Mechanical keyboards are popular among gamers and typists for their tactile feedback, durability, and speed. However, clicking the keys’ sound can be a nuisance, especially in quiet environments or shared spaces. Fortunately, there are several methods to dampen the noise of a mechanical keyboard without sacrificing its performance or functionality. This article will explore practical ways to quiet down your mechanical keyboard and enjoy a more peaceful typing experience.
Understanding the Noise
Before we delve into the solutions, it’s essential to understand why mechanical keyboards are loud in the first place. Unlike membrane keyboards that use a rubber dome to register keystrokes, mechanical keyboards rely on individual mechanical switches that produce an audible click or clack sound when pressed. The sound comes from the stem of the whip hitting against the housing or the spring inside the button. The type of switch and keycap material can also affect the noise level. Some people prefer the sound of a loud mechanical keyboard as it provides auditory feedback and a sense of satisfaction, while others find it distracting or annoying.
Method 1: O-Rings
One of the simplest and cheapest ways to reduce the noise of a mechanical keyboard is to install o-rings on the switches. O-rings are tiny rubber rings that fit around the stem of the button and cushion the impact when the key is bottomed out. This dampens the sound and shortens the critical travel distance, making the keyboard feel softer and more comfortable to type on. O-rings come in different thicknesses and materials, such as silicone, rubber, or PTFE, and can be easily installed with a keycap puller. However, they may affect the tactile feel of the switch and reduce the overall critical travel distance, which may only be suitable for some.
Method 2: Switch Dampeners
Switch dampeners are similar to o-rings in reducing the key’s noise and bottom-out distance. However, they are usually made of softer foam or silicone and are designed to be inserted inside the switch housing instead of around the stem. This method can be more effective than o-rings in reducing noise as it directly absorbs the impact and prevents the branch from hitting the bottom of the housing. Switch dampeners can be purchased as pre-cut pads or DIY sheets that can be trimmed to fit the switches. However, they may also affect the tactile feel of the control and require more effort to install.
Method 3: Lubrication
Another way to quiet down a mechanical keyboard is to lubricate the switches and stabilizers. This involves applying a thin layer of lubricants, such as silicone or PTFE powder, to the moving parts of the button to reduce friction and noise. Lubrication can also improve the smoothness and consistency of the switch action, making it feel more responsive and satisfying to type on. However, it requires keyboard disassembly and careful application of the lubricant, as using too much or too little can cause problems such as stickiness or inconsistency.
Method 4: Sound Absorption
If you want to reduce the noise of your mechanical keyboard even further, you can use sound-absorbing materials such as foam, neoprene, or acoustic foam to dampen the sound of the switches and the case. This method involves lining the keyboard case’s inside or the PCB’s underside with the sound-absorbing material to absorb the sound waves and prevent them from bouncing back. This can significantly reduce the noise level of the keyboard and make it almost silent. However, applying the material correctly requires more effort and skill and may affect the cooling and ventilation of the keyboard.
Method 5: Switch Replacement
If none of the above methods work or if you’re looking for a more customized solution, consider replacing the switches of your mechanical keyboard with quieter ones. Various controls are available in the market with different sound profiles and actuation forces, such as Cherry MX Silent, Gateron Silent, and Zeal PC Zilents. These switches are designed to produce less noise and offer a smoother and quieter typing experience. However, switch replacement requires technical skills, knowledge, and soldering tools and equipment. It can also be expensive depending on the number of switches and the type of switches you want to install.
Method 6: Typing Technique
Lastly, one of the easiest ways to reduce the noise of your mechanical keyboard is to adjust your typing technique. The sound of the keyboard comes from the impact of the critical hitting bottom or the top of the switch housing, so if you can reduce the force or the speed of your keystrokes, you can also reduce the noise level. This can be achieved by typing more lightly or using a different typing style, such as touch typing or thumb typing, that requires less force and motion. You can also experiment with varying materials of keycap or profiles that may affect the sound and feel of the keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards are excellent for productivity and gaming, but their noise can be problematic for some users. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to quiet down your mechanical keyboard without sacrificing its performance or comfort. Whether you choose to use o-rings, switch dampeners, lubrication, sound absorption, switch replacement or a combination of these methods, you can achieve a more peaceful and enjoyable typing experience. Consider your preferences, budget, and technical skills when choosing the best way.
Can I use o-rings on any mechanical switch?
O-rings can be used on most Cherry MX-style switches but may not fit or work well on other types of controls.
Will lubricating my switches make them last longer?
Lubrication can help reduce switch wear and tear and prolong their lifespan, but it also depends on the quality and amount of lubricant used.
How much does switch replacement cost?
The switch replacement cost varies depending on the type and quantity of switches and the labor cost if you hire a professional.
Will reducing the noise of my mechanical keyboard affect my typing speed or accuracy?
It may bring some time to adjust to your keyboard’s quieter sound and feel, but it should not significantly affect your typing performance if you choose a method that suits your preferences and needs.