Or maybe I'm just cheap

tl;dr [long mechanical keyboard story short, I dipped my feet and liked it,went further and hated it]

Some months ago, my A1048 (apple) keyboard let me down. Used it for more than 10 years, fine.

What can I get that is as compact as the late white keyboard ?

Maybe something mechanical, that seem all the rage with youth today ?

I end up buying a sharkoon “purewriter”. Because if I don’t like it it’s not huge money threwn in the bin.
And I like it A LOT. Kailh red low profile switches, low profile, small footprint.

Well, now I realize I like the experience of mechanical (quiet) switches a lot. A lot a lot a lot.
And maybe the sound is a bit pingy. And maybe I can buy a better one than the entry level sharkoon and give this one to my better half.
Maybe build one ?
Well, a 3dprinted sort of tkl is in progress, but that’s another story.

I need a kit, with something hot swappable if my taste changes.
And ISO.
Here comes the gmmk thingy, full size keyboard, with gateron clear switches (best available thing).
Received it today.
Happy.

I surprisingly did not enjoy assembly at all, it’s like lego, but boring and it hurts fingers.

During assembly I noticed a unpleasant soud from the backspace stab.

Pressed on, completed the assembly, and plugged the thing.

And I don’t like it at all.

It’s a smidge too high, but I can cope with it. The racket this thing makes is awful. Stabs rattle a lot (but I hear there are ways to go around it thanks to household items), but the keystroke sound is very bright.

I thought I could have a better experience by using a better quality keyboard(and it is, it’s way sturdier than the entry level sharkoon) but the experience is really unpleasant to me.

So I plugged back the sharkoon to type this message, and am looking forward to finding a way to get the gmmk experience closer to the muted sounds of the low profile choc kailh reds on the sharkoon.

I’ll need to keep cherry style keycaps because ISO, but I’m after a more muted/soft sound.

Any advice to salvage my ill-fated purchase ? or was it 200-ish euros spent in vain ?

(and I had to resolve to use software to set the backlight on a solid whit, too bright even at minimum setting, and it bleeds light like crazy).

Many thanks !

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The advantage with barebones kits such as the GMMK is that you can make them sound however you want.
If you don’t like the stab sound, lube them.
If you don’t like the typing feel, change your keycaps.
If you don’t like the typing sound, change your switches or mod the board.
You won’t find a fully assembled keyboard that sounds/feels just like you want. If you can’t conform with prebuilt options, you have to make the keyboard sound how you want it to sound.

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If your main issue is with the stabilizer rattling, it can be fixed by lubing and tuning them. Most custom mechanical keyboards require some level of stabilizer lubing or tuning for them to sound good.

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There are very few switches that don’t ping from the factory. Even expensive and well regarded switches like Telios will ping. Switches have to be lubed, or you have to buy switches that are well pre-lubed and not pingy by default (KTT Rose, Box Red, Novelkeys Silks, etc.) They won’t sound quite as good as a hand tuned switch, but they sound a lot better than most stock switches.

Stabilizers always require tuning.

This is a difficult hobby to “dip your feet into” and getting the best results requires a lot research and effort (or paying an experienced builder to tune your board if you don’t want to do it). Yes it’s ridiculous to think you could spend $500 on a board and realize you hate how it sounds/feels and have to tune and rebuild the whole thing, but that is this hobby in a nutshell.

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Lots of good advice here already; I have some potential switch recommendations. Most not-low-profile switches will be louder and have a longer key travel compared to the low-pros.

Good factory lube (not so pingy, ready to use):

  • TTC ACEs: full-travel, smooth, clean sound

  • Nixdork LTs: short travel, very smooth, clacky but not too loud; mostly sold-out but some vendors might still have extras

  • NK Silks: full-travel, smooth, kinda high-pitched, available in multiple spring weights

  • Aqua Kings: full-travel, butter-smooth, amazing sound - BUT - inconsistent and kinda gummy; I don’t fully recommend these because of that, but I include them on the list for their great factory sound


Great with light tuning (some effort required but worth it IMO):

  • Gazzew LTs: the Nixdorks above are a limited prelubed run of these - short travel, smooth, clacky but not loud per se - currently have to be assembled but full switches will be available very soon

  • Gazzew Bobagums: a silenced, softened version of the above; short travel, smooth, very soft and quiet; light lubing recommended for best feel

  • MMK Frogs: full-travel, actuates farther down, hella smooth but has some mild resistance on the way down; nice deep sound, but a little bit of spring chatter - recommend lubing the springs


