Author Topic: Quiet keyboards?  (Read 1137 times)

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Offline zakaluka

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Quiet keyboards?
« on: Tue, 19 May 2020, 21:26:52 »
Hello,

Does anyone know of quiet keyboards that can be bought / assembled / soldered that meet the following requirements?

Required:
  • As quiet as possible!  Think open floor plan packed with people and pin-drop silence.
  • Linear or tactile switches.
  • 60-75% layout (need dedicated arrow keys, even on the 60%)
  • ANSI layout
  • Some level of on-board programmability / memory without requiring support from the Operating System or applications like AHK.
  • Budget: $150 (may be able to stretch a little, but not more than $200 or so).

Nice to have:
  • Hot-swappable switches
  • EDIT: No soldering, but I am starting to accept the fact that soldering may be a fact of life to get a decent quiet keyboard

I'm okay with "assembling" the board, but can't solder.  So, buying the parts (assuming a hot-swappable PCB) and putting it all together is fine with me.

Hopefully this isn't a unicorn.  Appreciate any and all help!

EDIT: Made "no soldering" a nice to have, but not a requirement if that gets me a great, quiet, long lasting keyboard.
« Last Edit: Wed, 20 May 2020, 15:30:23 by zakaluka »

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 00:22:49 »
Unfortunately, programming and lack of soldering pretty much destroys your budget.
The other problem you face is Covid, inventory for pcb and cases, particularly with hot swap and/or 65% (60 lacks arrows without an odd layout) is very low. I think everyone used their stimulus check to buy keyboards.

Someone may know of something buy here's my recommendation
Ducky One SF (preorder) with silent reds. Lube the stabs (maybe get better ones and lube those)
Alternate
Keychron K6 (may only be a pre-order, beware), some Silent Reds, Zilencios or Novelkeys Creams then use what's left to get some lube and better stabs.

The Ducky is the better, cheaper keyboard (in total) and will be the better board long term, the Keychron will be more expensive (by a lot) but also more quiet. My advice, get the Ducky, use it and enjoy it while waiting for KBDfans to restock on their 65% (KBD67 v2), get a soldering iron iron (a cheap one works) and build it yourself lubing everything you can (don't get the the hot swap). It will be an amazing board but you will be into this well over your current budget but you have time to save up and you end up with a spare Ducky and some really nice keycaps.

You could just move the switches over from the Keychron and save some money there but in the end the price difference between each method cancels out any savings. The KBD67 sold out in less than a week, you need to be ready to jump on it and the Keychron puts you further behind. You can always get switches, you can't always get the board, and you may decide to spring for a different switch (Creams, so quiet).
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Offline Maledicted

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 12:18:53 »
You can always get switches, you can't always get the board, and you may decide to spring for a different switch (Creams, so quiet).

You think Creams compare well against dampened switches in the super secret stealthy spy category? Wouldn't know myself, just seems like they would still be loud without something soft to bottom out on. I think I want to try out some silenced switches when the apocalypse is over, if my box silent reds ever make it to the U.S. Gateron silent black inks sound like they may be nice.

Offline zakaluka

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 15:28:42 »
Thank you both for your suggestions and discussion!  I guess I have to take up soldering to get what I am looking for.  It's just nothing I've done in decades and based on past experience (and many, many burns), not something I was ever that good at. 

If soldering was on the table, would KBD67v2 with still be the best choice?

Quote
The Ducky is the better, cheaper keyboard (in total) and will be the better board long term, the Keychron will be more expensive (by a lot) but also more quiet.

The Keychron K6 is showing me a price of $69 for White Backlight and Gateron Red switches.  Do you think that is not the final price?

NOTE: I did change the description to move "no soldering" to the "nice to have" category.

Offline zakaluka

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 16:20:43 »
Some more questions (sorry!)

The Ducky is the better, cheaper keyboard (in total) and will be the better board long term, the Keychron will be more expensive (by a lot) but also more quiet. My advice, get the Ducky, use it and enjoy it while waiting for KBDfans to restock on their 65% (KBD67 v2), get a soldering iron iron (a cheap one works) and build it yourself lubing everything you can (don't get the the hot swap). It will be an amazing board but you will be into this well over your current budget but you have time to save up and you end up with a spare Ducky and some really nice keycaps.

I guess I have to take up soldering to get what I am looking for.  It's just nothing I've done in decades and based on past experience (and many, many burns), not something I was ever that good at. 

If soldering was on the table, would KBD67v2 with silent switches still be the best choice?  Also, when you refer to Cream switches, is it these https://novelkeys.xyz/collections/switches/products/novelkeys-cream-switches ?

Unfortunately, programming and lack of soldering pretty much destroys your budget.

I changed the description to move "no soldering" to the "nice to have" category.  I do need the programming though, especially for situations where the board is used on computers without access to tools like autohotkey.

