Author Topic: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly  (Read 1474 times)

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Offline mounds

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Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« on: Tue, 25 December 2018, 21:06:14 »

Hello folks, I looked around the forums but didn't see anything too extensive on the subject of Aristotle stems, and being an advocate of the 'Jailhouse' variant of these precarious MX clone clicky switches, I felt it kind of necessary to review critically my experiences and findings within my own supply of extra stems lying about.

Forum members familiar with my post on ALPS to MX converters will recognize my approach to measuring tolerances and my overall lingo when describing variations within a lot. It's my firm belief that variation is often the downfall of great manufacturing and products, whether intentional or not (stemgate, mkay).

If unfamiliar with the 'Aristotle' stem variants, Deskthority has a great entry on the clones. In short, these clones appeared mainly on Chicony boards, featured rubbish housings and lackluster springs (I know because I have about 300 of them unused), and a unique 'fanged' stem. The sound of this clicky MX switch is what sets it apart from the lot, even by Thomas' standards. The sharp tactile bump makes them very different from standard MX clicky variants too.

The Good

The stems are really great to use, stock and 'Jailhouse' variant, given that fitment and click quality is up to par with your liking. In my working with the Aristotle stems, I've found that heavier springs (62g and above, bottom out) typically help with the click and feel of the stems. This is why in Thomas' video, the Zealiostotles are called out - the heavier spring (and modified leaf?) help the stem overcome it's own shortcomings which I'll cover later.

Luckily I was able to pick a couple hundred from a fella on r/mechmarket, who had harvested nearly 700 of these notorious switches - what a haul! Maybe it was luck, but I found these switches in quite a few spots online while starting my journey into franken-switch building about a year ago. It could be due to some of the frustrations you may come to face with these switches that I found the supply rather thriving in marketplaces. 

The Bad

These switches can cost some cash, depending on the availability, entering into ALPS-like territory ($0.60 just for the stem, for instance), making these hybrids one of the most expensive to create (prior to the bull market that Holy Pandas has brought about). Overall, one switch may run on the upwards of $1 / switch, making coverage a bit expensive for larger boards.

Even more challenging is that lack of good, solid information on these stems. Yes, we have claims of Cherristotles and Gatistotles, and even Zealiostotles, but what of in depth coverage like we have with newer hybrid switches? It seems a bit lacking. More importantly, these 'hybrids are great' advocates don't tell the full picture of the challenges that you may face with Aristotles. 

The Ugly

Quality control is absolutely wretched with these switches, with variations causing binding or even non-fitment altogether in tighter Cherry housings. Additionally, just taking a quick look at the click jacket design, Aristotle's complex stem likely drove them out of business. What other MX clone would dare use a 'fanged' click jacket, which is easily damaged if not carefully, meticulously inserted into the housing?

This is done by holding the click jack in the bottom-most position manually, holding the stem at a tilt, and carefully pivoting the fangs around the bottom of Gateron / Cherry leaf bottoms, while marrying up the sides of the housing with the stem slides. You cannot simply insert the stem, whilly-nilly, else you too will damage the 'fangs' of the click jacket when making these hybrids. Assembling like other MX will likely result in a different kind of clicky sound you may not really want to hear  :(

The villainy doesn't end here I'm afraid, as the resoundingly **** QC ends up affecting the overall sound of the click jacket as well. In my testing process, which I'll cover shortly, I found huge variations in the overall feel and sound of the click jackets, breaching ALPS-level of variation (you know, that leaf 'wear in' kind of variation). The worst offenders had nearly lost all indications that they ever clicked at all, resulting in a 'flat', boorish key feel, while the upper echelon of the lot sounded 'punchy' and generally had good tactile feedback, like the Zealiostotles Chyros / Thomas had tried out.

So high prices, dodgy QC / stock, and poor information overall make this switch somewhat elusive. Let's take a closer look.

The testing process

In order to test these stems in a housing that would give somewhat astute results, I chose to rip out one of my Pok3r LE's special Cherry 'lightbox', 'milky' switches. Yes that's right, those are in the LE variant and made by Cherry. Since I've not ever seen these variants out in the general market, they seemed like the ideal 'tight' housing to try out the Aristotle stems since the molds likely have less runs on them.

The tools:




Other than the donor switches, I mainly leaned on experience as a tool, as I've retooled, tested, and tailored over four hundred of these switches across my various keyboards.

Step 1 - try out the stem with the top housing off. Easy enough after you master the insertion technique, dealing with the 'fangs' and all. The switches were rated by raw audible quality, from 'lackluster and flat', up through 'punchy and satisfying' like displayed in the aforementioned review. Surprisingly, this was one of the best preliminary tests, and after about 150 switches, it was easy to tell where in the spectrum a switch would fall just off this step. Most surprisingly was finding click jackets that... just wouldn't click. I'll test switch spring variations at a later date to see if we can't make these duds sing a bit  ;) 
 
Step 2 - next, put on the top housing. This was a crucial factor in placing switches on my scaled system of '**** to usable'. Many outright failed this test, and some only slightly so, with an occasional actuation getting bound up. I gave each stem a minimum of 5 clicks and increasingly fast intervals to get a good understanding of how the stem was working in the Cherry tester housing overall. If you plan on tooling Aristotles, I highly encourage you always test the stems dry, free of any lube first! My first Aristotle build I didn't follow this tactic, and ended up shelving the board for nearly 2 months before realizing a few stems just didn't fit at all in their Gateron donor housings. 
 
