For enthusiasts and professionals, the feel and sound of typing on a mechanical keyboard are not just functional aspects. These are auditory art forms that inspire passion and dedication. However, this audible joy can sometimes turn into a cacophony in shared spaces or quiet environments. Users then look for the perfect balance between the mechanical switch experience and a quieter typing ambiance.
This article delves into the realm of sound dampening, where DIY meets the symphony of keystrokes. It explores the various aspects of selecting the ideal sound dampening foam for mechanical keyboards, shedding light on the characteristics, sound-dampening qualities, and factors to consider when making this critical decision.
From the viscoelastic properties of Sorbothane to the flexibility of neoprene foam and the resilient nature of Poron, we embark on a journey to discover how different materials can shape the auditory landscape of mechanical keyboards via a simple keyboard mod.
Types of Sound Dampening Foam
One of the most common ways for sound reduction is foam dampening. It's effective and easy to do.
Each type has its own unique benefits and ways to improve the sound of your keyboard. Which one is for you? Poron, sorbothane, or neoprene foam? Let's delve into these types of foam for keyboards.
1. Sorbothane Foam
Sorbothane foam is a highly effective sound-dampening material known for its viscoelastic properties, flexibility, and durability. It excels at isolating vibrations, absorbing shock, reducing noise, and controlling resonances, making it an ideal choice for improving the acoustic comfort of mechanical keyboards.
Viscoelastic properties: Sorbothane is a viscoelastic material, meaning it exhibits both viscous (fluid-like) and elastic (solid-like) properties. This combination allows it to dissipate energy and absorb vibrations effectively.
Soft and flexible: Sorbothane foam is soft and pliable, making it easy to shape and install. It conforms to irregular surfaces, which is advantageous when fitting it into mechanical keyboard cases or between keyboard components.
High density: It has a relatively high density, which contributes to its excellent sound-dampening capabilities. The density of Sorbothane foam can vary depending on the specific application and requirements.
Durable: Sorbothane is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear. It can withstand repeated compressions and maintain its sound-dampening properties over an extended period.
Sound-Dampening Qualities of Sorbothane Foam
Vibration isolation: Sorbothane excels at isolating vibrations and preventing them from transferring between surfaces. In a mechanical keyboard, it can effectively dampen the vibrations generated by keypresses, resulting in a quieter typing experience.
Shock absorption: It has the ability to absorb and dissipate shock energy. This is particularly important in applications where impacts or sudden forces are involved, as Sorbothane helps prevent reverberations and noise caused by impacts.
Noise reduction: Sorbothane significantly reduces the noise generated by keypresses in mechanical keyboards. When placed strategically within the keyboard case or under keycaps, it absorbs the sound energy produced during typing, resulting in a quieter and more pleasant typing experience.
Resonance control: Sorbothane can effectively control and dampen resonances, which are unwanted vibrations that can lead to a ringing or echoing sound. This is crucial in minimizing the reverberation of sound within the keyboard case.
Customization: Sorbothane foam can be cut and shaped to fit specific keyboard layouts and designs. This allows users to tailor the sound-dampening solution to their individual preferences and keyboard models.
Longevity: Sorbothane's durability ensures that its sound-dampening qualities remain effective over time, providing consistent noise reduction and vibration control throughout the keyboard's lifespan.
Whether used as a dampening layer inside your keyboard case or applied directly to keycaps, Sorbothane foam can significantly enhance the typing experience by creating a quieter and more enjoyable environment for users and those around them.
2. Poron Foam
Poron foam is another material commonly used for sound dampening, particularly in mechanical keyboards and various electronic devices. It has several characteristics and sound-dampening qualities that make it quite as good for reducing noise and vibrations.
High compressibility: Poron foam is highly compressible, which means it can be easily compressed or deformed under pressure. This characteristic is advantageous for conforming to irregular surfaces and components within mechanical keyboards.
