More scientific ways to evaluate switches (brainstorm)

I love to try new switches. I base most of my purchases off of personal preference. For instance, I know that I like full travel switches. I know that I prefer a lower pitched switch. I know that I like switches that are smooth but not too wobbly, etc…

We have force curve graphs to help us evaluate how a switch stem travels. This is helpful and quantifiable information.

I wish there was a better way to test and display things like:

  • smoothness (Measure the small frictions when slowly pressing several switches and average them out into graphical data.)

  • accoustics (maybe spectral analysis in a controlled environment?)

  • Stem wobble (perhaps a device that pushes the stem in each direction and measures deviation in microns?)

  • Top housing tightness/need for filming (A device that holds the bottom and pressing the top housing to detect small or large amounts of movement.

Smoothness would have to be tested to account for pressing the switch in multiple ways and in multiple directions. I’m sure many of you have noticed that switches often feel different when pressed directly in the center and directly downward vs. pressing on the top or bottom edge of the keycap.

Accoustics are tricky, but I think it’s still doable. You would have to have a machine do the keystrokes so that they could all be prssed with the same force. You probably also need to allow variance for spring ping that could effect the sound.

What other ways could you test switches so that picking up a new switch could be a more educated purchase?


Typically this is observed by the amount of “squiggles” on a force curve graph. I think currently we (as in the keyboard community) define smoothness by: Lacking friction*

For example

In the area I circled in red, most of us would say this switch is pretty smooth in the area circled. Most of us would say that because the peaks and valleys during this section aren’t that extreme from the line they trend from. (I’m not good at words, but I hope you know what I mean)

If anything, the best we could do in this respect would be to add quantitative values for this phenomenon to help guide us and determine switch smoothness. This would also help against the issue of graph scaling since if you scretched or pinched this graph, the “squiggliness” of this graph would be lost or amplified without proper context.

Then again, this might not scale linearly with heavy springs as heavier springs may do better at overcoming any minute amount of friction between the slider and the housing compared to a lighter spring.

Spectral Analysis is also all I can think of. I don’t necessarily think it has to be in a “perfectly” controlled environment as long as the original tester has enough samples to in the “same” environment to give enough baselines of comparison.

Do people care more about stem wobble at the beginning of a switch press, or towards the end of the switch press? Are those values any different or completely the same?

It would be cool if vendors or manufacturers kinda just did a quick “we’ve tested that it works with the following switch films” kinda thing, but ultimately a compatibility chart like that should probably be handled by the community. since not all films are created equal, and not all switches are created equal

I like the though of this brainstorm.


That’s a great point. Wobble at the top can be annoying (especially without lube), but not nearly as annoying to me as wobble throughout the press (and even at the bottom sometimes)


I hate wobble. No matter where. If a switch is known for tight tolerances or has new molds, it’s a must buy for me.

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Maybe each kind of plastic being used for switches could have an icon indicating it’s “typical” sound timbre. I have no idea how one would do this though.

You could get a pretty good idea how the switch is going to sound. Idk.

I tend to favor Polyamide/Nylon bottoms and PC tops.

Polyamide (low bass) > PC > PC/Nylon Blend > Nylon > POM > UHMWPE (high clack)

Material Sound Switch
PC :loud_sound::loud_sound: Alpaca (top), H1 (top)
Polyamide :loud_sound: H1 (bottom)
POM :loud_sound::loud_sound::loud_sound: Creams
Nylon :loud_sound::loud_sound: Gateron Caps, Alpaca (bottom)

Hardest part is teaching people how to pronounce timbre :joy:

but in all seriousness, I’m not sure what those :loud_sound: each mean. If you’re talking about Timbre, it’s not a quantifiable character, but is described in terms of characteristics.

If someone asked me about the timbre of a sound, I might say it’s “bright” or “round”, or even “wet”. I’d never say it’s a 3/5, or it’s a 7.625 Timbre. Or even "This switch as a clear and sharp press, but a gradual decay.

Another huge issue is a switch’s timbre is affected by the plate and case. If we were to use musical metaphors, I’d say the “instrument” is the whole keyboard, whereas each “string” on the instrument would simply be a switch on the keyboard.

So if you imagine a cello with a body made of aluminum and a neck made of oak, it would have a much different sound than a cello with a particle-board body and a maple neck even if they had the same strings.

Honestly I think the quantifiacion of sound might be best done is an extremely vanilla “eh, at least it’s consistent” testing.

For example:

Consistent switch plate + case for all tests
consistent microphone
consistent force applied per switch press (controlled mechanically)
So the results would be something like,…
“Switch x was 62 decibels loud when pressed at 80gf.” and then that sample sound would be included.

Although ultimately, it’s best for anyone potentially looking at any switch to hear as many examples of that switch being used in a plethora of cases to understand how versatile that switch’s timbre can be :slight_smile:


That makes sense.

I was trying to indicate the timbre’s pitch and intensity. So something “bright” might have a subtle pitch and low intensity. I’m not smart dude. :laughing:

Totally agree. In a good way for sure. Switches can sound so much better when paired up with the proper plate.