On the hunt for a quiet keyboard? If so, you’re probably aware that mechanical keyboards are popular for a variety of reasons, but quietness definitely isn’t one of them. That familiar clicky sound mechanical keyboard users have grown accustomed to is great feedback for typing when your alone, but around others can be a real nuisance.
The answer to this noisy problem is dampened switches. And I don’t mean simply grabbing a bag of O-rings and adding them to your existing keyboard’s switches. O-rings can help to reduce impact noise, but only slightly and they destroy key feel. If you want a truly quiet mechanical keyboard with minimal alteration to feel the switches themselves (non-clicky) must be internally dampened on both the downstroke AND upstroke. O-rings and other similar products only lessen sound on the downstroke from the keycap making contact with the switch housing. The quiet mechanical keyboards reviewed below go to great lengths for noise reduction through the use of dampened switches, lubed stabilizers, case liners, high quality keycaps and other sound dampening modifications.
For this list I only considered options that met two simple conditions. First, the mechanical keyboard must not use a clicky switch. Obviously when searching for a quiet mechanical keyboard you wouldn’t want a switch designed to create audible feedback. Second, the switch must be internally dampened in some way. Also note some of these keyboards may use methods of case dampening (such as sound absorption pads) as well, but that’s just a bonus; not a requirement.
The following mechanical keyboards not only have great build quality, but are also designed and manufactured to be as close to silent as physically possible while still retaining that beloved mechanical feel.
Leopold FC980M PD (Cherry MX Silent Red)
Starting this list we have the Leopold FC980M PD compact “full size” mechanical keyboard. Compact and full size usually don’t belong in the same sentence when discussing keyboard layouts, but that’s not the case with the FC980M PD.
This keyboard has what is referred to as the 1800 layout popularized by Cherry’s G80-1800 series of mechanical keyboards. The overall size is noticeably smaller than a typical full size keyboard with the width being only slightly wider (1 key column) than a standard TKL.
The defining characteristic of the FC980M PD are its noise reduction features. It’s available with Cherry MX Silent Red switches. This is a linear switch similar to regular Cherry MX Red that has been internally dampened on both the down and upstroke with a rubber insert. The specs are almost identical, except for a very small reduction in the actuation point (1.9 mm vs 2 mm) and total travel distance of the switch (3.7 mm vs 4 mm).
As for keycaps the FC980M PD doesn’t cut corners. It includes 1.5 mm thick PBT keycaps that won’t shine from use or yellow with age. On top of that we find durable doubleshot legends that won’t fade away, even with years of typing wear.
Don’t overlook the keycaps in your search for a quiet mechanical keyboard. Keycap thickness and height can drastically alter the acoustical properties of a mechanical keyboard. You generally want a thicker, regular height keycap for lower noise levels. The less hollow the keycap the better.
In addition to dampened switches and premium quality PBT keycaps the FC980M PD also includes a dampened case. The interior of the case is lined with a fabric based pad to further reduce noise and limit vibrations from transferring into your desk while typing. This sort of attention to detail is what puts Leopold mechanical keyboards a step above offerings from some of the more well known brands.
HHKB Pro 2 Type-S (Silenced Topre)
This next “mechanical” keyboard falls into a bit of a gray area. The Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2 Type-S is produced with dampened Topre switches, a hybrid switch type that use a rubber dome with slider over PCB design.
I’m sure some of you just recoiled in horror at the thought of a rubber dome keyboard. Despite that misconception, Topre is unique and shouldn’t be compared to regular rubber dome keyboards. Most importantly, it’s not membrane based. Topre is a high quality Japanese manufactured capacitive switch that uses a light weighted coil spring to register key presses.
This design trait allows for partway actuation (doesn’t require the key to be bottomed out for actuation), which is a critical feature of mechanical keyboards. It really comes down to semantics whether Topre keyboards can be considered “mechanical”. Personally, I feel they offer much better performance with a more advanced operation than typical rubber dome over membrane keyboards. As such, I have no problem categorizing them as either mechanical or hybrid. Whatever term you prefer doesn’t change the fact that these are excellent switches that offer a very quiet and satisfying typing experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
When it comes to noise levels a rubber dome is fantastic at suppressing sound on the downstroke. This premium Type-S model is designed for silence, with rubber rings that also work to mitigate noise produced from the upstroke. There’s also a aftermarket anti-vibration mat that can be added to the underside of the case for further noise reduction properties that works surprisingly well.
