Any mechanical keyboard enthusiast will know that all mechanical keyboards don’t sound the same. Because of these varying sounds, many of them choose to go for a mechanical keyboard.
Mechanical keyboard sounds vary from clicky to loud, bumpy, and audible. Each of these keyboards also gives a different typing feel that only the keyboard user can detect. This makes a striking difference in the typing experience of individuals.
Mechanical keyboards are the in-thing when it comes to a seamless and enjoyable typing and gaming experience. Professional typists and gamers can testify to this.
But what happens when a user prefers one type of audible feedback from a keyboard but detests the typing feel on the hands?
Keyboard enthusiasts have developed all kinds of mods to improve users’ typing experience to match their preferences. One of such modifications is mechanical keyboard O-rings.
This article will highlight what they are more clearly, how they work and how to use them for a better typing experience.
What Are Mechanical Keyboard O-Rings?
Mechanical Keyboard O-rings are rubber rings designed in the shape of an O. These rings are made of industrial-grade rubber and designed to absorb the pressure applied on a keycap. They are also called dampeners.
Essentially, they help to improve the lifespan of your keyboard, but they do more than just that. They also help to improve your typing experience.
How Do Mechanical Keyboard O-Rings Work?
O-rings act as shock absorbers that prevent the keycaps from hitting the bottom of the keyboard.
Although the O-ring doesn’t completely silence the sound of clicks, it drastically reduces it to a more tolerable sound. The newly improved sound becomes almost like that of the regular dome keyboard.
O-rings have varying sizes and hardness levels; this determines how each keypress will feel and how smooth your typing experience will be.
Mechanical keyboards also use different types of switches, and each of these switches produces a different touch response. You should expect that using O-rings will produce varying feedback depending on the kind of switch in use.
Clicky Switch Feedback
Keyboards with clicky switches make an audible click sound when you press down a key. This is the response that shows a key has been actuated. It’s a familiar favorite because keyboard users can tell they have pressed a key once they hear that sound. It helps for faster typing since you don’t have to double-check to see the response.
While many people like this clicky noise, it can be infuriating and a real disturbance in public spaces. The sound is quite distracting. When you apply O-rings on this type of keyboard, here’s what you should expect:
- The clicky sound remains but is now toned down a notch.
- It reduces the travel distance between pressing the key to hitting bottom.
- This keeps the keycaps from bottoming out on the keyboard.
- It also eliminates the sound that accompanies the keycaps hitting the keyboard’s base.
Tactile Switch Feedback
If you own a keyboard that uses tactile switches, the feedback response is slightly different. Tactile switches are the kinds that do not click loudly but give a bump response when you press a key down. The tactile feedback produces a distinct bump that indicates when a key has been actuated.
Tactile switches, when used with O-rings, produce this response:
- A squishiness in the bump response in place of a crisp bump.
- A reduction in the travel distance from keypress to bottoming out.
- A sudden stop where a full, soft bump should be.
For both clicky switches and tactile switches, O-rings help eliminate bottoming out on the keyboard. It also reduces the travel distance of the keys, which changes the entire feel of your typing experience.
Should You Apply O-Rings to Your Mechanical Keyboard?
Now that you understand how O-rings work and their effect on your overall typing experience, you may find it a little difficult to decide if the pros of using them outweigh the cons.
This will help you decide if you should apply O-rings to your mechanical keyboard.
Firstly, it improves touch-typing. When working on a mechanical keyboard, the keys are usually very responsive to touch, and each key has its distinct switch. This ensures that every key you touch is registered on the screen, so you don’t have to hit a key all the way down to the bottom.
However, newbies to mechanical keyboard use find it difficult to type without bottoming out the keys. This affects your keyboard’s metal backplate, causing it to wear out quicker than normal.
You can safely avoid bottoming out with an O-ring until you learn to touch-type accurately on your mechanical keyboard. By touch-typing, you do not need to press your keys down until it hits bottom.
With the travel distance reduced, the keys take a shorter time to travel back up when you press it. This is a good thing because the shorter the travel time, the less harm you inflict on yourself.
Typing spells for long hours cause arthritis and pain in the fingers because of the travel distance. There’s an improvement in typing speed and pain inflicted on your fingers with this mod.
There’s also the issue of noise reduction. Slipping O-rings onto your switches does not entirely remove that click sound that accompanies the keyboard, but it dampens it a little. This is why O-rings are also called Dampeners.
With this noise reduced, you can use your mechanical keyboard in public spaces or with people around. It is no longer as infuriating as it was before applying the O-rings (Unless you have Kailh box jades).
