A minimal approach to optimising Topre

Hi all! Would love for you all to check out my first post on my new site. Aimed at preserving Topre’s unique characteristics, this post is intended as a discussion on how to achieve this goal.

I’m very keen to hear any feedback on the writing/topics discussed in the post.

A minimal approach to optimising Topre.

Topre stands out in the enthusiast keyboard scene in many ways, in a sea of traditional ‘mechanical’ switches Topre is one of the few exceptions from the name most commonly used to describe the scene. An off-the-shelf, primarily plastic construction, with subdued aesthetics, it’s likely that Topre is not the first thing that springs to mind for most when discussing mechanical keyboards.

Many guides on customising your Topre experience lean into the extremely lubricated and silenced trend, however a large portion of the community, including myself, try to maintain a distance from this ideology. Stock Topre is a unique experience, one that deserves to be preserved, and in this post I will be discussing that goal – how to get the most out of your Topre keyboard without losing it’s charm.

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While I am not hugely experienced with Topre I do have a 660C that I put through the paces with dome swaps, lubing, silencing rings, pretty much tried every Topre mod other than that crazy slathering the PCB with lube one. I pretty much agree with what you said in your article. I landed on many of the same decisions after trying, then reversing most of the mods I did to it. As it stands now it has the stock 45g domes back in it. It’s lubed with 205g0 (very light application on just the corners of the housings the sliders make contact with, stabs lubed pretty much the same as I would Cherry style ones). Then for silencing I am using the ultra thin Keyclack rings since they don’t pre-load the domes yet still have a little silencing ability.

Really I kinda agree with you on the ideal of not opening a Topre board at all would be the most ideal situation with them. If they’d just factory lube the stabilizers I think that would be possible too. When I first got my 660C I was honestly shocked at how smooth the keys felt, how solid the board felt, how good the board sounded, except for the rattly ass stabilizers. Mine were bad too, easily in the top 10 of the worst stabs I’ve heard on a prebuilt. Thankfully they clean up super nice with lube! So to me as long as they keep sending the boards out with dry stabs, we’re gonna have to open them up to lube them at the very least unfortunately.

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Good work on the write-up.

Whilst I like my HHKB as stock-like as possible, the R2 RGB TKL clearly requires extensive modding to bring out its best (one could say, the price to pay for MX compatibility). And I’m ok bending my minimalist approach to tune the RGB TKL.

On that point (and this would be my writing feedback), I understand this is a personal perspective, but the point that modification heavily damages the board seemed to be positioned as fact. I think a claim that strong and relevant to the reader (whether in an opinion piece or a factual guide) benefits from evidentiary support, you know? I for one don’t know enough to refute or support that statement, but it raises doubt without a good way to suss out what’s true. Is that fair?

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i also prefer to keep my hhkb’s stock. but willing to budge on the classic where i want to install des sliders so i can put some favourite MT3 on them hehe

I think I tend to agree with your less-is-more approach. While MX and Topre are adjacent in my mind, they are quite different. Anyone coming from MX might think that the more mods you implement, the better you’ll be. Lube all the things. Foam and gasket everywhere.

With Topre, I feel like its best to make small, targeted steps towards improving the sound / feel. I have a 980c that has the full array of changes, and a 660c with just some stabilizer lube & ro-59 on the sliders, and the 660c is my clear preference.

Of course, all of this can be framed with the Preference disclaimer. What works for me might not work for you.

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I completely agree with your take. I have never used a lubed daily driver other than mildly tuned stabilizers. Lubed boards always feel a little too quiet (and sometimes sluggish) to me, even though I understand why that might be exactly what some people are looking for.

I also personally don’t like silencing rings, because I think they markedly dampen the gentle vintage-sounding characteristic charm of stock Topre on the upstroke. But I also acknowledge that this is a pretty subjective matter. I know a lot of people who really love lubed and silenced Topre 1u keys. To me, that is just a totally different experience and not what I’m looking for. But, again, for others it’s perfect and that’s totally cool.

Stock Topre keycaps are also excellent. My longstanding daily driver uses the black-on-black ones, and I wear the shine on my ABS spacebar as a battle-worn badge of honor.

I think the most important thing, as with many domains in life, is to remember that naive interventionism and additive treatments don’t always lead to better outcomes. I think aftermarket mods should start with something that one proactively feels is wrong or lacking and then targeting those things rather than just modding for its own sake in the belief that something that takes more work or costs more money is always better. In this case, I think it’s definitely not true.

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From the “mods”, I used to only lightly lube the switch… rails? shafts? without disassembling the board. On one I did slightly too much so it became more linear than tactile, but on other two I did ok. That was purely to get rid of scratchiness coming with all three of Hybrids I have.

But, 25th Snow White should arrive in few days. I plan to leave it fully stock, so not even that light lubing.

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I’m really curious, what is your daily driver?

Really good stuff here. As a user of aftermarket domes I only ever recommend them as a lateral move and not an upgrade.

Reading this makes me think that maybe one of the barriers to Topre having a larger popularity (other than keycap selection that is by far and away number one) is actually how little you need to do to it to have the optimal experience. Much of my enjoyment from my MX board came from tinkering and perfecting each element of the board, making frankenswitches, ect. I would compare it to my cast iron pan where I perhaps get as much enjoyment from the maintenance of the thing as its intended use.

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I find it funny that this “hobby” is almost not even about actual typing anymore.

