Admittedly, I’ve not covered much in the way of ‘frankenswitches’ either here on Drop or over on my own website where I do full length switch reviews. While part of this is because there’s already way too much variety in factory-made switches out there that I still need to cover, a much larger part of this is due to the fact that the number of frankenswitches is borderline endless at this point. Frankenswitching, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of mixing and matching parts between various types of switches in order to provide a unique combination of aesthetics, performance, or a bit of both that you simply couldn’t get elsewhere in a stock switch. Combine this idea with the fact that there are well over a thousand different MX-style switches which in theory have interchangeable parts, and you can see why I refer to this list as practically endless.
Figure 1: Not quite the monster movie that goes with 'frankenswitch', but ol' Dracula and his frankenswitches just...
Image credit @zhugunic https://drop.com/talk/67372/gl-2-k
Do I need an amp? What are these acronyms like DAC, DSP, or DSD? What even are all the components that make up an audio chain? Let’s take a beginner’s look at the core, essential building blocks of a digital audio chain, and lay it plain what each piece does. We can cover the major pieces separately, but I’ll still include a few tips to optimize playback here. Please hit the little bookmark button and feel free to check and share this guide whenever you need a reference!
For people who need a visual and audible explanation, or are worried it would take too long to get a working knowledge of the audio chain, here is my YouTube video on this subject that is just 7 minutes long! I like writing though, so let’s get started with an overview, then break it down into what each piece does and how an upgrade would benefit the final sound quality.
Image credit @SpeleoFool https://drop...
As we publish more articles in the "Mech Keys How-To" series currently ongoing, navigating the various topics and finding previous articles will only become more difficult. This thread will serve as a table of contents to help add some structure to the whole project.
Feel free to also suggest future topics in this thread, as it will surely be easier to identify gaps and opportunities for further exploration when viewing everything as a whole.
Mechanical vs Membrane
Sizes and Layouts of Mechanical Keyboards
Staggered and Ortholinear Layouts
Low-Profile vs High-Profile Keyboard Designs
Build Materials and Other Case Design Considerations
Selecting Your First Mechanical Keyboard (The_Manic_Geek)
How To Design a GMK Keycap Set (GMK_Andy)
The GMK Color Matching Process (GMK_Andy)
Introduction to Mechanical Keyboard Switches (ThereminGoatMK)
The Three Main Types of Switches...
Image credit @Evshrug
In my time browsing various headphone and audio forums, I’ve observed again and again a somewhat amusing contradiction. If you go to a sound science forum and ask “What is an audiophile,” they will tell you an audiophile makes purchases based on emotion and nostalgia, with little regard for research, price to performance, and specs which would allow a system to be EQ’d into any sound (including the “ideal” sound). Meanwhile, there’s an opposite camp that will happily buy anything just because it makes them feel good, because “that’s the point of music,” meanwhile they would define an “Audiophile” as someone who pays more attention to gear, specs, and listens to tone sweeps more than music. Conundrum! Paradox!
I’ll do you better: ‘WHY’ Audiophile?
The truth is the word “Audiophile” comes from two roots: Audio* is easy enough to understand, while -phile comes from the Greek root “philos,” which carries a meaning that doesn’t directly translate to...
Okay, so you got a new macro pad, it’s working fine, but now you want to customize the keymap/layout a bit. Where do you even start?
Image credit: @HoffmanMyster
“Mapping” refers to the relational ‘map’ between the physical keys on a keyboard and the signals sent to the computer or device when a key or key combination is pressed. For most non-mechanical keyboards, this mapping is rigid and cannot be modified. Custom keyboards and most popular mechanical keyboards can be remapped using keymapping software—sometimes proprietary, especially for the latter category of brands like Logitech or Razer. We are more interested in custom boards and other offerings that do support more keymapping customization.
Arguably the “default” and most common software solution for custom keymapping is QMK, with QMK Toolbox as their software interface to flash custom mappings. QMK is incredibly powerful, but it does have two fairly major drawbacks—it’s not newcomer-friendly...
New Feature—Product Tagging in Photos (+ Giveaway! - Audio Rigs Edition)
Ahoy, audiophiles! Hot on the heels of the launch event for the mech keys community, we are kicking off the Audiophile Rigs product tagging launch event (with a bonus giveaway for those who participate!).
Check out all the Rigs submissions thus far! Audiophile Rigs
What’s this about a giveaway?
