Are Mechanical Keyboards Too Loud?

A common critique about mechanical keyboards is their noise level. But are they truly as loud as some claim? Let’s explore this issue!

In terms of decibels, mechanical keyboards often range between 50 and 60 decibels during typing. However, this can vary greatly depending on certain key factors, with the type of switch being the most significant.

The market offers a plethora of switch options, making it quite a challenge to navigate. If noise is a major concern for you, you might want to avoid clicky switches. True to their name, these switches emit a high-pitched, audible click with each keystroke, which can be loud or even irritating to some ears. To keep things simple, it’s probably best to steer clear of any switches labeled as “clicky.”

Several other elements can also influence mechanical keyboard noise levels:

  • Whether switches are lubricated
  • The presence of long-pole stems
  • The materials used in switches
  • Dampening materials within the keyboard

Lubrication can mute and modify the pitch of switches by eliminating scratchiness and the 'ping' sound initially present. Switches with long-pole stems generally produce a louder 'clack' at the end of a keystroke. Additionally, the pitch can vary depending on the materials used in the switch’s construction, though it can be difficult to predict this based solely on materials as similar materials can sometimes yield different sounds.

The design of the keyboard itself also plays a role. Keyboards with denser plates tend to have a higher-pitched sound, whereas those with more flexible plates produce a lower tone. The choice of material—plastic versus aluminum—and the amount of dampening foam used can further affect the acoustics, reducing the keyboard's inherent hollowness.

If all these factors seem overwhelming when selecting a mechanical keyboard, you might consider opting for a silent switch. Silent switches incorporate a built-in mechanism that significantly reduces noise, making them even quieter than typical office membrane keyboards. They are ideal for environments where noise needs to be kept to a minimum.

One excellent option is the RK Linear Switch, which includes:

  • Spring: 50±10g operating force
  • Pins: 3 Pin
  • Travel: 2.0±0.4 mm pretravel with typical brown switches having around 4mm total travel
  • Lubrication: Lubed

This switch is uniquely designed with silicone dampening pads on the stem to further reduce sound, and it comes pre-lubricated for an enhanced typing experience.

Although mechanical keyboards are notorious for their volume, numerous solutions are available to diminish their sound. For those particularly concerned with reducing noise, using silent switches is the most straightforward recommendation.