Aesthetically the Type-S would blend in well to any office or professional setting. Wouldn’t be out of place at a coders desk, especially with that layout. Probably not for gamers though; not that it couldn’t perform adequately as a quiet gaming keyboard. There are just much cheaper options that offer features such as RGB backlighting, NKRO and macro keys which are more tailored toward the gaming crowd (one of which will be discussed later in this article).
Some additional specs for this keyboard include:
- 60% UNIX layout
- PBT kecaps with dye-sublimated legends
- 2-port USB hub
- 45G actuation force
- Mac compatibility (DIP switches for key customization)
- 6-key rollover (limited by the USB interface as capacitive switches are capable of full NKRO)
- Detachable USB Mini-B cable
The main drawback of the HHKB Pro 2 Type-S is its exorbitant price. The silenced Type-S version will cost you at least twice as much as all the other options on this list. However, those who save up and take the plunge will be rewarded with one of the quietest, smoothest and most unique feeling typing experiences on the market.
DURGOD K320 Nebula RGB (Cherry MX Silent Red)
A quiet mechanical keyboard isn’t only beneficial for office environments. Online multiplayer gaming is more popular than ever. Gamers also tend to be short tempered during competitive matches, so teammates hearing your keyboard constantly clicking away over voice chat may not make you the most popular person on the server.
The Durgod K320 Nebula with true per-key RGB backlighting and Cherry MX Silent Red switches takes the spot for best quiet mechanical gaming keyboard. It has a TKL (Tenkeyless) layout, which drops the numpad for a more compact footprint. This is generally considered the ideal layout for gaming as it frees up space for the mouse and allows for more ergonomic hand positioning. In my experience long gaming sessions are much more comfortable with a TKL or smaller layout versus standard full size keyboards.
The switches are Cherry MX Silent Red. Light weighted linear switches such as these are a fairly safe bet when considering a mechanical keyboard which will primarily be used for gaming. Of course personal preferences will vary from person to person, but for a quiet mechanical gaming keyboard with silenced switches your options will be somewhat limited. Cherry MX Silent Red switches have transparent housings which help to evenly distribute the RGB backlighting. The clear housing also allows you to see the rubber dampening insert attached to the slider, as seen in the picture below.
The sculpted, OEM profile keycaps are moderately thick and made of PBT material with doubleshot legends (translucent for shine-through backlighting). A nice upgrade over the typical cheap, thin ABS keycaps with laser ablated legends usually found on RGB backlit mechanical keyboards marketed to gamers. PBT is harder to work with than ABS, so doubleshot PBT keycaps are quite uncommon, but a welcome sight nonetheless.
The case is made of ABS plastic and has a high-grade feel. Underneath there are four flip-out rubber tipped feet for angle adjustment (one small set of feet for a lower incline and a larger set for steeper typing angle) and a cable gutter that allows you to route the cable in three different directions. The USB connection is detachable Type-C, which is a big pro as most new devices are now switching over to this standard for USB connectivity. On the right side of the case above the arrow keys you’ll find four LED indicator lights corresponding to the various lock keys.
The K320 Nebula is a mechanical gaming keyboard, so of course it has full NKRO that ensures no key input will be lost. It has many other important gaming optimized features, namely macros support, Windows key lock mode, a 1000Hz polling rate and the Zeus Engine software for easy programmability.
Vortex Cypher (Cherry MX Silent Red or Black)
I love the stabilizers found on Vortex mechanical keyboards. The Vortex Cypher used modified Cherry stabilizers on the larger keys. Cherry stabs can can often be mushy and loud if installed incorrectly, but not with Vortex’s excellent implementation that come pre-lubed. The stabilized keys feel extremely crisp and they don’t rattle, which can be a big factor in keyboard noise.
The switches are Cherry MX Silent linear switches (either Red or Black). Just like regular Cherry MX switches, the Black silenced switch has specs similar to the Red silenced switch. The only difference being the weighting at 45 cN actuation force for Red vs a heavier 60 cN for the Black.
There are a couple layout options for the Cypher. Both are 65% with dedicated arrow keys, but one has a split spacebar. Since the Cypher is fully hardware programmable the two spacebars can either be left as default or one of your choosing can be programmed for a different input. The Cypher comes preset with two additional layers for Dvorak and Colemak layouts (QWERTY by default). The programmability has also been upgraded over the Poker 3 as the Cypher allows for 100 character per-key programming. The Poker 3 only supports up to 32.
