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Switch Myths That Aren't Actually True!

As someone who has been writing documentation in the mechanical keyboard hobby space for many years now, I can say with utter confidence that there’s a lot of misinformation still floating around the hobby today. While some portion of these claims and community-wide thoughts can be traced back to dubious videos or posts that may as well have been carved into stone line by line, a good amount of the strange ideas still permeating throughout the hobby have come passed down in the form of community wisdom. Surely you recall your friend who got you into keyboards telling you to ‘Just do X’ or ‘Stay away from Y because of Z’, right? More likely than not, that is the same wisdom that their friend who got them into the hobby first shared with them several years ago. As you can probably put together, this mechanical keyboard-themed telephone game has led to quite some prolific ideas being spread over the years that are completely detached from reality. These tall tales, blatant lies, and bogus claims especially go deep into mechanical keyboard switches given how simplistically people think of them and how little documentation there has been on MX-style switches over the years. In case you don’t believe me, let’s see if you hold any of these switch myths as absolute truths: -1. You can tell if Cherry MX Blacks are vintage just by their nameplates!

Figure 1: Don't fall for this trap - even the switch on the left can be from some "vintage" Cherry keyboards!
If I had a dollar for every time that I’ve had someone claim to me that they can tell if Cherry MX switches were vintage or not based solely on their nameplates, I’d be able to buy all of us reading this article true Vintage MX Blacks for all of our keyboards. While it is true that some nameplates are more ubiquitous than others among truly vintage MX switches, Cherry has never deliberately made a hard cutoff date for the last usage of certain nameplates nor any documentation supporting this fact. The newest ‘bubble letter’ style of nameplates in Cherry MX switches as of 2022 clearly were not around back in 1980’s keyboards so those can be ruled out easily, but no official documentation clearly delineates when Cherry made any of their changes to their switches, nameplates included. In fact, old Cherry documentation practices were so poor that current day employees have almost no idea about their oldest product lines or any way to research them internally. The only way you can verify if a switch like an MX Brown or MX Black is truly vintage is to know the production date of the keyboard they were being harvested from! -2. Gold springs have a much better sound in my switches than silver ones.

Figure 2: Examples of three different types of stock switch springs from my personal Beginner's Guide to Switches.
Back in the day before the flood of custom colored and manufactured switches hit the community, gold plated/colored springs were one of the hottest trends in switch modifications. Even packed directly into the very first community-made switches in the Zealios V1s, a lot of older mechanical keyboard community members will recall people swearing up and down that gold springs created less ping, sounded better, and were more than worth the extra few dollars over some standard, boring, and cheap silver/metal springs. But much like with many preference-based things when it comes to switches, there has never been absolutely any proof or experimental results that I’ve came across that support that gold springs are always better than silver ones 100% of the time. Even in my own switch testing that I’ve done for years now, I simply can not find any noticeable differences in the sound of all gold springs that isn’t or is there uniformly in silver/aluminum ones. Can you still argue that gold springs look cooler in all-clear switch housings? Absolutely, but you’re lying to yourself if you think there’s a performance difference! -3. Linear switches are better for typing / Tactile switches are better for gaming.

Figure 3: Perfectly topical photo from Drop user Cathoga!
I remember sitting down all the way back in early 2017 to purchase my very first mechanical keyboard and being told something effectively the same as this claim by my gaming buddy who had a mechanical keyboard. Flash forward six years and thousands of switches later and the amount that I still hear this claim from beginners trying to cobble together their first builds is absolutely shocking to me. There is no one switch that is better for a certain activity or keyboard usage than another. There may be switches that you would prefer for gaming sessions over long, drawn out typing sessions, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better from a performance perspective. To kill two birds with one stone, as well, speed switches are not necessarily better for gaming because they are “faster” than their regular counterparts. Largely, ‘speed’ switches simply have a shorter stem travel distance to register a keystroke than full switches. While this in theory may make it sound like you could register off your League of Legends ultimate just that much faster, the amount of time you would save from a fraction of a millimeter gained in travel distance of your switch isn’t likely going to make or break your chances of getting to the professional scene. I don’t care how good you think your keyboard’s switches are – they are not going to make you able to turret dive a 1 vs. 3. -4. All linear switches are basically the same, so it doesn't matter which you buy!

