Mechanical keyboards offer a superior typing experience and customization potential compared to their membrane counterparts. However, to truly optimize your mechanical keyboard for comfort, performance, and aesthetics, you'll need to delve into the art of tuning. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the fascinating world of mechanical keyboard tuning, whether you're aiming for a silent, office-friendly keyboard or a clicky, tactile beast for gaming and typing, we've got you covered.
By the end of this guide, you'll have the knowledge and skills to transform your mechanical keyboard into a personalized masterpiece that not only looks stunning on your desk but also provides an unparalleled typing experience tailored to your preferences. So, let's embark on this journey of discovery and refinement as we unlock the secrets to optimizing your mechanical keyboard to perfection.
Table of Contents:
- What Does a Modded Keyboard Mean?
- Glossary of Important Terms
- Reasons to Modify Mechanical Keyboards
- Should You Modify Your Mechanical Keyboard ?
- Can you mod a regular keyboard?
- How to Modify Mechanical Keyboards?
- Bottom Line
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Does a Modded Keyboard Mean?
A modded keyboard, short for a "modified keyboard," refers to a mechanical keyboard that has undergone customization or changes from its original factory setup. These modifications are made to enhance the keyboard's performance, appearance, or functionality according to the user's specific preferences. Modifying a keyboard usually involves making alterations to various components such as switches, keycaps, stabilizers, and sometimes even the keyboard's firmware or layout.
These are some common alterations or customizations that can be applied to a modded keyboard:
- Switch Replacement: Users may opt to replace the keyboard's original switches with different ones to achieve a particular typing sensation, actuation force, or sound.
- Switch Lubrication: Applying specialized lubricants to switches can make keypresses smoother and reduce friction, resulting in an improved typing experience.
- Stabilizer Modifications: Stabilizers can be adjusted or modified to minimize key wobbling and provide a more stable surface for typing.
- Keycap Exchanges: Custom keycap sets are frequently used to change the keyboard's appearance and tactile feel. Users can select various keycap materials, profiles, and colors to match their preferences.
- Sound Dampening: The addition of dampening materials like foam or silicone inside the keyboard's case can reduce the noise produced by keypresses, resulting in a quieter keyboard.
- Firmware Customization: In some cases, modded keyboards permit users to personalize the keyboard's firmware, allowing for functions like macro programming, key remapping, and other advanced features.
- Layout and Key Mapping Adjustments: Users may modify the keyboard's layout to better suit their requirements, including creating custom key mappings and layers.
- Case Modifications: For advanced modders, even the keyboard's case, shape, or materials may be altered to achieve a distinct appearance or feel.
Customizing a keyboard through modding empowers enthusiasts to tailor their typing experience precisely to their liking. The outcome is a keyboard that perfectly matches their individual preferences and requirements, often resulting in a unique and standout keyboard that goes beyond standard, store-bought options.
Glossary of Important Terms
- Switch: The individual keys on a mechanical keyboard have switches underneath them. Switches come in various types, each offering different tactile feedback and actuation force.
- Keycap: The visible and often removable part of a keyboard key that you press. Keycaps can be customized for aesthetics and feel.
- Stabilizer: A mechanism used under larger keys (like the Enter or Spacebar) to prevent wobbling and ensure a consistent keypress.
- Lubing: The process of applying lubricant to switches and stabilizers to reduce friction, making keypresses smoother and quieter.
- Hot-Swappable: A feature that allows you to change switches without soldering, making customization easier.
- Layout: The arrangement of keys on the keyboard, such as QWERTY, AZERTY, or Dvorak.
- Function Layer: A secondary layer of keys that can be accessed using a modifier key (usually labeled Fn). This expands the keyboard's functionality without adding physical keys.
- Keycap Profile: The shape of the keycaps, which can affect typing comfort and aesthetics. Common profiles include OEM, SA, DSA, and Cherry.
- RGB Lighting: Customizable backlighting with a full spectrum of colors, allowing you to personalize the keyboard's appearance.
- Sound Dampening: Techniques or materials used to reduce the noise produced by keypresses, making the keyboard quieter.
- Tactile Feedback: The physical response you feel when a keypress is registered, often described as a bump in the keypress.
- Customization: The process of modifying various aspects of the keyboard, such as switches, keycaps, and firmware, to suit personal preferences.
- Modding: Short for "modifying," it refers to making custom changes or enhancements to the keyboard to improve its performance or appearance.
