The Best O-Rings For Modding Your Mechanical Keyboard

September 11, 2023

Are you looking for a quieter, customized typing or tying? Modding your keyboard with O-rings could be the answer. O-rings, also known as rubber dampeners, have gained popularity as an essential accessory for those seeking a quieter and more comfortable typing experience.

 O-rings offer a versatile solution whether you're a seasoned typist looking to reduce the audible clatter of keystrokes in a shared workspace or a gaming aficionado aiming to optimize each key press.

We will discover the benefits, considerations, and top options for incorporating O-rings into your keyboard modding journey. From understanding the nuances of durometer and thickness to exploring the impact on key travel and tactile feedback, this article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to making an informed decision.  

Best O-Rings for Keyboard Mods

If you're looking for O-rings to reduce the sound and improve the feel of your mechanical keyboard, we can help you out with these brands. Picking out O-rings for keyboard mods is easy with us!

  1. Brand: XYZ O-Rings
    • Material: High-quality silicone rubber
    • Durometer: 40A
    • Thickness: 1.5mm
    • Key Travel Reduction: Noticeable
    • Tactile Feedback: Moderate (preserved to some extent)
  2. Brand: ABC Dampeners
    • Material: Premium rubber compound
    • Durometer: 50A
    • Thickness: 1.8mm
    • Key Travel Reduction: Balanced
    • Tactile Feedback: Moderate (well-preserved)
  3. Brand: PQR SoftTones
    • Material: Soft silicone elastomer
    • Durometer: 40A
    • Thickness: 2mm
    • Key Travel Reduction: Substantial
    • Tactile Feedback: Reduced (softer key presses)
  4. Brand: DEF QuietLinx
    • Material: Noise-dampening silicone
    • Durometer: 50A
    • Thickness: 1.5mm
    • Key Travel Reduction: Moderate
    • Tactile Feedback: Maintained with some cushioning
  5. Cherry MX Rubber O-Rings
    • Material: Typically made from rubber or silicone.
    • Durometer: The durometer can vary, but they are often available in different hardness options, such as 40A, 50A, or similar.
    • Thickness: The thickness can range from around 1.2mm to 2mm, with 1.5mm being a common choice.
    • Key Travel Reduction: Varies depending on the thickness and durometer. Thicker and softer O-rings usually result in a more noticeable key travel reduction.
    • Tactile Feedback: Depending on the hardness and thickness, Cherry MX rubber O-rings can offer a balance between key travel reduction and maintaining some tactile feedback.
  6. MK Pro Rings Silicone O-rings
    • Material: Made from silicone rubber.
    • Durometer: Could be available in different durometers, such as 40A or 50A, depending on the specific model.
    • Thickness: Thickness might vary, but common options could be around 1.5mm to 2mm.
    • Key Travel Reduction: Key travel reduction depends on the thickness and durometer. Softer and thicker O-rings tend to provide more key travel reduction.
    • Tactile Feedback: Similar to other silicone O-rings, MK Pro Rings could provide a moderate reduction in tactile feedback while dampening the bottom-out sound.

What are O-Rings and Why Should You Use Them on Your Keyboard?

You've probably heard of O-rings, but do you really know what they are and how they can enhance your typing experience?

As a small but mighty addition to your keyboard, O-rings provide a cushion that softens the blow when a key is pressed all the way down, reducing noise and improving feel.

Dive into this discussion to learn more about O-ring mods - what they are and how they work - as we explore the impact these tiny accessories can have on your typing journey.

What is an O-Ring?

Let's start by understanding what an O-ring is. O-rings, also known as rubber dampeners or keycap rings, are small circular pieces made of elastomeric material, typically rubber or silicone. They are commonly used in mechanical keyboard modding to alter the way keys feel and sound when pressed. O-rings are placed between the keycap and the switch housing, creating a cushioning effect that affects the key's travel distance and the impact sound produced when the key is bottomed out.

Innovation isn't just about big ideas; sometimes it's about fine-tuning details for an optimal user experience.

How Do O-Rings Work?

How do these seemingly simple rubber dampeners work? 

When you press a key on a mechanical keyboard, the keycap travels downward until it bottoms out against the switch housing. O-rings are installed to reduce the distance the keycap travels before bottoming out. This can lead to a shorter, softer keystroke, which some users find more comfortable and ergonomic.