Offline ddrfraser1

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 16:47:47 »
Get a silent topre board. That will be quieter that everything and feel better! (imho)

Offline zakaluka

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 20:43:54 »

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 22:21:28 »
You think Creams compare well against dampened switches in the super secret stealthy spy category? Wouldn't know myself, just seems like they would still be loud without something soft to bottom out on. I think I want to try out some silenced switches when the apocalypse is over, if my box silent reds ever make it to the U.S. Gateron silent black inks sound like they may be nice.
Good catch, that was a goof on my part, there is a switch that comes across as silent without being labeled as such and for some reason that popped into my head. It was probably the Tealios V2 which are really quiet for a normal switch.

Some other quiet switches
Zilents
Gateron inks and silent inks
Tealios V2 (not v1)

One of the best sources I've found for switch noise is Taeha Types, he builds a lot of boards so you get a variety.


If soldering was on the table, would KBD67v2 with silent switches still be the best choice?  Also, when you refer to Cream switches, is it these
The KBD67 comes in solder and hot swap, there is probably something cheaper that fits your needs, but few are as easy to get (once they get caught up with demand) and the price difference would be minimal. Spec-wise, it competes with ultra exotics costing 2-3 times that price, which is why it sold out so fast.

See what I wrote above about the switch, and yes those.
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Offline Maledicted

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 09:03:32 »
I guess I have to take up soldering to get what I am looking for.  It's just nothing I've done in decades and based on past experience (and many, many burns), not something I was ever that good at.

I think everybody gets some pretty nasty burns when they start. I know I did. You usually learn fast how not to manipulate a soldering iron as a result.

Offline bliss

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 10:32:21 »
Two ideas:

1)
Ducky One SF (preorder) with silent reds.
You can't go wrong with this.

2)
GK64 with Zilents :cool:

I personally own a Ducky Mini and a GK61. When switches are more important, I would recommend the GK64. If on-board programmability is important, I would go with the Ducky SF.

You can always put a dedicated numpad or macropad next to a standard 60%. I have programmed my Ducky Pocket as nav cluster plus macros, but the Pocket has become expensive more than ever.
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Offline jamster

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 11:30:05 »
I think everybody gets some pretty nasty burns when they start. I know I did. You usually learn fast how not to manipulate a soldering iron as a result.

I suspect this could be one of those cases where a decent tool makes a big difference. I noticed that with cheap with the thick power cords that plug right into the wall, manipulating the iron and putting it down were a bit hit and miss (never burnt myself, but gave myself a couple of scares).

Moving to a basic but decent station included a much thinner, very flexible cord which seems to make the whole soldering process a fair bit safer.

Online HungerMechanic

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 13:35:19 »
As said earlier, a solder-free solution might be a KBD67 hotswap keyboard, and silent switches.

If you buy a KBD67 hotswap assembled by KBDFans, then you don't really have to assemble anything. And you can put any silent switches of your choice in there.

You might want to buy a set of sample test switches of Zilents or silenced linears or some giant cluster of switches in a tester while you wait for the KBD67 to restock. They are working on a huge order right now, but I guess they will stock again in a few months. You'll have about an hour or less to order one once they restock, so you can join the e-mail list. The hassle is in getting the KBD67, I guess.

Otherwise you could go for a GK64 as mentioned above, but I don't know how they are for sound. I don't like their non-standard key staggering, which IMHO is bad for touch-typing. You'd be better off getting a GMMK or Teamwolf Zhuque and silencing it with foam and stabilizer lubing if you want something in that price category.

You could also order a heavy in-stock keyboard from KBDFans (KBD75, KBD19X, maybe some Tofu or TADA68 with metal case) or the upcoming Bella that will come pre-assembled with Zilents or Aliaz of your choice. [Zilents would be better for this application]. All you'd want to do is open up the case when you get it and try to dampen it with foam or mats. You can get a Zeal switch tester from KBDFans or ZealPC or wherever. You could experiment with that while you think about what to do next / wait for restock.

Here's what you can do with a Tofu and Zilents that you can prob. get in assembled form from KBDFans:


Online HungerMechanic

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 13:38:59 »
Tofu is only a 60%, though. There might be layouts with arrow keys in various 60% boards, but they tend to be cramped.

[GK64 is actually a 60% size with arrow keys, and its ergonomics suffer because of it.]

If you are assembling yourself, including soldering, a KBD67 really can be a good choice. It represents value more than almost any other custom in that size-range. Very heavy, thick and should be possible to silence. Just assemble it with the right dampening materials, and lube everything. There's also the hotswap option mentioned above, but custom-assembling one can lead to better results.