Frankens (require parts from multiple switches and may also need tuning; more effort and cost but a little more specialized):

  • Linearized Halo True / aka True Unholy Panda: full-travel, decently smooth, very bouncy spring that discourages bottom-out and generally makes for very quiet typing. Made by swapping any basic linear stem into a Halo True; most often with a leftover Panda stem but any generic linear will work - if you are a heavy typist you may want to lube the springs as they are prone to ringing

  • Long-pole Inks / aka Creamy Inks or Crinks: short-travel, very smooth, pretty clacky and deeper sound than many. Expensive as heck though; made by swapping a long-pole linear stem into an Ink linear, either from a Cream or standard Kailh Linear - housing films / gaskets recommended to mitigate housing rattle


Those are all linears I think you might like based on enjoying the Kailh low-pros, but this really is a feel-it-out sort of hobby. In the joking-but-not-really words of papa Chewy, “get a switch tester.” It’s not the same as a keeb, but you’ll be less in the dark for less money.

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Yep, that was the aim. Get something that was a base to something that could be better, rather than a prebuilt !

Ahhhh, lubing. So I’ll buy the nice lil brush and the several lil’ jars of exquisitely formulated goos. (I considered for a split second mechanical all purpose lithium grease, but the smell / reek might be a tad too much).

It makes sense to do more than dip the feet, I sort of expected to be happy with a “reasonable choice”, but it seems the path is bound to be crossing a couple of utter failures… I thought I had prepared my purchase well enough, seems there is a bit more work to get there…

Ugh. I’m sorry bud. This might be a bad sign. IMO, this is more or less a quintessential part of what’s enjoyable about the hobby.

Don’t disparage though. You might consider picking up a pretuned one on the aftermarket. There might be a slight cost premium, but you’ll get that plug-and-play experience.

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“Most not-low-profile switches will be louder and have a longer key travel compared to the low-pros.”

There was the assumption that sent this down the drain…

I assumed, based on my shallow findings, that gateron clears would be lighter an silent.
And they are.
By themlselves or on a 3dprinted “stand” (a bit of the smaller form factor case I’m building), they are smooth, silent, pingy ringy when you let them return to their endstop.

But I would assume there is more to a noise than the switch itself.
I cannot feel resonance in the plate but my feeling is worth nothing.
What I feel is more the lower stop that turns the whole thing into a bell.
The chocs, or the gateron browns (copies most probably) I have do have, let’s say, a softer landing when bottomed out.

So maybe o rings would be a solution. Or lube (I have sort of a feel the noise I don’t like is the spring ringing when botomed out, amplified by the -abs, alas- keycaps).

I could also be completely wrong ( I usually am), but I learned to type on a mechanical typewriter (I’m THAT old) I may be a tad heavy.

I will investigate the choices you kindly recommended, and search a bit short travel switches.

I probably use the word wrong, but maybe the effect I’m after is something I sort of understood as being called “thocc”. The cheap kail red choc keys on the sharkoon bottom with a “thud”, the gateron clear on the gmmk go “clack”, if that makes any sense.

So I’ll probably try band aids, lubing and clippping stabs, lubing current switches.

(any recommendation for an off the amazon shelf lubing kit ? Like the crab like thingy to open those tiny plastic housings withhout shattering them ?)

Many thanks to all of you (really)

Another one I forgot to mention is Silent Box Pinks; they have a bit shorter travel and are dampened - they have a bit softer-feeling bottom out compared to standard, but not as soft as the Bobagum. They’re also pretty quiet.

Plate and case materials definitely factor-in to the overall sound, though less so when using dampened switches just because they throw less vibrations around.

“Thock” entered the community lexicon as an onomatopoeia of Topre switches; basically well-made and more nuanced rubber domes. The “th” part is the sort of brushing sound of the sliders descending, and the “ock” is the domes collapsing under the sliders. There is a somewhat muted quality to this sound thanks to the silicone domes.

These days “thock” is used to describe just about any loud switch, mostly tactiles - it’s thrown around like crazy and I’d sooner use other words to describe most of the switches in question - words like “clack”. There’s a sort of clack–thock spectrum people use to talk about how deep the sound is, with “clack” being at the high pitched end and “thock” being at the low pitched end. Honestly very few MX-compatible switches make the “thock” sound to my ears, but it can be a useful word to describe deeper clacks. The one MX-compatible switch I can think of that actually “thocks” in the traditional sense of sounding like Topre is the Boba U4, thanks to its big bump and silicone dampeners - but it’s really more of a gentle “thud”.

