Author Topic: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (edit: accidentally swapped a lower housing)  (Read 2157 times)

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Offline Pylon

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I have three sets of Cherry MX Clear switches - the set that came on a stock iKBC CD108 keyboard that I bought 9 months ago (that saw some heavy use), a batch of 120 I bought from Novelkeys back in January 2020 that I never installed, and another batch of 120 I bought in late-May 2020 after the most recent Novelkeys restock that I just built a keyboard with.

Compared to the earlier two batches the most recent batch feels...noticeably worse. They're much scratchier (especially noticeable past the actuation point, where MX Clears act linear until bottom out), and tactility is less sharp. I initially thought this was because the switches on my CD108 had worn in, but I replaced a particularly un-tactile switch on my most recent build with an unused switch from my January Novelkeys order, and the tactility and smoothness on that key improved a lot (to where it felt identical to the ones on my old CD108). This particularly untactile switch I had accidentally swapped in the lower housing and leaf from a Gateron Blue switch.

EDIT July 2nd 2020 - This housing difference was actually a mixup that happened where I accidentally swapped in Gateron lower housings into a couple of MX Clears on a couple of switches that felt particularly bad - this happened a couple of months ago when I was reassembling switches after trying out Clear switches in some Gateron Blues and inadvertently mixed some lower housings. Really sorry for this error, and my apologies if this misled anyone. The general complaints about the new switches feeling less tactile still hold (my unused Pause/Break key on my old CD108 feels noticeably more tactile than most of the new Clear switches I'm using), but the visible housing differences were due to a mixup on my end. I just disassembled some more of the newer switches and they almost all have "A" housings, and tried putting an MX Clear stem and spring in a Gateron Blue housing, and that combo results in a very dull  tactile bump..

I swapped stems and springs between an older switch and a newer one, and exchanging stems and springs didn't seem to do much. The stems and springs also looked identical, so the issue is probably with the contact leaf or lower housing. I took some photos of the newer vs older lower housings and contacts, and the contact leaves do look a bit different (this was done with my phone so not the best quality unfortunately):
245491-0
(older one on the left, newer one on the right)

I circled some differences I noticed - there's a square feature opposite where the contacts touch that isn't present on the older switch. The newer contacts also appear slightly rougher and less shiny, and the material is a bit more yellow in color.
245493-1


This might be part of the changes Cherry made in January 2020 to upgrade switch lifespans to 100 million actuations - Clears aren't listed as upgraded switches (Clears basically never see any upgrades), but it's possible that production changes also affected contacts the Clear switches. Unfortunately this might not be a good thing if it leaves switches feeling worse.
« Last Edit: Thu, 02 July 2020, 04:27:42 by Pylon »

Offline Sifo

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nope you're absolutely right they've gotten worse due to the leaf. it's a shame.
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Offline powwu

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That's too bad, I was planning on building ergo clears for a board of mine.

Offline Sifo

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I still build everything with modern clears too. It's not the worst, just not as good as they used to be. I can't pin point the year which they started to get worse.
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Offline envyy24

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Classic Cherry move.

Offline Draxion

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just checked my clears. I'm in the clear. Older batch few...

Offline HungerMechanic

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So typical. I had someone building samples for a larger build, and COVID intervened in the process.

I was going to instinctively order many more Clears for the build earlier in the year, when they were in-stock at Novelkeys, but didn't.

Now I won't be able to buy Clears that are the same as the samples. It puts the whole Ergo Clear project into question.

I'll be SOL for tactiles now, unless the Silent Skies turn out good or the new Leopold Star switches are good.

Offline jamster

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Same. Ergo Clears was my fallback option if I couldn't find a newer version of a tactile switch that I preferred.

I'm not going to spend the effort of sourcing, then spending hours modding Clears, if there's a significant risk that the base switches themselves have been downgraded.

Offline HungerMechanic

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Just gotta love MX tactiles. As soon as you find something you like, they retool.

