Audio Terms For Beginners: An Audiophile Guide

A headphones amp with some IEMs on top.

While understanding basic audio terms like bass or treble may not be too confusing, many audio terms can make understanding the world of audio confusing to understand. If you are just getting into the audiophile hobby, you may hear a ton of terms that you are not familiar with.

Today we will help you understand a variety of audio terms that you may find useful now and in the future.

Notes

The audiophile world is filled with subjective opinions. Even though this guide will help you to understand phrases that reviewers or fellow hobbyists may use, many of these terms are used to describe how something subjectively sounds to them. While there is an objective point to many points made about how something sounds it is good to take into account the personal bias and preferences of others.

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What Even Is An Audiophile?

Open back headphones with a PC setup in the background.

What Is An Audiophile?

An audiophile is someone who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity audio in the music that they listen to. Someone who is in the audiophile hobby or has an interest in it may try out different headphones, speakers, amplifiers, and other audio devices to experience music from a different perspective or to get a clearer sound.

What Is Hi-Fi Audio?

Hi-Fi or High Fidelity audio is a type of audio where there is a lot of detail in the sound. A strive for Hi-Fi audio is one of the main interests of audiophiles.

Hi-Fi audio is only supported in certain file formats and on a few platforms. The popularity of Hi-Fi audio is constantly growing and because of that more platforms are supporting it than ever. Still finding tracks with high quality isn’t always the easiest.

Finding a track that has a high resolution is also just one part of the equation. Having a pair of premium headphones, an amp, and maybe a DAC is also necessary to fully appreciate this music.

It is also important to note that you can still appreciate quality music without listening to a song labeled as being Hi-Fi or Hi-Res.

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Audiophile VS Regular Listener

While audiophiles and regular music listeners both like music, both appreciate music in different ways. An audiophile appreciates music in the same way as a regular listener but focuses more on the clarity of the sound. They may also focus on how different sounds interact with each other and how these instruments or vocals act within a space.

A regular listener can appreciate their music on any device such as a phone speaker but an audiophile is willing to spend an extra buck to take in every part of the music. This means audiophiles are willing to spend more money on audio equipment and devices.

Am I An Audiophile?

Understanding if you are an audiophile depends on what you want and look for in the music that you listen to. If you find that you are always looking for more in your audio and there is maybe more you are looking for in the sound then that is a common trait among audiophiles.

The thing to know about audiophiles is there is no one perfect way for something to sound and everyone has their own preferences. If you are interested in getting more out of your music and you especially want to analyze your music then it may be a good idea to upgrade to a more premium pair of headphones.

It is important to note that not all audiophiles like to analyze music but those who do often become or are audiophiles.

Ultimately you will know if you find that you appreciate cleaner and higher quality audio.


The A-Z To Headphones

There are a ton of devices, terms, companies, and categories to know if you want to dig deep into the audiophile hobby. Here are the most common terms that are useful to know as well as some in-depth terms.

A

AES: Audio Engineering Society, also known as European Broadcasting Union (EBU), is a standard for audio transfer. It is most popular in professional equipment. The newest version is AES3. AN AES3 signal can carry two channels of PCM audio over several forms of transmission media, for example, balanced cables, unbalanced cables, and fiber optic.

Airy: A way of describing sound with a sense of space and openness. This term is typically used when describing an audio device like a pair of headphones.

ALAC: Apple Lossless Audio Codec is an audio coding format developed by Apple. The Audio compressed with this codec is claimed to be half the size of the original uncompressed data.

Ambience: The overall impression, mood, or feeling invoked by the environment that the music was made in. For example, recorded live in a stadium.

Amplifier: A headphone amplifier, or an amp for short, is a device that takes a low-power signal from a DAC and increases the volume of that signal to something that can be used by headphones, speakers, and IEMs. Better amps will be able to power more premium headphones and can provide a cleaner sound. There are two kinds of amps. Tube amps and solid state amps. To find out more check out our do you need an amp article.

Amplitude: In audio, amplitude is a measure of the height of a sound wave. Amplitude can be defined as the extent that air particles are displaced or the loudness.

Analog Audio: Contrary to digital audio, analog audio is a type of signal that can be understood by devices like headphones or speakers to create sound. Analog audio can also be stored in mediums like vinyl or tape. Recording on analog mediums can have small imperfections that can result in audio artifacts in the playback.

Analytical Listening: A way of listening to music where the listener focuses on the different elements of the song. They may focus on the notes, the mood, or the mastering of the music. This type of listening is popular among many audiophiles, artists, and music critics. It is very different than more laid-back listening as the person is focusing on understanding the elements of the music and potentially critiquing the elements of the music.

APE: Monkey’s Audio, also known as the APE codec is a free lossless audio compression format. Although available for other operating systems, it is mostly used by Windows users as the decompression speeds on operating systems like Linux are not very fast. APE files can be decompressed into identical copies of the original recordings. APE also has better compression rates than codecs lkie FLAC but can be very demanding when trying to decode.

Attenuator: A device or component that lowers the volume of an audio signal. It is effectively the opposite of an amplifier.

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B

Balance: A type of tuning in headphones, speakers, and IEMs where there is not one particularly dominant frequency and instead all frequencies appear to be equal or “balanced”.

Balanced Audio: A method of delivering audio information to your device by processing the sound for the left and right ears. Balanced audio can reduce external, unwanted noise and overall improves the sound experience. This system requires a cable going to each of the devices on each side as well as an audio source (typically an external amp) that supports it.

Bass: The sound at the lower frequency range of human hearing. Bass can be measured in quantity and quality. For example a song with a lot of bass that is quite clean may be described as both heavy and clear. Sounds is this range go from about 50 to 200 Hz.

Bit Rate: How much data is in a single second. Bit rate is used to describe digital audio.

Bit Depth: How much data is recorded in an audio sample. Bit depth is used to describe digital audio. Like with bit rate, the higher the bit depth the better the quality and the larger the file size.

Bloat: An issue when there is a lack of clarity and definition in the bass.

BNC: A locking connector often used with coaxial cables.

Bright/Brightness: A boost in upper in the treble. This is can create a nice sound experience for analyzing sound but at times can become unpleasant due to sibilance from the high-frequency sounds.

C

Capacitors: Capacitors or caps for short store energy inside of a device temporarily. They can have a number of functions. They are typically used for amp power supplies, DC coupling, filtering, and tone controls.

Circum-aural: Full size headphones that fit over-the-ear.

Clarity: Referring to high-quality audio that sounds clean.

Closed-Back Headphones: A type of headphone in which the outside of the drivers is sealed. This creates a more closed-off sound stage however you do not have any noise leakage and you should hear less out of the outside world compared to open-back headphones (for more information check out our guide on open and closed-back headphones).

Coloration: An effect when an audio device shifts the way the music sounds. For example when something is more bass-heavy or bright.

Congestion: Poor clarity as a result of too many sounds overlapping each other. Congested sound can make it hard to hear different instruments and can make the music sound muffled.

Crisp: Another word for clear.

Cups: On close-back headphones, cups are the name of the casing on the outer side of the drivers for over-ear and on-ear headphones.

Customs: Customs or custom-fit IEMs are IEMs that have been designed for a specific ear. This provides a better fit to the user.

D

D/A: D/A is short for Digital to Analog. Digital to Analog is the process of digital audio coming from something like a computer being turned into an analog signal that a speaker or headphones can use to make sound.

DAC: A Digital to Analog converter or DAC for short is a device that converts digital information into an analog signal. Most audio today is stored as digital data but things like headphones or speakers only play an analog sound. To make this happen a DAC converts information from something like a computer or phone and then sends that information to an amplifier so that data is loud enough to be turned into sound. DACs are built into most electronics today but external DACs are quite popular because of their boost in sound quality.

Dark/Darkness: A way of describing a sound signature where higher frequencies are less apparent.

Decay: The fade effect of a sound or note.

Decibel (dB): A Way of measuring how loud something is.

Depth: A way of describing how far an instrument sounds in front or behind you.

Detail: A specific element in the sound. For example a certain note.

Digital Audio: Sound that has been recorded or converted to a digital format. Digital audio stores sound saves as encoded numerical samples. Bit rate and bit depth (see above) are two factors that highly influence the quality of digital audio.

Driver: The speaker of a pair of headphones, IEMs, or other audio devices. They can be of various sizes and use various technologies, most notably dynamic and planar magnetic drivers.

DSD: Direct Stream Digital or DSD for short is a high-resolution audio format that is meant to compete with other high-resolution formats like PCM. DSD by some audiophiles is considered the best audio format because it maintains certain “natural” aspects of the sound but ultimately it has many competitors and it is hard to categorize it as the best audio format.

Dynamics: The volume of different sounds or notes on a track.

Dynamic Driver: The most common driver used in headphones and IEMs. They function by using a moving coil of wire to generate sound waves. They are good at creating dynamic range however they aren’t always as accurate as other driver technologies.

E

Earbud/Earphone: A stereo speaker system that is worn inside of the user’s ears.

Efficiency: Referring to how much power a pair of headphones, IEMs, or speakers use. It is often used to explain if a pair of headphones need an amp for them to run properly.

Electrostatic Driver: A Headphone driver with a very thin membrane in between two electrified plates. Static electricity moves the membrane so there are no moving parts. Electrostatic drivers allow almost no distortion but are expensive and require specific amplifiers.

EQ: An EQ or equalizer is a software or hardware device that controls the relative volume of different frequencies in the audio. An EQ can allow a user to add more volume to an area where the listener thinks something is lacking like adding more bass.

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F

Fatigue: The result of prolonged listening causing discomfort to the listener. Fatigue can come on with headphones or songs that produce harsh or unpleasant sounds.

FLAC: Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) is an audio coding format for compressing lossless digital audio. FLAC is an open format that is free to use. It has support for things like album cover art and metadata tagging too.

Forward: A way of representing music that is more intense and with sounds that appear to be more in the listener’s face. For example, some headphones can make the upper mid-range more forward so certain vocals may appear closer.

Frequency Response: A measurement of frequency (in Hz) vs amplitude (output volume in dB). This is often used to describe the sound signature of a pair of headphones, speakers, or IEMs.

Frequency Spectrum: The frequency spectrum is the range of audio frequencies measured in Hertz (Hz). The audio hearing ranges from about 20Hz to 20kHz on the sound spectrum.

G

Gain: A level in which an audio signal is increased by an amplifier. The signal is increased or decreased by the number of volts in or out. Gain is normally expressed in dB.

Glassy: A way of describing audio that is very bright.

H

Harsh: Typically used to describe upper-mid frequencies then there is too much treble making it sound unpleasant.

Headphone: A stereo speaker system that is worn either on or over the listener’s ears.

Hi-Fi: Hi-Fi or Hi-Fidelity audio is a term to describe the high-quality reproduction of sound.

Hi-Res: A certification on headphones, amps, and other audio devices to show that a device can support high-resolution audio. This means that these devices can support audio with higher bitrates.

High-End Audio: Refers to the sound equipment that is used by audiophiles. These devices are typically better made than standard consumer gear for a more accurate and clear representation of the sound.

Highs: The upper range of the audible frequency spectrum (6 to 20kHz).

Hiss: An audible, unwanted noise caused by electrical fluctuations.

Hollow: A sound, often produced by lower quality headphones, that causes a lack of fullness in music. A hollow effect is caused by recessed midrange production.

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I

In-Ear Monitor (IEM): In-Ear Monitors or IEMs are small audio devices that look similar to earbuds. They often provide a better seal and focus on having better sound quality. In-ear monitors are able to compete with headphones at many different price points too.

Imaging: The placement of a specific instrument within the sound environment. While similar to soundstage, imaging explains how accurate the location in which a sound comes from is rather than the size of the environment.

Impedance: A measurement of how much power is needed to power a driver. The higher the impedance the more power is needed to properly run the headphones or speakers and visa versa. Impedance is measured in Ohms.

Isolation: An effect created by tight sealing headphones, earbuds, or IEMs preventing sound from leaking out.

J

Jitter: A loss of a sample or group of samples in a stream during audio playback introducing noise. This is caused by issues between analog and digital audio conversion. Jitter is considered an unpleasant attribute and can be an issue with all digital devices.

Judgment: A lister’s assessment of the quality and accuracy of a reproduced sound.

K

N/A

L

Layering: A reproduction of depth and distance in which different vocals and instruments are placed one behind another.