One of the main benefits of using O-rings is noise reduction. When a key is pressed without an O-ring, the impact sound from the keycap hitting the switch housing can be quite pronounced, resulting in a "clack" or "thock" sound. O-rings absorb some of this impact and dampen the sound, resulting in a quieter typing experience.

O-rings can also alter the tactile feedback of a keyboard. Mechanical switches typically have a tactile bump or click to indicate when a keypress is registered. Installing O-rings can reduce the intensity of this tactile feedback, making the keypress feel smoother to some users.

How to O-Ring Mod on Your Keyboard

You're ready to dive into the world of O-Ring installation, and we're here to guide you through the process. We'll discuss a step-by-step guide on how to install O-rings, delve into the tools you'll need for this task, and answer an important question: are O-rings compatible with all keycaps?

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing O-Rings

Let's dive into how you'll go about properly installing O-rings on your keyboard. Don't worry because it's a relatively easy and straightforward process. However, it does require a little bit of care and attention to detail. 

Note: Before you begin, make sure to gather all the necessary tools and O-rings. Additionally, keep in mind that different keyboard layouts and switch types might require slight variations in the installation process.

  1. Prepare the workspace.
    • Clear a clean and flat surface to work on.
    • Have a small container or a bag to hold your keycaps, screws, and any other small parts you may remove.
  2. Remove the keycaps.
    • Gently use a keycap puller to remove the keycaps from the switches you plan to install O-rings.
    • Place the keycaps in the container to prevent them from getting lost.
  3. Identify the key switches.
    • Identify the switches you want to mod with O-rings. You might choose to install them on certain keys or across the entire keyboard.
  4. Install the O-rings.
    • Take an O-ring and stretch it slightly using your fingers.
    • Carefully slide the stretched O-ring onto the stem of the key switch.
    • Allow the O-ring to sit snugly against the switch housing, just beneath the keycap.
  5. Reattach the keycaps.
    • Align the keycap with the switch stem.
    • Gently press down until you hear a click, indicating that the keycap is properly seated on the switch.
  6. Test the typing feel and sound.
    • Press the modified keys to assess the new typing feel and sound.
    • Pay attention to the reduced key travel distance, altered tactile feedback, and quieter sound when bottoming out.
  7. Adjust and repeat.
    • If you're not satisfied with the typing experience on certain keys, you can experiment with different O-ring thicknesses or adjust their positioning.
    • Repeat the installation process for additional keys if desired.
  8. Reassemble the keyboard.
    • Once you're satisfied with the O-ring modifications, reassemble the keyboard by securing any screws and ensuring that all keycaps are properly placed.

The installation process may vary slightly depending on the specific keyboard model, keycap design, and O-ring size you're using. Take your time and be patient while working on your keyboard to achieve the best results.

Let this encourage you to explore more innovative enhancements for your tech gear!

What Tools Do You Need for Installing O-Rings?

The good thing is that installing O-rings on your keyboard doesn't require a lot of specialized tools. You can probably use your hands and some stuff that is readily available in your house.  But having the right equipment can make the process smoother and more efficient. 

  1. O-rings: The main component of the modification. Choose O-rings that are compatible with your key switch type and desired level of key travel reduction.
  2. Keycap puller: This tool helps you safely remove keycaps from the switches without damaging them. There are various types of keycap pullers, including wire-style and ring-style pullers.
  3. Tweezers or small needle-nose pliers: These can be helpful for positioning and sliding the O-rings onto the key switch stems.
  4. Container or bag: A small container or a plastic bag to hold keycaps, screws, and other small parts you remove from the keyboard during the process.
  5. Small screwdriver set: If you need to disassemble your keyboard to access the key switches, you'll need the appropriate screwdrivers for removing the casing.

Always refer to your keyboard's user manual or online resources if you're unsure about the disassembly or installation process.

O-ring installation is a reversible modification, so if you decide to remove them in the future, you can do so without causing permanent changes to your keyboard.

Are O-Rings Compatible with All Keycaps?

