Looking for the right medium tactile with pre-travel, like a U4t with brown stem

Greetings. I am pretty new to the world of keyboards so I don’t have much switch experience, just with mx silents, Gateron browns and Boba U4t’s. I find the U4t’s too tactile and loud for my taste, so I tried Gateron brown stems in the Boba housing with some 205g0, and the result is amazing. Super smooth and relaxing to press, but with a nice snappy tactile bump with a little pre-travel before it. Less tactile than stock Boba’s, but night and day compared to Gat browns. It also sounds great, much deeper than stock U4t. I used to not care about keyboard sound, but these frankenswitches changed my mind.

These switches are perfect for me, but the problem is very few Gateron brown stems fit properly in Boba U4t top housings. Only about 40% of my 87 brown stems work, and there is noticeable inconsistency between these custom switches. I just bought 120 new Gat browns to pick out the stems that work, but out of the 20 or so I tried from the new batch literally zero fit at all, tighter than even the worst of my original browns.

So now I’m in search for a switch just like this frankenswitch of mine. A medium tactile with 0.5 - 1mm of pre travel, deep sound and no return issues. Preferably without leaf ping, I can fix spring ping with lube. I found a few switches that seem like they may fit the bill, and I’m interested to hear your experience with them. Durock cerulean (will tint LED’s blue), Zealio V1 Redux (doesn’t seem LED compatible), and Kinetic Labs Penguins(sold out, may have return issues). There are many options but I’ve narrowed it down to those three, despite my concerns with them. Let me know if I missed some good switches.


I would say for the closest experience to the U4ts with Gat brown stems go with Zealio V2 or V1 redux housings. They should both have a decently stiff leaf in them (V2 may be a bit stiffer though as Zeal was trying to get HP levels of tactility when he designed V2s) & either will definitely play well with Gat brown stems as Gateron is the manu for Zealios.


Boba housings are known to have tight-tops that restrict compatibility with non-OUTEMU stems.

Boba housings come with several top-housing choices. There are the tight “no slot” tops, which emphasize stability over everything [including lighting and compatibility.] However, the more lenient tops with slots for lighting typically allow for a greater range of compatible stems.

If you look into this issue, or contact the distributor directly, you may find that you can obtain Boba top-housings that allow you to use Gateron Brown stems.

Also, Boba housings are supposed to be pretty compatible with Cherry, so you could try Browns or Clears and see if they fit easier.

I agree with your alternative switch choices.

Some other ones to consider:

-Gateron CAP Brown V2: This is a more punchy Gateron Brown, more Ergo-Clear-ish. Once lubed, they produce a pretty deep clack on polycarb.

These would be a little more wobbly than Boba housings, and almost as loud as U4T. Good compatibility with lighting, I think.

-JWK/Durock Midnight: You can put a Durock Medium Tactile stem in a T1 housing to get a more tactile DMT. Similar to putting Gateron Brown stem in Boba housing. But this is probably more tactile, less pre-travel. [The factory JWK Midnight was somewhat more custom than what I am describing.]

-I enjoy Naevy 1.5, which is a smoother Ergo Clear. But many say that they are barely more tactile than Browns. Plus, as long-poles, they are almost as loud as U4T.

As for my experience with your alternative switch choices:

-Cerulean: I haven’t tried these, but used other DMT variants. They all need lube, for one reason or another. But they take well to aftermarket lubrication.

You can lube them with heavy 3204 / 205g0 as if they are linears. They will feel like buttery linears with a tactile bump. At least until the lube eventually reduces over time.

You can give them generous 3203, and they will still feel like Ergo Clear tactiles. The 3203 will reduce scratchiness and ping, but it won’t deepen the sound.

I found that mild amounts of 3204 weren’t very effective. Overall, the DMT has less pre-travel than one might expect or desire, but they are just big Browns once lubed.

I think that the Taro Ball variant of DMT was very nice. And could be made to sound deeper with 3204 / 205g0. However, I was using R1 produced during JWK peak molds. I think you can still find Taro Ball on AliExpress, but I don’t know if those ones were produced with optimal JWK tooling.

-Penguin: I found that the stems felt overly rounded while typing. It made the switch feel mild and boring. Plus, yes, they need probably at least 63.5 G on 1U keys and 67 G on the spacebar in order to return properly.

You can alternately replace the stems with MX Clear stems that have only been lubed on the tactile bump[!] This makes for a more interesting switch, in the opinions of some. Can get away with 60 G springs if doing that.

-Zealio V1 Redux: This probably has the stem shape you are looking for. The switch itself comes largely unlubed from the factory. It will make weird noises.

