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How loud are Cherry MX switches? Do dampeners work?

Buying a mechanical keyboard with new switches comes with a lot of questions, but one question we’ve never seen anyone answer is this:

“Will my friends hear it on Discord? And just how loud will it be?” 

As always, Antlion has your back! We tested four of the leading Cherry MX switches, Blues, Reds, Browns and Blacks, to see how each one sounded through both our ModMic in noise canceling mode and the popular Audio Technica AT-2020 XLR mic. Both of these mics do an excellent job with noise reduction in general, but can they measure up to an FPS gamer's finger tapdance?

The Process

We tested each switch using a ModMic in noise-canceling mode and an Audio Technica AT-2020 (XLR), both at a normal typing distance and both with and without an O-ring dampener. We placed each of the switch types in a WASD format (using 4 of the same switch colors) on a key testing block and gave them all the same treatment. We first pressed each key at about once a second for around 5 seconds to illustrate a single key push, e.g. a return key. We then took the next few second to press the keys like we were running around in our favorite FPS. We then measured for average peak dB in Audacity.

You can see what it looked like in this video:


The Results

No Discord on Discord! No switches triggered Discord voice activation at -44dB, the default setting, nor at the more sensitive -55dB, which is this PC's setting.  

This is probably because Discord has some kind of built-in noise gate, where a non-sustained sound like a key-press is just ignored. If you're recording to your PC or tapping while talking the sound does come through though, so it's not perfect.

O-Yeah! O-rings make a huge difference. They usually dropped the sound over 10dB! It may not sound like a lot, but that's less than half as loud as the non-O-ring version! The Brown switches specifically dropped from -36dB to a near silent -56dB, less than 1/4 the noise.  

Have a Good Mic! The ModMic and AT-2020 performed about equally. As long as your mic has a good cardioid (noise-canceling) setting you're safe! Not all are created equal though. We did a quick test with a cheap gaming headset we had, the Kotion Each G1000 (All of $24  on Amazon), and it was significantly louder, with Red switches rising from -36dB (ModMic) to -28db (Kotion). Again, a rise of about 9db is TWICE as loud!

Here you can see the difference between the ModMic  (Brown w/dampener & Red without) and the Kotion (Red without dampener). Yikes.

 

Your Mileage May Vary: The switch is only one factor in noise. The keyboard design, the keycap, and the recording equipment all may change your personal outcome. More important still, the noise is only one factor in selecting your keycaps. Words alone won't accurately convey the difference between a Blue and Red switch. Therefore we highly recommend buying an inexpensive test block off Amazon (like this one) and a pack of assorted Cherry MX switches to physically test on your own setup.

 

Want More?

Want to know how big an impact the ModMic noise canceling has? Check out this post where we compare omni-mode and uni-mode with 60 decibels of office noise!

 

The Actual Files

Below you can listen to each test result: Behold, the most boring playlist of all time!

Cherry MX Red


Cherry MX Blue





Cherry MX Brown





Cherry MX Black


 

Thanks for reading and listening! Feel free to comment your opinions on this clicky subject below or check out more awesome blog posts here!

 


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