At least there are some switches inspired by Ergo Clears, like the aforementioned Skies. They take some work to be made decent, but can be interesting in their own right.

And we need to take a close look at those new Leopold switches.

Offline Pylon

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July 2, 2020 - The D housing is actually a Gateron blue lower housing I accidentally mixed in. This was when I disassembled a couple of switches a couple of months ago when I was trying Clear springs in a Gateron blue, and accidentally reassembled a couple of Clears with Gateron lowers, which results in a very dull-feeling switch. Really sorry about this mixup.

So I had some older MX Blacks I desoldered off a circa-2014 Rosewill RK-9000BL. I swapped the spring and stem from a newer Clear switch in, and it felt just like the older Clear switches. So it appears that you could swap in an older lowers from other MX switches and be able to have Clears that feel the same as the older, better ones.

You can also identify the older lowers by the markings on the bottom of the switch. Older, better switch on the left, and newer, worse switch on the right.
245666-0

All the older switches have a small, capital "A" to the right of the diode symbol on the switch. All the newer switches instead say "D", and have a letter between the two legs of the switch. This letter seems to vary (I've had ones that say "C", "S", and others).

Unfortunately, it looks like the strategy for getting the older, better Clears in the future is either sourcing old switches, desoldering old Clears, or trying to source older lower Cherry MX housings, and swapping in the stems and springs from newer ones (which appear to be unchanged). I suspect the lower housings of all MX switches are identical (black and Clear are confirmed identical), and there is a plentiful supply of boards with pre-2018 blue, brown, black, and red switches on Ebay to get switches from. Unfortunately desoldering and disassembling switches is a lot of work so it's nowhere near ideal, but it's a viable option.
« Last Edit: Thu, 02 July 2020, 04:21:54 by Pylon »

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 23 June 2020, 22:58:32 »
Well, it's not a total loss then. I have 70 MX Browns with the "A" housings, and 104 Silent Reds with what look to have "A" characters. You think the Silent Reds could be used as housings also?

I figured the new Clears would still have useful stems at least, which seems to be the case.

Offline jamster

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 23 June 2020, 23:18:26 »
So I had some older MX Blacks I desoldered off a circa-2014 Rosewill RK-9000BL. I swapped the spring and stem from a newer Clear switch in, and it felt just like the older Clear switches. So it appears that you could swap in an older lowers from other MX switches and be able to have Clears that feel the same as the older, better ones.

You can also identify the older lowers by the markings on the bottom of the switch. Older, better switch on the left, and newer, worse switch on the right.
(Attachment Link)

All the older switches have a small, capital "A" to the right of the diode symbol on the switch. All the newer switches instead say "D", and have a letter between the two legs of the switch. This letter seems to vary (I've had ones that say "C", "S", and others).

Unfortunately, it looks like the strategy for getting the older, better Clears in the future is either sourcing old switches, desoldering old Clears, or trying to source older lower Cherry MX housings, and swapping in the stems and springs from newer ones (which appear to be unchanged). I suspect the lower housings of all MX switches are identical (black and Clear are confirmed identical), and there is a plentiful supply of boards with pre-2018 blue, brown, black, and red switches on Ebay to get switches from. Unfortunately desoldering and disassembling switches is a lot of work so it's nowhere near ideal, but it's a viable option.

I appreciate all the work you've done identifying this, but my overall takeaway is "forget Cherry, it's going to be a massive pain in the backside, find something else that's not so OTT fiddly" :(

Fortunately, I have a load of test switches on the way. Hopefully I can find something that works out of the box, or at least too much hassle. Including the Skies, but I haven't figured what 'work' needs to be done with them.

« Last Edit: Tue, 23 June 2020, 23:21:23 by jamster »

Offline envyy24

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 24 June 2020, 02:46:18 »

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #13 on: Wed, 24 June 2020, 09:59:10 »

Fortunately, I have a load of test switches on the way. Hopefully I can find something that works out of the box, or at least too much hassle. Including the Skies, but I haven't figured what 'work' needs to be done with them.