Figure 4: If they truly are the same, why would they sell switch testers that are like 40% linear switches?
Having reviewed and collected hundreds of different linears over the years, hearing takes like these from beginners makes me extremely sad on the inside. While the people who push this claim do have some point in that the mechanism of action in linear switches are largely the same across various brands and types, this absolutely ignores all the variations in linear switch designs that do exist. Different spring weights and types, different housing materials and thicknesses, and even a slew of brand-new silencing mechanisms all can drastically change how a linear switch sounds and feels and can make two similar keyboards feel incredibly different. That doesn’t even consider the fact there’s over a dozen different switch manufacturers these days which have their own internal and external switch designs! Trust me, your Cherry MX Blacks do not sound and feel like your Gateron KS-3 Yellows, nor do they come anywhere close to your C3 x Equalz Tangerine V2 switches. Anyone that tells you that they do feel basically the same is dead wrong.
Hopefully you didn’t catch yourself having spread some of these switch myths around during your time in the mechanical keyboard hobby. If you have, though, take this as a learning opportunity! As I mentioned at the start, there’s been a lot of historical knowledge and wisdom about keyboards passed down by way of oral tradition rather than in documents or videos, and it’s really hard to correct for that kind of ingrained community belief. To be fair, even I am guilty of having believed a few of these when I first started getting into the hobby myself. However, if you’re new to all of this and wanting to start out on the right foot, you should probably go read some more of my guides about switches to make sure you don’t get tricked by any incorrect takes out there. ‘The Secret Beginner’s Guide to Switch Lube’ is a good one to choose if you think you may want to modify switches, and the ‘Switch Marketing Terms: What to Know and What to Ignore’ is great if you’re thinking about picking up any switches soon! (edit: formatting)
(Edited by moderator Jyri_Drop)

Aug 26, 2023
Nice write up as alway Goat!
Aug 23, 2023
Great article and exposes some of the sillier myths. The one you forgot is "linear are nice and quiet for the office and clicky is too loud". I keep seeing videos to demonstrate "switch" sound but they are all largely meaningless. I have the same Kailh Box White "clicky" switches in 5 keyboards. They all sound utterly different, ranging from near silent to significant clatter, with the delta being the cases and keycaps. The keyboard with Signature Plastics G20 (thick tops/skirts) and a case that is essentially a switch plate with feet is the one that is near silent. My wife's Glorious TKL with medium grade caps with thinner skirts is very loud.
Aug 23, 2023
One thing that I wish was mentioned was cost based perception bias. So many folks get hung up on some new $$$ item or time intensive mod while ignoring if it's actually making an appreciable difference. As a hobby we spend so much time futzing over personal opinion rather than looking at what is actually empirically different between switches. The best thing I ever did in this hobby was look at force curves for switches I liked and didn't like to figure out exactly what I appreciate. It's gotten me much more dialed in on what I actually enjoy in a switch vs wasting time on every new switch that comes out.
metisYes! While I do have some expensive keyboards and switches that I like a lot, I have some much less expensive ones that I like just as much. One of my favorite recent switches costs $0.20, and one of my favorite keyboards to type on cost me $40 (on sale tbf) as a bare-bones kit. All-told, that entire build cost less than my jar full of hipster clicky switches.
Sep 10, 2023
DeadeyeDavehipster clicky switches, lol.
they are not going to make you able to turret dive a 1 vs. 3 Yeah says you. I will feed if I want to
"Linear switches are better for typing / Tactile switches are better for gaming" Funny seeing this one in the list, as the recommendation was literally the opposite when I first joined the hobby. 😂 Really goes to show how much of the "X is best for Y" comes down to not only personal preference but also the current keyboard zeitgeist.
Aug 23, 2023
HoffmanMysterExactly, I remember this being inverted when I got into mechanical keyboards too. I wasn’t even aware the popular mindset had flipped the other direction now a days. Personal preference should be all that ever matters, but as long as something is popular there will always be trends within it. Therefore there will always be people who select the trend over their own preference just to keep up with the Joneses. Which is fine too tbh, but it does new hobbyist’s trying to learn a disservice.
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