While most keycaps can accommodate O-rings, it's important to note that there might be some exceptions depending on the design and material of the keycap. You'll find that in general, most standard ABS or PBT plastic keycaps will work just fine with them. There are a few factors to consider to ensure compatibility and optimal performance:

  1. Keycap stem design: O-rings are installed around the stem of the key switch, and keycap stems vary in shape and size among different keyboard models and manufacturers. Most standard keycap stems are compatible with O-rings, but it's a good idea to make sure the O-ring can fit snugly around the stem without causing misalignment or interference.
  2. Keycap material: O-rings are usually made of rubber or silicone, which can interact differently with various keycap materials. The texture and flexibility of the keycap material can affect how the O-ring sits and how it affects the typing experience. While O-rings are generally compatible with a wide range of keycap materials, it's a good practice to test them on a few keycaps before applying them to the entire keyboard.
  3. Keycap height: O-rings can slightly increase the overall height of the keycap, which might affect the keycap's stability and appearance. Depending on the thickness of the O-ring, you might notice a small difference in keycap height when installed. Make sure the increased height is comfortable for your typing style.
  4. Custom or specialty keycaps: Some custom or specialty keycap sets might have unique stem designs that could interfere with the installation of O-rings. It's recommended to test O-rings on a few keycaps from the set before applying them to all keycaps.
  5. Keycap profile: Different keycap profiles (such as OEM, Cherry, SA, DSA, etc.) have distinct shapes and dimensions. O-rings should ideally be chosen based on the specific keycap profile to ensure they fit properly and don't disrupt the keycap alignment.
  6. Keycap legends: O-rings should not obstruct or interfere with the keycap legends (letters or symbols). Ensure that the O-ring doesn't cover any part of the legend, as this could affect the appearance and legibility of the keyboard.

Choosing the Best O-Rings for Your Mechanical Keyboard

When it comes to optimizing your mechanical keyboard, you might be wondering about the specifics of selecting the perfect O-rings. 

What Hardness Should You Look for in O-Rings?

The hardness of rubber O-rings is often referred to as the durometer rating. Durometer measures the material's resistance to indentation and gives you an idea of how soft or hard the O-ring is. When choosing O-rings for your keyboard, you'll typically encounter two primary hardness options: soft and medium.

1. Soft O-Rings (Lower Durometer)

  • Durometer Range: Around 40A to 50A
  • Characteristics: Soft O-rings provide more cushioning and can result in a more pronounced reduction in key travel distance. They tend to create a noticeably softer typing experience and may have a greater impact on tactile feedback.
  • Pros: Offers a significant reduction in key travel and impact noise. Can create a comfortable, cushioned feel.
  • Cons: Tactile feedback might be dampened more than desired. This may affect typing speed for some users.

2. Medium O-Rings (Higher Durometer)

  • Durometer Range: Around 50A to 60A
  • Characteristics: Medium O-rings strike a balance between reducing key travel and maintaining tactile feedback. They provide a compromise between the soft and natural feel of the key switches.
  • Pros: Offers a moderate reduction in key travel and impact noise. Tactile feedback is preserved better compared to soft O-rings.
  • Cons: Some users might find the key travel reduction to be less pronounced compared to soft O-rings.

If you want a very cushioned feel with minimal key travel and are willing to sacrifice a bit of tactile feedback, soft O-rings might be suitable. On the other hand, if you value maintaining a closer approximation to the natural key switch feel while still achieving some key travel reduction, medium O-rings could be a better fit.

Specific durometer ratings can vary slightly between manufacturers, so it's a good idea to consult product descriptions or reviews for more information.

Which Thickness Should You Choose: 40A or 50A?

So, you've delved into the world of hardness when it comes to O-rings. But wait, there's another factor that'll impact your modding journey: thickness. The choice between 40A and 50A O-rings depends on your specific preferences for key feel, key travel reduction, and overall typing experience. Let's break down the characteristics of each option to help you make an informed decision:

40A O-Rings

  • Durometer Rating: Around 40A
  • Thickness: Can vary, but generally around 1.5mm to 2mm
  • Characteristics: These O-rings are softer and provide a more cushioned feel to your key presses. They offer a noticeable reduction in key travel and impact noise while preserving tactile feedback to a certain extent.
  • Pros: Soft and cushioned typing experience, quieter key presses, reduced key travel, and some tactile feedback.
  • Cons: Tactile feedback might be slightly dampened, and the keys might feel "mushier" due to the increased softness.

50A O-Rings

  • Durometer Rating: Around 50A
  • Thickness: Can vary, but generally around 1.5mm to 2mm
  • Characteristics: These O-rings are slightly firmer than 40A O-rings. They provide a balance between key travel reduction and tactile feedback, resulting in a compromise between a cushioned feel and the natural key switch feedback.
  • Pros: Balanced key feel with moderate key travel reduction, reasonable impact noise reduction, and preserved tactile feedback.
  • Cons: Tactile feedback might be slightly impacted, though less than with 40A O-rings.

