Why Are Mechanical Keyboards So Loud?
If you have never typed on a mechanical keyboard, it may come as a surprise to learn that they are fairly noisy. The reason for this is that they make use of switches underneath every single key. When you press down a key, the switch is activated and this causes the keystroke to be registered by your system.
There are some distinct differences between rubber dome switches and mechanical keyboard switches. If you have used a rubber dome keyboard, you will know that there is usually not much sound coming from them. The only sound you will hear is the plastic of the keys hitting the surface of the keyboard when pressed.
Most mechanical keyboards feature Cherry MX switches which are available in different colors depending on their characteristics.
- Blue switches provide very tactile feedback and produce an audible click as well as a tactile bump when pressed down.
- Brown switches are very similar in nature but without the audible click.
- Red switches do not include the tactile bump and therefore do not provide feedback for when your keystroke has been registered by your system.
Many people prefer the louder sound however if you prefer it quieter here are some tips to make them less noisy…
5 Ways to Make a Mechanical Keyboard Quieter
Just about every mechanical keyboard is loud. It’s part of the package. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A combination of switches, keycaps, and dampening techniques can make your mechanical keyboard much quieter.
It’s a subjective goal, sure, but even if you just want to cut down on the clatter a little bit, you have options. Here are 5 different ways to make a mechanical keyboard quieter:
1. Use O-Rings and Dampeners
O-rings are small rubber rings that are placed on the keycaps of a mechanical keyboard. They dampen the sound of the bottoming out of a switch by raising up the keycap slightly and reducing the distance that it needs to travel.
To install them, simply pull off each switch’s keycap, slip an o-ring over each stem, and press the keycap back into place. This will eliminate some of the “ping” noise created when bottoming out, but won’t change how the switch feels when you’re actually typing.
Alternatively, you can use dampeners instead of o-rings. These are little rubber pads that fit in between two halves of the switch housing, rather than sitting on top of the switches themselves. They do a better job of eliminating that ping noise than o-rings do, but they’ll also make your keyboard feel a bit different when typing because they absorb part of the force from pressing each key.
2. Lubricate Your Switches
Keyboard switches use tiny pins to connect the moving parts together. These pins can become sticky over time, or they can also become squeaky and make a lot of noise when they’re pressed. A tiny amount of lubrication can solve this problem, but you need to be careful which type you use as some lubricants will damage plastics.
Other lubricants (such as graphite) may cause problems with switches that have metal leaf springs as they can be attracted to metal surfaces, which affects the feel of the switch and can cause it to stick down.
The best option is to use Krytox GPL105 grease for switches with plastic leaf springs and Krytox GPL205 for those with metal leaf springs, as this lubricant is specifically designed for keyboards and is safe to use inside switches. Lubricating your switches makes them feel smoother, quieter, and may even help reduce their actuation force.
3. Remove the Keycaps
Keycaps are often made from thin ABS plastic and have a tendency to rattle on the switch stems when pressed. Some stabilizers have plastic clips that hold the keycaps in place, so removing them can prevent rattling without sacrificing stability. If your board does not have these stabilizers, then removing the keycap may cause it to wobble and feel unstable when pressed.
4. Soften Your Keycaps
You can soften your keycaps by sanding them down with fine-grit sandpaper. We’ve also heard of people using nail files and glass polishers to do the same thing, but we recommend sandpaper as it’s easy to use and you won’t damage anything.
5. Add Foam
Foam is great for dampening noise, and it’s easy to get hold of; you can find it in speakers and packaging material from electronics stores.
You can add foam to your keyboard in two ways: either under your switches or between the keys on your keycaps. The first method requires opening your keyboard, so we don’t recommend it for beginners; however, it does give more consistent results than putting foam on top of your keycaps.
If you choose this method, simply cut small squares of foam and place one under each switch before replacing the keycap.
However, this will also raise your keys a little and change their feel — something that’s not ideal if you’re going for an authentic vintage feel. You can also add some foam between the stem of the switch and the cap itself, although this is fiddly work.
A cheaper option is to put a square of foam between each keycap and its base. Results are less consistent with this method — because the overall thickness varies depending on which keycap you’re using — but it’s easier to do and it doesn’t require you to remove any keys at all.
In summary, Mechanical keyboards can be loud. Some people love the sound and feel of a mechanical keyboard, myself included, but typing on one makes the dreaded clacking sounds that have you worried that your coworkers are going to give you dirty looks — or worse still, tell HR.
If you want to keep using your mechanical keyboard daily without being a nuisance to those around you, the above tips will help you make it a little quieter.