Offline ddrfraser1

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 13:48:32 »
Get a silent topre board. That will be quieter that everything and feel better! (imho)

Do you mean something like this? https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=6179 or https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=4096

Exactly. These boards are relitively easy to mod. All you have to do is unscrew and rescrew everything. No soldering required. I would lube the sliders with your favorite lube (I think I actually used krytox VPF oil), lube the stabs with dialectic grease and teflon grease per taeha's tutorial and buy some BKE redux domes. One of my favorite boards. 

Offline Maledicted

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 13:58:59 »
I think everybody gets some pretty nasty burns when they start. I know I did. You usually learn fast how not to manipulate a soldering iron as a result.

I suspect this could be one of those cases where a decent tool makes a big difference. I noticed that with cheap with the thick power cords that plug right into the wall, manipulating the iron and putting it down were a bit hit and miss (never burnt myself, but gave myself a couple of scares).

Moving to a basic but decent station included a much thinner, very flexible cord which seems to make the whole soldering process a fair bit safer.

I used the cheapy Wellers for years until I got a proper solder station. I could see where that may be a contributing factor, but I'm pretty sure that even with the cheap irons I just needed a few nasty burns to adjust my behavior.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 21:28:11 »
If it's designed to melt, cut or pierce it's certainly capable of doing the same to a fleshy human.

After having a nice iron for a bit I had to go back to a cheap Weller for a short job and what I quickly learned was the difference between a good iron and cheap one is the dedicated iron holder. It's amazing how much time and effort you spend trying to keep it from burning the table, you or the floor when it falls. I swear this alone is probably responsible for 2/3rds of the burns you get using cheapies.
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Offline bliss

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 22 May 2020, 06:59:44 »
Otherwise you could go for a GK64 as mentioned above, but I don't know how they are for sound. I don't like their non-standard key staggering, which IMHO is bad for touch-typing. You'd be better off getting a GMMK or Teamwolf Zhuque and silencing it with foam and stabilizer lubing if you want something in that price category.
Silencing with a foam mat and stab lubing would be mandatory for silence in that league, yes. I use my GK61 @stock but normally use 'loud' switches with it. But these modifiations are easy to do :thumb:
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Offline zakaluka

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 22 May 2020, 09:54:53 »
Thank you everyone for the awesome discussion and feedback.  I'm still taking in all this information, but I think here is where I am at in terms of options (in no particular order):

  • Ducky One 2 SF (https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=5461)
    Pros:
    • Easy mode option
    • Available with Silent Reds
    • Programmable
    • Fits within the original budget of USD 150
    Cons:
    • Can't make it much quieter without a lot more effort (de-soldering, lubing keys, re-soldering, ...)
  • KBD67 (https://kbdfans.com/products/kbd67v2) + silent keys like Cream (https://novelkeys.xyz/products/novelkeys-cream-switches), Gateron Silent Ink, Tealios v2, Roselios, Zilents, etc.
    Pros:
    • Programmable
    • Choice of switches
    • Would provide for a nice project
    Cons:
    • (Minor) Not immediately available.
    • Budget: Even more than the Topre - $235 (KB/PCB) + Switches + Stabilizers + Keycaps + ......
    • Requires soldering to maximize silence
  • Topre keyboard (https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=4096)
    Pros:
    • Readily available
    • (Some) Mods seem simpler on the Topre compared to the other boards
    Cons:
    • Honestly, I know even less about Topre than MX-style keyboards. I have no idea what these feel like
    • Quite a bit over budget: USD 250 + mods
    • Topre boards in general seem to be insanely expensive (maybe due to scarcity and/or low supply and low demand).
    • Not programmable (at least the Leopold). This may not apply to other Topre boards.

Let's just say that even while typing this reply, I went down the rabbit hole and ended up spending an hour watching some typing tests from Taeha Types and looking at a bunch of reddit threads.

I am leaning towards Option 2 (KBD 67 + self-soldering).  It is a very attractive option, supplies (other than the board) are readily available and most tutorials, etc. seem geared towards these kinds of boards, and might get me the closest to what I'm looking for.  Since I don't urgently need a keyboard (my membrane keyboard has worked fine for years), I can save up to accommodate this option.

I do have one final question - while looking at KBD67, many other boards came up - Tofu65, TADA68, GK64, THINK6.5, etc. etc.  Is there a reason to select any of these other boards over the KBD67 when looking at it from the perspectives of budget (at least similar in price) and noise?

Offline ddrfraser1

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 22 May 2020, 10:09:55 »
I get that topre is pricey. You have to put even more money into it to make it go from good to great. Imo that means spending 50-70 bucks on BKE domes.

First of all, you should not be afraid of soldering. It is much easier than you think and it's a lot of fun. If you're serious about this hobby you'll figure out how to do it eventually.