I'll try to let you know when I find out through my own experience, but I have read about the work to be done with Skies.

In stock form, Skies are not up to the standards of custom builders here. They are scratchy, don't sound great, and the springs are noisy. Further, if using the older 2.2 non-silenced Skies, they wobble heavily unless you use the 'no-slot' tops.

But with work they become noticeably better. First, they need substantial lubing. The stem contact surfaces for sure, and some even lube the tactile legs. The springs are the component of the switch that can legitimately be called bad. You should swap them, although the stock spring can be improved via donut dipping.

Once properly-lubed and spring-swapped, you have a switch that sounds decent and has a pretty noticeably tactility and coherent 'bump,' especially at lower weights. The Sky stem is genuinely good, and runs well at 62 gr up to higher weights. It runs better at 62 gr than Clears will. So it's good for making snappy light Clears.

[The bottom-out can feel like rubber-dome or mushy to some, so that's something to take into consideration. As well as the need to always use the tight-tops, which I think come stock in the Silent Sky.]

The U.S. distributor envisions OUTEMU Sky as a modular system consisting of housing base, housing top [no-slot being the preferred choice] different stems [Sky/Silent Sky/U4], and the spring. So you're best off thinking of it as a modular system. This is less trouble than it sounds, because you can order this in pieces, to make assembling custom switches easier than with Cherry MX.

And that is the 'work' you do with Skies. It's really about choosing and assembling the components.

The Sky stems are said to work well in TTC Gold Brown V2 housings, of all things, which I intend to test. There are also "Sky Pandas."

EDIT: Some people lube the Skies lightly on the sliders with Tribosys, so it's a matter of preference.
« Last Edit: Wed, 24 June 2020, 10:36:39 by HungerMechanic »

Offline uncleaner

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 26 June 2020, 17:10:37 »
FYI I ordered clears a week ago from mechanicalkeyboards.com that still came with the A housing.
They're not the cheapest place to buy switches from but it beats having to frankenstein clears together.

Offline Sifo

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 26 June 2020, 17:13:56 »
FYI I ordered clears a week ago from mechanicalkeyboards.com that still came with the A housing.
They're not the cheapest place to buy switches from but it beats having to frankenstein clears together.

i have the same ones and they're honestly not that great either, but usable. Something probably happened with the leaf even before they changed the bottom housing mold. could just be a simple case of wear in the equipment.
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Offline uncleaner

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 26 June 2020, 17:32:08 »
FYI I ordered clears a week ago from mechanicalkeyboards.com that still came with the A housing.
They're not the cheapest place to buy switches from but it beats having to frankenstein clears together.

i have the same ones and they're honestly not that great either, but usable. Something probably happened with the leaf even before they changed the bottom housing mold. could just be a simple case of wear in the equipment.
That's too bad, they feel pretty close to the clears I bought 4 months ago so I was hoping I lucked out of all this.
Someone needs to yell at zeal until he brings V1s back. I guess there's outemu skies, but when I was looking into them I don't think I found anyone who preferred them to ergo clears.
« Last Edit: Fri, 26 June 2020, 17:34:33 by uncleaner »

Offline Sifo

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 26 June 2020, 17:49:01 »
Outemu clear 2.2 changed to be different enough from clears that I dropped them. The initial travel distance is a little more noticeable due to the bump being larger and exaggerates any feeling of "scratch" during actuation.

cherry clear is surprisingly passable in the smoothness department if you're only counting the post-actuation to bottom out portion of the switch.
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Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 26 June 2020, 18:19:13 »
I think you can use actual Cherry clear stems in the OUTEMU housing, and it should be more tactile than Cherry but not sound as good.

Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #19 on: Tue, 30 June 2020, 08:44:21 »
FYI I ordered clears a week ago from mechanicalkeyboards.com that still came with the A housing.
They're not the cheapest place to buy switches from but it beats having to frankenstein clears together.