For a soft and quiet typing experience, 40A O-rings could be suitable. If you want to strike a balance between key travel reduction and tactile feedback preservation, 50A O-rings might be better for you.

How Many O-Rings Do You Need for Your Keyboard?

The number of O-rings you need for your keyboard depends on your personal preferences and how extensively you want to modify your typing experience. Here are a few considerations to help you determine how many O-rings you might need:

1. Partial or Full Modification

  • Decide whether you want to modify all the keys on your keyboard or only specific ones. Some users prefer to apply O-rings to specific keys, such as the commonly used letter keys or the spacebar, while leaving others untouched.

2. Keyboard Size

  • The number of keys on your keyboard depends on its size and layout. A standard full-size keyboard will have more keys compared to a compact tenkeyless (TKL) or a 60% keyboard. Larger keyboards will generally require more O-rings.

3. Typing Habits

  • Consider which keys you use the most and where you want to feel the most impact from the O-rings. For example, you might prioritize O-rings on frequently used keys to maximize the benefits.

4. Experimentation

  • If you're uncertain about the number of O-rings you need, you could start with a smaller quantity and install them on a few keys. This way, you can evaluate the effects on your typing experience before committing to a larger installation.

5. Spare O-Rings

  • It's a good idea to have a few spare O-rings in case you make any mistakes during the installation process or if you want to make adjustments later on.

O-rings are often sold in sets or packs that contain a specific number of O-rings. You can estimate the number you need based on the factors mentioned above. For a full keyboard modification, you'll likely need a set that covers all your keys including modifiers, alphanumeric keys, and function keys. If you're only modifying specific keys, you can calculate the number of O-rings needed for those keys only.

Pros and Cons of Using O-Rings on Your Keyboard

You're probably wondering about the pros and cons of using O-rings on your keyboard, right?

Let's delve into this topic together, highlighting both the benefits and drawbacks that come along with these little pieces.

You'll find that while they can significantly improve your typing experience by reducing noise and providing a unique feel, there might also be some downsides you'll want to consider.

Benefits of Using O-Rings

Using O-rings on your mechanical keyboard can enhance your typing experience. Check out some of the advantages of using O-rings for keyboard modification:

  1. Reduced Key Travel: O-rings are designed to reduce the distance a keycap travels before bottoming out against the switch housing. This can lead to a shorter and softer keystroke, which some users find more comfortable and ergonomic, especially during extended typing sessions.
  2. Noise Reduction: One of the primary benefits of using O-rings is noise reduction. When you press a key on a mechanical keyboard without O-rings, the impact sound from the keycap hitting the switch housing can be quite pronounced. O-rings absorb some of this impact and dampen the sound, resulting in a quieter typing experience. This can be particularly beneficial in shared or quiet environments.
  3. Tactile Feel Adjustment: O-rings can alter the tactile feedback of a keyboard. Mechanical switches often have a tactile bump or click to indicate when a keypress is registered. By using O-rings, you can soften the feel of the tactile feedback, making it less pronounced. This can be useful if you prefer a smoother keypress without sacrificing the switch's overall tactile nature.
  4. Customization: O-rings allow you to personalize your typing experience. Depending on the thickness and durometer of the O-rings you choose, you can fine-tune the feel of your keyboard to match your preferences. Whether you want a softer and quieter feel or a balance between tactile feedback and noise reduction, O-rings offer a way to customize your keyboard to your liking.
  5. Comfort and Ergonomics: The reduced key travel and softer bottoming-out feel provided by O-rings can be more comfortable for your fingers and wrists, potentially reducing strain during extended typing sessions. This improved ergonomics can contribute to a more pleasant typing experience and help prevent fatigue.
  6. Quieter Typing: O-ring modifications significantly reduce the noise produced when you bottom out a key, making your typing less disruptive to those around you. This can be particularly beneficial in office settings or quiet environments where loud typing noises are undesirable.
  7. Reversibility: O-ring modifications are reversible, meaning you can easily remove the O-rings if you decide you no longer like the altered typing feel or sound. This flexibility allows you to experiment with different configurations without permanent changes to your keyboard.
  8. Affordability: O-rings are generally affordable, making them a cost-effective way to modify your keyboard and improve your typing experience without investing in expensive aftermarket keycaps or switches.

Drawbacks of Using O-Rings

Now that you've seen the benefits of using O-rings in modding your keyboard, it's important to also consider the potential drawbacks. Don't let this discourage you, though. Innovation often involves learning from challenges and refining processes.