So - if deep but not necessarily loud clacks is what you’re after, something like a lubed long-pole would be a good place to start looking, and I’d include some dampened (“silent”) switches in your search as well such as the Silent Boxes and Gazzew silents.

I’m not too familiar with lube kits that have all the goodies but I know there are some out there. Basic small brushes, tweezers and the like will do the trick - you’ll just want some decent lube, preferably something like Krytox GPL, though there are some other good ones too. I would recommend the more simple style of switch opener, usually has two sides magnetized together, or two capped ends facing apart for the two common types of switch shapes.

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I can’t attest to the sound aspect, but as far as switches that might feel similar to kailh choc reds (at least as far as actuation distance) it might be worth looking at “speed” switches.

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Maybe lubing switches would be a good idea, also not to mention to put some foam in the case. My board literally has Amazon packing foam and it sounds a lot better than stock.

With the lube, although I haven’t tried some yet, getting some Krytox would be well worth it other than some generic grease. My keyboard right now doesn’t sound the best it could if it were with proper Krytox 205g0. (Dang it, G-Lube… You fooled me)

(any recommendation for an off the amazon shelf lubing kit ? Like the crab like thingy to open those tiny plastic housings withhout shattering them ?)

I don’t believe Amazon really has any lubing kits, if you want tools and lube, you probably have to purchase them from keyboard related vendors. I linked a post in this forum that includes a large number of vendors all over the world, you can see which vendor is closest and most convenient for you!

Many thanks for the links ! I’ll have a go at the list

Don’t be sorry, I have many a hobby that have a disassembly/assembly phase !

I think conveying sound with words is going to be challenging, and I probably do not have a precise enough grasp on wording.
I’ll try to attach sound clips of the 75 € sharkoon red choc and the 200€ qmmk gateron clear
(Many many thanks for your enlightening comments !)

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Definitely; it’s very context-driven, and everyone’s is a little different. Some recordings and maybe a link or two to examples of sound you like from keeb videos will help narrow things down.

So first the recordings (with a smartphone, so a bit brighter than what it sounds)

The 75 euros sharkoon - kailh red choc : https://www.mboxdrive.com/sharkoon.mp3

The 200 euros gmmk with gateron clears (linear) : : https://www.mboxdrive.com/gmmk.mp3

I’m not too concerned about the stab rattle, that can be cured.

I’m hitting keys with a bit of wrath but not that much than usual use. The choc bottoms with a thud, and the gateron clear, well, if they are the only culprit in this, they bottom like something thin / flimsy.

This is a better recorded sound of the sharkoon (with someone that doesn’t hit keys with all the hate) https://youtu.be/rXLBBA708fs?t=282

I find this tone very satisfying (again, the sharkoon purewriter was “let’s find if I like it after a decade of A1048” and I enjoyed it, but I knew it was built to cost, and lacked a bit of rigidity when pushed, that’s why I went for something that more substantial)

Now for the reference videos

This I like a lot : https://youtu.be/yWQdeph9zc8?t=14

And this : How to build a whisper quiet mechanical keyboard (modded GMMK + Aqua Zilents + Matrix Keycaps) - YouTube would be pretty good.
Funnily enough the video is probably the recipe for what I aim for, It’s a shame I didn’t find it previously (I used the wrong keywords…)

The operator has also a significant part in the sound output, maybe lightly springed switches were a bad idea for my ham fisted ways.

Would o rings (that I understand as after-the-fact soft bump stops) be a suitable solution ? Or more a band aid on a broken leg ?

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Super helpful examples! This definitely narrows-down some categories and materials.

The Gateron Clears: Short answer, yes they are the culprit. It sounds to me like these are polycarb-housing versions, which are nice and rattly from the factory. The “outboard” design of the GMMK isn’t a bad thing on its own, but also does nothing to mask noisy switches. All that said, it’s totally possible to tune-out all that clinky chattery rattle with lube and films on those same switches. I’m not sure if they’ll ever sound like what you’re going for, though - lube will help deepen the sound but only so much.

The Chocs: I’m not sure what exactly gives them the sound they have as I’ve never actually seen or used them, but I get what you mean now, especially in context of the other recordings.

Reference recordings: These really help me narrow it down. For the most part, I think you’ll want to look at dampened / silent switches - and if you don’t mind putting in the effort, I think you’ll want to lube them, and where needed, film them.

O-rings: Maybe? I really didn’t like them myself, but they might be a good option if you do like reduced travel, as they will give more of that softened thud - only on the way down, though. I’d generally put these in the band aid realm.