- Switch Lube: Lubricant applied to switches to reduce friction and create a smoother keystroke.
- Keymap: The layout of keys on a keyboard, including which characters or functions are associated with each key.
- Thock: Used to describe a deeper sound when typing.
- Clack: The opposite of thock, used to describe a high-pitched sound while typing.
- Ping: A resonating metallic sound heard when pressing down most stock switches. Lubing the spring inside the switch can oftentimes fix this problem.
- Stem: The plastic piece in the center of a switch that the keycap slots onto. Usually in the shape of a cross known as “cherry mx style”
- PCB: Printed Circuit Board. Think of this as sort of like your motherboard on a PC. Everything makes its electrical connection through this board.
- Flex: How much the keyboard will flex while pressing down a switch all the way. Most noticeable with gasket-mounted keyboards as they provide more actual room for the plate and PCB to move under pressure.
- Plate: There are two main types of plates that the switches lock into. Polycarbonate plates are typically softer and provide a deeper sound while a metal (usually brass) plate will have a more clacky, higher pitched sound profile.
- Mounting Style: How the PCB and plate attach to the case of the keyboard. Popular mounting styles include: gasket mount, top mount, tray mount, and friction-fit (o-ring mount).
- Linear: The most popular switch archetype. Linear switches has a smooth up and down travel without any other feedback until you bottom out.
- Tactile: The 2nd most popular switch archetype. Tactile switches have a bump somewhere in the travel range of the stem. The bump can be at the very beginning or even all the way at the end and anywhere in between depending on the switch. The bump does not indicate switch actuation.
- Clicky: Clicky switches are pretty self-explanatory. Somewhere in the travel of the stem, there will be both a physical bump as well as an audible “click”. Neither the bump nor the click indicate switch actuation.
Reasons to Modify Mechanical Keyboards
Modifying a mechanical keyboard can offer a range of benefits and advantages tailored to individual preferences and needs. Here are some common reasons why people choose to modify their mechanical keyboards:
This customization is driven by a desire to align the keyboard with our personal preferences. For instance, some users prefer a keyboard with almost effortless keystrokes, often achieved by installing a "speed" switch, typically identifiable by its silver color. These switches require minimal stem travel before registering a keypress and are paired with a light spring for easy actuation. On the contrary, others, including myself, favor a more robust tactile switch that demands greater force to depress. The advantage of such switches lies in their reduced likelihood of accidental keystrokes, as they necessitate a deliberate commitment to actuate.
In the keyboard market today, you can find a variety of options catering to enthusiasts who wish to enhance their typing experience. Brands like Redragon design keyboards with the intention of allowing users to perform modifications, thus making them even better than their original configurations. Additionally, there are keyboards available that come pre-equipped with popular modifications right out of the box, ensuring users can immediately enjoy a tailored typing experience without the need for further adjustments.
Should You Modify Your Mechanical Keyboard?
Modifying a mechanical keyboard can be a rewarding endeavor, but it's essential to consider the associated risks and factors before diving into the world of keyboard customization. Below, we've outlined important risks and factors to bear in mind:
- Voiding Warranty: Most keyboard manufacturers have warranties that may be voided if you open the keyboard or make significant modifications. Check your keyboard's warranty terms and understand the potential consequences of voiding it.
- Technical Expertise: Many keyboard modifications require technical skills such as soldering, desoldering, and firmware programming. If you lack these skills, you may need to invest time in learning or seek professional assistance.
- Time Investment: Modifying a keyboard can be time-consuming, especially if you're new to the process. Be prepared to dedicate time and effort to achieve your desired results.
- Risk of Damage: Mistakes can happen during the modification process, leading to damage to your keyboard, switches, or other components. Careful handling and attention to detail are crucial to avoid costly errors.
- Compatibility: Ensure that any replacement parts, keycaps, or switches you purchase are compatible with your specific keyboard model. Not all components are universal, and compatibility issues can arise.
- Experimentation: Modding a keyboard often involves experimentation to find the perfect combination of switches, keycaps, and modifications for your preferences. Be prepared for trial and error.
- Resale Value: Modifications can impact the resale value of your keyboard. If you plan to sell it in the future, potential buyers may have different preferences regarding customizations.
- Budget: Consider your budget for modifications. High-quality keycaps, switches, and other components can add up in cost. Ensure that the improvements you make align with your budgetary constraints.
- Soldering and Desoldering Risks: If you're soldering or desoldering components, there's a risk of damaging the keyboard's printed circuit board (PCB) if not done correctly. Precision and patience are essential.