The Cypher is one of Vortex’s most budget friendly options. It’s priced about $40 cheaper than the venerable Poker 3. The main difference in price comes from the case material. The Cypher has a plastic case while the Poker 3 and other pricier Vortex boards come with cast aluminum cases. In this situation the plastic case could actually be an advantage. Aluminum cases can sometimes resonate and amplify typing sounds, but that probably wouldn’t be an issue with linear switches.
The backplate which the switches are mounted to is steel measuring 1.5mm thick. This gives it a sturdier feel and more weight than typical mechanical keyboards that use aluminum backplates. The steel backplate has less flex than a equally thick aluminum one.
Connectivity is handled with a USB Type-C cable. Always a welcome inclusion as USB Type-C has a symmetrical and reversible connector. This makes it much easier to plug and unplug without even having to look at the cable orientation.
The keycaps are medium thickness PBT (about 1.3mm) in OEM profile with laser engraved legends. Decent keycaps, but I would prefer dye-sublimated or doubleshot legends. Not only will laser engraved legends fades with wear, but the white infill material can also discolor from prolonged skin contact. This is a relatively minor issue and it’s really the only complaint I have about this keyboard, which is otherwise a quiet and pleasant typing experience due to the silenced switches and lubed stabilizers.
Matias Mini Quiet Pro (Matias Quiet Click)
Here’s something rarely seen in modern keyboards available on the retail market. A truly mechanical switch that isn’t Cherry MX or based on the MX design. The Matias Mini Quiet Pro uses Matias’ own Quiet Click switch, a dampened tactile switch based on the old Alps design. Despite the odd name choice this switch is just tactile. No clicky sound here. And talk about tactility! These Matias switches have a very strong, crisp tactile bump that puts Cherry MX Brown to shame.
The Matias Mini Quiet Pro is exactly as the name implies; compact in size and nearly silent in operation. It has a 75% layout with smartly located Fn key on the right side that makes accessing the second layer navigation keys easier with one hand. Noise wise, it’s even quieter than the majority of rubber dome over membrane keyboards.
The Mini Quiet Pro features a 3-port USB hub and detachable Micro-USB connection. It comes with two cables. One is short for portability (about 3 feet) and the longer cable measures roughly 6 feet, a more standard desk length. Not only do you get two cables for use in a variety of scenarios, but the USB connectors are also double-sided. This makes it easy to plug in as the connector doesn’t have to be correctly oriented in a specific direction. No more fumbling in the dark at the back of a PC trying to figure out which way the cable needs to be inserted.
The Mini Quiet Pro isn’t lacking in the build quality department. The case is made of plastic with a high gloss finish. This glossy coating may lead you to think it looks cheap at first glance, but don’t be fooled. This is a high quality polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate material is shatterproof, flexible, resistant to extreme temperatures and has higher impact resistance than cases made cheaply with ABS plastic.
The large bezels and glossy surface may not be the embodiment of modern styling, but the build quality is top-notch. The switches are plate-mounted to a strong steel backplate providing a rigid and flex free typing experience.
My only complaint with the Matias Mini Quiet Pro are the sculpted keycaps. They’re mode from ABS and the legends are laser etched with a white infill. Not the most durable combo that will be susceptible to shine and fading with wear from extended use. Not only that, but the Alps mount of the Matias switches will severely limit your selection of replacement keycaps should you choose to upgrade. At least the typeface Matias has chosen for the keycaps is clear and easy to read.
Summary On Quiet Mechanical Keyboards
A fact you must remember is mechanical keyboards by nature aren’t quiet and no keyboard is truly silent. The goal is simply noise reduction to acceptable levels for your use case.
The main way this is accomplished is through the use of silenced, non-clicky switches that dampen both the down and upstroke of a key press. Further mods such as case linings, O-rings, lubed stabilizers and rubber mats can also be implemented for greater effect.
|Leopold FC980M PD||Cherry MX Silent||PBT|
|HHKB Pro 2 Type-S||Silenced Topre||PBT|
|DURGOD K320 Nebula RGB||Cherry MX Silent||PBT|
|Vortex Cypher||Cherry MX Silent||PBT|
|Matias Mini Quiet Pro||Matias Quiet Click||ABS|