Resilience: Despite its compressibility, Poron foam retains its shape and properties after compression. It quickly rebounds to its original form when pressure is removed, ensuring long-lasting sound-dampening performance.
Closed-cell structure: Poron foam typically has a closed-cell structure, which means its cells are sealed and not interconnected. This structure contributes to its excellent sealing and sound-isolating properties.
Low Compression Set: Poron foam is known for having a low compression set, which means it maintains its thickness and elasticity over time, even after repeated compression cycles. This ensures consistent sound-dampening performance.
Sound-Dampening Qualities of Poron Foam
Vibration isolation: Poron foam effectively isolates and absorbs vibrations, preventing them from transferring between surfaces. In a mechanical keyboard, it helps dampen the vibrations generated by keypresses, reducing the transmission of noise.
Shock absorption: Poron foam has good shock-absorbing properties, making it suitable for applications where impacts or sudden forces may occur. It absorbs and disperses shock energy, reducing the potential for noise caused by impacts.
Noise reduction: When used strategically within a mechanical keyboard, Poron foam can significantly reduce the noise produced during typing. It absorbs sound energy, diminishing the acoustic signature of keypresses and resulting in a quieter typing experience.
Resonance control: Poron foam can help control resonances within electronic devices and mechanical keyboards. It minimizes the risk of unwanted vibrations and the subsequent ringing or echoing sounds associated with resonances.
Customizable: Poron foam can be easily cut and shaped to fit specific keyboard layouts and designs. This flexibility allows users to tailor the sound-dampening solution to their individual preferences and keyboard models.
Durability: Poron foam is durable and resilient, ensuring that it maintains its sound-dampening qualities over time. It can withstand the mechanical stresses of repeated keypresses without deteriorating.
Poron foam is a versatile sound-dampening material characterized by its high compressibility, resilience, closed-cell structure, and low compression set. This keyboard foam excels at isolating vibrations, absorbing shock, reducing noise, and controlling resonances.
3. Neoprene Foam
Neoprene foam is a versatile material known for its various characteristics and sound-dampening qualities. It is used in a wide range of applications, including mechanical gaming keyboards, to reduce noise and vibrations effectively.
Flexibility: Neoprene foam is highly flexible and can be easily cut, shaped, and installed to fit specific applications. Its flexibility allows it to conform to irregular surfaces and components within mechanical keyboards.
Water-resistant: Neoprene is inherently water-resistant, making it suitable for applications where exposure to moisture is a concern. It does not absorb water, which helps maintain its sound-dampening properties over time.
Thermal insulation: Neoprene foam possesses thermal insulation properties, which can be beneficial in some applications. While primarily used for sound dampening, it can also help with heat dissipation in certain situations.
Closed-cell structure: Neoprene foam typically has a closed-cell structure, meaning its cells are sealed and not interconnected. This structure contributes to its sound-isolating properties and ability to resist the transmission of sound waves.
Durability: Neoprene foam is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear. It can withstand repeated compression and maintain its sound-dampening properties even with continuous use.
Sound-Dampening Qualities of Neoprene Foam
Vibration isolation: Neoprene foam effectively isolates and absorbs vibrations, preventing them from transferring between surfaces. In mechanical keyboards, it helps dampen the vibrations generated by keypresses, reducing the transmission of noise.
Shock absorption: Neoprene foam has good shock-absorbing properties, which can be advantageous in applications where impacts or sudden forces may occur. It absorbs and disperses shock energy, reducing the potential for noise caused by impacts.
Noise reduction: When used strategically within a mechanical keyboard, neoprene foam can significantly reduce the noise produced during typing. It absorbs sound energy, diminishing the acoustic signature of keypresses and resulting in a quieter typing experience.
Resonance control: Neoprene foam can help control resonances within mechanical keyboards and other devices. It minimizes the risk of unwanted vibrations and the subsequent ringing or echoing sounds associated with resonances.