- Firmware and Software: Firmware customization can be powerful but may also introduce software-related issues if not properly configured. Make backups of your original firmware and proceed with caution.
- Community and Resources: Joining online communities or forums dedicated to keyboard enthusiasts can be helpful for guidance and troubleshooting. Many experienced modders are willing to offer advice and assistance.
Can you mod a regular keyboard?
Modifying a regular or non-mechanical keyboard is possible to some extent, but it's important to note that the level of customization and the types of modifications you can make are limited compared to mechanical keyboards. Here are some common modifications you can consider for a regular keyboard:
- Keycap Replacement: Many regular keyboards allow you to remove and replace keycaps. You can find aftermarket keycap sets with various colors, styles, and materials to change the keyboard's appearance and feel.
- Sound Dampening: You can reduce typing noise on a regular keyboard by adding dampening materials like foam or silicone inside the keyboard casing. This can help make it quieter.
- Stickers and Decals: For aesthetic customization, you can apply stickers or decals to the keyboard's surface. This is a non-permanent way to personalize the look of your keyboard.
- Key Labels: You can add or replace key labels with custom keycap labels or stickers to create a unique key layout.
- Cleaning and Maintenance: Regular cleaning and maintenance can improve the overall condition and performance of your keyboard.
However, there are limitations to what you can do with a regular keyboard:
How to Modify Mechanical Keyboards?
Modifying a mechanical keyboard allows you to tailor it to your specific preferences for aesthetics, typing feel, and performance. Here are some common modifications you can make:1. Upgrade Your Keycaps:
Upgrading keycaps is one of the easiest and most impactful modifications you can make. Keycaps come in various materials, profiles, and designs. You can find keycap sets that suit your style and typing feel. For a comprehensive guide on keycaps, check out The Ultimate Guide to Keycaps: Material, Profile, and Beyond.
- Carefully remove the existing keycaps using a keycap puller tool.
- Place the new keycaps onto the switches, ensuring they snap into place securely.
Changing the switches can dramatically alter your typing experience. Redragon offers custom switches, and you can learn more about them in Keyboard Breakdown: The 3 Types of Mechanical Switches.
- If your keyboard supports hot-swapping, use a switch puller to remove the old switches.
- Insert the new switches into the switch sockets, making sure they align correctly.
Stabilizers are crucial for larger keys like the Spacebar. Modifying them can eliminate wobble and improve keypress consistency.
- Carefully disassemble the keyboard to access the stabilizers.
- Lubricate the stabilizer wires with a suitable lubricant to reduce friction.
- Reassemble the stabilizers and keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards can be loud. To reduce noise, you can apply sound-dampening materials inside the keyboard case.
- Open the keyboard case.
- Line the inside with foam or silicone sound-dampening materials.
- Close the case and ensure it's securely sealed.
A custom USB cable can add a unique touch to your keyboard setup. You can find a variety of colors and designs for USB cables.
- Purchase a custom USB cable from a reputable supplier.
- Connect the custom cable to your keyboard and computer.
Remember to carefully research and follow specific instructions for your keyboard model, as the modification process can vary. Additionally, consider the compatibility of the keycaps, switches, and other components with your keyboard before making any modifications. Modifying your mechanical keyboard can result in a personalized and satisfying typing experience tailored to your preferences.
Using the FIZZ K617 White & Pink Keyboard as an example for modification:
Step 1: Choosing the Right Switch
My go-to mods for a new keyboard that just doesn’t quite feel exactly how I need it to are first the switches. In my honest opinion, the switches in the keyboard are the most crucial component that makes the largest impact on if someone will like their purchase.
Follow this guide to decide on a style of switch. You’ll also need a selection of tools and materials on hand. A quality switch opener for cherry and Kailh style switches will make your life easier. A decent wire keycap puller will preserve the finish of your keycaps. A lube brush, stem holder and lubing station can often be purchased as a kit.
Step 2: Recommended Switches
I’ll also link some of my personal favorite switches.
Step 3: Lubricating Your Switches
After finding a switch you’re fond of, (I used the Bullet-S A113 Silver for this article) you can take it a step further and lube them if they didn’t already arrive pre-lubed. When lubing a switch take note of the style of switch it is as the process is slightly different depending on if it's a linear or a tactile for example. Linear switches you can lube the entire stem whereas on tactile and clicky switches, you want to avoid getting any lube on the small legs of the stem as that will mute the tactile bump and/or click. You only need a slight layer of lube on the stem and bottom housing. Just enough to where you can see the clear sheen on the plastic but not enough to where the lube is white. If you see the color of the lube on the components, you’ve put too much.