More details can be found at the end! The short version: we will be giving away $100 Drop Rewards credit to one lucky winner (randomly selected) from all participating users who contribute and tag their Audiophile photos using the "Rigs" flair! In order to be eligible for giveaway prizes, your photo must include at least two tagged items (not required to be Drop products—see Tagging Non-Drop Products below). Post must be made in the first two weeks (by 2023-05-10 11:59PM PT) in order to be entered.
What is Product Tagging in Photos?
Product tagging allows you to tag any products in a Photo post—both those found on Drop currently, as well as write-ins that will be manually approved and...
One of the most exciting aspects of the mechanical keyboard hobby is how anyone can become more than just a consumer – anyone can give designing a keycap set a shot and become a contributor as well!
I’ve been involved with designing keycap sets long before I worked for GMK – in fact my set Jukebox SA was the very first SA set to run on Massdrop years ago. Since then I’ve designed a few other kits (GMK Honeywell, GMK Mint Dolch) but have concentrated my efforts on helping other designers find good homes for their sets, and I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working directly with many of the designers in the community.
If you want to learn how to design a GMK keycap set (or any other profile – much of what I will go over will be universally helpful for any profile) I’ll be providing multiple articles here to walk you through every step of the process and best practices to use when designing a set. The steps I will go over in detail are as follows:
▪️ Basic overview /...
New Feature—Product Tagging in Photos (+ Giveaway!)
Hey everyone! After a successful pre-launch for Keyboard Club members, we are ready to roll out a new feature site-wide (with a bonus giveaway for those who contribute!).
Check out all the Battlestations submissions thus far! Mech Keys Battlestations
What’s this about a giveaway?
More details can be found at the end! The short version: we will be giving away two $100 Drop Rewards credits to participating users who contribute and tag their Mech Keys photos using the Battlestations flair! In order to be eligible for giveaway prizes, your photo must include at least two tagged items (not required to be Drop products—see Tagging Non-Drop Products below).
▪️ Random - selected in a raffle format; each Battlestation post submitted grants one entry into the raffle
▪️ Best Photo - selected by a committee of community members known for their incredible photography work as well as contributions to the community; criteria is ultimately up to the judges, including...
Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Or so you thought.
We can’t grant you immortality, but we can grant you a refund. It’s time to Take Back Your Tax.
TLDR; no sales taxes for the next two weeks + free international shipping!
In the US, Tax Day is just a few days away. For some of us it’s good news. For others, not so much. Here on Drop, it’s great news for everyone. That’s because starting April 10th, 2023 through April 23rd, 2023 we will automatically refund the sales tax collected with your order. To follow federal laws we have to charge sales tax—however once you receive your order confirmation you’ll see the sales tax refunded. Refunds are typically visible within a day (or right away, depending on payment method and financial institution).
Simple as that.
Sales Tax exempt states (AK, DE, MT, NH, and OR) are unfortunately not included in this campaign. Lucky you—every week is a sales-tax-free week.
Non-US based customers can join the fun, too. Use code...
As mentioned in the first story, one detail that makes the BMR1 Nearfield Monitors unique is their removable, customizable grilles. By default, the BMR1s don’t actually come with any grilles. This is because:
1. While the grilles are designed to minimize the audible impact, audiophiles know grilles will inherently add some coloration.
2. We wanted listeners to only pay for what they need and make the speakers part of their workspace; and plenty appreciate the bare, industrial look of the exposed BMR1s. But sometimes, you want a cleaner aesthetic—one you can customize. That’s where the grilles come in.
Made of coated steel with an ABS frame, each grille attaches to the BMR1 with a satisfying magnetic click and a sleek form factor. Lightweight yet durable, they provide added protection for the drivers and surfaces of the speakers. But their main function? Personalization. We are working on a number of grille concepts and planning to include the...
Keyboard switch lubricants. If you thought people’s variation in opinions on switches was too wide to pin down a cohesive idea of what is good and what is bad, then you clearly have never tried asking people about their favorite lube for switches. Since the very beginning of modifying mechanical keyboard switches, everyone and anyone who has ever done this, even once, will have the most detailed, intricate, and sworn-too response as to what lubricant goes with what switch, why Brand A is better than Brand B, and so on. As someone who cares way too much about switches and has spent more than his fair share of time modifying them as well, I can with confidence say that 95% of these opinions, deep articles on comparing lubes, and all the niche cases people ascribe to them are actually useless. The vast majority of people wanting to read an article or watch a video about lubing switches likely haven’t spent enough time with them to develop a super informed opinion on them, and I think...