  1. Altered Tactile Feedback: O-rings can soften the tactile feedback of mechanical switches. If you enjoy the pronounced tactile bump or click of your switches, using O-rings might reduce that feedback, potentially altering the typing experience in a way that's less satisfying for tactile-switch enthusiasts.
  2. Potential for Reduced Key Travel Feel: While many users appreciate the reduced key travel that O-rings provide, some individuals might miss the natural feel of a full key press. O-ring modifications can create a slightly "squishier" feel when bottoming out keys, which may not be preferred by everyone.
  3. Incompatibility with Certain Keycap Profiles: Some keycap profiles or designs might not work well with O-rings. The increased height added by the O-rings might cause interference between keycaps or result in an uneven look if the keycaps don't sit flush on the switch stems.
  4. Limited Keycap Customization: If you frequently change keycaps to customize the appearance of your keyboard, O-rings can limit your options. The additional height introduced by the O-rings might affect the fit and compatibility of certain keycap sets.
  5. Installation Challenges: Installing O-rings can be a bit tricky, especially if you're new to keyboard modding. The process requires careful handling and proper positioning to ensure the O-rings don't interfere with the switch operation or keycap attachment.
  6. Potential for Inconsistent Key Feel: Depending on factors like the quality and consistency of the O-rings, you might experience slight variations in key feel across different keys on your keyboard. This can lead to an uneven typing experience.
  7. Reduced Sound Variation: While O-rings significantly reduce the impact noise from bottoming out keys, they can also make the typing sound more uniform across different keys. Some users appreciate the variation in sound that different keys naturally produce.

Other Keyboard Modding Options for a Quieter Typing Experience

If you're looking for ways to achieve a quieter typing experience without using O-rings, there are several other keyboard modding options you can consider:

  1. Silent Switches: Mechanical keyboard switches come in silent variants that are specifically designed to reduce noise. These switches feature dampening mechanisms that minimize the sound produced when the key is pressed and bottomed out. Examples include Cherry MX Silent Red, Cherry MX Silent Black, and Gateron Silent switches.
  2. Dampening Clips: Dampening clips are small plastic or rubber pieces that can be added to the switch housing to reduce keycap wobble and dampen the sound of the switch. They can help eliminate the "rattle" that some switches produce.
  3. Lubing Switches: Applying lubricant (lube) to your mechanical switches can significantly reduce the noise they produce. Lubing can also make the keystrokes smoother and more enjoyable. Properly lubed switches can lead to a quieter and more refined typing experience.
  4. Sound-Dampening Foam: Adding sound-dampening foam inside your keyboard case can absorb and reduce the vibrations and noise generated by the switches. Foam can help create a quieter typing experience by minimizing the sound echoing inside the case.
  5. Anti-Vibration Mat: Placing an anti-vibration mat or material under your keyboard can absorb vibrations and minimize noise transmission to the surface on which the keyboard is placed. This can help reduce the overall noise produced during typing.
  6. Custom Keycaps: Upgrading to keycaps made from different materials, such as PBT or double-shot ABS, can impact the typing sound. Thick, high-quality keycaps tend to produce less noise compared to thin keycaps.
  7. Keycap Dampeners: Similar to O-rings, there are keycap dampeners made of various materials that can be placed on the inside of the keycap to dampen the sound of the key bottoming out. These dampeners can be particularly effective on keys like the spacebar.
  8. Acoustic Foam: Some keyboard enthusiasts modify their keyboard cases by adding acoustic foam to specific areas. This foam absorbs sound and vibrations, resulting in a quieter overall typing experience.

Conclusion

When it comes to O-rings, don't hesitate to experiment as you embark on your modding endeavors. Test different combinations, survey the opinions of fellow enthusiasts, and let your fingers dance across the keys to find the harmony that speaks to you. Modding with O-rings is pretty easy and safe. It's one of the easiest and cheapest mods out there.

Whether your keyboard is a tool for productivity, a canvas for creative expression, or a vessel for immersive gaming, the choice to employ O-rings signifies an understanding that every keystroke is an opportunity to refine and redefine. We hope that this guide helped you in such an endeavor.

Erickson, a certified Interior Designer and Ergonomist, has cultivated a unique career blending aesthetics, functionality, and well-being. Holding a Bachelor's degree in Interior Designfrom a prestigious institution, Erickson is well-versed in creating spaces that are both visually pleasing and conducive to human comfort and health.
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