To see if switches need films, I pop a handful into a hotswap and put some thin caps on them. Especially with silent switches and with switches that have otherwise been lubed, rattle will indicate a loose housing, with which films and gaskets help tremendously.

The recording you liked a lot is of a JWK silent linear, and while that particular edition is hard to find, very similar switches are readily available. I think the general family of switches you’ll want to orbit are MX-compatible silent linears with the possible inclusion of Topre - I think you were using the “classical” definition of “thock” all along.

If you’re open to tactiles (which Topre are by nature), they tend to have a more loud, layered thock compared to linears of the same weight. The Zilents in IO Sam’s video are an example of a silent tactile - expensive but generally loved. Lately it’s been nudged out of the silent tactile spotlight by the Boba U4, which has a stronger, wider bump - it’s really tactile so it may or may not be enjoyable. They are a fairly decent facsimile of Topre, inasmuch as is possible with a completely different mechanism.

I’d also gather from these preferences that long-pole switches probably aren’t the best with some very contextual exceptions involving other parts and specific housings.

So - a few specific recommendations:

  • Boba U4s: These might be a good option if you have that kind of sound as a priority, don’t mind a pretty strong tactility, and don’t want to fiddle with tuning your switches - they do have a nice thocky/thud sound from the get-go. That tactility might take some getting used-to, but can be great for fast typing once you do.

  • Gateron Silent Blacks: Relatively inexpensive and also having a great, if grainy sound right from the bag. A little tuning with lube will bring the sound a little closer to the Serikos from that recording. I really do love the sound of these; here is a recording of some stock ones mounted in a GMMK fullsize.

  • Durock Dolphins & Daybreaks: A relative of the Seriko switches in the recording you liked, these have a different colored housing and stem and use a different spring, but the shaping of the plastic components is the same and they use the same type of dampener for the sound signature. The two names just refer to two different spring weights.

  • Gateron Silent Inks & Ink frankens: While I think these feel more smooth than the “vanilla” silent blacks, I also don’t think they sound as great, especially before tuning. – That said, Ink housings are among the few I think you might like with long-pole stems because of the deep sound they make, especially when paired with something like a polycarb plate. It is louder and sharper than the recorded examples but it does have a deep if sharp “thocky” quality.

  • Niz Electrocapacitive: These aren’t MX-derived switches at all aside from having the same keycap mount, these have more in common with Topre switches, being electrocapacitive rubber domes. They don’t sound, feel, or work the same, but they do have more in common with each-other than with most other things available. These are tactile and “thocky” - they fit MX keycaps but otherwise don’t share any parts or conventions with the MX-compatible universe. They have their own tuning methods and are pretty much their own thing; you can’t swap them into any old keeb, for example - so these aren’t a recommendation for your GMMK so much as a potential, less expensive consideration down the road alongside Topre.

There are quite a few other switches that might give you the kind of sound and feel you’re looking for, but I think these are great places to start your search. Let me know if you have any questions about these or anything else!

PS; this is a really old post, but you might get something out of the other recordings posted there: Informal Silent Switch Comparison

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Not necessarily.

I hate the process of lubing my switches (the stabs not so much as you have tens or hundreds of switches per build and only a handful of stabs), but I love having a finished board done to my liking, knowing that I built it myself.

Hating the process doesn’t stop me from making new builds. I want to go through the process as I know it’s necessary (necessary in terms of getting it the way you want it) and I love the end result.

I love the soldering part though, but I enjoy soldering in general.

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image

I’ll delve into these a smidge later. Many, many thanks @Deadeye !

(Thing is, I’ll be left with a hundred of switches, that sounds like an invitation to build a 75%ish thingy with a leftover arduino a a bit of filament…)

Pretty much my standpoint, you get bored on the fourth conrod, let alone the hundredth switch !

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Just popping in to say that TTC Bluish Whites are a ‘half-silenced’ tactile, and the closest an MX switch has come to feeling like topre for me. Definitely worth checking them out for science. My only real grip is they’re 3-pin.

Product link

Description: TTC Bluish Whites are a unique tactile switch featuring a double coil long spring, mute bottom, and dust proof stem. The double coil spring allows for a very satisfying, snappy typing experience. While the silicone dampener located in the stem pole cavity helps reduce the bottom-out noise. The dust proof stem assures performance won’t be hindered with extended use and dust accumulation.

I generally find typing tests to be useless, but I know that’s not consistent with the hobby, so here’s a typing test with them.

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