Let’s face it – everything in the world today revolves around brand names. The clothes have to be Supreme or Gucci, the cars have to be Lamborghinis or Porsches, and the cereal better have Toucan Sam on it, or I will go hungry all day. While a lot of these brands have become ingrained into every facet of our lives thanks to social media, television, etc., many people don’t realize just how foreign the appeal of some of these brands would be if we weren’t overly invested in fashion, cars, or breakfast cereals. In much the same way, when people begin stepping into the mechanical keyboard scene they lose complete bearing on what brands represent what. The matter is only further compounded with switches, which have nearly exploded in popularity and number of releases in recent years. So, while I may not be able to give you all of the ins and outs of every single manufacturer out there, here’s an arbitrary amount of the most common brand names in switches that you should be aware of...
Spring has truly sprung here on Drop. We’re more than excited for the season—and for the summer ahead. We have some amazing stuff coming up in the next few months. New headphones, new keyboards, new keycaps, BMR1 speakers arriving… 😉
To celebrate Spring, we wanted to help you clean up—in more ways than one—with our Spring Cleaning 2023 Event.
▪️ Visit our Spring Cleaning 2023 page now! The campaign runs for the rest of the month, ending 11:59 p.m PT 3/31/2023.
▪️ Help us clean a desk, and you’ll get a coupon. Coupons last for one day only and expire at 11:59 p.m. PT.
▪️ Each day you can come back and clean a new desk to reveal a new coupon.
▪️ The coupons vary (there are plenty of them) but here are few examples of what to expect:
▪️ $30 off orders over $200
▪️ 15% off any Audiophile product
▪️ 30% off select keycaps
▪️ Free headphones
▪️ Free switches
▪️ And more!
▪️ While you’re doing some Spring Cleaning with us, join our giveaway at the bottom of the page for a chance to win a...
The Three Categories of Prebuilt Keyboard Switches
While many people joined the mechanical keyboard hobby over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to have been around to see all of the changes that have followed this surge in popularity. One of the undeniably best changes that has come about as a result of the COVID-based surge in mechanical keyboards is the sheer quality and number of prebuilt options that are available on the market today. Whereas back when I first started the hobby, you’d pick up something like an Obins Anne Pro, DAS Keyboard, or maybe even a Leopold, there are now at least a dozen different brands I can think of off of the top of my head besides these three which are still around as well. However, it’s at least evident to me that not all of these mechanical keyboards are created equally. Knowing full well that the hobby can be daunting to those just now joining, I suspect that the nuances between some of these brands may not be the most evident. So, let’s go through a quick rundown of...
For Etymotic, the goal of the EVO shell (and now, the ERX shell) was for a more fluid design with living elements based in nature. The in-concha shape lends itself to the typical Etymotic deep insertion design, while allowing for a lower profile when worn. This helps in situations when worn on stage, or under a helmet, for example. Additionally, routing the cable over the ear helps reduce cable microphonics. The shell itself is injection molded stainless steel and is incredibly robust. It has a pleasant heft to it that can be felt when held in one’s hand, yet all but disappears when worn in the ear.
Tuning the ERX: A Blended ER4XR and EVO Sound
The sonic signature of the ERX is inspired by the ER4XR, but its execution is an amalgamation of the ERX and the EVO. Tonally, it leans towards accuracy, with a slight emphasis at lower frequencies that add just enough weight to the lower frequencies, without encroaching on the upper bass/lower midrange. Vocals are...
Designer of the iconic Solarized theme and storied multi-disciplinarian, Ethan Schoonover, has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the Drop community. In fact, his answers were so thorough that we’ve decided to split them in two—this first post primarily about Ethan himself, and the second focusing on his development of the Solarized theme and the current state of his mech keys interest (spoiler: he has put together some impeccable workstations).
With that being said, let’s get started!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your history - relevant to mech keys or not. We want to get to know the person behind the iconic Solarized design. Where are you from, what is your “day career”, what are your other hobbies and interests? What is something we wouldn’t know about you from reading your About section?
I have a mixed technology and design background. Typical 80s kid story where I taught myself how to code, mixed in with having two professional artists for...
Switch Marketing Terms: What to Know and What to Ignore
If you’re just now stepping into the world of custom mechanical keyboards, or trying to expand your switch catalogue for upcoming builds, all of the phrases you may see on a switch sales page can be confusing. Where more seasoned keyboard veterans might scoff at me for making a claim like this, I can assure you that even after having purchased thousands of switches myself I still come across new, strange ways of vendors trying to sell me switches. While I don’t have the space here to go through every single one of the quirky selling gimmicks I’ve seen over the years, I figure it might be worthwhile to give a loose guide to help people out. So, in this article I’m going to cover the things that you need to both look for and ignore when buying your next set of switches!