You can give most moving parts a consistent coat of lube, and that will reduce the sound issues. Some have found that only lubing certain parts produces a better key-press, we can talk about that.

With lube, I think you can get away with 60 G springs or so. It would be interesting to try these [at somewhat higher weights] in the Boba housing, but it may encounter fit issues as with the Gateron Browns.

You just missed the sales on Zealios, but the sales will probably come back around the holidays and boxing day.

But I like what you are doing with your project. I always felt that certain Gateron or Gateron-like stems could be ideal in a Boba housing. The issue is with fit, which may be solvable via the use of different top housings.*

I wonder if KTT Matcha would also fit the bill, being a medium tactile that probably isn’t long-pole. There were huge sales on them in November. They do need to be lubed to get deeper sound. But they may not have enough pre-travel, I can’t remember.

You may also want to look into Durock Light Tactile, particularly the Cotton Candy variant that uses nylon housings. It’s supposed to have characteristics similar to what you are looking for. But I, and some others, don’t like how the stem interacts with the leaf. And I feel as if there could be more pre-travel. BTW you could also consider lubed Blueberry Chiffon V2 as a kind of toned-down, medium-tactile U4T. But I doubt that pre-travel feels more than 0.5mm, if that.

*BTW I put Gateron Orange stems in T1 housings with 62 G 16mm springs, and it worked fine. Those are basically Brown stems, I think. It was a sharper, more abrupt bump than what you would get in normal Brown housings. You can use MX Clear stems with ~65 G springs.

You can even put MX Brown stems inside YOK Panda housings with 60 G springs. You may laugh at the “dirty Pandas,” but they have some of the characteristics you are looking for. Definitely needs to be lubed to address the outrageous sound they produce, but they are poppy, more-tactile Browns. I suppose you could try this with Gateron Browns, or even Zealio V1 stems.


BTW, some people think that Durock Anubis is like a somewhat toned-down U4T:


However, it seems to be sharp and tactile nonetheless. Probably very little pre-travel.

I wonder if there are any other switches that have a significant and distinct mid-bump, but also have pre-travel. Something should ring a bell, but it doesn’t right now.

EDIT: On paper, the SP Star Magic Girl has some of the characteristics you are looking for:

It is a medium-tactile that is quieter than many of its contemporaries. It even has a little pre-travel, although the bump isn’t much different in shape than a C3 Kiwi.

You’d want to go with the Dark variant, as the housing is said to have a deeper sound.


Thanks for the detailed info!

I ordered some Durock medium tactiles yesterday (the normal ones with clear housing / purple stem) and took advantage of Amazon’s fast shipping to get them today, returns would also be easy.

After trying and lubing a few I can say that they are actually quite similar in terms of tactility to the Boba / Gat brown frankenswitches I’ve made. They have less pre-travel, though it’s not a big issue. The tactile bump is slightly more aggressive but feels very close. The Durocks feel more “poppy” on upstroke than the custom switches, and feel slightly less relaxing to use for gaming because if it. They also feel a little heavier but I got the 65g version, my Boba’s are 62g. Even fully lubed with 205g0 there is no comparison for smoothness, the Durocks feel slightly sticky / scratchy around the bump, whereas my custom switches feel like butter (I don’t lube the legs). Overall the Durocks are close in feel but not quite as good.

In terms of sound, the Durocks are awful. Loads of what I assume is leaf ping, I lubed the springs so it probably is the leaf. I tried lubing behind the leaf to reduce the ping but it barely helped. The pitch of the switch after lubing is OK, not as deep as the brown Boba’s but that’s what I expected, they sound clean minus the ping. They are also a good bit louder too, which I don’t like.

I don’t really pay attention to stem wobble, but the Durocks are amazing in this regard, way better than even U4t’s. There is barely any wobble at all. Don’t know if this is a known feature of Durocks but I figured I would mention it.

This little experiment with the DMT’s confirms I’m looking in the right place. I just found Mode Signal, which looks to have an identical force curve to Cerulean, but it lacks the nylon top. It’s on my list because it has a dark transparent top which wont obstruct or color my RGB backlight. I mentioned DMT has a slightly over aggressive bump for my taste, and Cerulean / Signal seem to be comparatively slightly toned down / lighter looking at their respective force graphs.

Though after trying the DMT’s I have a much greater concern for leaf ping, lol. I don’t really hear complaints about ping with the Ceruleans, but I can barely find anything about the Mode Signals. I looked at some of the alternatives you brought up but I still feel one of these two would be my best bet.