Listening Style: The way someone prefers to listen to music. This is all subjective and based on the listener’s preferences. Some enjoy listening more analytically, while others prefer to listen to music more laid back and “get lost” in the music.

Lossless: Music file compression methods that do not remove data when compressing the file. Some popular examples include FLAC, WAV, APE, and ALAC.

Lossy: Music file compression methods that remove the least audible sounds from music to compress them. Compression can not be reversed like with lossless formats. Some examples include MP3, AAC, OGG, and WMA.

Low-Level Detail: The quietest sounds present in an audio recording.

Lush: Music reproduction with a rich tone, which typically is pleasing and warm sounding. This effect typically is the result of tube amplification.

M

Mastering: The final step in the music creation process. This is where the artist corrects issues in the sound and enhances their sound. The quality of mastering can reveal the quality of an artist.

Microphonics: A type of sound heard in headphones caused by movement or rubbing of the cable against itself or another object. The rustling noise is a result of vibrations being converted into or otherwise affecting electrical signals. Microphonics or cable noise can be greatly minimized with higher-quality cables with better shielding.

Midrange: Between around 250 Hz and 4000 Hz this is where vocals and many instruments are. The midrange is sometimes referred to as the mids. Headphones with bad midrange can make instruments and vocals sound hollow or telephone-like.

Monophonic: Monophonic audio or mono is a form of sound reproduction that uses only one channel. This means there is no separate channel for left or right.

MP3: A popular coding format for digital audio that is able to compress audio into small files. The format is a lossy format because some information is lost in compression.

MQA: Master Quality Authenticated or MQA is a lossless audio codec that is about one-third the size of the FLAC format. MQA works by matching a digital fingerprint to guarantee a file came from the original recording. MQA files are also backward compatible with FLAC decoders but if you want all the qualities of MQA then you must use an MQA decoder.

Muddy: An unclear and low-quality presentation of sound. The opposite of clear or clean sounding.

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N

Nasal: An unpleasant sound with a quality of a person singing with their nose blocked off. Typically this is a result of a peak in midrange frequencies.

Natural: A sound that is perceived to be a realistic reproduction of the music.

Neutral: Referring to a reproduced sound signature in which the sound has no coloration. There is no emphasis on any part of the sound (bass, midrange, or treble).

Noise: Any background noises that are not a part of the music. This can include hissing, crackles, pops, and more.

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O

Ohm: A unit of measurement for electrical resistance or impedance.

Openness: Referring to audio where there is a lot of depth and width to the sound stage. There is plenty of room between the instruments.

Open-Back Headphones: Open-back headphones are a type of headphone with an exposed or partially exposed driver. The earcups will often have grills to allow the sound out. This allows for a much more open sound, other benefits in treble and midrange, and improved long-term comfort. Heat build-up is less of an issue.

P

Pads: The earpads on the earcups of headphones.

PCM: Pulse-Code Modulation or PCM for short is the standard form of digital audio in computers and CDs. PCM is used to digitally represent sampled analog signals. A PCM stream has two variables to determine its accuracy to the original analog signal. The sampling rate, the number of times per second that samples were taken, and the bit depth, the amount of information in a sample.

Planar Magnetic Driver: A popular headphones driver technology. Planar magnetic drivers feature a series of electromagnets on both sides of a large and flexible diaphragm containing very small, electrically charged wires. Planar magnetic drivers typically are known for providing a wide sound stage and a punchy sound, especially in the bass. As a downside, they are often on the heavier side and can be bigger than headphones with dynamic drivers.

Preamp: A preamp or preamplifier is a device that increases the volume of an audio signal and then sends it to the amplifier. This provides a cleaner and louder audio signal for the amplifier.

Q

Quality: A way to describe the accuracy, fidelity, and cleanliness reproduced by an audio device or in an audio track. While much of this measurement is subjective, the quality of a song can be partially judged by the sample rate or the amount of data making up each second of the song.

R

RCA: A type of coaxial connector used for unbalanced analog connections. The center pin connects to the signal while the outer sleeve is connected to the ground.

Recessed: A decrease in a section of the audible frequency spectrum. For example, ‘V Shaped’ sound signatures will have a more recessed midrange.

Relaxed: A non-fatiguing sound as the result of a rolled-off treble. The quality of the sound will not be overly detailed and analytical but can be enjoyable for long listening sessions.

Resistance: When the flow of electrons is slowed, commonly in an electrical circuit. Resistance is measured in Ohms. This coincides with the impedance of a device.

Resolving: An audio equipment’s ability to produce and separate different instruments, vocals, and sounds. This will affect how detailed or undetailed the sound reproduction will be.

Reverb: Reverb or Reverberation describes the reflection of sound waves. Sound waves may be trapped so they continue to reflect off surfaces causing a sort of echo. This can cause distortion in the audio.

Rolloff: When a frequency response gradually rises above or falls below the average frequency in a device like headphones. This contrasts the term cutoff meaning a sudden loss of audio going above or below the average frequency range.

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S

Sample Rate: A measurement to see how many samples of audio data were taken in a second.

Sense of Presentation: The way the sound is presented to the listener. The sense of presentation affects the way listeners perceive the location of where sounds come from.

Sensitivity: Sensitivity is a measurement of how loud headphones can get with a certain amount of power (typically 1 milliwatt). Sensitivity is measured in dB/mW. Sensitivity is also known as Efficiency or the Sound Pressure Level.

Sibilance/Sibilant: Upper peaks in the treble that become unpleasant to the ear if too prevalent.

Smooth: Describing a sound reproduction with no irritating qualities. This occurs when there is no sibilance or overly forward sound. This is not always a positive attribute as it can make some tracks feel slow and uninteresting.

Solid State Amp: Also known as transistor amps, solid state amps use transistors to raise the volume of a signal from a DAC. They are known for being efficient and providing a very clean sound. Solid state amps are more popular than tube amps.

Sound Card: A sound card functions as a DAC and amp built in computers and other electronic devices. Sound cards are built into all modern computers but better sound cards can be purchased for an improved sound over the one built into your computer’s motherboard.

Sound Signature: The unique sound qualities of a pair of headphones, an amp, DAC, cable, or other audio devices. There are many unquiet sound profiles Some devices focus on treble, some bass, and others keep a neutral sound. Each is good in its own way. There is no correct sound signature as it is highly related to preference. Each listener will have a preference to suit the way they look at the music and to better enjoy the genres that they listen to.

Soundstage: The 3D environment created by a headphones driver. A wide soundstage allows the listener to discern sound from different positions and can allow for a more realistic sound. A good soundstage is often desired by many audiophiles.

Source: The first device in a signal chain that sends out an audio signal. For example, a computer or turntable.

S/PDIF: Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format, or S/PDIF for short, is a type of digital audio connection. It is based on the AES 3 standard and typically uses coaxial cables with RCA connections or fiber optic cables with Toslink connectors.

Studio Monitors: Commonly referred to as monitors, studio monitors are speakers, designed to produce sounds that have been recorded in a studio setting. While they are often designed for professional situations, studio monitors are also very popular among audiophiles because they don’t have the coloration in the audio reproduction that consumer speakers create.

Sub-bass: Sounds that are so low-pitched that they are lower than bass notes. They range from 15 to 60 Hz and are hard for cheaper headphones to replicate. Sub-bass can make instruments that use bass feel more impactful.

Supra-aural: Referring to headphones that rest against the listener’s ears. Also known as “on-ear” headphones.

T

Tall: Referring to sound stage. Tall is used to describe a sound that feels above or below you. Comparatively, short can be used to describe a sound stage that has little space above or below you.

Texture: Texture or texturing is a perceptible pattern or structure in a reproduced sound, even if it is random in nature.

Total Harmonic Distortion: THD or Total Harmonic Distortion is a measurement of the degree to which equipment distorts the sound. This is often used when talking about amps to see how much they affect the sound. An amp with lower THD will allow for a cleaner sound.

THX: THX is an American Audio company founded by George Lucas in 1983. THX is most famous for creating the audio and visual reproduction standards for movie theaters, home theaters, speakers, headphones, gaming consoles, car audio systems, and more.

Timbre: The character of a musical note or vocal. Timbre differentiates different sounds from each other. For example, two instruments can play the same note but the Timbre is different because they are two different instruments.

Tonality: Another word for sound signature.

Transparent: Used to describe audio when there is a lot of clarity in the sound presentation.

Treble: Referring to sound from 10 to 20 kHz. These sounds are high-pitched. They allow for additional detail and clarity in the music. Too much treble can cause problems like fatigue.

TRS: TRS or the Tip Ring Sleeve connector is the most common connector used with headphones. It features sizes such as 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 1/4 inch.

Tubes: The part that is used in tube amps to amplify the sound. Tube amps can often be replaced to slightly change the sound produced by a tube amp.

Tube Amp: A tube amp is a type of amplifier that uses vacuum tubes to raise the volume of the audio signal from your DAC. They function similarly to light blub by burning electrons from a filament. They are popular because they can provide pleasant coloration to the music. They typically cause the audio to sound a bit warmer.

Turntable: A device with a circular revolving plate supporting that supports a record as it plays. Unlike record players, turntables do not have speakers or an amp built in so these are separate devices that need to be accounted for.

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U

Uncolored: Referring to a neutral sound.

Upper Bass: Higher-pitched bass notes that are not high pitched enough to be a part of the midrange.

Upper Highs: The part of the treble that sounds especially high-pitched. This upper range reaches the limit of the human ear.

Upper Mids: Ranging from 900 Hz to 4 kHz, the upper mids make up higher-pitched vocals.

V

Voltage: The electromotive pressure or force that pushes electrons, typically measured in volts. Voltage is typically something that people think about with audio devices like amps.

Veiled: When there is a loss of clarity due to noise or a loss of detail in the sound. Often sounds like there is a haze blocking out the complete sense of clarity so some notes may not fully come through.

W

Warm/Warmth: A way of describing a sound profile with more forward vocals, bumped mid-base, and a clear midrange. This type of profile can be applied to amps, headphones, or IEMs.

Watt: A unit to express the rate of energy usage. It is calculated by getting the voltage times current. Mainly important for devices like amps.

Weight: A feeling of solidity and good foundation delivered to the music by natural and strong bass.

Width: A way of describing the sound stage in a lateral way. Different headphones will be able to display more width to the stereo image that is the music.

WMA: Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA) is a propriety lossless audio data compression technology developed by Microsoft. It was designed to compete with FLAC and Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC).

WAVE: Waveform Audio File Format (WAVE), more commonly referred to as WAV is a Microsoft and IBM audio file format. It is the standard for storing audio on PCs. A WAV file can contain compressed audio or uncompressed audio. For uncompressed audio, the linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) format is used. LPCM is also the standard audio coding format for CDs.

X

XLR: A type of connector commonly used with professional and high-end audio. You can find this connector in a three-pin or four-pin configuration for a balanced connection. XLR connections can be used with headphones, mics, and other devices.

Y

N/A

Z

N/A


Other Resources

There are some other resources that we recommend using like the audiophile subreddit page. Another great resource is our discord. There are many experienced people in this hobby that can help answer any additional questions that you may have.

We also have different guides and reviews to help you get started on our audio page.

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Best Linear Switches [2022]

Keyboard switches on a desk next to flowers and headphones.

When building a mechanical keyboard, one of the key decisions is finding which key switch is right for you.

A linear switch is a switch that has uninterrupted travel all the way down. There is no feedback in the travel and the only way to tell you have actuated the switch is when the action shows up on your screen.

If you are a fan of linear switches there are a large number of options available, so which one is the right switch for you? Today we are going to discuss the top ten linear switches in our testing so you can find the right switch for your next build.

Terminology

Just like in our Tactile Switch article we have included a short guide to clarify some terminology that might be thrown around when describing switches.

Actuation: Actuation is when the switch actually activates and outputs to the device.

Bottom out: When the switch finishes traveling and hits the bottom housing.

Leaf: The metal contacts in a switch. The leaf actually is responsible for actually actuating the switch. The leaf is in the bottom housing as the picture shows.

Diagram pointing to the leaf on a mechanical keyboard switch.

Ping / Spring Ping / Leaf Ping: This is a metallic reverb produced by the sound of the spring, leaf, or both. In most cases, it can be fixed by lube.

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Disclaimer… Please Read!

This review is largely preference, my rankings will likely be very different from yours. Do not base your opinions solely based on mine. Use this guide to gain a general understanding of the switch and where enthusiasts like me stand on these switches. Guides like this, sound tests, and opinions of content creators like Teaha Types are good ways to find switches that you believe are interesting and worth trying. Ultimately we recommend you to just hit up your local vendor and buy a pack of whatever switch your fingers and ears desire to try out. That way you can find the best switch for you.