You get an entirely different typing experience. Some people apply O-rings on their keyboards and end up missing the clicky sounds or bumpy feedback they used to feel. This might very well be the only con of applying O-rings.
If you’re sure that you do not mind an all-new typing feel on your mechanical keyboard, then O-rings are not a bad idea. Even better, you get used to the new typing feel after using the mechanical keyboard for a while.
How to Install O-Rings On Your Mechanical Keyboard
To mod your mechanical keyboard with O-rings is an easy process. It is less complicated than other types of mechanical keyboard modifications. You also don’t need any serious level of expertise to install O-rings on your keyboard.
Note: Fixing the O-rings on each keycap can take some time; we suggest that you try out a few O-rings on some keys first to get a feel of the new typing experience. You can proceed to cover the entire keycaps with O-rings if you like it.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to show you how to do this:
- Choose a brightly lit space and a clear tabletop or workspace to work.
- Prepare a keycap puller, then take a picture of your keyboard for reference. This picture will help you remember which key goes where.
- Use the keycap puller to extract the keycaps and lay them out before you how you removed them.
- Some of the large keys on your keyboard have stabilizers, and so you need extra care as you pull them out.
- If you’re not sure how to extract the keycaps, check out a YouTube tutorial to help pull out your keycaps the right way.
- If there is dirt and debris beneath your keycap and on your keyboard, clean it out with a vacuum cleaner. You can also wipe it out with a damp paper towel and a dry towel afterward. This step is not necessary if your keyboard is clean.
- Pick a keycap, turn it over, then place an O-ring each onto a keycap stem.
- Push it down until it sits firmly without being twisted or bent out of shape.
- For larger keys, apply the O-rings on the stems that connect to the switch only.
- Fit the O-rings on the rest of the keys and insert them back on the keyboard layout.
To take them out, simply pull out the keycaps and pry out the O-rings with a tweezer.
Mechanical Keyboard O-Rings Size Guide
It’s important to choose the right thickness when buying O-rings. The size, thickness, and hardness of O-rings also have a part to play in the typing feel you experience when you slip them on. Check out the size guide below:
|40A Thick||2.5mm/0.098 inch||40A||Silicone||Clear||Soft press, shorter travel distance|
|40A Thin||1.5mm/0.059 inch||40A||Silicone||Clear||Soft press, long travel distance|
|70A Thick||2.5mm/0.098 inch||70A||Silicone||Clear||Hard press, short travel distance|
|70A Thin||1.5mm/0.059 inch||70A||Silicone||Clear||Hard press, long travel distance|
This helps the rings to fit snugly around the stem of the keycap. Most O-rings available are for Cherry MX switches. Their inner diameter is about 5mm, Topre switches inner diameter is 7mm.
The thicker the O-ring is, the shorter the travel distance when a key is actuated. The tiniest thickness is about 0.2mm; you hardly feel any difference with these. The thicker the O-ring, the less sound your keyboard makes.
O-rings with a lower value give softer feedback when you press on the keys. The Shore Durometer A Scale determined the hardness value on the size guide. The harder the ring, the higher the value on our size guide.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Because many mechanical keyboard users know the difference a slight modification can make to their keyboards, they have many FAQs. We have tried to answer a few of them below:
How Do They Change Your Typing Experience?
Thicker O-rings help to reduce the travel time during key press. It also makes it a little less noisy than usual. Thinner and softer O-rings also give a soft squishiness when you press a keycap down, changing the bump you may feel from tactile switches.
O-rings also help remove the bottoming-out sound when your keycap hits the switch housing. This is because your keys will no longer bottom out.
Are O-Rings Good for Gaming?
Unless the O-rings are super-thick, your gaming experience becomes even be better, especially for double-tapping.
Do O-Rings Block Your RGB Lights?
Usually, no. Your O-rings will not obstruct the RGB lights when you insert them on the keycaps’ stem. It also helps to go for transparent or clear O-rings that allow light to shine through.
Are O-Rings Hard To Apply?
No. You can easily apply O-rings on your own by following the guidelines we have created above.
Do O-Rings Work On Box Switches?
O-rings work with Box switches, but they use a slightly different installation type. Fit a 4mm O-ring into a box switch stem housing to reduce sound and travel distance without a squishy rubbery feel.
O-rings are many mechanical keyboard users’ favorite. The installation process is easy and straightforward. However, we think it is wise to try out a few keys first using varying degrees of hardness and softness of O-rings. This will help you decide if you like the typing feel of your mod keyboard before you commit fully.