Here's some examples of binding stems:





That's really it, and you can see the ranking below (left being oversized, unusable stems, resulting in the far right, 'highly exceptional' stems; more info on Imgur):



So a good lot were usable, but a fair amount still had this kind of 'crunchy', not-so-great click, and some still pinched the top housing, but gave a better audible tone. But what of the non-fitting stems? What kind of variation are we looking at that makes these irrelevant?

I decided to test his out by using a looser Gateron housing, with the leftmost pictured stems being super tight in even the Gateron housing, and the rightmost the loosest of the Cherry-binding-bunch:


Now I won't post all the measurement follow-up photos, but you can check out the full album here. In short, binding stems had nearly .1mm over their working counterparts (.04mm to .08mm) on one or two dimensions, a huge variation from typical .04mm that most top out at (or try to top out at). Maybe if just one dimension of the stem was out of QC it would be fine, and the stems would only kinda bind like some that I tested, but two dimensions off seemed to be the killer here.

Conclusion

In the world of meme MX switches, Aristotles are often a forgotten lore, and a bit treacherous if not persistent in getting through the challenges of the stem QC. The recommendation is to always buy a bit more than you need to cover for this inevitable loss due to poor QC / fitment issues.

As for personal taste, these are imo the best MX switches out there, though I haven't tried Holy Pandas or many other 'meme switches'. 'Jailhouse' variants utilizing Evansg 'J-Spacers' puts the actuation point at the tippy-top of the keypress, minimizing travel to near-zero, while the 'clicky' varietal with the right housing / spring combination make for a very satisfying clicky MX experience, much akin to the ping of ALPS SMK switches. They are very pleasing switches that I have in 4 boards and counting, with various weightings, and I'm constantly keeping an eye out for new housings to try them in for comparison  :)

I hope this was at least insightful into the depths of the Aristotle switch / stem, if not also entertaining  :thumb: 

If you'd like to hear the soundtrack from 'Jailhouse' Aristotles, I have two videos up on Youtube, one of which you can view here
 
Merry Clack-mas y'all  :cool:
« Last Edit: Wed, 26 December 2018, 09:24:38 by mounds »
Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)

Offline Tom_Kazansky

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 26 December 2018, 02:08:42 »
Hi!
Glad to have someone post about Aristotles.  :thumb:
I'm big fan of clicky switch,

I have Aristotles stems put in Aliaz's housing and 65g Sprit springs and MT3 /dev/tty keycaps <--- not sure how to describe this satisfaction  ^-^


While working with the Aristotles stems, sometimes the completed switch won't click, I thought it's just me that's not being careful enough (I'm not sure about the consistency).
---
I heard somewhere on KBDFan's Discord channel about "retooled Aristotles", but that's probably bul*sh**! :-X

« Last Edit: Fri, 28 December 2018, 00:38:20 by Tom_Kazansky »
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke


Offline mounds

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 26 December 2018, 09:12:56 »
I've used the Sprit springs as well and find them very pleasing with these stems, but haven't gotten around to trying out Aliaz housings at all - any sound difference on actuation?  /dev/tty and Canvas are my daily drivers  ;)
 
As for the variation in 'click quality', I went ahead and put together a short clip of my Planck, which has god-awful consistency, even after retooling for duds, comparing to my more consistent Corne build:


It'd be nice if all the click jackets sounded like 'T' and 'E' switches  :)
« Last Edit: Wed, 26 December 2018, 09:16:02 by mounds »
Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)

Offline hwood34

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 27 December 2018, 19:24:43 »
In my limited experience with them, yea basically Aristotles are nice as hell if you can find a cheap source for em
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Offline mounds

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 27 December 2018, 20:25:25 »
Lo and behold, fumbling around /r/mm to see what kind of stock the current-day market has, I stumbled upon what could be the second wind of Gatistotles.
 
Anticipation of the future intensifies.
Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)

Offline Tom_Kazansky

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #5 on: Fri, 28 December 2018, 00:30:50 »
Lo and behold, fumbling around /r/mm to see what kind of stock the current-day market has, I stumbled upon what could be the second wind of Gatistotles.
 
Anticipation of the future intensifies.

*** breathing intensifies ***  :blank:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke


Offline Sup

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 28 December 2018, 13:57:33 »
Milky variant cherry MX switch is special made for RGB boards  ^-^ .
Filco Zero -  NOS Yellow Alps | Canoe R1 Gateron Red | AEK II JP Cream dampend |Filco Majestouch 2 Tex case Gateron Yellow | HHKB Pro 1 2003 Rev AO Serial 000171|DZ60 Khail Box reds.
Coming soon 2X Lubrigrante in wonderland.

Offline mounds

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 29 December 2018, 14:07:45 »
Milky variant cherry MX switch is special made for RGB boards  ^-^ .

Yup, I've seen the milky Gateron variants, and the Zealios variants... Guess I'd not ever ran into Cherry's offerings out in the world of keyboards. It's interesting too that the plate-mount bottoms (milky) are different than the pcb mount bottoms (clear).
Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)

Offline mounds

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 10 January 2019, 22:37:21 »
Random update with housing pairings.

I tried out Cherry Silent Red housings, and they really pronounce the click but make a ton of stems unusable due to binding / fitment. Also, Halo True donors I picked up on the cheap are surprisingly close to Zealios housings, so keep on the lookout for those if making these switches.

Tada68 (Jailhouse Aristotles) / MiniVan (Jailhouse Aristotles) / Planck (Aristotles) / Teensy m0116 (Matias QC) / ALPS64 ('Pine' SKCM White) / Teensy NeXT Non-ADB (SKCM Cream) / ALPS HHKB (SKCM Orange)

Online romevi

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Re: Aristotle switches - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 10 January 2019, 23:46:19 »
My num pad is going to use Cherriostotles (sp?). Not sure which Cherry or Gateron housing to use yet.