1. Durock POM Linear: The Best Long Pole Linear

Durock POM switch sitting on a plant

Durock’s POM linears initially lit up the keyboard market with their interesting sound produced by the long pole stem. Like many popular tactiles such as Drop’s Holy Pandas or Boba U4Ts, the POM linears feature a longer than usual stem which changes how the switch sounds when bottoming out.

The POM linears can be described as having a clacky sound profile but the long pole stem exaggerates this sound by making it sharper and slightly louder than a normal linear bottoming out. Stock these switches are quite smooth but lubed they become one of the best switches on the market. Their smoothness lines up with the performance of many other high-end switches produced by JWK.

We do recommend lubing your POM linears for the best sound and feel but filming is not necessary as the housings are already nice and tight.

Due to the unique and pleasant sound profile paired with the silky smooth travel these switches definitely take the number one spot on our list. They are a top option to consider if you are looking for a long pole linear.

2. KTT Strawberry: Poppy, Smooth, and Great Value

KTT Strawberry switch sitting on a green plant.

KTT’s Strawberries are one of KTT’s offerings as a high-end switch. At around 40 cents per switch, their price puts them in the mid to low-end range of switches in terms of price. However, this switch outperforms its price point by delivering what we would consider to be one of if not the best-valued linear switches on the market.

The KTT Strawberries are one of the smoothest stock switches out there right now as they are prelubed and when lubed they still deliver an experience to many of the other top switches on this list that are as much as double the price. They are not as smooth as Tangerines but when lubed they are able to even outperform popular options such as Ink Blacks.

As for sound, they are similar to the rest of KTT’s linear lineup with a nice poppy sound that is enjoyed by many enthusiasts and content creators. Their clean and not overly thin-sounding clack makes them a satisfying option if you are sick of the thock hype train and you want to try something a bit different.

Like the KTT Roses, the Strawberries come with a 63.5g progressive spring. This is especially enjoyable if you like light initial force when pressing down your switch. Neither lubing nor filming is required with these switches as their housings are quite solid and they are already prelubed. If you do want a slightly deeper sound and smoother travel though, lubing with a thinner lube like Tribosys 3204 over the stem is a good way to improve the experience.

The Strawberries take the number two spot on this list for being a solid option without breaking the bank. Despite being so cheap their combination with carbon fiber plates has made for one of my favorite keyboard configurations out there.

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3. Gateron Ink Black V2: Heavy Weight with Thock

Gateron Black Ink mechanical keyboard switch with rocks behind it.

Gateron Ink Black V2s are arguably Gateron’s most popular switch. They are on the heavier side with a 60g actuation and a 70g bottom out. Like most linears they actuate at 2mm with a total travel of 4mm. They do not come prelubed and stock are decently scratchy for the price. However, when lubed they provide their popular thocky sound signature.

We do recommend lubing these switches as stock you don’t really get to experience the Inks’ potential. Filming is also recommended but the switches are not terribly loose without films.

Ink Blacks take the number three spot on this list because they do provide a nice deep sound but there are many switches that provide better smoothness.

4. C3 Equalz x TKC Banana Splits: Good Looking, Good Sounding

C3 equalz Banana split mechanical keyboard switch resting on a flower.

The Banana Splits are amazing. They are produced by both TKC and C3 Equalz adding to their fruit switch lineup with other popular options such as Tangerines, Kiwis, and Dragonfruits. They feature a hyper smooth experience and nice creamy yet clacky sound that is enjoyed by many keyboard enthusiasts. Banana Splits sound especially good on spacebars. Not to mention they also have a creative colorway.

TKC’s Banana Splits feature the typical 2mm actuation point and 4mm bottom out. They have no long stem action and come with only a 62g weight option. Banana Splits do not require filming but lubing really brings out the best in these switches.

They take the fourth place spot on our list because despite having a popular sound and a great feel they are not super accessible, are costly, and there are still a few other switch options that I like a little more.

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5. Bobagums: The Best Silent Linear

Bobagum keyboard switch on a flower.

Gazzew’s Bobagum linears took inspiration from the Boba U4s, which are top-tier silent tactiles. Bobagums come in both 62g and 68g spring variations. They also feature great silencing ability and an incredibly smooth travel.

Lubing these switches is always recommended but filming is not as housings may struggle to close with many types of film since they are already so tight.

These switches are perfect for a work or school keyboard. So if you want a mechanical keyboard experience without disturbing the people around you, the Bobagums could be the right choice for you.

6. Gateron Milky Yellow: Thock on a Budget

Gateron Milky Yellow switch on a flower.

Despite being on the market for many years at this point, Gateron’s Milky Yellows are still considered the king of budget switches. Coming in at only 23 cents per switch they deliver a sound that competes with switches three times the cost and only sacrifices a bit on the smoothness. They have a pleasant thocky sound and feature quite a smooth travel after lubing and filming. Milky Yellows weigh in at about 50g actuation and 60g bottom out.

Gateron’s “Yellow” switches come in many forms and revisions but the black bottom and milky top housings are regarded by many as the best configuration. This configuration provides the best smoothness and a creamy, deep sound that is loved by many keyboard enthusiasts.

Do lube and film these, as without they are quite scratchy and the housings are pretty wobbly stock.

7. KTT Roses: Poppy on a Budget

KTT Rose switch sitting on a flower

While not quite as cheap as Milky Yellows, KTT Roses deliver a lower-pitched clack at the low price of about 27 cents a switch. Roses can be decently smooth after being lubed and are better than most budget switches which are often still quite scratchy even after being lubed. KTT Roses have a standard 4mm total travel with a 63.5g progressive spring. This spring is liked by many because of the initially light force of the progressive spring.

If you have a bit more room in your budget and you would like a switch that provides a higher pitched sound than Milky Yellows then Roses might be the option for you. If you would still like a switch with the same sound profile but a lighter spring, KTT also offers recolors in their Grapefruit, Peach, and Sea Salt Lemon switches. They still offer the same housing and stem materials as well as a progressive spring.

Lubing these switches is recommended as they are not prelubed like KTT’s Strawberries. After lubing them their performance reaches a similar level as the Strawberries with a slightly lower pitched sound. You can film them but it is not required.

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8. PrimeKB Alpacas V2s: The King of Clack

PrimeKB Alpaca V2 keyboard switch sitting on a pink flower.

The Alpacas are arguably the most popular of JWK’s recolors following famous designer Minterly’s Bliss colorway. They feature asmooth travel and a lower-pitched clack. Essentially you won’t get the same thock as Milky Yellows or Black Ink Blacks but Alpacas are also lower pitched than Tangerines. They feature JWK’s gold-plated 62g springs making Alpacas have a nice medium spring weight.

These switches do not need lube or films as they do come pre-lubed with a slight layer of oil and they have pretty tight housings. Lubing these switches can definitely bring out a smoother feel and creamier sound if you are willing to take the time.

Note that the latest V2 Alpacas were tested. The previous iteration for this switch had quite loose housings but that has since been fixed. All official sellers of Alpacas sell the V2 Alpacas but if you are buying or buying a recolor, make sure you are getting a switch with the V2 molds.

Despite being considered such a great switch they sit at our number eight spot because the JWK recolors are all the same and aren’t considered super interesting.

9. C3 Equalz x TKC Tangerine: Smoothest Stock Switch

C3 Equalz Tangerine switch resting on a flower.

When the Tangerines first came out in late 2020 they shocked the keyboard community for being arguably the smoothest keyboard switch available. Today TKC’s Tangerines are still considered one of the smoothest linears. They feature a standard 2mm actuation with a 4mm bottom out. They are also offered with either a 62g or 67g spring with a light green or dark green stem respectively.

Although the Tangerines are incredibly smooth, the sound profile is considered by many to be boring and flat. This doesn’t make Tangerines a bad switch by any means, especially because sound preference is subjective. However the other switches on this list I have found to still have a similar level of smoothness and as well as more interesting sound profiles. If you do find that you find that the sound of Tangies suits your preferences then it is certainly a fantastic linear switch to consider.

These switches are fantastic stock because they are pre-lubed but if you would like a more creamy sound then lubing could improve the sound. Lubing with a thinner lube like Tribosys 3204 is recommended as Krytox 205g0 may be too thick. Tangerines do benefit from filming but it is not completely necessary.

10. Vintage Cherry MX Blacks: A Classic

Vintage Cherry MX Black switch sitting on a rock.

Chances are if you have even the slightest experience in this hobby you have heard of Cherry’s lineup and cherry MX Blacks. These switches are those exact things, except old. When a switch is made a mold is used to cast the plastic, so these switches use an older mold which was known to be very smooth. This paired with cherry’s magically sounding amazing housings made the holy grail of linears.

Now if there so good why aren’t they number 1? Because these switches are very hard to come by, for starters it is near impossible to get these switches through a commercial vendor like NovelKeys, Cannonkeys, etc. Second, in most cases these switches must be removed from an old keyboard (like really old) and then cleaned and sold via mechmarket or something like that. That being said, these switches follow the standard Cherry MX Black weighting which is about 60g operating and 80g bottom out.

These switches do need lube but filming is hit or miss since they have nice and tight housings from the factory.

If you really want this typing experience but you are unable to find Vintage MX Blacks or you just don’t want to pay that much for a used switch you can also use machine broken in switches like RNKBD’s Cherry MX Black Ultraglides. Machine broken in switches are able to simulate a similar level of smoothness as vintage MX Blacks which have been naturally broken in over time.

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Conclusion

All these switches are great choices for any linear build. Some switches that weren’t included which are also great are most JWK manufactured linears such as the Durock L Series, Halu Halos, H1s as well as Tealios, KTT, and TTC switches. If you want to hear some sound tests to better make a decision check out my YouTube channel for some sound tests.

If you want to try or buy any of these switches then a great place to start is by looking at your local vendor. Take a look at our vendor list. A compilation of tons of keyboard vendors sorted by region.

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

Best Clicky Switches [2022]

Switches and keyboards on a desk with a planet

Are you a fan of a crisp tactile bump paired with a nice, sharp click? Clicky switches are a favorite of many but are often not talked about.

A clicky switch is a keyboard switch that produces a bump at some point in the travel, paired with a higher-pitched click. Clicky switches pair the tactility that is popular with tactile switches with additional audio feedback.

With the abundance of clicky switches in the custom keyboard market, it can get extremely confusing to find the right switches for you. Today we are going to discuss the best clicky switches from our testing.

Terminology

Whenever switches are mentioned, there are always some confusing terms involved, so let’s go through them.

Click Jacket: A system that makes a loud click sound when pressed down but no click when the upstroke. This system functions by having a collar around the stem of the switch that is pushed downward and actually causes the clicking sound and activates the switch. Click jackets are the system used in Cherry MX Blues and clones.

Click Bar: A system in which a metal bar is placed and when pushed it creates a click. The click bar plays no role in the switch actually being activated but simply makes a sound and provides a tactile feel. The stem of the switch then makes contact just under the contact from this bar to activate the switch. This system is preferred by enthusiasts who like clicky switches because it allows for a more satisfying experience with stronger tactility.

Box Switches: Although there are box switches for all types of switches, they are especially popular among clicky switches. Box switches don’t get the word box from the shape of their stem but rather a different internal mechanism for activating the switch that is surrounded by a small box within the switch. This structure allows these switches to be dust-proof.

Tactile Event: The bump in the switches travel.

Pre-Travel: Any linear or smooth uninterrupted travel before the tactile event.

Post-Travel: Post-travel is the linear travel after the tactile event.

Actuation: Actuation is when the switch activates and outputs to the device.

Bottom Out: When the switch finishes traveling and hits the bottom housing.

Leaf: The metallic contacts in a switch, these themselves actually actuate the switch. The leaf is in the bottom housing as the picture shows.

Diagram pointing to the leaf on a mechanical keyboard switch.

Ping / Spring Ping / Leaf Ping: This is a metallic reverb produced by the sound of the spring, leaf, or both. In most cases it can be fixed by lube.

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Disclaimer… Please Read!

This review is largely preference, my rankings will likely be very different from yours. Do not base your opinions solely based on mine.Use this guide to gain a general understanding of the switch and where enthusiasts like me stand on these switches. Guides like this, sound tests, and opinions of content creators like Teaha Types are good ways to find switches that you believe are interesting and worth trying. Ultimately we recommend you to just hit up your local vendor and buy a pack of whatever switch your fingers and ears desire to try them out. That way you can find the best switch for you.