Step 4: Upgrading Keycaps
After lubing your switches, swapping your keycaps to a higher quality and normally thicker walled keycap will help dial in the sound profile you’re after. Most people prefer keycaps between 1.2mm and 1.5mm thick. Keycaps also come in a wide variety of profiles so it may take you a couple tries to find the perfect shape. Take a peak at this guide to help make an informed decision. I kept most of the stock keycaps from my K617 since it matched the theme well and just added some accent pieces.
Step 5: Stabilizers: Modify or Replace
After deciding on a new keycap set, you will take a look at the stabs. Sometimes you can get a better result by simply replacing the stock stabs with reputable aftermarket ones. Other times you can simply modify your stock ones by clipping the extra feet on the stabs and lubing them with dielectric grease. You can also take it a step further by doing the Holee mod with a few pieces of fabric bandaid.
Clipped feet on the left, stock on the right. The second image is what your stabilizer bar should look like after dipping it into the tube of dielectric grease.
Step 6: Adding neoprene rubber sheets and PE foam
Start by unplugging your computer or removing the keyboard's batteries if it's wireless.
Start by unplugging your computer or removing the keyboard's batteries if it's wireless.
Step 7: Stabilizers: Modify or Replace
Next up if your keyboard is like mine and doesn' t have any sort of dampening inside, you can add your own to the bottom casing. I used some black neoprene rubber sheets that have adhesive on one side. Cut to size and then stuck into the bottom of the keyboard. Doesn' t need to be perfect or to cover every inch of space. All we' re trying to do is make the board sound less hollow by taking some of the open space away so there's less room for sound waves to bounce around.
Another popular mod to help with dampening is to add PE foam that often will come wrapped around your keyboard as you open the box. You can place it between the PCB and the top plate while poking holes into it for each switch and the stabs. Helpful tip would be to do the 4 corners first. That way you can use 4 switches to hold the foam in place while you do the rest without it sliding all over the place. Be sure to cut the foam to size so that there isn' t any overhang.
Step 8: Reassembly and Cable Upgrade
Now reassemble your newly modified mechanical keyboard and if you’d like, add a new shiny coiled cable to finish it off.
The Transformed K617 Fizz
When all's said and done, we’ve now taken a bone stock pink K617 Fizz and done many of the more common modifications to it and it now feels very smooth and creamy one may call it. The Bullet-S switches make the board sound quite poppy and the keys are easy to press with light force. I might switch up the keycaps in the future with some sort of cherry blossom themed ones that are thicker walled. Due to the dampening we added, the keyboard doesn’t have that painfully hollow sound even when you tap on the bottom of the case. I’m going to play around with this setup for a couple weeks and make a decision on if these switches need to be hand-lubed or not. I’m quite happy with how this board turned out!
Redragon K617 Fizz Budget Modding Guide (Step by Step Tutorial)
Get the FIZZ K617 Keyboard here.
Redragon K552 Modding Guide (Beginner Friendly)
Get the KUMARA K552 Keyboard here.
Redragon K530 Modding Guide
Get the DRACONIC K530 PRO Keyboard here.
In summary, a modded keyboard is a customized and personalized version of a standard keyboard, typically a mechanical one. Keyboard enthusiasts and users with specific preferences take their keyboards and modify various components to enhance their performance, aesthetics, and overall typing or gaming experience.
Modifications can include upgrading keycaps, switches, stabilizers, and even soundproofing the keyboard to reduce noise. Some enthusiasts may also opt for custom USB cables to add a unique touch to their setup.
Modded keyboards reflect the individuality of their users, with each modification serving a specific purpose, whether it's for improved keypress feel, reduced noise, or purely for aesthetic appeal. The world of modded keyboards offers endless possibilities for customization, allowing users to create a keyboard that perfectly suits their needs and preferences.
Frequently Asked Questions:What mods should I use on my keyboard?
How Do I Make My Keyboard Thock?
What is the most important mod for keyboards?
What does modding a keyboard do?
How do I mod keyboard sounds?
How do I make my keyboard clicky?
How do I make my keyboard quieter?
How Do I Mod Switches On My Keyboard?
How Can I Make My Keyboard Sound Better For Free?
Is it difficult to modify a mechanical keyboard?