Comparing the Keycult 1/60 and J-02

Yesterday I finally found the motivation to build my J-02 that had been sitting unbuilt in its carrying case for exactly six months. I joined the group buy for the J-02 a few months after losing the raffle for a Keycult, and considering the design motifs were so similar I thought it would be a good alternative.

A month later, a friend of mine asked if I would pay him for the GB spot he won in the Keycult raffle. He had apparently come to the conclusion that he didn’t actually want to spend $600 on a keyboard that doesn’t come fully assembled and wouldn’t arrive for several more months. I was, of course, fully on board with buying an A-stock Keycult at the retail price plus a bit of extra shipping.

So now I was going to be receiving two top quality black-and-brass 60% boards with somewhat similar design motifs. I wasn’t really sure I actually wanted two of them, but I figured that if I didn’t like having two I could just decide which one I liked more and sell the other. And so, I’ve been planning on doing a head-to-head comparison of these two keyboards for over a year now. I’ve been using the Keycult for the past 6 months, probably about half the time since I swapped it out with my other boards pretty often. And now that I’m typing this up on the J-02 I’ve realized that doing a head-to-head comparison isn’t going to be simple.

Starting from the obvious problems with comparison: They were built by different people using different switches and vastly different stabilizer lubing strategies. I got @Manofinterests to build the Keycult because I had previously only built one custom and frankly, I did very poorly with lubing both the switches and stabs. I didn’t trust myself to do well enough on the Keycult for it to live up to the premium experience the brand is known for, and I figured getting someone more experienced to do it for me would give me something to reference in terms of what good lubing feels like. That would push the J-02 to being the second custom I’ve built, and the stress of wanting to get this one right kind of ended up making me just not do anything. Oops. Eventually, the keyset I ordered to go with the J-02 arrived and I knew I had to get it done already. I came up with a bit of a compromise with myself: Tune the stabilizers to my liking and then just solder it up without doing anything to modify the factory-lubed switches.

Okay, enough backstory. Here’s how the boards are built up:

Keycult 1/60 rev. 1

  • Switches: Gat black ink housing with Halo clear stems and springs, lubed with 3203 and 3204
  • Stabilizers: Zeal, lubed with Superlube
  • Plate: Brass


  • Switches: C³Equalz Kiwi switches (T1 recolor), factory lube
  • Stabilizers: Durock v2 housings with green C³ wires, very lightly lubed with 205g0
  • Plate: Carbon fiber

So as they are now, a 1:1 comparison of the boards isn’t possible but I’m just going to give my initial impressions now and eventually I’ll do some switch swaps and redo both sets of stabs to do a more fair comparison of the sound. For now, I’ll start with the things I can compare directly.

Design differences

My initial impression before I received these boards was that they looked similar due to them both having a brass line going around the sides of the board breaking up the otherwise monotonous black body. Now that they’re both sitting in front of me, I can’t help but think the way they implemented the brass on the sides gives off completely different impressions.

The accent line of the 1/60 avoids drawing attention to itself and isn’t present on the front of the board at all, which gives it an understated, classy look. By comparison, the J-02’s use of brass almost seems to demand your attention with how much contrast is present from every viewing angle. Where the 1/60 feels like a black keyboard with brass accents, the J-02 feels like a black-and-brass keyboard.

You may also notice in the above photo that you can see the base of the J-02 while the 1/60 appears to be floating, which brings me to the bottom:

I don’t think there’s much I need to talk about here; the 1/60 blows the J-02 out of the water in terms of looks here. Ignoring the designs on the face for a moment, the curves on the base of the 1/60 make it look like it’s floating from the side profile which is really cool. The J-02 was designed with a large sound cavity in mind, so the boxy base was somewhat unavoidable. Personally I don’t put a lot of weight on this since I don’t ever really have my keyboards upside down long enough to care, but it really goes to show that Keycult cares a lot about the things people usually don’t look at.

In terms of the bezels, the 1/60 has very small side bezels and just enough room on top and bottom to gasket mount the plate. The sides and bottom of the J-02 are about the same width as the top/bottom on the 1/60; just enough space to mount the plate into the gasket that goes all the way around the board. And then of course the J-02 has a giant forehead for space to put a pen down. Like with the use of brass, the 1/60 appears much more minimalist and doesn’t draw attention to itself, but has more attention put into little details like the edges having an angle cut into rather than just being rounded off to make the bezels appear smaller than they actually are.

I’ll also note that the large top bezel and pen rail on the J-02 makes picking it up a bit more of a pain than the 1/60. I can’t wrap one hand around the J-02 comfortably, and when picking it up from the sides you need to put your hands right around the top row and the pen rail for it to be balanced. The majority of the 1/60’s weight is in the brass that extends to the bottom, meaning the board’s center of gravity is right around the physical center of the board. It isn’t a large or important difference, but again Keycult’s attention to detail just makes their board seem more premium.