Also, note we will not talk about the feel of these switches after lubing. Typically clicky switches do not require lubing and can even take the clickiness or even tactility away from the switch. If you do want to lube your clicky switch then we would suggest lubing the spring with Krytox GPL 105 oil although this truly isn’t needed.

1. Kailh x NovelKeys Box Jades: Thick Clicks, Nice Weight

The NovelKeys Box Jades are a clicky switch designed by NovelKeys and manufactured by Kailh. Box Jades feature a thick clickbar for peak tactility and a click that is probably the loudest of any switch I have tested.

The Jades activate with a force of 50g at a travel distance of 1.8mm and bottom out at 3.6mm with a force of 65g. NovelKeys states they are IP56 water and dust-resistant.

We have put them at the top of this list as they feature an extremely sharp tactile bump paired with a very crisp click. Additionally, the weight does not get too fatiguing after typing for long periods.

2. Kailh x NovelKeys Box Navys: Strong Click, Heavy Weight

Kailh Box Navy keyboard switch sitting on a plant

If you think you would like the Box Jades then NovelKeys’s Box Navy switches are the same switch except with a heavier spring.

The Box Navys have the same IP56 rating, thick clickbar, 1.8mm actuation distance, and 3.6mm total travel. The only difference is that they actuate at 75g and bottom out at 90g.

We do like the thick clickbar of the Navys and Jades but because the spring is heavier we find that they can get fatiguing more easily.

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3. Kailh Box Whites: Jades Younger Cousin

Kailh’s Box Whites are a fantastic clicky switch utilizing a clickbar for a strong tactile bump and thick click. Unlike the Jades and Navys, the Box Whites do not use a thick clickbar meaning the tactility will be less sharp and they will not be as loud.

Box whites still utilize the box mechanism, hence the name, so they are rated for IP56 dust and water resistance. The switches activate at 1.8mm with a force of 45g and bottom out at 3.6mm with a force of 55g.

If you want a sharp tactile bump and a crisp click but you find that your finger gets fatigued easily, the Box Whites may be a better option for you over either the Jades or Navys.

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4. Kailh x NovelKeys Sherbet: Long Travel, Strong Bump

NovelKeys’s Sherbet switches still provide a clickbar like the previous options on this list but have a few key differences. The Sherbets feature the standard MX switch design rather than the shape of box switches.

The NovelKeys Sherbets feature a 45g actuation force at 2mm and bottom out at 4mm with a force of 85g. For those that prefer a longer travel and may be looking for a slightly quieter click. The Sherbet will provide that over the Jades, Navys, or Whites.

The clickbar allows the Sherbets to still have a very satisfying click and makes them a very solid option for clicky switches.

5. Outemu Phoenix: Solid Clickjacket

Outemu Phoenix keyboard switch by some plants

Typically we find that clicky switches with a clickbar mechanism feature the best experience but there are a few clickjackets that are quite solid. The Outemu Phoneix features a clickjacket, the same system as switches like Cherry MX Blues.

Unlike Blues, Outemu Phoenix’s have a strong tactile bump, albeit less than the Jades, and feature a click both when activating the switch and on the return. You also get two different weight options with either a 62g or 68g option.

Although there are many clicky options to consider the Outemu Phoenix’s provide a unique take on the clickjacket system that is worth trying if interested.

Conclusion

NK Jade keyboard switches on a desk.

All of these switches are great option to make your keyboard clicky. We do recommend that before you make any decisions you consider multiple different options and maybe watch some reviews or listen to some sound tests as it is hard to fully describe the experience of a switch in just a few paragraphs.

If you are also looking at tactile and linear switches, check out our best linear and best tactile switch articles. When you are ready to try or buy any of these switches then a great place to start is by looking at your local vendor. Take a look at our vendor list. A compilation of tons of keyboard vendors sorted by region.

If you enjoyed this article and you want to talk more about tech then consider joining our Discord and as always thanks for reading!

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Best Bluetooth Headphones Buying Guide [2022]

Bose QC35 headphones on a desk next to some plant and a coffee pot

The market for Bluetooth headphones has grown a lot and there are plenty of options to go through. This can make it very confusing to decide what options to go with, especially if you want specific features or need to meet a budget.

After testing many headphones options, doing hours of research, and getting opinions from others we have decided the best options in various categories for you.

Let’s check out our favorite options now.


Our Top Recommendations

1. Sony WH-1000XM5s – Our Favorite Pick

Sony’s WH-1000XM5s are regarded as one of if not the best Bluetooth headphones on the market. They build off their predecessor with a new design and slight improvements in a variety of areas like battery life, ANC, and mic quality.

Sony delivers an extended battery life of up 40 hours and about 30 hours with noise-cancellation enabled. The new microphone array also allows these headphones to have the best ANC of any Bluetooth headphones and slightly better call quality.

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2. Drop + THX Panda – Best Sound

If sound is your main priority but you still want Bluetooth then Drop and THX’s Pandas is your best bet. They deliver excellent sound quality, especially for a Bluetooth pair of headphones. For the on the go audiophile, this is an excellent option to consider.

Unfortunately, the Pandas do not have ANC but for some, the audio quality is worth the sacrifice. Drop’s Pandas still don’t have the best audio for any headphone but in the Bluetooth category, it is second to none. The sound is clean, balanced, and packs punches in all the right areas.

It is also rated for about 30 hours of battery life and has fantastic comfort.

3. Apple AirPods Max – Best Apple Exeprience

Apple’s AirPods Max is fantastic in multiple categories but where is it is best at is ANC. It is great at blocking out consistent background noise as well as sudden noises. It also features a 20 hours battery life, an aluminum design, great comfort, and sound quality that is almost as good as Drop +THX’s Pandas.

Unfortunately, you only have full access to the features of the AirPods Max if you use the headphones with an iPhone. Although the AirPods Max are great in a variety of categories because of the lack of in-depth support with Android and Windows, these headphones are not our favorite pick.

The fact of the matter is these headphones are fantastic if you use Apple products but if you plan to use Android and you prioritize ANC then the Sony XM5s may be the best option for you.

4. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 – Best Interface

Angled view of Surface headphones from Microsoft.

The Surface Headphones 2 from Microsoft are a phenomenal pair of headphones but one area that makes them unique is the interface. Microsoft not only utilizes touch-capacitive functions that are on many Bluetooth headphones but they also provide two dials built into each earcup. The dials feel great and are very easy to understand. It allows changing volume and the level of ANC or background noise to be a very smooth process.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 have pretty good sound quality, a pretty decent battery life, and a comfortable design. They deliver a lot of what you would get with the top players like Sony’s XM5s but come at a cheaper price. If you are willing to make sacrifices on things like a smaller battery life (which is still quite good) and a slightly worse sound then the Surface Headphones 2 can provide a great experience at a fantastic price.

If you want to find out more about Surface Headphones 2, check out our review on them here.

5. Jabra Elite 85h – Best Value

If you are looking for a Bluetooth pair of headphones that gives you as much as possible at a fair price Jabra has a great option with their Elite 85h headphones.

The Jabra Elite 85h gives you ANC, a long battery life (up to 36 hours), fast charging, rain and water resistance, solid comfort, and a pretty decent sounding pair of headphones.

Jabra is known for providing great value audio devices and the Elite 85h is no different. These headphones are a great option to go for if you want all the key features and solid performance, without breaking the bank.

6. Razer Opus – Best Budget

For those who do not want to spend upwards of $200 for a pair of headphones, the Razer Opus gives you a ton of great features at a great price. While this pair still is not the cheapest Bluetooth pair out there, it is giving you a lot while not being overly expensive like the bigger players like the Sony XM5s or AirPods Max.

It is important to note that occasionally you can find the Jabra Elite 85h at a cheaper price and the Surface Headphones (1st generation) also hover at around the same price. Both are two great options to consider and out compete the Razer Opus in different ways depending on what you are looking for.

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Also Great

There are also some other competitive options that may be great for you but may not be the best in any one category.

Bose NC700

Bose NC700 headphones on a desk next to some keyboard switches

Another great pair of Bluetooth headphones is the Bose NC700. The NC700s deliver performance that is close to the Sony XM5s in every category but aren’t the best at anything. They are still a great option but we would usually just recommend going with the XM5s over them.

One reason you may choose to get Bose’s NC700s is if you like the looks. The sleek, modern design makes the headphones look good in any setting.

Surface Headphones (1st Generation)

If you still want the performance of the Surface Headphones 2 but you don’t have the budget then the original Surface Headphones are a great option. Not only are they a great value offering but they offer the same sound quality and almost all the same features as the Surface Headphones 2. The main differences are the battery life, more color options, and support for some more audio codecs.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones are very comfortable, have a great sound for the price, and the overall package is quite solid.

Sony WH-1000XM4s

Despite being updated by Sony with their XM5s, Sony’s WH-1000XM4s, or XM4s for short, are still regarded as one of the best Bluetooth headphones on the market. This is especially the case if you prefer the design of the XM4s over the XM5s and you want to spend less money. They are great in all categories and often set the bar for things like battery life, ANC, and design.

The XM4s get around 30 hours of battery life, deliver a pretty clean sound, and have arguably the best ANC in any headphone. You also get key features like a transparency mode so you can hear everything around you.


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Is ANC Necessary?

One of the most common features among Bluetooth headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation. A question for many though is if they need ANC and if it is worth the additional cost.

ANC is a very nice feature to have because it can allow you to listen to music in more environments without being bothered by sounds from the outside world. This can help you stay focused while working in a public environment, allow you to able to listen to music outside in your own bubble or make everything quieter in a place like a plane.

In short, ANC is not a necessary feature but it can be very beneficial in many situations and along with ANC often comes a “transparency mode”. This will allow you to hear what’s around you, sometimes at an elevated volume, in case your in a situation where someone is talking to you or you need to hear anything else around you.

If you often use headphones while outside or work in a public or loud environment then ANC is very useful and a worthwhile investment. You can be more focused and enjoy music better in peace. Not to mention having ANC can make a flight much more enjoyable.

If you have extra money in your budget or ANC is useful in your use case it is a very useful feature.

Does Bluetooth Ruin Sound Quality?

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a new pair of headphones is the sound quality.

Bluetooth can affect sound quality but it also depends on the price point. For the vast majority of people, the sound quality from Bluetooth headphones above the $200 price tag will have great sound quality.

Only those who are used to very premium headphones or high fidelity audio will not be able to get the same experience with Bluetooth headphones but the Drop + THX Pandas and Apple AirPod Maxs deliver fantastic audio quality.

The amount of information that can go to Bluetooth headphones is capped unless you use them with a wire because only a specific amount of information can travel wirelessly. Again this issue won’t affect the majority of people.

In general, Bluetooth does not ruin audio quality but it will cap the potential for the audio quality. If you want the best audio possible you will either have to go with some of the more expensive Bluetooth options at $400 and $500 or just get premium headphones that aren’t Bluetooth.

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How Does Sound Quality Compare

If the only thing you value is sound quality, there are many options to consider. There are many Bluetooth headphones that have solid sound quality but the headphones with the best quality are not Bluetooth and you can get higher quality sound for the price as many Bluetooth headphones.

A lot of what you are paying for with Bluetooth headphones is the feature of Bluetooth. If all you care about is sound quality and the feature of Bluetooth is not important to you, there are various options on the market that you can look at. A solid Bluetooth pair will typically cost anywhere from 200 to 600 dollars but you can get the sound quality of a $200 pair of Bluetooth headphones for half the cost.

If sound quality is your main priority, there are many different headphones that you can consider like open-back headphones, which can offer a cleaner and wider sound.

Overall the sound quality of open-back headphones is not bad but for the price, there are better options and the best sounding headphones on the market are mostly wired, especially professional-grade options.

How To Choose Bluetooth Headphones

Top view of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds on a desk.

Choosing headphones can be very complicated and confusing. It is important to understand what budget you are looking at and then what features you prioritize the most.

Do You Need Bluetooth?

Before considering what Bluetooth headphones you want, you need to decide if you really would benefit from Bluetooth headphones.

If you want headphones to use on the go or you just want the ease of use of a Bluetooth device then Bluetooth may suit you perfectly. Bluetooth can make your setup easier and it can also make using headphones easier to use because there is no cable that you have to worry about.