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I think there’s something to be said about silencing rings becoming a default option routinely offered direct from the manufacturers.

I would cautiously offer that silencing rings are the most dramatic modification possible for the Topre experience because of how much it changes the sound profile when typing. But when silencing is added, other noises become much more apparent.

For example, the loudness of the spacebar on my HHKB from the stabilisers never bothered me until the rest of the board was silenced. This necessitated more conscientiously lubing the stabilisers.

Similarly, the ‘spring crunch’ / suction-like noise that happens when the springs jump up from the PCB pads when keys are released are most noticeable on a silenced board. This necessitated lubing the PCB to keep the springs in place.

And so on. For those of us who much prefer the aural experience of silenced Topre typing, I suggest that a bit more work may be required, because more is exposed and sensitivities are more likely to be triggered.

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Was it ever about typing? :sweat_smile:

I feel like typing is to this hobby what drinking coffee is to the coffee hobby, or riding bikes for cyclists. Sure, you’re still engaged in the root activity, but it stopped being about that activity and became more about the process a long time ago.

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This debate could and probably should be a whole thread.

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Yeah, when I typed my original response afterwards I was like, well yeah maybe nobody cares about the actual typing part.

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I do really enjoy typing on this device, and I use it every day. I don’t type recreationally though. I do, however, build keyboards recreationally.

They aren’t and shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. I was just pulling for a laugh initially and found myself believing what I was typing by the end.

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I joined this hobby/ made my first board for sound/ look reasons but stuck around cuz I just enjoy the community

I’m in this camp of modding primarily for a uniform sound. Well, as much as possible. I would also like to add aftermarket domes affect sound as well, so much so that I’m spending to acquire OEM domes because aftermarket domes with holes on top are still “too loud” and don’t sound the same as 55g or even variable sheets.

However, since I picked up a 23U, I am choosing to leave it bone stock. It doesn’t bother me as badly as my TKLs did, and I probably don’t type on it as often as I do my regular keebs to notice the unsilenced sound. But for a numpad, I kind of like the aural feedback of punching in numbers and hitting that enter key for a result.

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Unless I’m testing out a new design of my own, my normal go-to is: unlubed, unsilenced dome-swapped 30g Realforce 87U (45g domes on modifier keys), in a Tactical Black Norbaforce Mark II housing, with mildly tuned stabilizers. It also has black-on-black stock Topre caps. The guts of this board have been my main daily driver for about a decade, and I adore it.

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I love that so much. Just like I love seeing posts where people show their heavily shined keycaps on Insta or on reddit. I got into this hobby a couple years ago and have accrued several boards hoping to achieve the end game, or just to pad the collection with something new. But I think ultimately - at least for some of us - we find that the real end game is the one that brought us where we are.

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From my experience, plate gaskets really improve the typing experience for Realforces. Unlike HHKB’s where the slider housings are integrated into the plate, Realforces have plastic housings held onto the metal plate using small clips. This introduces rattle, which is particularly noticeable on silenced Topre. When I first tried my factory silenced 87u, I was surprised at how much noise certain keys made due to the housing rattle. Similarly, my R2 55g had inconsistent key sound and feel due to a few housings rattling more than the rest. The Unreal x Deskeys plate gasket, which is inserted between the plastic housing and the metal plate eliminates virtually all the housing rattle. As a result, my 87u is much quieter and my R2 has consistent typing sound across each row.

However, there is a drawback since there is a thin layer of material between the plastic housing and the plate, the keycaps sit closer to the metal plate. This causes some of the larger keys to hit the plate when pressed on the edges. My 87u had this issue on the right shift key in it stock form but after installing the gasket all the stabilized keys would hit the plate. Luckily, this issue is resolved by using o-rings on the keycap, which makes each keycap sit slightly higher on the slider.

I personally dislike the feeling of lubed sliders. I think stock Topre is already smooth and I regret lubing my 87u as it somewhat hinders the tactility although I think it did make it slightly quieter. The stabilizers also have a significant amount of rattle in their stock form and can use some tuning with lube. Do keep in mind that too much lube will completely change the sound signature of the stabilized keys.

Another mod I recommend if needed is lubing the PCB. I’m not sure if I got unlucky with my unit, but my stock R2 had a ridiculous amount of spring crunch on half the keys. After applying a thin coat of Tribosys 3204 the problem went away completely. I did not experience this with my 87u however.

Regarding aftermarket domes, I’ve only tried Deskeys Tiffany(35g) and Blue (56g). The tactility is much sharper and the dome collapses completely after the tactile event whereas Topre has a much rounder and longer tactile bump. Personally I much prefer the feeling and sound of Topre but Deskeys are less fatiguing (comparing Tiffany to variable weight and Blue to Topre 55g). Another factor to consider is the inconsistency and aging of Topre domes. The weighting tolerance is actually +/- 15g, which can be an issue. I haven’t tested the individual dome weights of my R2 55g but one of the domes is much lighter than the rest and feels almost linear. I’ve since moved that dome to my largely unused Pause key, but it is a bit annoying that such an expensive keyboard can have such large tolerance. Aging also increases the weight and tactility from what I’ve read. Currently I’m fairly satisfied with my R2 55g but if the keys become too heavy or inconsistent with age, I will most likely swap them with Deskeys Carrot domes (more rounded than previous Deskeys domes and more tactile than Topre 55g).

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