Comparing Sound Levels of Linear Switches with Other Mechanical Keyboard Switches

March 7, 2024

Are linear switches really less noisy than their tactile and clicky equivalents as advertised? 

Linear, tactile, or clicky switches---each produces a different level of sound with each keystroke.

In this article, we'll examine the sound properties of these different switches. However, we'll pay special attention to the smooth, noiseless movement of linear switches versus the distinct noise produced by tactile and clicky switches.

What are Linear Keyboard Switches and how do They Work?

Linear keyboard switches are some of the most common types of mechanical switches used in mechanical keyboards. Unlike tactile switches that provide a noticeable bump at the actuation point, linear switches have a smooth and consistent keystroke. 

  1. Actuation Mechanism: Linear switches use a physical mechanism to register key presses. When you press a key, two metal points touch each other, completing an electrical circuit and sending the signal to the computer.
  2. Linear Motion: The stem of the keycap moves straight down and up without passing through a leaf. This provides a smooth and consistent keystroke without any tactile bump or audible click. 
  3. Reset Point: After pressing, the key returns to its original position for the switch to reset. 
  4. Quiet Operation: Linear switches are generally quieter than clicky switches as they lack the audible click sound associated with clicky switches. This makes them suitable for quiet environments.

Comparing Sound Levels Between Linear and Other Mechanical Keyboard Switches

3 kinds of switches labeled - linear, tactile, and clicky

The sound levels of keyboard switches can vary depending on the type of switch. Here's a general comparison between linear, tactile, and clicky switches:

  1. Linear Switches
    • Sound Level: Linear switches are generally quiet, with sound levels ranging from around 45 to 60 decibels (dB). They produce a consistent, smooth keystroke without an audible click or tactile bump. The sound is typically generated when the key hits the bottom of the switch or the keyboard's base. 
    • Examples: Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Black, Cherry MX Silent Red, Romer-G Linear.
  2. Tactile Switches
    • Sound Level: Tactile switches tend to produce a bit more sound due to the tactile bump, ranging from approximately 50 to 65 decibels. While they are quieter than clicky switches, the tactile bump may produce a bit more sound compared to linear switches. Note that the sound is generated by the keypress itself and not an additional click mechanism.
    • Examples: Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Clear, Razer Orange, Gateron Brown.
  3. Clicky Switches
    • Sound Level: Clicky switches are known for their distinct audible click sound during both the actuation and reset phases of the keypress. At around 50 to 70 decibels, they are the loudest among the three types of switches. The clicky sound is created by a mechanism inside the switch that generates an audible click when the key is pressed and released.
    • Examples: Cherry MX Blue, Cherry MX Green, Razer Green, Outemu Blue.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Linear Switches on Mechanical Keyboards

a close-up image of a mechanical keyboard

Linear switches in mechanical keyboards have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. 

Benefits of Linear Switches

  1. Smooth Keystrokes: Linear switches provide a consistent and smooth keystroke without a tactile bump or audible click, which leads to a seamless and uninterrupted typing experience.
  2. Rapid Actuation: Linear switches actuate directly without the tactile bump found in tactile switches. This is beneficial for users who want fast and accurate key presses.
  3. Quieter Operation: Without audible keypress clicks, linear switches are suitable for quiet environments, shared workspaces, or situations where noise reduction is important.
  4. Reduced Typing Fatigue: Some users find that the lack of tactile feedback in linear switches allows for a lighter touch, reducing typing fatigue during extended typing sessions.
  5. Gaming Performance: Gamers who play games that require rapid and repeated key presses often prefer linear switches for their smooth and consistent keystrokes.
  6. Versatility: Linear switches are versatile and can be suitable for a variety of tasks including typing, gaming, coding, and general computer use.

Drawbacks of Linear Switches

  1. Lack of Tactile Feedback: Without tactile bumps when keys are pressed, users do not receive physical feedback when a key is actuated. Some users prefer the tactile sensation to confirm key registration.
  2. Limited Key Feel: Some users may find linear switches to lack the "character" or distinct feel provided by tactile or clicky switches. The smoothness of linear switches may not be as enjoyable for those who appreciate a more pronounced feedback.
  3. Potential for Accidental Keypresses: The lack of tactile feedback can lead to accidental keypresses if the user is not accustomed to the switch. 

Who Benefits From Linear Keys

a man changing switches of his mechanical keyboard

Are linear mechanical keyboard switches for you? Here are some groups of individuals who may find linear keys particularly advantageous:

  1. Gamers: Linear switches are popular among gamers due to their smooth and consistent keystrokes. The absence of a tactile bump allows for rapid and precise key presses, which can be advantageous in fast-paced gaming scenarios such as in first-person shooters.
  2. Programmers and Coders: Programmers and coders who prioritize a consistent and uninterrupted typing experience may find linear switches appealing due to their lighter typing touch, reducing typing fatigue during extended coding sessions.
  3. Office Workers in Quiet Environments: In quiet office environments or shared workspaces, linear switches offer a quieter typing experience for the user and the others in the room.
  4. Users Transitioning from Membrane Keyboards: Individuals transitioning from membrane keyboards to mechanical keyboards might find linear switches to be a smoother and more familiar transition. 
  5. Touch Typists Who Prefer Smooth Keystrokes: Touch typists who don't require tactile feedback or audible clicks may appreciate the simplicity and consistency of linear keys.
  6. Individuals with Reduced Finger Strength: Linear switches can be suitable for individuals with reduced finger strength or dexterity due to injury or certain physical limitations.

Conclusion

When deciding between linear switches and other types, it comes down to your individual needs and the intended use. If you want a fast, quiet response as you type, linear switches are often the top choice. On the other hand, if you're a heavy-duty typist who appreciates a tactile feel and can tolerate a bit of noise, you might lean towards tactile or clicky switches.

By understanding the differences among keyboard switches, you can customize your keyboard experience to align perfectly with your specific requirements and preferences.

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.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Pinstack

Pinstack is a dedicated online media platform focusing on selling and reviewing mechanical keyboards. Our commitment is to provide comprehensive reviews, in-depth guides, and much more. With our active presence on YouTube and our website, we strive to deliver top-quality content across multiple platforms, aiming to bring the best to our audience.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscription Form
We care about the protection of your data. We’ll never share your details.

Pinstack is an Amazon Affiliate. All earnings from this website are from qualified purchases. Learn more about our affiliate disclosure terms.
2023 - Copyright, All Rights Reserved
magnifiercrossmenu
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x