Type and Manufacturer
Image Credit: @BMa1
While this may seem an incredibly obvious suggestion to be made as something to look out for it, it isn’t entirely without merit. To new people coming into the...
Among the seemingly countless number of switch options out there, you’ll be surprised to know that the vast majority of them fit cleanly into one of three different categories known as ‘linear’, ‘tactile’, or ‘clicky’. I promise that I am not deceiving you here. Even with all of the different variations in weightings, color schemes, and manufacturing brand names that you see among switch options out there, most of them are one of these three main types. (Hint: That’s why DROP breaks down their switch options into those three categories.)
As to what the distinguishing features of each of the three main types of switches are, simply know that these are used to differentiate the sound and/or feeling between each switch. Additionally, some of the variations that you’ll see within each of these three main types may further provide some context as to how these switches are different from normal linears, tactiles, or clickies. So, without much more delay, let’s go ahead and walk through...
You’ve met the man behind Solarized already, but we haven’t yet delved into the theme itself (or where Ethan’s keyboard journey has taken him). Let’s take a look at the second half of Ethan’s responses to our questions as he gives us a peek behind the curtain at Solarized—and the state of his current keyboard collection.
How many different iterations has the Solarized theme gone through before arriving at its current state? Would you be willing to share some early-stage work in progress versions with the readers?
I spent months on it—REAL months of churning through design variants, testing in different lighting conditions, playing with different color models. It was grueling, but I could see the end result I wanted from the very beginning.
A bit of trivia that I don’t think I’ve published elsewhere is that it was originally called Janus (after the Roman god with two faces), but I realized right before I released it that there was another unrelated code project that used...
Why a 3.5-Millimeter Input?
This tried-and-true input is still valid today. While it may seem old-fashioned, the 3.5-millimeter input (also known as the stereo mini jack) scores high on both versatility and sound quality. It allows for a wider variety of connections of both modern and vintage sources of music. The majority of computers and laptops still have a 3.5-millimeter analog output, which can send a high quality signal straight into the BMR1. This analog input also allows the speakers to be connected with other sources that use an analog output—such as turntables, CD players, and tape decks—with the use of a preamplifier needed to attenuate the signal. To this day, the 3.5-millimeter jack remains both incredibly scalable and versatile, despite its seemingly old-school design.
A Word on Power
Despite their diminutive size, the BMR1 speakers play loud. In order to get a soundstage that really envelopes the listener, we’ve made sure that BMR1’s amplifier has enough...
Earning a spot in the name of our BMR1 Desktop Speakers, BMR Drivers are the driving force behind the sound—and size—of these cutting-edge workspace staples. So, what are BMR Drivers? Let’s start with the technical explanation, from a white paper by their manufacturer: Tectonic Audio.
Ever since the first drive unit design (patented by Rice and Kellogg in 1925), loudspeaker drive units have been steadily evolving with improved materials, refined motor design, and modern manufacturing techniques. However, many of the component parts of a modern day loudspeaker are still very similar to those used in the original 1920s prototype.
Of all these components, it could be argued that the most critical is the diaphragm, as it provides the interface between the induced mechanical vibrations and the resulting acoustic pressure waves that we hear.
Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) technology provides a novel approach to diaphragm design that addresses two significant limitations of conventional...
The Mitolet violet color is a result of a sampling mistake during one of MiTo’s projects, but the color turned out to be so beautiful in real life that he decided to include it with the Pulse SA R3 project. The design became a hit and Pulse GMK kit wouldn’t be complete without an extra versatile and compact kit - the Mitolet, which includes MiTo’s mysterious XX) face design and universal keycaps to suit almost all ortholinear, 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL and custom keyboards.
Having already discussed some of the early things to consider in the world of mechanical keyboards, it seems appropriate to take a step back and answer the obvious question - why should I even care about mechanical keyboards in the first place? This might be a solved problem to some of us, but if you’re stumbling across this early in your discovery of the mech keys hobby, you’ve come to the right place.
Why should I care so much about my keyboard?
Back when I first joined the hobby, the prevailing sales pitch for mechanical keyboards was “why would you spend $1,000 on a custom PC build only to use a $10 cheapo keyboard as your main physical interface with the computer?” While this argument has become a bit of a cliche and fallen out of favor, there is still some truth to the argument. And once you’ve decided to upgrade your keyboard from the pack-in/freebie model, you’re faced with a decision about what to move to. Do you get a nicer (probably ‘gamer’) membrane keyboard? Or do you...