If you plan to use your headphones with a desktop or in a studio environment then Bluetooth headphones may not be worth it for you and investing in a wired pair may give you better sound quality and price to performance.

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The Price

If Bluetooth headphones are right for you then the next important thing to decide is your budget. There are many Bluetooth headphones at various price ranges. If you have more money you can get headphones with features such as ANC in addition to great sound quality. There are also many fantastic value options.

Once you find what price is right for you, you should look at all the options in your price range. Finding what features matter to you is a great way to narrow down options and then you can find the best option for your price tag.

Sound Quality

The most important thing about headphones is how they actually sound. All the best sounding options will cost about $400 or more but you can still get great sound quality at a lower price tag.

When you have narrowed down your budget, understanding what options in your price range have the best sound quality is an important consideration. Of course, it is always good to maintain a balance of the best sound quality you can get in your budget while also getting the features that you prioritize.

Looking at comparisons between different options can be very helpful in deciding what are the best options.

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ANC

One of the most common features of Bluetooth headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation. This uses microphones on the outside of the headphones so an offset sound can be played allowing you to hear less sounds from the outside world.

ANC quality depends greatly but it gets better usually as you spend more. Headphones with better ANC will block out more outside noise especially sudden sounds like a door closing or someone coughing.

Noise cancellation is incredibly useful in public environments, especially very noisy ones like a plane or a public building. This will allow you to be able to listen better and get distracted less. If you want Bluetooth but are not in loud environments often you can potentially save some money. Most people will benefit from having ANC but unless you are always in loud environments you should not stretch your budget to get a pair with ANC.

Looks and Build

The build among Bluetooth headphones is mostly similar among all the options. Typically they use a mainly plastic fame with the use of materials like pleather and potentially some metal. Occasionally you can find some options that have mostly metal designs like the Apple AirPods Max.

Although more premium feeling and looking builds are nice to have they are not necessarily needed. Most premium Bluetooth headphones have solid build quality even with mostly plastic construction. If you do prioritize having an all-metal build there are a few options to consider but you will most likely have to pay a premium.

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Other Important Features

Apart from the main priorities of build quality, sound, and price, there are other nice to haves like software support, a carrying case, or other features that improve your experience with the device. These other features may help you narrow down which headphone is right for you.

Many headphones do have these additional features like software, a carrying case, and potentially additional cables so you may need to look out for more specific things about each like how good the software is.

Why Trust Us

As a team with tech and audio enthusiasts, we not only study these subjects for work but also outside of that. We gather the most relevant information and like to test as much as possible ourselves.

We have had the opportunity to test these different headphones and also have experience in many other areas of the audio world. Additionally with this content not only can you get a recommendation from a user that may have similar interests as you but you can get a view from an audiophile’s perspective.

At The Tech Frontier, we have compiled this list through our testing of different Bluetooth headphones. We also have used previous knowledge with different kinds of headphones, platforms, and operating systems to provide recommendations for all kinds of audiences.


Conclusion

Surface Headphones with a plant in the background.

Hopefully these options have helped you narrow down your search as to what options are best for you and you now know what to look for in headphones when you’re researching what to purchase.

There are many great Bluetooth headphones that have little differences in their interface of an improvement in a specific part of how it sounds so doing some additional research is very useful to make a more informed decision.

If you want to check out more guides and reviews check out the rest of our site with new articles coming out every week.

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Redragon K617 Fizz Review: Your First Keyboard?

Redragon is a gaming company that is no stranger to making budget keyboards that still give consumers a mechanical feel. The Redragon K617 Fizz is a 60% mechanical keyboard that provides enjoyable features like RGB lighting and a compact size.

Today we will take a look at the Redragon K617 Fizz to see if it should be the board to start your gaming setup.

The Verdict

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Redragon K617 Fizz is a budget 60% keyboard that offers an interesting design and a mechanical experience without breaking the bank. You get features like a hotswappable PCB and RGB lighting.

You won’t find features that you might find on more premium keyboards like Bluetooth or an aluminum case but the K617 beats much of the competition on the quality of the lighting and the sound of the keyboard. Unfortunately you do not get any switch options and features like hotswap are not very well executed.

If you want an interesting design, compact footprint, and a mechanical feel without breaking the bank, the K617 Fizz is a solid option to consider.


In The Box

Unboxing of Redragon K617 Fizz mechanical keyboard

Besides the keyboard, Redragon gives you a variety of accessories to improve your experience with this keyboard.

USB-C Cable: You get a rubberized cable with a 90-degree angle so it can be nicely plugged into the side-mounted port.

Keycap Puller: If you ever want to change the keycaps on your board, a plastic puller is included to easily take them off. This puller is not anything special but does the job.

Switch Puller: Along with the keycap puller, a metal switch puller is included so you can replace the switches at any time.

Extra Switches: If any switch ever breaks, four extra switches are included.

Sticker and Documentation: You are given a user manual to help you get started with the board as well as a sticker with the Redragon logo. 

Overall everything is packed quite nicely and it is good to see that Redragon gives you extras to go along with the board.

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Build Quality

Bottom of Redragon K617 Fizz mechanical keyboard

The Redragon K617 offers an all-plastic construction with a mix of either pink and white or white and grey. The board is on the lighter side at about 0.43 Kg (0.95 lbs). The low weight with the small footprint makes the K617 a very portable keyboard if you want to bring your board around with you.

The K617 has a slight angle to improve the comfort of the board. If you would like more angle though on the bottom of the board there are two rubberized flip-out feet. Also on the bottom are two additional rubber feet. This means the board shouldn’t move around while you are gaming.

The board uses a side-mounted USB-C connection. This is a downside if you care about cable management but at least the included cable has a 90-degree angle.

You won’t get a super strong board like you would with more premium aluminum boards but I considering the price point the build lines up with my expectations.

The Keycaps

Angled view of Redragon K617 Fizz keyboard

Redragon’s K617 Fizz comes with a set of double-shot ABS keycaps with shine-through legends. The keycaps are in the OEM profile. OEM profile is common with prebuilt keyboards. They are sculpted to make typing more comfortable than with something like a laptop keyboard.

The fact that the keycaps are made of ABS means that they may be more prone to developing shine over time but they seem to handle it a bit better than other keyboards I have used. They are a slight improvement over the keycaps on their older keyboards like the K552.

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The keycaps let in quite a lot of light through however this is paired with a font that does not look very good. The legends have a gamery look to them and to go along with that don’t look very consistent. However, this is all personal preference so if the gamery font is actually something that you do like then these keycaps are a decent option considering the price of the board.

The Switches and Stabilizers

Red switches on Redragon K617 keyboard

The Redragon K617 comes with Redragon’s own red switches. They are linear switches giving them a smooth travel. The actuation force is quite light like other red switches. The switches don’t provide the best experience in the world but at this price they match the competition. If this is your first mechanical keyboard then you will have a pleasant experience with this board.

Typically on budget mechanical keyboards the stabilizers are quite bad but I was pleasantly surprised with the stabs on the K617. The stabs come with some grease on the wires and as a result the spacebar actually has a decent sound. The rattle and ticking of many gaming keyboards is not as bad of an issue here.

After lubing the stabilizers they all sounded pretty decent and did not feel very scratchy. The only issue is that some of the stabilizers had a sluggish feeling when pressing them all the way down.

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Hotswap PCB

A feature that has grown especially popular in the last few years is hotswappable PCBs. What this means is that you can swap the switches out of their sockets and replace them with different switches without needing to do any soldering. You can swap out switches in just seconds.

The K617 supports 3-pin switches and is north-facing. This means that the board supports certain switches that only have 3 points of contact with the PCB rather than 5. The fact that this board has north-facing sockets means that there could be some interference with Cherry Profile keycaps.

Unfortunately, I did have issues with switches seating perfectly in the plate unless they were Redragon or Outemu switches. Some switches like Kailh BOX switches seem to not fit very well in the keyboard. This is a result of the LEDs protruding rather than being flush with the PCB.

It is nice that the K617 has hotwap support, especially at this price, but it only really is good if you want to want to mod your stabilizers or a broken switch needs replacing. If you are looking for a cheap keyboard to try out different switches then we cannot recommend the K617 for you.

RGB Backlighting and Software

Top view of Redragon K617 Fizz keyboard on deskpad

The Redragon K617 Fizz provides per-key RGB lighting. This can be controlled both onboard or more in-depth with their software. The lighting is quite vibrant and honestly, I have no complaints. This is probably assisted by the fact that the plate is white so it reflects the lighting better.

On the keyboard, you can change the lighting effects, brightness, and speed. With their software, you have much more control over the keyboard. Redragon’s software allows you to control lighting, change mappings, and add macros. I have used better software on keyboards but it does the job. Changes made to the lighting of the board will save to the board so they will work even if you use multiple computers.

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The software looks like it was designed to look gamery and as a result, it doesn’t properly take up a full window. Furthermore, it does not look HD for some reason. The function of the software might do the job but the interface certainly brings down the experience. Overall the lighting is well executed but I wish there were some updates made to the software.

Conclusion

Redragon K617 Fizz mechanical keyboard on a white table

For the price, Redragon delivers a decent option if you are looking to get a budget mechanical keyboard. You don’t get many features like a scroll wheel, Bluetooth, or a metal build but the board does the job. The only big feature that the board does have is a hotswappable PCB but the PCB doesn’t have great compatibility with other switches.

The poor interface of the software and the gamery-looking keycaps also slightly take away from the experience. However for most people who are just looking to get a compact mechanical keyboard, this board is a decent option to consider. This is especially the case because the stock sound is actually pretty decent.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to see more keyboard content check out the sound tests on my YouTube channel or some other keeb reviews.

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Redragon M808 Storm Pro Review: Lightweight On A Budget

Wireless gaming mice are expensive, but do they have to be? The Redragon M808 Storm Pro manages to provide a strong performance along with wireless connectivity, all at a competitive price.

So if you want to learn more about the Redragon M808 Storm Pro, keep reading to find out if it is the mouse for you.

The Verdict

Top view of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse on white table

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Redragon M808 Storm Pro offers solid performance at a very competitive price. It rises to be a top option under $40 by being a jack of all trades.

The M808 Storm Pro beats out the competition in a variety of categories. While other competitors may not even offer software or wireless connectivity, the M808 does. It gives you a decently light weight and a comfortable design too. The M808 Storm Pro certainly isn’t competing with top wireless options from Glorious, Razer, or Logitech but it is still a great option at its price.

If you are looking for an accurate sensor, a sub 100g mouse, with tasteful RGB lighting, and wireless connectivity that is superior to Bluetooth then the Redragon M808 Storm Pro manages to suffice those needs without breaking the bank.


Specifications

Length~126.8 mm
~4.99 in
Width~65.6 mm
~2.58 in
Height~41 mm
~1.61 in
Weight~96g
Sensor TypeOptical (100 – 16K DPI)
Polling Rate125 – 1000 Hz
Cable Length1.8m (5.9ft)
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In The Box

Unboxing of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse

In the box, you will find the mouse with all the essentials and a few accessories.

  • Manuel: This will help you get started with the mouse.
  • Cable: A braided USB-C cable that is 1.8m (5.9 ft) long
  • Dongle: 2.4Ghz dongle for the wireless connection.
  • Sticker: A sticker with the Redragon logo.

Overall everything is packaged nicely.

Build Quality

Front view of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse

The Redragon M808 Storm Pro is made from an all-plastic design with some rubber on the scroll wheel. The mouse comes in at 96g making it a solid mouse for FPS games. Despite the weight and all plastic design, the mouse doesn’t feel cheap at all.

One area where the design lacks is with the feet. The feet are certainly better than some budget mice I have tested but are not as good as the top gaming mice companies such as Razer or Logitech. The M808 Pro allows quick flicks and a smooth travel but I would still recommend using it on a mousepad for the best experience.

Although there are physical holes in the mouse with the honeycomb design, it does not seem to have an effect on the reliability of the mouse. I would not recommend testing the water resistance of this mouse however in the few months that I have gotten to use this mouse, I have had no issues.

Redragon opted to use a USB-C port which I really like as some big gaming mice companies still have not made the switch to USB-C. Also, on the bottom of the mouse is a spot to store the 2.4Ghz dongle if needed.

The build of the Redragon M808 Storm Pro looks and feels a lot more premium than its price says it should be.

Style and Comfort

Close up of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse

Redragon’s M808 Storm Pro features an ambidextrous shape but its buttons on the left side make it perfect for people with right-handed mice. The M808 allows you to use either hand and does not lock you into any mouse grip either.