Lastly, I may have missed it but have you looked into a hot swappable keyboard? Take switches on and off the keyboard with out the need to solder. I would look at GMMK: https://www.pcgamingrace.com/products/gmmk-full-brown-switch
You can order it with the switches and caps if you want or order it with nothing and buy your own stuff later. It's not AS nice as the other boards but is still great. Chyros did a review on it here:

 

As far as switch choice, it is worth spending a little extra but as long as you lube it properly, you'll be in good shape. All the stuff from zeal pc is excellent but gat silent inks would be great as well, some would say better.

Online HungerMechanic

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 22 May 2020, 18:14:57 »
Thank you everyone for the awesome discussion and feedback.  I'm still taking in all this information, but I think here is where I am at in terms of options (in no particular order):


I do have one final question - while looking at KBD67, many other boards came up - Tofu65, TADA68, GK64, THINK6.5, etc. etc.  Is there a reason to select any of these other boards over the KBD67 when looking at it from the perspectives of budget (at least similar in price) and noise?

I think you've recognized that you have two good options.

One, you could get a Ducky with Silent Reds [or use your membrane keyboard] to tide you over while you work on a KBD67 project. [You could alternately work on a KBD75 or other design].

Two, you could go Topre.

I know that Topre is expensive and difficult to test before buying. But it's a really, really solid option for what you want.

I've typed on 45 gr silenced Topre, and it is pleasant enough. Topre is rubber dome, but what does that really mean? Feel-wise, it is tactile but without the 'interrupt' that you get in the MX 'tactile bump.' Instead, it is almost linear in its smoothness if you press it slowly, but the tactility is present the entire time. There is a resistance in the background until you bottom-out.

It's a mild tactility compared to heavier, non-silenced Topre. It should be easy enough to get used to.

I'm trying out an ABKO K935P right now. It's a Topre-like board. Unsilenced, but very deep 'raindrop' sound. Maybe I'll post a review in a few days.

So Topre is very much a solution for your needs, if it's silenced. It's expensive, but you only have to purchase once, and there's no modding involved unless you want to. IMHO 45 gr silenced Topre is very usable in an office, especially if you lube it.



WRT your question about other boards, the KBD67 is valued by many because it offers most of the features and quality of high-end 65% boards, but at a lower price. There are boards that are going to be finished a little nicer, more rounded corners, more uniform plate colour or something, I don't know, but it's going to cost a lot more. Diminishing returns. The KBD67 is offering serious quality for less money.

The other KBDFans 65% boards often cost less, but aren't as good. The TADA68 is good value, but has a worse layout than the KBD67 [arrow keys are in a separate cluster on KBD67] and probably doesn't have as many programming features IDK. The switches on the TADA68 face upside-down, which leads to a less consistent typing and sound experience when using Cherry profile. To be fair, the TADA68 has maybe the best-performing aluminum case options in its price range. So the TADA68 is like a budget, inferior KBD67. And I think it may be in the process of being discontinued.

The GK64 is also in a lower tier than the KBD67. The 64 is built alright, looks nice. It has RGB, I think. Hotswap. But the key staggering is non-standard. Probably better as a gaming keyboard.

I don't know much about the Tofu. People seem to use them in association with customization. Like they use a Tofu case, but a PCB from a different board. So it ends up as a hybrid.

KBDFans boards that are probably in a similar tier to the KBD67 are the KBD75 and upcoming Bella. The KBD75 is very solid, I've typed on a few. I honestly prefer it to the KBD67, but that's because I'm not big into 65%.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #20 on: Fri, 22 May 2020, 20:36:42 »
I do have one final question - while looking at KBD67, many other boards came up - Tofu65, TADA68, GK64, THINK6.5, etc. etc.  Is there a reason to select any of these other boards over the KBD67 when looking at it from the perspectives of budget (at least similar in price) and noise?

Think 6.5 is WAY out of your price range and if you don't buy it now you will be stuck on the second hand market, which won't be any cheaper as there's a limited number left and they are not making more. This is a problem with most ultra high end designs, they're limited runs, if you miss it, you miss it. The KBD67 was 1500 or 2000 and even that was a large batch compared to many of these boards, most barely top 100 per batch and few get a second batch.

I didn't bother with those others because all of them are out of stock, if you have to wait you have time to save and if you have time to save, the best board for the money in that size (at least currently) is probably the KBD67 (pretty sure they would even assemble it for you with your switch choice).
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Online HungerMechanic

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Re: Quiet keyboards?
« Reply #21 on: Fri, 22 May 2020, 21:44:43 »
KBDFans will assemble a KBD67 with your choice of switches. You just have to go through the process [buying "Assembly Services" and buying the switches and probably LEDs separately].

KBDFans has to stock the switches, though. They stock Zeal products, and Aliaz. The problem is that in most cases, you'd want to lube and even spring-swap those switches, if possible, which won't happen if KBDFans assembles them.