Why Are Mechanical Keyboards So Loud? (5 Ways to Make Them Quieter)

Why are mechanical keyboards so loud?

If you’ve never typed on a mechanical keyboard, it may come as a surprise to learn that they are quite noisy. The reason for this is that they use switches under each key. When you press a key, the switch is activated and the keystroke is registered by your system.

 

There are some obvious differences between rubber dome switches and mechanical keyboard switches. If you’ve used a rubber dome keyboard, you know that usually not much sound comes out. 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 that come in a variety of colors depending on their features.

  • Blue switches provide highly tactile feedback and produce an audible click and tactile bump when pressed.
  • Brown switches are very similar, but without the audible click.
  • Red switches have no tactile impact and therefore provide no feedback when your keystroke has been registered by your system.

Many people prefer the louder sound, but if you prefer it quieter, here are some tips to make them less noisy…


5 Ways to Make a Mechanical Keyboard Quieter

Pretty much every mechanical keyboard is loud. It is part of the package. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A combination of switches, keycaps and damping techniques can make your mechanical keyboard much quieter.

It’s a subjective goal, of course, but even if you want to reduce the clatter a bit, you have options. Here are 5 different ways to make a mechanical keyboard quieter:

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1. Use O-rings and dampers

O-rings are small rubber rings that are placed on the keycaps of a mechanical keyboard. They muffle the sound of a switch bottoming out by raising the keycap slightly and decreasing the distance it has to travel.

To install them, simply pull the keycap off each switch, slide an o-ring over each stem and push the keycap back into place. This eliminates some of the “ping” noise that occurs when you hit the bottom, but doesn’t change how the switch feels when you’re actually typing.

Alternatively, you can use dampers instead of o-rings. These are small rubber pads that fit between two halves of the switch housing, rather than on top of the switches themselves. They eliminate that ping noise better than o-rings, but they’ll also make your keyboard feel a little different when you’re typing, as they absorb some of the force associated with pressing each key.


2. Lubricate your switches

Keyboard switches use small pins to connect the moving parts together. These pins can become sticky over time, or they can also squeak and make a lot of noise when pressed. A small amount of lubrication can solve this problem, but you must be careful with the type you use as some lubricants can damage plastics.

Other lubricants (such as graphite) can cause problems with switches with metal leaf springs because they can be attracted to metal surfaces, affecting the feel of the switch and causing it to stick.

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 specially designed for keyboards and is safe to use in switches. Lubricating your switches will make them feel smoother, quieter, and may even reduce their actuation force.

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3. Remove the keys

Keycaps are often made of thin ABS plastic and have a tendency to rattle on the switch stems when pressed. Some stabilizers have plastic clips that hold the keys in place, so removing them can prevent rattling without sacrificing stability. If your board doesn’t have these stabilizers, removing the keycap can cause it to wobble and feel unstable when pressed.

4. Soften your keys

You can soften your keycaps by sanding them with fine sandpaper. We’ve also heard of people using nail files and glass polishers to do the same, but we recommend sandpaper because it’s easy to use and won’t damage you.


5. Add foam

Foam is great for dampening sound, and it’s easy to grab; you’ll find it in electronics store speakers and packaging.

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 gives more consistent results than putting foam on 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 bit 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 switch stem and the cap itself, although this is tricky work.

A cheaper option is to place a square of foam between each keycap and the base. The results are less consistent with this method – because the overall thickness varies depending on the keycap you use – but it’s easier to do and you don’t have to remove any keys at all.

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In summary, mechanical keyboards can be loud. Some people like the sound and feel of a mechanical keyboard, myself included, but typing on a keyboard gives you the dreaded clicking noises that make you fear your coworkers will give you a dirty look – or worse, tell HR.

If you want to keep using your mechanical keyboard on a daily basis without disturbing the people around you, the above tips will help you make it a little quieter.

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