The M808 has a fairly short height like the Logitech G203 or Razer Viper. It also features a long shape. The side of the mouse is textured along with the scroll wheel to provide additional grip. The scroll wheel is made with rubber but the sides aren’t. I wish the sides did t least have some sort of soft-touch material but it would not likely add to the weight and cost.

The most defining part of the design is the hexagon-shaped holes on the mouse. Although there are quite a few of them to help lower the weight, they do not affect the comfort of the mouse at all.

Overall the mouse is quite comfortable to use with all hand sizes and grip styles. Additionally, the side and main buttons are placed quite nicely and are easy to press. The buttons on the top are not the easiest to press quickly but are still nice to have.

Switches and Scroll Wheel

Top view of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse on deskpad

The Redragon M808 Storm Pro comes with 8 programmable buttons. They all feel quite snappy. The main two switches are from Haunho. So far they have held up well and there don’t seem to be major reports of double-clicking.

In our testing, and that of others, we found the Redragon M808 Storm Pro to have a click latency of about 11 to 13ms. This is on the higher end for gaming mice however still an improvement over most regular mice. While actually playing video games I couldn’t notice much of a difference from other gaming mice that I have used. This may not be the best mouse for professional gamers but for the standard gamer, the M808 will do the job.

Sensor and Polling Rate

Bottom side of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse

With the M808, Redragon has opted to use the PixArt PAW3335 sensor. PixArt is renowned for making some of the most accurate sensors on the market and the PAW3335 is a very accurate option itself. from my testing, I did not notice any difference in accuracy while gaming between this mouse and my more premium mice like my Logitech G703.

The PAW3335 features a DPI range of 100 to 16000K with adjustability in increments of 100. Although I was impressed with the sensor’s performance, the fact that you can only adjust DPI in steps of 100 left me disappointed. I was not able to use my usual DPI with this mouse. I wish the M808 Storm Pro supported increments of 50 for slightly more precise tuning.

The strong sensor goes along with an industry-standard 1000Hz polling rate which you can change both in the software or with the rearmost button at the top of the mouse.

RGB Lighting

Side view of Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse on desk

The Redragon M808 Storm Pro supports bright RGB lighting on the scroll wheel and the sides of the mouse. The RGB doesn’t feel like too much and makes for a nice accent. If you don’t like RGB then you can also easily switch it off in the software.

Many mice at the same price point have limited effects or don’t even have RGB but here you have multiple RGB lighting zones, numerous effects to choose from, and software to change the lighting. Considering the price point and the other features offered, this is quite impressive.

Wireless connectivity

Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse with 2.4g dongle

In addition to a wired connection, the M808 Storm Pro supports 2.4Ghz wireless connectivity via a dongle. This isn’t as good as Logitech’s Lightspeed or Corsair Slipstream but it certainly better than Bluetooth. The wireless systems from the bigger gaming brands will give the same reliability and speed as a wired connection. A 2.4Ghz connection may be slightly worse than a wired connection. That being said in my experience during gaming I did not feel like the 2.4Ghz wireless took away from my gaming experience.

If you play singleplayer games or multiplayer non-competitively then I don’t think that using this mouse wirelessly will take away from your experience. Even in some competitive gameplay, I would say it is fine unless you are playing in the most competitive ranks. In those cases, there are some better alternatives, albeit that will cost more, or you could just plug the mouse in and use it in its wired configuration.

The M808 Storm Pro features a 500mAh battery. At 1000Hz with RGB enabled, I got about 20 to 25 hours of battery life with Redragon’s M808 Storm Pro. If you turn the lighting off or turn the polling rate down then you could potentially get through an entire week, or more depending on your usage.

If you are not using the mouse it will automatically go into a sleep state. Furthermore, there is an eco switch at the bottom of the mouse which seems to save battery when you switch it on. It turns off the side RGB but I am unsure if it does anything else. That being said it did seem to lower the rate at which the battery depleted.

Software support

Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse software

Although the Redragon M808 Storm Pro delivers strong performance, the weakest part of the experience is the software. That being said many budget gaming mice don’t even offer software or the software might not support multiple languages like Redragon’s.

Redragon allows you to change button mappings, lighting effects, DPI, and the polling rate. You can also create macros and check the battery life (which is displayed in increments of 10). Any changes will be saved to the mouse directly which is nice if you want to keep your settings when switching to another computer.

Unfortunately, I had some issues changing button mappings. I found that with my current version at times didn’t even have the option to change them if I wanted to. At times I also had the same issues with changing lighting. Furthermore, the interface looks low quality. I wish the resolution was higher and the window was just a rectangle rather than having some gamery indents in it.

The software may not look as good as other options like Corsair iCue, Razer Synapse, or Logitech G Hub, but it is not as heavy. With a mouse of this price, it is clear that Redragon would have to make some sacrifices so I am not super disappointed. Ultimately you don’t need to use the software with this mouse if you don’t want to but it makes things like changing the DPI or lighting much easier.

Conclusion: Is The M808 Storm Pro Good For Gaming?

Redragon M808 Storm Pro mouse on deskpad

After my use of the Redragon M808 Storm Pro for a few months I can definitely say I am impressed. At such a price point I was not sure what to expect but Redragon offered me something that was better than other budget mice I have tested in the past. While none of the specs are truly flagship level, the mouse still delivers in a variety of categories.

The M808 Storm Pro does not have sub-1ms Lightspeed technology or very sophisticated software but I still found that as someone who daily drives a high-end mouse from Logitech I didn’t feel super disappointed.

My main two gripes are the issues with the software and the lack of adjustability with the sensor. I had to play at a DPI different than what I am used to and the software looked low quality. However, if this is your first gaming mouse, this is a great place to start. Wireless connectivity comes with many positives by getting rid of the cable and is a very pleasant experience. And with the M808 Storm Pro it is quite accessible.

Redragon Horus K618: The Best Value Low-Profile Keyboard

Redragon Horus K618 low profile keyboard on a desk

Redragon is a keyboard manufacturer that is no stranger to making value-focused mechanical keyboards.

The Redragon Horus K618 is a low-profile keyboard providing a solid experience at a competitive price. The Horus K618 offers wireless connectivity, macro keys, and a variety of other features to make it a good option for anyone who is looking for a full-size mechanical keyboard.

Today we are going to take a look at Redragon’s Horus K618 and see if this low-profile board is the one for you.

The Verdict

A comparison between the board lubed and unlubed

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Redragon Horus K618 is a low-profile, wireless mechanical keyboard that is perfect for those looking for value. Redragon features Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connectivity, RGB lighting, dedicated media keys, a dial, and a hotswap PCB.

A low-profile keyboard is often found to be more comfortable. With the K618, Redragon is delivering a lot of what the competition offers at a lower price point.

For the price, Redragon gives a lot of features and a pretty solid build. For the gamer who wants a low-profile board that will give them a solid experience all while not breaking the bank, the Horus K618 has a lot of potential. Furthermore, if you want to get a screwdriver out, the K618 is not too difficult to mod if you are interested in a more satisfying sound and feel.


In The Box

Unboxing of Redragon Horus K618 low profile keyboard

Inside the box, Redragon gives you everything you need and more.

Keyboard: The keyboard comes in a sleeve of protective foam to protect it while in transit.

USB-C Cable: You get a braided cable with a 90-degree angle so it can be nicely plugged into the side of the keyboard.

Switch Puller: A metal switch puller is included in case you ever need to replace a switch or if you want to mod this board. The puller isn’t anything too fancy but it does the job.

Wire Keycap Puller: Along with the switch puller you get a decent quality wire keycap puller. This is a nice inclusion as taking off your keycaps is essential if you are cleaning or modding your keyboard. Often companies included a cheap plastic puller that may scratch your keycaps or don’t include one at all.

Extra Switches: If any switch ever breaks, eight extra switches are included in the box.

Sticker and Documentation: You are given a sticker with the Redragon logo along with any documentation that you may need for the board.

Overall everything is packed quite nicely and it is good to see that Redragon gives you quite decent extras to go along with the board.

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Build Quality

Angled view of Redragon Horus K618 low profile keyboard

For the Horus K618, Redragon elected to go with a plastic case and thin aluminum top piece. The rubber media keys are made of rubber and the scroll wheel is also made of aluminum. The board comes in at about 700g (about 1.5 lbs) in a full-size form factor. It looks to be about the height of most modern membrane keyboards at around 2cm tall or just under an inch. If this is too big for your desk then Redragon also offers a tenkeyless variant.

The K618 feels pretty solid and this choice in material is not bad for the price. If an aluminum case is important to you then I would suggest spending a bit more for the Keychron K1 which offers an aluminum build and hotswappable PCB.

On the bottom of the board are four rubber feet. Two of which flip out for additional height adjustment. On the side of the board are a power switch and the USB-C port. The side placement of the port is not ideal but since this board is wireless I rarely used the board wired anyway so it was not much of an issue. Additionally, the wire given with, a 90-degree angle, remedies this issue.

Overall the build is decent for the price and the design is quite nice.

The Keycaps

Close up of Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

On the Horus K618 you get low-profile ABS keycaps that feature doubleshot legends. This means that the main legends are permanent. For the secondary functions printed in white, those are pad printed so that could become an issue later down the line after extensive use.

The ABS keycaps feel smooth and are what you would expect for a gaming keyboard. The only flaw with the keycaps is the legends. Although the legends while not wear off, they don’t look that great. They have this sort of gamer font with some letters not having connected parts of the letter like on the A or the O keys.

That being said the legends are a good size so they are easy to read and they let a decent amount of RGB lighting through. Also unlike most low-profile mechanical keyboards, the Redragon Horus K618 has switches with cherry-style stems. This means that if you ever wanted to change the keycaps you actually could.

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The Switches and Stabilizers

Mechanical keyboard switch next to a low-profile switch

Redragon offers one switch option with the K618 with their low-profile red switches made by Outemu. Weirdly these switches have a different pin layout than the regular low-profile Outemu switches. These switches look to be about half the height of a regular key switch. The low-profile reds are a linear switch with an actuation force of 45g.

The low-profile reds are about what I would expect from other low-profile mechanical keyboards. They feel pretty decent for the average gamer and they were comfortable to type on for extended periods.

The switches are on a hotswap PCB meaning typically you would be able to replace the switches with other types of switches. However, the nonstandard pin placement means you cannot actually replace them with other switches. Honestly, this is one of my least favorite things about the board but the fact that this is even offered for the price is nice. You are still able to easily replace a switch if it is broken and mod the keyboard pretty easily because of the hotswappable PCB.

The stabilizers on this board are cherry-style plate mount stabs. They were alright. They were better than most gaming keyboards I have had experience with from the likes of Logitech or Razer however they were nothing crazy. Luckily because the board is hotswap I was able to put some dielectric grease onto the stabilizer wires and they sounded much better afterward. Overall the stabs are fine for most people.

RGB Back Lighting and Software

RGB on the Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

Redragon’s Horus K618 features RGB lighting. The lighting is pretty bright and definitely better than some of the competition. There are a few onboard presets that can be cycled through without using any software. If you want a clean look you can change the lighting all to white.

The software lets you control the lighting, change mappings, and a few other basic things. It is not as good as VIA, arguably the best keyboard software, or even Corsair iCue but it is better than having nothing. Many keyboards even from companies like Keychron have no official software support this is nice to see.

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Wireless Connectivity

Buttons on Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

Aside from the option for a wired connection, Redragon gives you two other options for this board. Connection via a 2.4ghz USB dongle or Bluetooth 5.0. You can connect up to 3 devices with Bluetooth 5.0.

The dongle is stored magnetically at the bottom of the board which is nice so you don’t lose it if you aren’t using it.

Personally, I used the dongle the most. It requires no setup and delivers a connection with less latency than Bluetooth. Although I would recommend a wired connection when gaming, I found that using the 2.4Ghz connection was pretty solid. I never felt like it was ruining my experience during single-player or even casual multiplayer gameplay.

The K618 features a 1900mAh battery that Redragon states should last for up to 30 hours. With white LEDs and the 2.4Ghz connection, I was able to get around 25 hours of use. If you use the RGB lighting you might get a little less and with lighting turned off you would probably get more. It also depends how much you are actually typing on the board in a day. You could probably go three to five days with this board.

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When the board is not being used, after a minute, it will go into a sleep state to conserve battery. If you start typing on it though it will start typing almost immediately. This is better than my experience on a lot of other wireless boards like on Keychron boards. Also when you are running low on battery the board wi

Overall wireless connectivity makes the experience of using this board very enjoyable. It is well implemented and I don’t feel like they cheaped out at all.

