fee winds up increased, so contemplate shopping for a set together with lube or different provides.
What You’ll Need
The holee mod is a singular and widespread mod that may fully take away rattle out of your keyboard for good. It includes inserting a skinny strip of band-aid contained in the stabilizer stem to cushion the wire and remove the likelihood for rattle. It’s tedious to use however the outcomes are arduous to argue with, significantly in case you have rattle that simply received’t stop along with your spacebar. It will be difficult to conceptualize with simply textual content and images, so take a look at this video guide by Hamaji Neo for a full demonstration.
With the stabilizer disassembled and earlier than any lube has made its manner into the stem, minimize skinny strips of band-aid sufficiently small to be inserted into the rear gap. Using tweezers, place the band-aid on the roof of this chamber, so the material factors down. Be positive that no band-aid stands out of the again or it should intervene with the journey of the stabilizer.
At this level, you’ll have a prolonged strip of leftover band-aid poking out the entrance. Use scissors to chop off all however sufficient to tuck into the higher gap on the entrance of the stem. Use the tip of your tweezers to press alongside the floor of the band-aid so the adhesive firmly applies inside the highest gap and alongside the roof of the underside. Re-assemble the stabilizers, together with calmly lubing the wire, and re-install within the keyboard.
Your stabilizer would possibly really feel barely tight or sluggish instantly after making use of this mod. Don’t fret. The material of the band-aid will soften with regular use.
Choose the Right Plate Material
The plate is among the most essential elements in any mechanical keyboard construct. It’s the stabilizing element beneath the switches that helps maintain them in place, significantly in keyboards with hot-swap sockets. It’s additionally some of the impactful relating to the sound and really feel of a keyboard.
There are only a few mods that may be finished to the plate itself, however it’s essential that you simply select the proper materials for the sound and really feel you’re going for. As a rule, the denser the fabric, the upper pitched the typing sounds can be. Materials like brass or copper are often clackier than delicate plastics like polycarbonate or POM. Harder supplies additionally result in a firmer typing expertise and might counteract among the softness and flex of gasket mount implementations.
This consideration is basically for DIY keyboard kits. While it’s potential to vary the plate in some pre-made 60-percent keyboard kits, a scarcity of standardization makes it very tough to take action with bigger kind components. Instead, it’s all the time sensible to think about what you want to obtain earlier than shopping for a customized keyboard equipment and select the suitable plate for that objective.
With that in thoughts, it’s potential to purchase plate foam from corporations like MK Ultra. This can dampen the sound of keystrokes. If you like the stiff really feel of a denser plate however like a thockier sound, including plate foam will help scale back a few of its pure clackiness.
Choose the Right Keycaps for the Sound You Seek
Choosing the proper keycaps is about extra than simply the look (although that’s often the primary purpose to think about a set). I’ve already written an intensive information on selecting the correct keycaps, however there are a few factors surrounding sound which might be price discussing additional.
The first has to do with the kind of plastic getting used and its thickness. In basic, keycaps are available in ABS or PBT plastic. ABS is extra widespread in high-end keycaps units, like these from GMK, due to its wonderful coloration copy. PBT tends to be a bit cheaper (however not all the time) and is extra proof against put on and tear over time. There are many choices for each that can be purchased and whereas one isn’t essentially higher than the opposite, they do affect sound.
While totally different units will range, ABS tends to be a contact clackier whereas PBT often sounds a bit deeper. This has to do with the density of the plastic, however can be influenced by the thickness of every keycap. Thicker keycaps will naturally sound thockier and in addition really feel extra stable below your fingers. As a rule, it’s a good suggestion to keep away from keycaps which might be 1mm or much less in thickness in case you’re aiming for a formidable sound (although skinny keycaps with backlit legends are greatest for displaying RGB lighting). Aim for keycaps which might be between 1.3 – 1.5mm for good sound and really feel, whatever the plastic you select.
