Group Buys: Best Practices & Red Flags

I’m thinking about joining a GB, but I am apprehensive for a few reasons:

  • no IRL photos of a prototype (only renders)
  • no build streams
  • no case dimensions (only typing angle was mentioned)

Is it common or best practice to expect these sorts of things up front? Is it unreasonable to ask?

I only got serious about keyboards over the last year, so I have a relatively limited experience with GBs. I think my issue is that my first GB purchase was a Norbauer. He really set a precedent for GBs with his community engagement, communication skills, showmanship, build guides, and so forth. I’d like to expect this level of customer engagement from other similarly priced GBs, but I also want to curb my expectations if that’s just plain unreasonable. I understand that price can be a factor, and that we can’t expect the world of small-scale basement operations.

What do you consider minimum best practices when posting a GB, and what are some red flags?

Would you join a $500+ GB based on renders alone? What if there was a sound test (audio only)?


I’d say the less details, the more concerning.

Not having a physical prototype is another, but I’m not bothered at all if they don’t have build streams or sound tests. I don’t generally watch these anyway.

The biggest for me is if the person making the offering is an unknown in any of the major keyboard markets (i.e. Asia, Europe, or North America). Or if they’re “known” it’s their first shot at getting a board manufactured.

The next is the above coupled with them selling directly through their own site.


Based on the available details, this seems more to me like it should be in IC than preparing for Group Buy. I get that there are limitations but if I was interested in the product I’m at least entitled to a thorough list of details. There’s so much missing here that I’d expect more before being willing to put down that amount of money.

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I agree that no physical prototype is a big red flag; unless it’s from an established company with a good track record I would probably not join a GB based on renders alone. Even from established companies, products that only have renders are pretty sketchy (such as every GB from The Key Company, who don’t have a single employee with a color-calibrated monitor).

I did notice a high-price GB recently that threw up a bunch of red flags; that one with an enamel snake going along the bottom and back of the board. Just a handful of renders that aren’t even consistent with each other (one of the images showed a case seam, the rest don’t) and don’t make me confident that whoever made the render has a complete 3D model with all the required parts. I would like at least an exploded view showing how all the parts fit together. Not sure if that’s the same GB you’re referring to, but I’d definitely use that as an example of one I would not trust with any amount of money.

One last thing,

If they don’t have any prototype photos but they claim to have a sound test, RUN.


Honestly, my only hangup is the lack of a physical prototype. I’ve come to expect prototype albums that provide a reasonable idea of the case material, finish, and any subtle nuances in the case design.

The GB is a second run. It uses a different case material and (reportedly) has minor improvements made to the case. The first run was a private GB (which I presume is code for “invite-only”) that ran 2-ish years ago. I couldn’t find any reviews or discussion from the first run; not even a Geekhack post.

I’m not terribly concerned about the seller’s integrity or experience. They are not unknown, but they are small. They have a couple thousand followers on IG and have run a few small GBs in the past. TaehaTypes did a review of one of their boards a few years ago. His feedback for positive overall. The seller’s Discord channel is active; no disgruntled buyers from what I can see.

They are selling direct through their own site. I don’t consider this a concern, personally.

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Sorry I should have clarified that the sound test was captured using a case from their first run. The second run introduces a new PCB, a different case material, and minor tweaks/improvements to the case design. The seller claims that the sound signature will be identical. (I found this particularly interesting given that the case from the first run was aluminum and the case from the second run is PC).

If it’s not through a solid vendor or have a active GH thread it’s a red flag for me.

I’m into Kickstarter projects also, which share a lot of the same characteristics as GBs. In my opinion, there is nothing unreasonable to ask- you’re trying to get enough information to assauge your risk. They’re under no obligation to provide it of course, just as you’re under no obligation to buy. Determine your own risk-tolerance and what you need to make you feel the best you can about giving money up front for a product down the line, and buy accordingly.