Media and Macro Keys

Media keys on Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard

Media and macro keys are always a nice to have. Before I had a dedicated macropad they were a must for me.

The media keys work well. They feel slightly mushy but have a tactile response when you press them down. There are also secondary functions for some keys which can do things like open the calculator app.

The scroll wheel allows you to either change the brightness of the lighting or volume. I found that it doesn’t make much of an impact in changing volume. You have to scroll it all the way down just to go down 2 percent. To me, it isn’t that great for changing volume on the fly. Also, I wish the macro keys had dedicated backlighting at all times too.

Conclusion

Top view of Redragon Horus K618 mechanical keyboard on desk

Overall what would bring the Redragon Horus K618 to 5 stars for me is if it had the same pin placement for regular outemu hotswap, nicer keycap legends, and an aluminum frame. That being said the K618 delivers a solid build and plenty of features that make this a very enjoyable experience.

If you want an aluminum build, compatibility with different types of switches, and dedicated mac support then Keychron’s low profile offerings like the K1 may be a better option for you. However, if you want a better wireless experience, brighter lighting, macro keys, and software then get then the K618 is the one for you.

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I also found that it is easy to compare the K618 to the Logitech G915. You get most of what the G915 has with the Horus K618. If you are willing to pay extra though, for over double the price, the G915 offers better software, a low latency lightspeed wireless connection, and slightly better-looking keycaps.

All this being said I still think that the Redragon Horus K618 is the best value low-profile keyboard that you can buy today.

So if you would like the Redragon Horus K618, check it out here at the Redragon store.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to see more keyboard content, check out our keeb reviews or the sound tests on my YouTube channel.

Arisu From Nico & Steph Studios: The Gateway To Ergo Boards

The Arisu by Nico & Steph Studios is a mechanical keyboard kit that is extremely unique and provides a gateway into the custom keyboard scene.

Coming in with the ergonomic Arisu layout, the Arisu provides a great value for those that want to build a custom keyboard with an ergonomic design.

So let’s take a closer look at the Arisu and see if it could be a good custom mechanical keyboard for you.

The Verdict

Arisu mechanical keyboard surrounded by switches on a desk.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Arisu by Nico & Steph Studios is a great value keyboard that can open you up to the custom keyboard world. Not only that but the Arisu also has a few unique features like having an ergonomic layout and an acrylic case.

Custom keyboards can be difficult to get your hands on let alone an ergonomic keyboard. The Arisu is often in stock or has a turnaround of a couple months which is quicker than most of the competitors in its price range like the KBDFans KBD67 Lite, Wuque Ikki68 Aurora, and many more.

Unfortunately, the board does not come with a carrying case or any custom box it just comes in the box that it shipped with. The biggest issue that we found with the board is that often fitting in switches requires some fiddling to add some greater distance between the plate and the PCB.

Overall for anyone wanting to make an entry into custom keyboards and also is interested in ergonomic keyboards, the Arisu is a fantastic option and packs a lot of value for what is being delivered.


In The Box

Materials in the box of the Arisu keyboard.

The packaging of the Arisu is quite basic. The PCB came in an anti-static bag and the case came in pieces with protective paper that you need to peel off. This is not rare for stacked acrylic cases.

Aside from the case and PCB, you will get a variety of screws, nuts, rubber feet, and a hex driver. There was no box or bag. Everything just came in some dense wrapping in the box that it was shipped in. The wrapping was good with a mix of paper and bubble wrap so I was not concerned about anything breaking.

Overall pretty average stuff for a keyboard kit. The only flaw was that there was no official box, bag, or case for packaging.

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Build Quality

Bottom side of the Nico and Steph Studios Arisu.

The build quality for the price of this keyboard is pretty decent. For about $150 you get an all frosted acrylic case including an acrylic plate. Overall the board looks quite nice and the only issue with the looks is the visible gap between the case and PCB. This may not bother you but is worth mentioning.

I will note that an aluminum case version of this board was sold previously but I haven’t seen it for sale as of late. Currently black, gray, and frosted acrylic are all available options.

The use of acrylic allows the board to sound quite good for the price even without any foam included in the case. I did try the PE foam mod on the board and it did make the board sound better in my opinion but I liked the sound both with and without foam.

The Arisu does not feel super hefty like more high-end keyboards that feature internal weights however it doesn’t feel cheap.

The case features a center USC-C port that is indented. Sometimes I struggle to find the port but this is a very minor gripe. It fits any sort of cable nicely.

On the bottom, there are 6 rubber feet included with the board. Honestly, you only need four and this board won’t slide around unless you are wanting it to move. There is also no height adjustment unless you unscrew and remove the two riser pieces from the bottom.

Initially, the case of the board also came in more pieces but in the newer version, the case has fewer individual pieces to improve the quality. It is nice that this board is improved upon and it sets a good tone for the future.

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The Build Experience

Typically when building a custom keyboard there are no instructions and your only way to know what to do is either by figuring it out as you go or maybe finding a video guide. Nico & Steph studios have created a build guide for their Arisu. This makes the build experience a lot easier, especially for beginners.

Overall the build experience for this board was pretty straight forward and I only ran into issues really with the plate. The plate is sandwich mounted which is nice because you don’t have to fiddle around with any gaskets but still provides a pleasant sound and feeling experience.

Unfortunately, this implementation of sandwich mount runs into some issues. Sometimes switches don’t fit the best in the plate which means you must fiddle around with the nuts holding the screws to allow for more spacing between the plate and the PCB. I constantly had to do this but then the hex nuts would fall. Also, be careful to put the right hex nuts in the right places because some hex nuts look similar. The plate has caused issues for me every time I try to mod the board too.

Also, note because the board is made from acrylic, parts are flexible but can also break if you bend them too much. Overall the build experience can be quite fun and it is cool to see everything come together as you build the case.

The Layout

Layout of the Arisu keyboard.

Typically the layout of a board does not require its own section but since this is an ergonomic keyboard, it is different than most keyboards that we take a look at.

The Arisu is named after the Arisu layout. This layout is like a 65% keyboard but with an ergonomic design. This board uses a unibody ergonomic design so it isn’t too difficult to get used to and is all in one package but still provides the benefits of an ergonomic keyboard.

Getting used to an ergonomic layout was actually quite easy for me. I didn’t have too many issues at first. There were a few keys that I struggled with like the Y key or B key at first but after about a week or two I made zero mistakes due to the layout. Now after owning the board for many months, I have no issues in switching between my Arisu and any of my other boards.

The Arisu’s use of an ergonomic layout places your wrists in a more comfortable position that made me feel more comfortable when typing for extended periods of time.

If you want to know more about ergonomic keyboards and our thoughts, check out our are ergonomic keyboards worth it article.

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The Keycaps

Side view of the Arisu keyboard with keycaps.

Since the Arisu is a kit, no keycaps are included. Nico & Steph Studios sell their own keycaps but you ultimately have the freedom to get keycaps from wherever you would like. You could get MT3 keycaps by Drop or some nice Cherry Profile keycaps.

On the Arisu a standard 104 key keycap set will not work. There are some requirements like a 1.75u right shift (a shorter shift than standard) and two spacebars (one 2.25u and one 2.75u) to support the split spacebar layout. Most sets over the price of $40 should support all the keycaps that you need for this board.

I would like to note for much of my testing I used an MT3 set and I had some issues on the left shift and left space keys having return issues. This seems mostly due to the design of the plate not fitting switches perfectly.

The Switches

Like with the keycaps no switches are included in this board. This means you have the option to put in any switches in the Arisu. The PCB for this board also comes equipped with hotswap sockets. This means that you can add and remove switches within seconds. You can try out different switches very easily.

The PCB supports both 3 pin and 5 pin switches and is south-facing. This means you will not have any interference issues where the switches make contact with the keycaps (for more information check out our guide on north and south-facing switches).

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The Stabilizers

Durock screw in stabilizers surrounded by keyboard switches.

No stabilizers are included with the Arisu. There are some Durock stabs that you can order on the Nico & Steph website for ease of use.

I decided to use some Durock stabs that I had laying around. They are some of the best stabs that you can get, with a pleasant sound and smooth travel if modded correctly.

If you want to find some places to get Durock stabilizers or any other stabs check out our vendor list. Note that you will need to get five 2u stabs.

The Software

VIA software being used to control an Arisu keyboard.

A fantastic feature of the Arisu is the fact that it has VIA support. VIA is a keyboard firmware that is simple to use, has plenty of features, and is a favorite among keyboard enthusiasts.

The firmware is pre-flashed on the Arisu meaning you only need to download VIA from the website, plug in your keyboard, and it will work right away.

VIA allows you to test the keys on the keyboard to make sure all their switches work. This is very useful while building the board.

Compared to keyboard firmware and software, VIA is really good. VIA does not have the same issues as Razer Synapse or Corsair iCue, which are plagued by many bugs and are quite slow. With VIA you can change your keymapping, set up macros, change lighting, test keys, and change other settings on the board.

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Conclusion: Should You Get The Arisu?

Angled view of the Arisu mechanical keyboard.

If you want to try an ergonomic layout and are either new or a seasoned veteran of building keyboards, the Arisu is a great option. I found this board to be very fun to build and it was an interesting change from the rectangle-shaped layouts that I am used to.

The Arisu features a hotswap PCB, a very comfortable layout, a pleasing sound, and a unique case design. The board is easy to mod and play around with and not too expensive that you will be scared to get it if you just want to try ergonomic keyboards.

A more professional unboxing experience and easier to work with plate design would really improve the experience for me. Overall this board is a great custom to consider in an increasingly competitive market.

Thanks for reading and if you want to see more content about keyboards, check out our custom keyboard content and keyboard guides.

If you have any build questions also check out our discord.

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North-Facing vs South-Facing Switches

South-Facing Switches (Left) vs North-Facing Switches (Right)

The world of mechanical keyboards can be complex but can be very fun and satisfying. On keyboards, switches are attached to a PCB, printed circuit board. Switches can be attached in one of two configurations. This often causes confusion as people bring up terms like interference or switch orientation.

When looking to buy a mechanical keyboard, especially if you are looking to modify or build one, understanding what north-facing and south-facing switches are can be important to help you make the best decision for you.

Today we are going to clarify the difference between north-facing and south-facing switches and help you understand everything you need to know to make a better decision when buying your next mechanical keyboard.

North-Facing vs South-Facing Switches: What Are They?

Before we understand what north-facing and south-facing switches are we must first understand switch orientation. The term switch orientation refers to which direction a mechanical keyboard switch is placed on a PCB.

North-facing switches refer to when a switch’s LED hole faces toward the top of the keyboard while placed in the socket of the keyboard’s PCB. North-facing switches are typically seen in budget keyboards but are also seen in older custom keyboards.

South-facing switches refer to when a switch’s LED hole faces toward the bottom of the keyboard or where the user of the keyboard is while paced in the socket of the keyboard’s PCB. South-facing switches are typically seen in custom keyboards but due to consumer demand are starting to be put in some beginner kits and even a few prebuilts.

Typically we hear the terms north and south-facing the most but east and west-facing switches exist too. East and west-facing switches have the same pros and cons as south-facing switches. They are used very rarely and are usually only implemented in PCBs that support multiple layouts and must maximize all space on the PCB available.

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Problem With North-Facing Switches: Interferance

Diagram explaining switch interference between north-facing and south-facing switches.

The biggest problem that faces north-facing switches is keycap interference when using Cherry profile keycaps. On some rows of the keyboard, Cherry profile keycaps will come into contact with the top of the switches before the switch is able to bottom out. This will change both the sound and feel of the typing experience.

Although using Cherry profile keycaps are still usable, interference can remove a lot of the satisfaction from typing on a mechanical keyboard. Part of what makes this issue annoying is also that it affects certain rows of keys more than others so the feel becomes inconsistent between keys too. Some don’t face the issue while other rows do.

This makes north-facing switch orientations quite unpopular among keyboard enthusiasts who often use Cherry profile keycaps from high-end manufacturers.

Problem With South-Facing Switches: RGB Shine Through

Mechanical keyboard on desk

Although south-facing PCBs are highly popular because they don’t face the issues of interference, they still have their own issues. South-facing switches have some issues for fans of RGB and shine through keycaps.