Customizable: Neoprene foam is easy to cut and shape, allowing users to tailor the sound-dampening solution to their specific keyboard layouts and designs. This flexibility makes it a versatile choice for customization.
Longevity: Neoprene foam's durability ensures that its sound-dampening qualities remain effective over time. It can withstand the mechanical stresses of repeated keypresses without deteriorating.
Neoprene foam stands out as a versatile and robust material known for its adaptability, resistance to moisture, insulating properties, sealed-cell structure, and capacity to diminish sound. It excels in isolating vibrations, absorbing shocks, lowering noise levels, and managing resonances.
What is Sound Dampening
You may be wondering what sound dampening is. Sound dampening, also known as sound damping or soundproofing, is the process of reducing or minimizing the transmission of sound or noise from one area to another. It involves various techniques and materials to absorb, block, or isolate sound waves, ultimately creating a quieter and more peaceful environment.
Here are some common methods and materials used in sound dampening:
Sound absorption: This involves using materials that absorb sound waves rather than reflecting them. Common sound-absorbing materials include acoustic foam, fiberglass panels, and mineral wool. These materials are often used on walls, ceilings, and floors to reduce the echo and reverberation in a room.
Sound barrier: Sound barriers are materials or structures that block the transmission of sound waves. Heavy and dense materials like concrete, mass-loaded vinyl (MLV), and specialized drywall are used to create barriers between noisy areas and quieter spaces.
Vibration isolation: Vibrations can also transmit sound, so isolating objects or structures from vibrations can help dampen sound. This can be achieved using resilient mounts, isolators, or anti-vibration materials.
Sealing and gasketing: Properly sealing gaps and cracks in walls, doors, windows, and other openings can prevent sound from leaking through. Weatherstripping and acoustic sealants are commonly used for this purpose.
Structural modifications: In some cases, structural changes to a building or space may be necessary to improve sound dampening. This can include adding extra layers of drywall, building double walls, or using decoupling techniques to separate structures that transmit sound.
Soundproofing curtains and panels: Specialized curtains and panels designed for soundproofing can be hung on windows and walls to help reduce noise from outside sources.
White noise and sound masking: Sometimes, rather than reducing existing noise, adding background noise can help mask and make other noises less noticeable. White noise machines and sound masking systems are examples of this approach.
Importance of Sound Dampening in Mechanical Keyboards
Sound dampening in mechanical keyboards is essential for creating a quieter and more comfortable typing experience, reducing noise disturbances, enhancing focus and productivity, and showing consideration for others in shared spaces.
Reduced noise disturbance: Mechanical keyboards, while popular for their tactile feedback and durability, can be quite noisy. The distinct click or clack sound of keypresses can be distracting to others in shared spaces, such as offices or libraries. Sound dampening helps to minimize the noise generated during typing, reducing disturbances to people nearby.
Improved acoustic comfort: For the user, a quieter keyboard can create a more comfortable and less fatiguing typing environment. The constant noise of typing on a loud keyboard can be mentally draining over time. Dampening the sound allows for a more peaceful and enjoyable typing experience.
Enhanced focus and productivity: Sound proofing your keyboard noise can contribute to better concentration and productivity, especially in quiet work environments. It allows users to focus on their tasks without the distraction of a noisy keyboard, which can be particularly beneficial for tasks that require deep concentration.
Respect for others: In shared workspaces or homes, being considerate of others is important. Using a sound-dampened keyboard shows respect for coworkers, family members, or roommates who may be sensitive to noise or working or resting nearby.
Meeting noise regulations: In some professional settings, there may be noise regulations or guidelines that need to be adhered to. Sound dampening in mechanical keyboards can help organizations and individuals comply with these regulations and avoid potential noise-related issues.
Customization: Sound dampening can be a matter of personal preference. Some users simply prefer a quieter typing experience, even if they are not concerned about noise disturbances. Customization options allow users to tailor their keyboard's sound to their liking.