I’m so glad you mentioned Boba top housings come in different tolerance types, I had no idea this was a thing. Looking at this page on Kirballskeys the bottom option is a clear Boba top that claims to fit Gateron stems. This looks amazing except for the material being polycarbonate, which probably will mess with the sound a bit but I’m more than willing to accept that. I’ll probably order some as long as I’m not missing anything.

1 Like

This is pretty much what I expected. DMT are close to a factory version of what you were building.

DMTs in general, as mentioned, suffer from scratch [when unlubed], leaf-ping, and maybe even spring ping. So they do require care in those areas.

Mode Signal are one of those I actually have experience with. They use 63.5 G springs, which are noticeably lighter [to me] than stock 65 G springs. I personally prefer the 63.5 G weight when dealing with DMT. The 65 G, in contrast, makes the switch feel closer to a T1.

Mode Signal need lube, and limited 3204 is not enough for me. Generous 3203 does work, as I said earlier. Although heavier lube would be required for deeper sound.

You might also consider RARA V2 if it is still being heavily discounted. Just lube them and replace the springs with 65 G 14mm Spirit. But I prefer the other DMT variants.

If considering spring replacements, DMT should function with 63.5 G 14.5-15mm, 60 G 16mm TX, and probably 53-55 G 18mm.

Anyway, Mode Signal are quite nice for typing. Kind of remind me of Zealio V1.*

Overall, your project of building a custom switch is promising, and resembles what people here have postulated as the ideal light-tactile. And yes, the clear PC OUTEMU tops should work much better for you. They are meant to be utilized for such projects.

*Ceruleans are fairly well-regarded, although I’ve never used them. They and Taro Ball are probably the best in the 65 G range. Mode Signal are a somewhat more subtle switch, but they NEED lube.

BTW you might also want to look at Gateron G Pro Brown 3.0. I really like them. They seem a little more poppy and tactile than regular Browns. They’re half-lubed from factory. I bet all they need is a thin coat of 3204. If they aren’t tactile enough for you, the stems maybe could be used in Boba housings. Might be a discount on samples during 12.12 on AliExpress.

1 Like

I clipped the little plastic protrusions off one of my Gateron brown housings to make it compatible with the Boba’s, and installed it onto one of my custom switches for a little experiment. The result is a little disheartening. Suddenly leaf ping is now an issue and the switch feels crunchy and just overall not much like it was with the Boba top installed. Stem wobble is also pretty bad. The sound is higher pitched and clackier but still sounds pretty good.

I’m hesitant to order some of the aforementioned looser tolerance Boba top housings, I’d hate to have wasted money on something that ruins the switch. I wonder if the ping and crunch are purely due to looser stem tolerance, or perhaps it’s something else?

How do you like the Mode Signals overall? I’m considering buying them if they are essentially a more refined DMT, meaning they are without crunch or leaf ping, and perhaps a bit smoother. I have no issue spending some time lubing or filming. The Ceruleans would be my first choice but I don’t want my RGB tinted blue, so the Signals are more enticing to me. And for what it’s worth the Signals would look great in my board even though I cant see them :upside_down_face:.


Just want to chime in that the matchas do not have pretravel and feel quite similar to a non-long pole naevy. Not personally a fan.



I remembering testing a 10-pack of Matcha, but deciding not to build. They seemed as if they would need lube to get a better sound, and the tactility was mediocre.

I mean, it wasn’t bad, but did not stand out.

I actually enjoy Naevy 1.5, although it only sounds good with MT3. Naevy 1.5 actually has decent pre-lube, and get better with 3204. Doesn’t need any radical adjustments.

But again, I only like Naevy 1.5 with MT3, so that really limits the typing angle / keyboard placement. [If Matcha actually came with springs and pre-lube similar to Naevy 1.5, I might actually use them.]

1 Like

Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend mix-and-matching Boba with other manufacturers’ housings, especially if you have to clip parts off them. Switch modders, even here, don’t usually go that far [except @Deadeye].

The actual Boba loose-tops are guaranteed to be much more compatible. I have personally built Boba switches with a variety of Boba switch-tops. They are designed with this kind of modularity in mind, and should not present a problem.

So, definitely you should purchase Boba tops that are said to have looser / more generous tolerances [such as having RGB slots], because they should fit Boba bottoms, and you won’t be wasting your money.

WRT to Mode Signals, I would say that they are simply a milder Durock Medium Tactile. The key feature is that they use 63.5 G stock Durock springs [I think], which I feel are a little milder than something like OUTEMU’s in the same weight.

They aren’t much different in housing material from something like Taro Ball, which is a good switch. So I put the difference mainly to spring weight.