With north-facing PCBs the LEDs lie directly below the legends on the keycaps. This creates a brighter and more consistent look on the legend. With south-facing switches, the LEDs are on the bottom side of the keycaps. This means a lot of the light does not shine through the legend of shine through keycaps.

Note switch orientation has no effect on keyboard underglow or LEDs on the side of the keyboard.

This issue faces fewer enthusiasts because typically enthusiasts aren’t using shine through keycaps. On the other hand, because RGB is very popular for gaming keyboards we most likely will see large gaming brands continue to use north-facing switches in their keyboards.

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Can You Change Switch Orientation On Your PCB?

Close up picture of a mechanical keyboard PCB.

So maybe you are really set on a keyboard or you have already bought a keyboard and now you want a different switch orientation to suit your preferences. The question becomes can you change switch orientation?

Unfortunately no, you cannot change the direction in which the switches are placed on the PCB. Holes were drilled in a specific way from the factory so the pins on the bottom of your switches only can fit in one direction.

There are a few solutions though. One thing you can do is get a totally new PCB. You can buy one that supports a different orientation and use that in your case instead. With this solution, not all cases accept all PCBs so you would need to research what PCBs your board supports. Some mechanical keyboards have a proprietary case design to the manufacturer or have such a unique design that it is very hard or even impossible to find a different PCB that fits the case. It is especially hard to find PCBs for high-end boards that feature north-facing sockets.

Buying a new PCB can also be very expensive so there are a few other options. If you are using a keyboard with north-facing switches but you would like to use Cherry profile keycaps you could get a few of the “box” switches that don’t face the issues of interference like Novelkey Box Cream switches. Another solution is to get special washers to raise up your keycaps so the keycaps don’t make contact with the top of the switches until the switch has been depressed all the way.

There are also switches advertised for having a long pole stem which may not have interference on some cherry profile keycaps. This is because the switches bottom out sooner so the keycap doesn’t come as close to the top of the switch. Some famous long pole stem switches include Drop Holy Pandas or Durock Pom Linears.

If you are looking for more light to shine through your keycaps and you have south-facing switches, then buying some transparent switches like some Aqua King V3 switches might give you a better experience.

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Which One Is Better?

There is not necessarily a better option overall however depending on your situation, there is a better option for you.

In most cases, we would recommend keyboards with south-facing switches. The main instance that we would suggest a north-facing keyboard is if you plan to use shine-through keycaps. South-facing keycaps still allow RGB to pass through although just it doesn’t look as vibrant as it may look on a north-facing board.

If you start to get into custom keyboards odds are you will most likely use keycaps that are not shine through. There are also plenty of keyboards that have RGB underglow or on the side of the board and are south-facing.

In most cases, south-facing switches are better as they are more versatile but boards with north-facing switches still have a use case and north-facing switches aren’t the end of the world, especially if you don’t even plan to use Cherry profile keycaps.

Conclusion

Angled view of Wuque Ikki68 Keyboard on a desk.

There are two main types of switch orientation that can give you the best experience depending on what you are looking for. South-facing switches support more keycap profiles, especially ones that are popular among enthusiasts, while north-facing switches can provide the best experience for shine through keycaps.

Even if you have a keyboard where the switches are oriented in a way that doesn’t suit your preferences or inhibits your options, there are still some possible solutions like getting certain types of switches, changing your PCB, or adding washers that allow you to enjoy your keyboard as much as possible without needing to get a new keyboard.

As enthusiasts ourselves we would recommend buying a keyboard with south-facing switches unless you plan to use shine through keycaps.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this guide, please check out our other keyboard guides, and if you have any more questions feel free to ask us on our Discord.

Are Ergonomic Keyboards Worth It?

Arisu ergonomic keyboard sitting on a wall.

If you spend a lot of time typing at your setup you may be looking to improve the ergonomics and comfort of your setup. One of the best ways to improve long-term comfort is by using an ergonomic keyboard.

Ergonomic keyboards position your hands and wrists better for a more comfortable experience and potentially better posture.

Many people consider ergonomic keyboards but understanding if getting one is worth it for you depends on your situation. Having good ergonomics is always a good thing but if you don’t spend much time typing or you spend most of your time gaming, investing in an ergonomic keyboard may not be the right option for you. In contrast, those that are at a computer typing throughout the day could definitely see comfort and even health benefits by using an ergonomic board.

So if you want to find out more and see if you could benefit from an ergonomic keyboard, keep reading to see if they are worth the investment.

Ergonomic vs Normal Keyboards

Ergonomic keyboard next to a regular mechanical keyboard.

Ergonomic and normal keyboards definitely have their differences but both have their benefits. One isn’t better than another as it truly depends on your situation.

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Size and Form Factors

There are a variety of sizes and form factors with keyboards. Normal keyboards have more layouts to choose from including 40%, 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL, and full-size boards. With ergonomic keyboards, it is a little more complicated.

It is important to note that there are two types of ergonomic keyboards, unibody and split. Unibody keyboards are an ergonomic keyboard in a single case. Split keyboards usually have two parts for each side of the keyboard. This allows you to use only one have of the split board for things like gaming to safe as much space as possible.

With split style boards, you can have any layout of a regular keyboard but with unibody style boards there are 2 popular layouts. The Arisu and Alice layouts. The Alice layout is most similar to a 60% keyboard with some macros on the left-hand side while the Arisu layout is most similar to a 65% keyboard.

In general normal keyboards are smaller for the same amount of functions and there are more layouts available for them but ergonomic boards also have some very unique layouts.

Comfort Level

The biggest benefit of ergonomic keyboards is their improved comfort over regular boards. They were specifically designed to help you type over long periods.

While you are typing you won’t get pains or cramps in your hands, wrists, and arms.

Also, you may find that you have better posture or it is easier to keep good posture. This is because ergonomic keyboards support better hand and arm positioning to promote better posture. As a result, you will be more comfortable throughout your body and this is actually more healthy for you.

If you find that you game most of the time then this is one case where a regular keyboard may help you to be more comfortable. Since many gamers tilt their keyboards and you are interacting with both a mouse and a keyboard there are some reasons to go with a regular keyboard. A regular board will save space and will be just as comfortable as an ergonomic keyboard but will allow you to have more comfort with your hand using the mouse.

If you are looking for comfort but you don’t have the budget for a new keyboard then switching to a new keyboard layout could also help provide better comfort with no cost except the time to switch.

Arm and Wrist Pain

A problem that you may encounter when typing for long periods is that you may suffer from arm and wrist pains. Ergonomic keyboards are great for fixing these issues.

Since ergonomic keyboards are designed for optimal comfort and as a result they greatly reduce the effects of pains or the chance of getting them.

When talking about ergonomic keyboards RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries) and carpal tunnel are two common topics. Ergonomic keyboards greatly reduce the chance of getting RSI and carpal tunnel by reducing the strain on your wrists.

It is important to note that if you are considering an ergonomic board because you have some sort of arm, wrist, or hand problem then a new keyboard will not be a magical fix for you. You should notice benefits to all your problems won’t necessarily go away depending on the severity of the condition.

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Typing Speed

Ideally, your fastest typing speed should be similar between an ergonomic keyboard and a normal keyboard if you’re used to both types of keyboards.

This isn’t always the case. In my experience, I found that I can type fastest with a regular keyboard but I type faster for longer with my ergonomic board. Between ergonomic keyboards, you will typically type faster with a unibody board than a split alternative.

The fastest typists in the world still use regular mechanical keyboards as their primary boards. Ultimately if you just are looking for that fastest peak time a regular board still may be the option for you but if you want to have a consistently fast speed all day then an ergonomic board is something you should consider.

Price

So ergonomic keyboards have all these benefits but do they cost more as a result? For the same construction, sound, and feel, ergonomic keyboards are often priced quite well.

Ergonomic keyboards often are more expensive but that is because they are often higher-end keyboards. This is because many ergonomic keyboards are made by creators who also want premium build materials, a nice design, and a thoccy sound.

Although you can find some good value ergonomic boards, the cheapest boards that you will find are normal keyboards. Often you will pay a bit more for an ergo design compared to the regular designed counterparts, especially if looking at a membrane keyboard.

Modding and Accessories

One important factor for those building ergonomic mechanical keyboards, especially enthusiasts, is how easy ergonomic keyboards are to build, mod, and get parts for.

The difficulty of all keyboards vary but building an ergonomic keyboard should be no harder to build than a regular keyboard. Finding parts for modding ergo keyboards or parts may be harder because typically smaller manufactures make ergonomic keyboards but this is common across all limited run and high-end keyboards.

The main issue that you will run into if you are considering an ergonomic mechanical keyboard is access to compatible keycap sets.

All ergonomic keyboards have split spacebars. This means that if you are buying a keycap set you need to make sure that it supports the needed spacebars. Additionally some ergo boards also have an additional ‘B’ key or have macros on the left-hand side.

Overall it isn’t hard to find keycaps but it is an important thing to keep in mind.

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Is An Ergonomic Keyboard Right For You?

Gaming keyboard next to a gaming mouse.

Understanding how you use your computer will best help you understand if an ergonomic or regular keyboard is best for you.

Developers, writers, managers, and other people who spend some if not the whole workday typing can definitively benefit from an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic keyboard can reduce wrist problems in the future and provide better comfort throughout the day.

If you don’t really use a computer much or don’t use your computer for work then an ergonomic keyboard may not be the best for you. Taking the time to switch to an ergonomic keyboard is especially not worth it if you find that you game more than you work.

Ergonomic keyboards are bigger than regular size keyboards for having the same layout or amount of keys. Since having more mouse space is very important for gaming using a regular board that will help give you more mouse space.

The thing is this concept doesn’t apply to all ergonomic keyboards. Split ergonomic boards can be an interesting option to consider for some gamers. Since split keyboards have two parts of the board if you play FPS games you can use only one of the two parts and have a lot more mouse room. The extra investment is most likely not worth it but it can be an interesting option to consider.

Generally, ergonomic keyboards are better for productivity and regular boards are better for gaming or those who don’t use their computer that much.

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Is It Difficult To Transition?

Time

Depending on if you can get a split or unibody board it can take more or less time but will a unibody board will generally take less time. With split keyboards you not only need to get used to this new format but it may also take time to find the right placement for both halves of the board.

With a unibody board, it could take a few days to a couple of weeks while a split keyboard could take you a few weeks to even a month to get used to.

Difficulty

Since ergonomic boards have different hand placements it will feel like you are using a slightly different layout. Switching to an ergonomic keyboard isn’t very hard to get used to but time is the main issue with the transition process.

In general, you should not be worried about the difficulty in transitioning to an ergonomic keyboard as the end result will be well worth it.

Different Types Of Ergonomic Keyboards

If you are looking for an ergonomic keyboard, there are two options to consider. Unibody and split.

Unibody

Angled view of a unibody ergonomic keyboard.

The first type of ergonomic keyboard is the Unibody style. Unibody boards are the easiest to get used to and typically the cheapest options.

A Unibody style board is just one board that is together, as the name suggests. This means that you can get an ergonomic experience without the complexity of a split keyboard. The ergonomics may not be as great as a split keyboard but they will still be superior to the comfort of just a standard keyboard.

If you want something clean and simple while still getting a comfortable experience then a unibody board is the option for you. Unibody boards are all in one package which means you don’t have to worry about cables between different parts.

Split

Top view of a split ergonomic keyboard.

The other style of ergonomic keyboards is the split layout. A split style keyboard has more customizability in the sense that you can move each side around but this comes at a cost. Typically split keyboards have another set of wires that you have to deal with between both halves. Also, split keyboards are often harder to get used to.

Some split-style keyboards can be combined back into one regular board but these often sacrifice on looks for this extra function.

In general, a split keyboard will sacrifice looks but will give maximum comfort. Since you can adjust a split keyboard to your liking, if you are looking for the best comfort then a split board will best suit you.

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Conclusion

Side view of an ergonomic keyboard.

Switching to an ergonomic keyboard is a fantastic way to improve your comfort while working. They can solve pains, reduce the chance of long-term problems, and promote better posture. Problems such as carpal tunnel or RSI can be greatly reduced.

While ergonomic keyboards have these benefits, normal keyboards still allow for slightly faster typing speeds, are more available, support many more sizes and layouts.

There are a few different styles for ergonomic keyboards to choose from depending on what you do daily. With Unibody and Split keyboards and a few different layouts for each type of board, there is something that will suit you.

For additional ergonomics, tips check out some home office tips from the University of Washington.

As always thanks for reading and I hope you learned a lot!

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