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The Who's Who of Switch Manufacturers

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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 before making your first switch purchases. Cherry
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Cherry has always been the de-facto starting point for switches. On the individual level, I would say a vast majority of the people in the hobby  likely started out on switches such as Cherry MX Blues or Cherry MX Browns before falling deep into the rabbit hole. On a grand scale, though, the entire “MX Style” of switches was first conceived by Cherry and was solely their intellectual property until the patent for the design lapsed in 2014. While literally every other brand below has sprung up from this initial switch design in recent years, Cherry has still managed to hang in there and even garner some renewed interest in 2022 and 2023 with releases of Cherry MX Ergo Clears and ‘New Nixies’. Some examples of Cherry MX switches, ranging from common to exotic, include Cherry MX Reds, Cherry MX Blacks, Cherry MX Browns, Cherry MX Whites, Cherry MX Clicky Greys, Cherry MX Locks, Nixdorf Cherry MX Nixies, and Hirose Cherry Oranges. Gateron
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One of the earliest manufacturers to jump onto the MX footprint following the lapsing of the Cherry patent, Gateron has been one of the longest running custom switch manufacturers in the hobby that exists today. Recognized for their KS-X naming scheme, Gateron has created their own versions of all the Cherry classics as well as the Gateron Yellows in a wide variety of housing combinations and designs over the years. While more recent newcomers to the hobby may recognize Gateron for their more custom offerings such as Gateron Inks, Drop Holy Panda X, and the Keychron Gateron Phantom line, the classic Gateron switches are nothing to sleep on. (This is even doubly so given the improvements that they made in production in 2022!) Examples of Gateron switches, ranging from common to exotic, include Gateron Ink Black, Gateron KS-8 Yellow, Zealios switches, RAMA Works Ducks, Gateron Vemillion Birds, original C3 Tangerine switches, FEI Matcha V1/V2, and Gateron Giants. Kailh
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Another one of the earliest brands to jump into the MX footprint alongside Gateron, early Kailh switches were easily recognizable for their clamshell style housings – something which is still around today. However, this is far from the only special designs released by Kailh over the years. Speed switches, Box switches, clickbar clickies, Choc low profile switches, and even the insanely unique stuff being released by Novelkeys in 2022 and 2023 are all proof of just how far Kailh has pushed and will continue to push the MX switch footprint in time. Kailh also showed early interest in making customized runs of switches and so there are a lot of Kailh switches that have been released since just 2016. Examples of Kailh switches, ranging from common to exotic, include Kailh Box Whites, Kailh Box Reds, Novelkeys Creams, Kailh Box Jades/Navies, Hako Trues, Kailh Box Robins, Kailh Owls, gChocs, and Glove.studio Bullet/Chimp. Outemu
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While Outemu is as old as Kailh and Gateron, they’ve never quite followed in the same footsteps as the previous two in their design patterns. Rather than tracing the traditional path of Red, Black, Blue, and Brown, the earliest Outemu factory switches included Red, Black, Teal, Purple, Silver, Blue, and Brown in a range of different housings including both clamshell and standard top additions. In more recent years, they have been primarily championed by Gazzew, who many people are aware of for his Boba line of switches. As of late 2022/early 2023, it does appear that Outemu is beginning to branch out more into the custom scene with designs and releases from individuals other than Gazzew. Examples of Outemu switches, ranging from common to exotic, include Gazzew Boba U4, Gazzew Boba U4T, Outemu Blues, Outemu Teals, Outemu ICE switches, Outemu Clear Clickies, and Outemu Alps Mount Blue. TTC
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Oriented more towards eastern markets than western markets, TTC is indisputably a big name in the modern mechanical keyboard switch scene overall. While they did have their earliest releases follow the traditional release paths of Gateron and Kailh, what TTC is most known for today is their dustproof style switches coming in a wide range of colors and varieties. Furthermore, recent releases from Tiger and OG Tiger switches show that TTC is far from running out of steam with respect to designs and will likely have many more interesting switches released in the coming years. Examples of TTC switches, ranging from common to exotic, include TTC Gold Pinks, TTC Bluish Whites, TTC Orange V2 Brown/Red, TTC Wild, TTC Tiger, TTC x HiGround Titan Hearts, TTC Vaticans, and TTC Orange V1 Clickies. Durock/JWK
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For having only thrown their hats in the ring about four years ago as of the time of writing this, its impossible to tell the history of modern mechanical keyboard switches without mentioning Durock/JWK. Coming to the attention of western markets after faking Zealios switches in an incident known as the ‘Stealios Controversy’, Durock/JWK has since reformed their image and has been releasing customized, on demand switches for the better part of the past four years. While more modern competition such as Tecsee has somewhat occupied this market space as well, the vast majority of switches that new people come across today were likely at one point rolling off of a JWK factory line. Examples of Durock/JWK switches, ranging from common to exotic, include C3 x Equalz Tangerine V2s, Alpaca V2s, Novelkeys Silk/Dry, Opblacks, JWICK Ginger Milk, Everglide Pro!s, Marshmallows, and original T1 Nights/Clears. Tecsee
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Last but certainly not least in this list is that of Tecsee. Rising to popularity in the mechanical keyboard scene in similar timing to that of Durock/JWK, Tecsee has taken the current mindset of cranking out on-demand customized switches and mashed it up with some of the inventiveness of Kailh throughout the years. Completely disregarding the slew of different material housings they claim to have made, design features including metal-coated switches, long poled stems, and glitter infused housings are all design features which have been elevated or debuted in Tecsee releases.  Examples of Tecsee switches, ranging from common to exotic, include Kinetic Labs Huskies, Neapolitan Ice Creams, Naevy and Raeds, Dangkeebs’ Ice Milk switches, Tecsee Chrome Gold/Laser, KK Lightwave V1, Cows, and Tecsee Panda samples.
While I wish I could spend the rest of the day and Drop’s article word limit on talking about all of the different switch brands we know of out there today, alas I cannot. Even though this was only a precursory glance of what all is out there, this should be enough to help many newcomers gain some sort of traction in understanding just exactly what they are looking at when buying switches. If you happen to need some more help, perhaps check out the article I wrote on Switch Marketing Terms: What to Know and What to Ignore. Or, if you’re really feeling adventurous, go buy some random brands and try them out!
(Edited)
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SUPER helpful! Thanks boss! 🤜🤛
emty
1
Mar 11, 2023
Where the Akko switches at?! =)
emtyInterestingly, Akko is a brand and not a manufacturer! The vast majority of the switches you would have encountered by Akko were made by KTT, though some have also been made by Gateron.
Slushh
1
Mar 2, 2023
Super fun read thanks for the write up!
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