Typing feel

This is something I can’t really properly compare the two on until I get some of the switches in each swapped out but there are a few observations I can make. Neither the brass nor carbon fiber plates are exactly flexible but both boards are gasket mounted which adds a bit of flex/softness to them. But the difference in how the gaskets are implemented really changes where the boards flex.

The 1/60’s plate has tabs along the top and bottom which implement flex cuts to allow the plate to flex down without needing the bulk of the plate to bend. With the stiff brass plate, this manifests itself by allowing just the sides of the board to flex a bit when you apply some force to them. Pressing down on G/H, 6/7, or anything near the horizontal center of the board produces no flex whatsoever, but pressing down on Control or Esc makes the entire edge of the board go down. The J-02 is almost the inverse of that: The all-around gasket holds up the sides of the plate just as much as the top and bottom edges, which results in no flex around the edges but if you push down on the alphas near the center you’ll see all the keys sink down together just a slight bit.

In theory, I like the J-02 more here since if anything is going to be bouncy I’d want it to be the alphas. But in practice, I don’t feel any flex at all on either board while typing. So if anything, I’d give the J-02 a very small win over the 1/60 with the brass plate. Keycult provides multiple plate options that are less stiff, while Jae has recommended not using anything really flexible for a J-02 plate because it needs to be stiff enough to stay mounted in the gasket. So YMMV, if you want a board with a flexible feeling then the J-02 just doesn’t stack up to the options you get from Keycult but if you want a stiffer board then I’d say the J-02 takes it.


I shouldn’t be comparing this at all until I get some kiwis in the 1/60 and some halo inks in the J-02 but the difference is so pronounced that I can’t not mention it. I have a mic arriving on Tuesday, so actual audio clips will have to wait until then.

The 1/60 sounds great. The halo stems in ink housings feel and sound fantastic. The sound of bottoming out with these is clacky without being high pitched, and there are ever-so-slight variations in tone from switch to switch due to there being slightly different amounts of lube at the bottom of the stem hole. Overall it’s rather quiet but fun to listen to.

The J-02 is LOUD. Jae has actually stated that one of the main goals of his keyboard designs is to accentuate the sound of the switches without changing the tone. In other words, it’s supposed to be loud. And I paired that with switches that have no lube in the stem hole to dampen bottom out and have such a high tactility peak that you’re forced into slamming them down. It’s actually right about the same volume as my plateless Cherry blue Das II without being quite as high pitched. This is a keyboard that can interrupt a conference call. In my opinion, it is very fun to type on this thing.

Initial conclusions

My main takeaway from this is just how wrong I was when I thought these were similar keyboards. They sport the same colors and have a couple of similar design motifs, but at their core they’re completely different. The 1/60 is very subdued overall and the design doesn’t draw attention to itself until you start looking at the details, whereas every bit of the J-02 seems to be yelling “HEY, LOOK AT ME!”

They’re both fantastic boards and I don’t think I’ll be selling either one anytime soon. But if I were to recommend one over the other, I think most of the people deep enough in the hobby to be on Keebtalk would appreciate the J-02 more. Although I’m sure the loudness will eventually get tiring to listen to, I think it’s very fun to have a loud keyboard like this that isn’t clicky. On the other hand, I see why a Keycult really is a perfect board for people who just want to get the “best” keyboard without going any further than dipping their toes into the hobby. It’s inoffensive in a way that the J-02 and other boards that are trying to explore new concepts just can’t compete with. For someone who wants one keyboard it’s great, but for someone with a collection it may seem like a board without a lot of personality. But with that said, the 1/60 is the keyboard I’ve used the most since I got it 6 months ago, and it will probably continue to be at or near the top of that list for the foreseeable future. Fun keyboards are great but I switch them out for a different board a lot quicker than when I have the Keycult on my desk.

That took a lot longer than I thought I would be spending on this today :sweat_smile:
Like I said, I’ll be adding to this as I find time to desolder a few switches from each board to swap them over and I’ll post sound tests once I get that mic in. Let me know if you have any questions about the boards!


Personally, I disagree. I’ve always disliked the butt of the No. 1 line. It does a few things right - hiding is nice (although not something I would consider as required), as is the weight and machining. But aesthetically I have never liked it. I think the 1/60 still takes it here, just cause the J-02 is so discontinuous, but it’s not an automatic win IMO.

Otherwise, great review! It’s pretty obvious from this that these are different enough that it’s nearly impossible to compare. It’s pretty interesting to see two high end boards compared though.

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