Reduced key vibrations: In addition to noise reduction, sound dampening can also help reduce the vibrations produced by keypresses. This can lead to a more comfortable and less tiring typing experience, especially during extended typing sessions.
Preserving keyboard durability: Sound dampening materials, such as foam, can also help protect the internal components of a mechanical keyboard by reducing the impact and wear caused by keypresses. This may extend the lifespan of the keyboard.
Choosing the Right Sound Dampening Foam For Keyboards
Choosing the right damping foam for your mechanical keyboard isn't as complex as it may seem. It's all about understanding your personal needs and weighing the benefits of each option. Let's delve into what you should consider and look for when selecting the perfect damping foam.
Considerations for Mechanical Keyboards
Choosing the right dampening foam for your mechanical keyboard is crucial to achieving the desired level of sound reduction and typing comfort. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision:
Identify your priorities.
Determine your primary goal. Are you aiming for a quieter keyboard, a better keypress feel, or both?
Consider your budget, as different dampening materials vary in price.
Understand the different types of dampening foam.
Research and understand the various materials used for dampening foam, such as Sorbothane, Poron, neoprene, and silicone foam.
Learn about the pros and cons of each material, including their sound-dampening qualities, flexibility, and durability.
Consider your keyboard model.
Assess the design and layout of your mechanical keyboard. Some keyboards may have more space for dampening foam than others.
Check if your keyboard has a removable metallic plate or if it's a hot-swappable design, as this can affect where and how you apply the foam.
Evaluate the noise level.
Determine the current noise level of your keyboard. If it's excessively loud, you may want to prioritize materials with excellent sound-dampening properties.
Review user feedback.
Look for reviews and user experiences with specific dampening foam materials. Online forums and keyboard enthusiast communities can be valuable resources for insights and recommendations.
Consider whether you want the option to customize the foam's placement and thickness to suit your preferences.
Some foam materials can be easily trimmed or layered to achieve the desired sound and feel.
Consider your budget.
If you have budget constraints, compare the cost of different dampening materials and select one that aligns with your budget while meeting your requirements.
Evaluate the ease of installation. Installing foam is one of the easiest modding techniques. However, some foam materials may require more intricate installation processes. Choose one that matches your skill level and comfort with DIY projects.
Seek advice from experienced keyboard enthusiasts, as they may have valuable recommendations based on their own experiences with sound dampening.
Consider the long-term.
Think about the longevity and durability of the dampening foam. Choose materials that will maintain their effectiveness over time.
Purchase and install.
Once you've made your decision, purchase the chosen dampening foam and follow the manufacturer's or community's installation guidelines carefully.
Test and adjust.
After installation, test your keyboard to see if it meets your expectations in terms of sound reduction and typing feel. If needed, make adjustments to the foam placement or thickness.
Factors to Look for in Dampening Foam
You'll need to consider several things while picking the best sound dampening foam for your keyboard. When choosing dampening foam for your mechanical keyboard, several important factors should be taken into consideration.
Different materials like Sorbothane, Poron, neoprene, and silicone foam offer varying levels of sound dampening and tactile feel. Research and choose a material that suits your desired outcome.
Sound dampening properties
Assess the material's effectiveness in reducing noise and vibrations. Some foams excel at sound isolation and absorption, while others may have a more moderate effect.
The foam's density influences its sound-dampening capabilities. Higher-density foams often provide better vibration isolation but may feel firmer. Choose a density that aligns with your typing preferences.
The thickness of the foam will impact how much it reduces noise and vibrations. Thicker foam generally provides better dampening but may alter the keypress feel more significantly than thinner foams.
Flexibility and conformity
Consider how well the foam can conform to the keyboard's structure and components. Flexible foam is easier to install and adapt to different layouts.
Check the foam's durability, as you want it to maintain its sound-dampening properties over time without breaking down or compressing excessively.
In some environments, resistance to moisture or spills may be important. Neoprene foam, for instance, is known for its water-resistant properties.
Determine if the foam allows for easy customization. Some foams can be trimmed or layered to achieve the desired sound and feel.