This is very helpful info. I will order some Clears from MK.com and see if they come with the 'A' housing.

Hopefully the housing is the main factor, and the 'A' housings are still half-decent. No matter where they are from.

Offline Avi_

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #20 on: Tue, 30 June 2020, 11:54:54 »
Can you identify the housing type when switch is installed in a keyboard? By looking at the visible parts.

Offline Pylon

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #21 on: Tue, 30 June 2020, 14:31:19 »
Probably not - I don't think the uppers changed, nor do they have any effect. If you can remove the tops you can inspect the leaves.

Offline uncleaner

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 30 June 2020, 19:19:05 »
FYI I ordered clears a week ago from mechanicalkeyboards.com that still came with the A housing.
They're not the cheapest place to buy switches from but it beats having to frankenstein clears together.

This is very helpful info. I will order some Clears from MK.com and see if they come with the 'A' housing.

Hopefully the housing is the main factor, and the 'A' housings are still half-decent. No matter where they are from.
Hold off on it, I was too optimistic in that post. Unlubed they felt close to my old batch, but after lube they definitely feel worse. I can't get them feeling smooth at all ,and they all have this weird kind of inconsistent binding to them, the leafs being messed up sound on the money.

Offline Sifo

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 30 June 2020, 19:24:46 »
FYI I ordered clears a week ago from mechanicalkeyboards.com that still came with the A housing.
They're not the cheapest place to buy switches from but it beats having to frankenstein clears together.

This is very helpful info. I will order some Clears from MK.com and see if they come with the 'A' housing.

Hopefully the housing is the main factor, and the 'A' housings are still half-decent. No matter where they are from.
Hold off on it, I was too optimistic in that post. Unlubed they felt close to my old batch, but after lube they definitely feel worse. I can't get them feeling smooth at all ,and they all have this weird kind of inconsistent binding to them, the leafs being messed up sound on the money.

yep, as I alluded to previously, I had a similar experience. It's overall just very inconsistent
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Offline HungerMechanic

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #24 on: Wed, 01 July 2020, 18:10:42 »

All the older switches have a small, capital "A" to the right of the diode symbol on the switch. All the newer switches instead say "D", and have a letter between the two legs of the switch. This letter seems to vary (I've had ones that say "C", "S", and others).

Unfortunately, it looks like the strategy for getting the older, better Clears in the future is either sourcing old switches, desoldering old Clears, or trying to source older lower Cherry MX housings, and swapping in the stems and springs from newer ones (which appear to be unchanged). I suspect the lower housings of all MX switches are identical (black and Clear are confirmed identical), and there is a plentiful supply of boards with pre-2018 blue, brown, black, and red switches on Ebay to get switches from. Unfortunately desoldering and disassembling switches is a lot of work so it's nowhere near ideal, but it's a viable option.

If you could learn whether the newest non-Clear Cherry housings from Novelkeys or MK.com allow for the building of good Clears, that could help.

Also, OUTEMU Sky/Silent Sky stems probably sound better in classic Cherry housings, so it would be good to know if they can use current Red/Brown housings. If they can, than that's almost an Ergo Clear.

Offline Pylon

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Re: MX Clears seem to have gotten worse (may also affect other MX switches)
« Reply #25 on: Thu, 02 July 2020, 04:05:08 »
So this is embarrassing, but it appears that A-housing/D-housing was a mixup on my end where I accidentally swapped some Gateron Blue bottom housings into a couple of MX Clears a couple of months ago when I was trying out some heavier springs in blue switches and didn't notice when I swapped them back. The D-housing is actually the housing from a Gateron blue, and the couple of switches that felt particularly not tactile appear to have accidentally had Gateron bottoms swapped in. The majority of the switches on the board I built had "A-housings" yet still felt scratchy.

The new switches still do feel noticeably scratchier than even the mostly-unused keys (e.g. Pause/Break) on my CD108, though the new keeb is aluminum so I'm curious if some of the feel differences are due to the much stiffer case.