The different factor to remember is keycap profile. The profile of a keycap set refers to its curvature throughout the keys and the peak of every keycap, along with how they’re sculpted. The essential factor to remember is that taller keycaps typically sound deeper however also can sound hole as a result of added area below the important thing.
Swap Switches and Lube
Choose the proper change
Before shopping for a keyboard or selecting switches to your personal construct, it’s essential to decide on the proper change for the sound and really feel you’re on the lookout for. There are not any provides required for this step, however you do have to do your analysis. Familiarize your self with the basic differences between linear, tactile, and clicky switches. When you’re finished, spend a while on r/mechanicalkeyboards and browse storefronts like Prevail Key Company and NovelKeys. See what’s widespread and appears attention-grabbing to you. Then, head to YouTube and seek for typing checks to listen to the way it sounds.
The hunt for the right change is among the greatest causes to put money into a keyboard with hot-swappable change sockets. New switches are being launched on a regular basis, every with refined variations in sound and really feel. Being capable of change switches on the fly is releasing and means that you can frequently have interaction with the interest in a manner that’s not potential with soldered switches.
Lube and Film Your Switches
What You’ll Need
Lubing your switches is among the most impactful methods to enhance the sound and really feel of your keyboard. Adding lube to a change’s fundamental friction factors will increase smoothness, cuts down on spring ping, and deepens its sound. It can take fairly some time however is properly definitely worth the effort and time in order for you the optimum sound.
That stated, the need to lube switches your self isn’t as nice because it was resulting from pre-lubed switches now turning into extensively out there. NovelKeys Silk switches are one instance. Gateron Pro switches are one other and lately got here in inventory with the Keychron Q2. While many fanatics nonetheless insist that hand lubing is greatest, pre-lubed switches are higher than ever and might prevent hours of labor.
If you’ve by no means lubed switches earlier than, take the time to learn our full information. We take you thru the method step-by-step and reply questions alongside the best way. I might extremely encourage anybody modding to select up a top quality change opener and lube station to hurry up the method. The change opener will save your fingers from pointless pokes and shave hours off the time it takes to open your set of switches. Once they’re open, the lube station means that you can set every element right into a tray, making the method extra environment friendly.
Filming is a sister mod to lubing as a result of it must be finished whereas the switches are disassembled. Switch movies are small plastic or foam sheets that sit in between the highest and backside half of the housing. This will be helpful if the 2 halves transfer when twisted, but additionally provides its personal contact of deepness to typing sounds when utilized. Switch filming is never needed however is a typical follow amongst fanatics. Installation is so simple as inserting one on the underside change housing earlier than urgent each side again into place.
Looking to avoid wasting time? It’s potential to do a primary lube job with out fully disassembling your switches. The outcomes received’t be fairly as easy as in case you opened them correctly, and received’t enhance spring ping in any respect, however it’s potential to lube a whole keyboard in below an hour and obtain a sound and really feel that’s comparatively near the full-fledged operation.
To do that, you’ll want a skinny lube, like Krytox 205 grade 0, a really nice paintbrush (ideally with longer bristles), and tweezers. Coat the paint brush in your lubricant of selection, then wipe off any extra. The bristles ought to look moist however haven’t any seen coloration to the lubricant. Less is extra, and with this technique, it’s simple to over-lube. With your tweezers, press the change stem down and slide the bristles into the left and proper aspect of the stem. It ought to really feel pretty tight because the bristles push between the stem and the rails that maintain it in place. When each side are finished, you must really feel and listen to an enchancment to the sound of that change.
Mod the PCB for Added Thock and Pop
What You’ll Need
One of the preferred mods of final 12 months was the Tempest Tape Mod, named after the keyboard builder who created it. This mod could be very easy however makes an enormous distinction on the sound of your keyboard. Many builders have known as it a “magic bullet” to creating your keyboard wonderful and it is among the very best to use.
All you have to do is canopy the again of your PCB in painter’s tape. That’s it. You can use something from one to a number of layers, however be sure you make cutouts for screws and essential elements, like plugs for JST cables. It’s additionally essential that you simply solely use painter’s tape or one other very mild masking tape for this mod so it doesn’t pull off any elements in case you select to take away it.