Ensure the foam is compatible with your keyboard model. Work your way around and check for compatibility guides or recommendations from the manufacturer or the keyboard enthusiast community.
Compare the cost of different foam materials and select one that fits within your budget while meeting your requirements. If money is not a big factor, go for sorbothane foam. If you're on a tighter budget, go for neoprene.
How to Install Dampening Foam To Your Keyboard
Installing dampening foam in your keyboard is simpler than it sounds. In fact, it's one of the easier mods when it comes to mechanical keyboards. Let's check out the steps.
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to add sound dampening foam to your mechanical keyboard:
Materials You'll Need
Dampening foam material (you may need to cut to fit the size of your keyboard)
Screwdriver (if needed for keyboard disassembly)
Tweezers (for precise placement of tiny parts)
Adhesive (if the foam doesn't have a self-adhesive backing)
Cleaning cloth (to wipe down surfaces)
Step 1: Prepare your workspace: Ensure you have a clean and clutter-free workspace with ample lighting. Place your keyboard, dampening foam, and any necessary tools within easy reach.
Step 2: Disconnect or disassemble your keyboard: If your keyboard allows for easy access to the internals, consider disconnecting it from your computer and disassembling it to access the interior components. This step is optional and depends on your keyboard's design.
Step 3: Clean the keyboard: Before installing the foam, use a cleaning cloth to wipe down the inside of the keyboard case, the PCB (printed circuit board), and other components. Remove tiny pieces of of food and dust, and other debris to ensure proper adhesion and a clean installation.
Step 4: Assess placement: Lay out the dampening foam pieces in the keyboard case to assess their placement. Typically, you'll want to cover areas where keypresses make contact with the case, such as the bottom case and the top case if applicable. Ensure that the foam does not interfere with any internal components, switches, or keycap clearance.
Step 5: Apply adhesive if needed: If your dampening foam does not have a self-adhesive backing, you may need to apply adhesive to one side of the foam. Use a thin, even layer of adhesive, and allow it to dry or become tacky per the adhesive manufacturer's instructions.
Step 6: Place the foam: Carefully place the foam pieces inside the keyboard case, ensuring they align with the areas where keypresses contact the case. Use tweezers for precise placement if necessary. Gently press the foam against the surfaces to ensure good adhesion.
Step 7: Reassemble the keyboard: If you disassembled your keyboard, reassemble it carefully, making sure not to pinch or displace the foam during reassembly. When putting everything back together, tighten screws if needed, but avoid over-tightening. This could compress the foam excessively.
Step 8: Test the keyboard: Reconnect your keyboard to your computer and perform some typing tests. Pay attention to the sound reduction and typing feel. Depending on your preferences, you may need to adjust the foam's placement or thickness.
Step 9: Fine-tune if necessary: If you're not satisfied with the results, you can fine-tune the foam's placement or thickness. You may also experiment with different foam materials to achieve the desired sound and feel.
The installation process may vary depending on your specific keyboard model and the type of dampening foam you're using. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations and seek guidance from keyboard enthusiast communities for mods, if you encounter any issues, or have questions about the installation process.
Tips and Tricks for Installing Dampening Foam
Installing dampening foam to your keyboard can greatly improve its acoustic comfort and typing experience. Here are some tips and tricks to make the installation process more effective:
Plan and measure carefully.
Before cutting or placing the foam, plan out where it should go. Measure the dimensions of the areas you want to dampen to ensure you have the right foam size and shape.
Use a template.
Different keyboards have different case designs. Create a template out of cardboard or paper that matches the shape and size of your keyboard's interior. This template can serve as a guide for cutting the foam precisely.
Cut with precision.
If you need to trim or cut the foam, use sharp scissors or a utility knife. Ensure clean, straight edges to maintain a neat appearance and proper fit.
Test fit first.
Before applying adhesive or securing the foam permanently, perform a test fit to make sure it aligns correctly and doesn't interfere with keyboard components.