Offline Pylon

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Also I just noticed that the CD108 has north-facing switches while my new build is south-facing. I flipped both of them around and they do feel noticeably different if you try to type on the keyboard upside down, and it's quite possible that north-facing and south-facing Clears feel noticeably different (this would make some sense, because the leaves are on opposite sides, and when you have a normal typing angle (6 for me) that may actually result in a noticeable difference in feel.

Offline HungerMechanic

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This is a relief.

So does this mean that any 'A-housing' MX Clears I receive from MechanicalKeyboards are the half-decent kind that have existed for the past year or more?

I went and looked over some spares from an Ergo Clear build from January or so. It used Clears that were mostly from the end of 2019. They all have 'A' housings, and sequential serial numbers in the 500-600s. The 'As' are not in the same location as yours, though.

These Clears are alright. They feel alright in hand, and in the board. They were lightly lubed with 3204 and are using energetic 60G actuation / 62G bottom-out springs.

I have another batch of Clears from someone in Ireland who made 63.5 Progressive Ergo Clears with plate-mount switches. They have more diverse insignia on the housing bottoms, and I'm not sure they all came from the same batch. They feel consistent, though.

Overall, these Clears might be less-tactile or soggier than older Clears. I've used vintage Clears at a meetup and they are certainly rich and tactile, perhaps moreso than modern Clears.

Anyway, your false alarm caused me to finally break open my switch-openers and replacement springs. I started hacking together whatever frankenswitches I could to make Ergo Clears. Turns out I really like Sky 2.2 stem in MX Clear housing, 65 gr is okay but 63.5 is probably better. So I may have found my new best tactile because of this. I wasn't going to mess around with this before.

Offline uncleaner

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Also I just noticed that the CD108 has north-facing switches while my new build is south-facing. I flipped both of them around and they do feel noticeably different if you try to type on the keyboard upside down, and it's quite possible that north-facing and south-facing Clears feel noticeably different (this would make some sense, because the leaves are on opposite sides, and when you have a normal typing angle (6 for me) that may actually result in a noticeable difference in feel.
Before I did my build I tried out north facing ergo clears, browns, T1s and Zeal V2s in a switch tester, and it barely made a difference except for the clears - I blame the more wobbly cherry housing combined with the bump being further down the key travel. But that and the clearance issues with cherry profile caps scared me off of north facing boards.

The new switches still do feel noticeably scratchier than even the mostly-unused keys (e.g. Pause/Break) on my CD108, though the new keeb is aluminum so I'm curious if some of the feel differences are due to the much stiffer case.
I have both batches on the same aluminum board, and even moved the new batch to different locations and they felt scratchier no matter where I put them. So either they're worse or I've gone insane from relubing my clears five times (it's definitely made me insane).

Offline HungerMechanic

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So the Novelkeys Clears didn't suddenly decline in quality, right? Those 'bad' Clears were Gateron Blues?

Are the Clears from MK.com noticeably worse than the Novelkeys ones? I'm not sure we've sorted out variance issues among the Clears.

Offline Sifo

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So the Novelkeys Clears didn't suddenly decline in quality, right? Those 'bad' Clears were Gateron Blues?

Are the Clears from MK.com noticeably worse than the Novelkeys ones? I'm not sure we've sorted out variance issues among the Clears.

I have batches from both, neither are great compared to what the ones I'm used to. There has been a decline in quality for sure but I don't know which ones you're used to.
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Offline HungerMechanic

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I have been using MX Clears from Novelkeys [with 'A' housings] since late 2019. So if the current batches aren't dissimilar to the late 2019, then I'm okay.

What I'm wondering about are the MK.com ones. unclear wrote of them,

"Unlubed they felt close to my old batch, but after lube they definitely feel worse. I can't get them feeling smooth at all ,and they all have this weird kind of inconsistent binding to them, the leafs being messed up sound on the money."

So now I'm not sure if the MK.com Clears are suffering from a particular deficiency that makes them feel messed up after lube.