The tape acts as a sort of acoustic filter. In basic, it appears to chop out among the increased frequencies produced from typing. This creates a deeper, thockier sound. The outcomes do range from keyboard to keyboard, nonetheless, so it’s essential to play with the quantity of layers till you obtain your required impact.
What You’ll Need
A sister mod to tape modding your PCB is the PE foam mod. It was developed after the launch of the Jelly Epoch, some of the widespread customized keyboards of final 12 months, when customers found its signature sound was largely resulting from its personal sheet of PE foam. Since it’s potential to purchase this as cheap packing material for dishes, it didn’t take lengthy earlier than the group began making an attempt it with totally different keyboards and discovering it created a really comparable sound, even on keyboards that price a fraction of the worth.
Applying the PE foam mod is extra difficult than the tape mod, and it’s best utilized with the keyboard fully disassembled. To begin, take away the entire switches and stabilizers from the keyboard. Remove the plate and PCB from the case and unscrew the plate so all you’re left with is the PCB. Place it face down on a sheet of PE foam and hint the define. Cut out the form you simply traced and place it on the highest of the PCB. If you’re utilizing the band-aid mod or stabilizer stickers, use an X-Acto knife to chop out small squares for the stabilizers. To maintain issues from transferring, use small bits of tape alongside the perimeters of the PCB. This is an efficient time to use the tape mod in case you haven’t already.
With the froth ready, use a small screwdriver to poke holes for the big heart pin of every change. You ought to be capable of see these by means of the froth. Reinstall the stabilizers and plate, then set up the meeting again into the case. Take care when to ensure the switches are positioned appropriately and pushed straight down when reinstalling them. The pins are sharp sufficient to poke by means of the froth however are simpler to bend with the additional layer of fabric in between.
Dampen the Case to Reduce Ping and Reverb
What You’ll Need
The last mod on this record is among the most essential for keyboards that sound hole, reverberate when typed on (widespread with aluminum circumstances), or ring out with spring ping out of your switches. While it is not going to resolve spring ping by itself (solely lubing will try this), it may well make a drastic enchancment to that and any hollowness or noise all through the case.
Case noise is usually due to the empty area under the PCB. Any case materials can sound hole: steel keyboards are significantly vulnerable to pinginess and reverberation. Adding extra materials to the case reduces the open air for sound waves to journey by means of and is among the only methods to enhance the acoustics of your keyboard.
It’s additionally some of the variable. In basic, including any delicate and fairly dense materials to dampen these sounds will assist, however there are some widespread selections to select from. Sponge neoprene is a good selection that works properly on a finances. Thin layers of silicone or shelf liner are additionally widespread selections that assist however are much less efficient. Another widespread selection is Poly-fil, the identical stuff you’ll use to fill a teddy bear. The only selections, sorbothane and automotive sound deadener, work wonders however are additionally the most costly. Each of those choices must be minimize to dimension to your case with openings for wires, standoffs, and ports.
If your keyboard makes use of a gasket mount implementation or provides flex in its typing expertise, it’s essential to decide on a fabric that received’t intervene with its motion. Choose a fabric that’s skinny sufficient to remain out of the best way whereas additionally protecting as a lot floor space as potential. If that’s not potential, filling the case with strands of Poly-fil is an efficient possibility as its wispy nature will naturally transfer because the board presses downward (assuming it’s not over-filled…like a teddy bear). Depending on the fabric you like to make use of and the keyboard you apply it to, you could have to steadiness flexibility with improved acoustics.
Using a mix of mods is among the greatest methods to take advantage of out of your keyboard. Expensive DIY kits typically include mods constructed into their design, leaving you much less to purchase and contemplate up entrance. If you’re on a finances and constructing your first customized keyboard, or just wish to elevate your present typing expertise, it’s inside your grasp with just a bit effort and time. Just watch out: when you get used to a modded typing expertise, it may be arduous to return!