Clean the surfaces.
Ensure that both the keyboard case and the foam are clean and free from dust or debris before adhering the foam. Use a cleaning cloth or compressed air if necessary.
Use the right adhesive.
If your foam doesn't have a self-adhesive backing, choose an appropriate adhesive. A spray adhesive or double-sided tape can work well. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the adhesive you select.
Apply the adhesive evenly.
When applying adhesive to the foam or the keyboard case, aim for an even, thin layer to prevent excess glue from seeping out or creating lumps in the foam.
Press firmly and evenly.
After placing the foam, press it down firmly and evenly to ensure good adhesion. Use a clean cloth or a roller to apply pressure, especially along the edges.
Check for clearance.
Ensure that the foam doesn't obstruct switches, stabilizers, or keycaps. Test the keypresses and keycap removal to verify clearance.
Trim or remove excess adhesive.
If adhesive squeezes out from the edges of the foam, trim it carefully with a craft knife to maintain a clean appearance.
Experiment and adjust.
You need to work your way to get the keyboard sound the way you want. Don't be afraid to experiment with different foam placements and thicknesses. You can fine-tune the sound and feel of your keyboard by making adjustments if needed.
Seek advice from the community.
If you're unsure about the best approach for your specific keyboard or foam type, reach out to keyboard enthusiast communities or forums. Others may have valuable insights and recommendations to help make keyboards sound better.
Take your time.
Installing dampening foam can be a precise task, so take your time during the process. Rushing can lead to mistakes or suboptimal results.
Other Methods for Sound Dampening
Beyond foam, there are other methods you can explore for sound dampening your keyboard. You're not tied down to one foam mod solution; you're free to experiment.
O-Rings: O-rings are small rubber rings that you can place on the keycap stems beneath your keycaps. They reduce the impact noise when you bottom out the keys by cushioning the keypress. They are particularly effective for reducing the "clack" sound associated with keypresses.
Switch selection: Different mechanical switch types have varying noise profiles. Some switches, like Cherry MX Silent or Gateron Silent switches, are designed to be quieter than standard switches. Choosing quieter switches can significantly reduce typing noise.
Lubing: Lubricating your switches and stabilizers can reduce friction and, in turn, lower the noise produced during keypresses. Properly lubed switches can also create a smoother and more pleasant typing experience.
Silicone foam dampeners: Similar to O-rings, silicone dampeners can be placed under the keycaps to cushion keypresses and reduce the noise generated when the keycaps hit the switch housing.
Anti-vibration mats: Placing an anti-vibration mat or dampening material beneath your keyboard can help absorb vibrations and prevent them from transferring to the desk or table, reducing noise and resonance.
Case modifications: Modifying the keyboard case itself can also impact noise levels. Reinforcing or dampening the keyboard case with materials like dampening foam can reduce noise.
Sound-dampening keycaps: Some keycap sets are designed with sound dampening in mind. These keycaps are made from materials that produce less noise when struck.
Soundproofing accessories: Consider using soundproofing accessories like desk mats or room dividers to help isolate your workspace and reduce noise disturbances in shared environments.
Adjust typing technique: A significant part of keyboard noise comes from how you type. Learning to type with a lighter touch and not bottoming out keys can help reduce noise.
Custom keyboard build: When building a custom mechanical keyboard, you have more control over sound-dampening options. You can choose quieter switches, design the case for sound reduction, and customize the keyboard to your preferences.
There you've it! You're now well-equipped to embark on your personal quest for the ultimate typing experience. The choice of dampening foam and associated methods is a means to strike the perfect balance between the satisfying feel of mechanical switches and a quieter, more harmonious environment. Whether for increased productivity in shared workspaces, respect for others, or personal preference, the quest for the ideal dampening solution remains an important pursuit for keyboard enthusiasts. It is a testament to the intersection of technology, craftsmanship, and individual taste in the world of modern computing.
Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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