The first time I bought them, they were already pre-made. Someone took the trouble of lubing and filming 70 of them, and then didn’t want to use them. But they are great in my Tester68 board [surprisingly] with MG keycaps.

Lubed and filmed, they are sturdy and low-wobble, and yes, the ping and scratch is gone. I don’t know what method the customizer employed, but many of the faults of the stock switch are gone. I can go look through records. What I do know is that he used 3203, and probably TX films.

When built in this manner, the Mode Signals are medium-pitched and somewhat thumpy or thwacky-sounding. They actually sound pretty consistent, like one another, except some are lower-pitched. There is nothing distinct about their sound, and it is inoffensive

So they are basically milder, better Ergo Clears. Similar on the downstroke, but they don’t “catch” on the upstroke. Only they aren’t as deep-sounding as Ergo Clears if you are only using 3203. Maybe thick PBT keycaps would go a ways to solving that.

Please note that I also tried to build these, using 3204 and mild amounts of it. But mild 3204 did not address the unsatisfactory stock sound. These switches, with their unique colourway, 5-pin design, and inadequate factory lube were clearly meant to be used in custom builds.

It would be interesting to see which of the two stacks up better: lubed and filmed Mode Signals, or a custom medium-tactile using a light-tactile stem in a Boba housing.

Anyway, the ones on my Tester68 provide an excellent long-form typing experience, showing that these can be customized properly. [It remains to be seen whether 205g0 could bring deeper sound without destroying the tactility.]


Can confirm; while Boba tops can be the secret sauce in a few specific recipes, they’re generally a pain to franken with thanks to the two things you ran into:

  • Only fitting on some bottoms

  • No leaf retention on non-Boba bottoms

Can also confirm those slightly-relaxed polycarb Gazzew tops are a much better balance for most scenarios, though they won’t fit on any bottoms the others don’t.

1 Like

This isn’t exactly what you were asking for, but have you tried the U4T stems in Cherry brown housings? They still have some of the same characteristics of a U4T (so no midstroke bump like you are specifically after), but they are toned down enough to feel like a totally different and really enjoyable switch. I like mine with 3204 and gazzew 62g (stock U4T 62g) springs.

1 Like

Yes I’ve tried it, and it felt like a lighter U4t to me. No pre-travel, and the bump is long and encourages bottom out. It also sounds very clacky, while my brown Boba’s are very deep and muted. Personally not a fan.

So it’s been a while since my last post and I’ve had quite a bit of time to experiment.

The looser tolerance tops for Boba U4t’s didn’t end up working as well as I’d hoped. Both my older Gat brown stems and the newer brown stems that seem to have different tolerances do not work well in tandem with the reduced tolerance tops. It creates leaf ping and scratchiness where there was none with the stock tops and the older Gat brown stems that fit them.

In a final attempt at making my perfect frankenswitch work, I ordered yet another set of Gateron browns from a different vendor, but I have the same problems as before. They don’t fit whatsoever in stock boba tops (it’s pretty clear to me something changed with the way Gat browns are manufactured in recent years), and as I stated the looser tops don’t produce acceptable results regardless of the combo.

So, I decided to give up on my brown boba’s and buy some Mode signals, as they seemed like the next best thing. I experimented with lubing and filming around 10 of them with 205g0 and .15mm TX films, and the results are a mixed bag. Films don’t seem to have a huge effect on the feel or sound, but I found that the only way to reduce leaf ping / crunch to an acceptable level was to drench the entire leaf spring in lube, including the parts that touch the legs of the stem. I tried about every combo and this is the only way.

Even with this application of lube the results are rather inconsistent. Some switches still have a lot of crunch and ping despite being fully lubed, while only a couple feel and sound good. These special two feel good to press, have a consistent sound and only have a little click sound from the leaf when pressed, no annoying crunch. Still not on the level of my brown Boba’s, but if I can manage to get some consistency out of these Mode signals I may have a winner.

If anyone knows a method of getting rid of this godforsaken leaf crunch and ping consistently, please let me in on your secrets. I’ve tried putting a little piece of tape on the back of my leaf spring like I saw on a reddit post, but this changes nothing about the sound for me.

As it stands right now almost all alphanumeric keys on my board are brown Boba’s and the rest stock U4t’s. It works I suppose, despite my custom boba’s feeling pretty inconsistent. I hate to have this much time and money invested in my board just to have my current janky switch configuration, lol. I might just give up on my quest for the perfect med tactile and go back to heavy tactiles with U4tx, I like the unique sound profile of those, even if I don’t prefer the feel.