Could this thing be any louder? Annoying my colleagues with a keyboard
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Could this thing be any louder? Annoying my colleagues with a keyboard

Kevin Hofer
Zurich, on 24.06.2021
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
Office work has returned. As a self-confessed keyboard addict, I’m quite pleased: two workstations, two keyboards. And I’ve got a little surprise in store for my returning colleagues…

«Kevin isn’t a name, it’s a diagnosis.» An asinine saying to be sure, yet it might hold true this time around. I love annoying my colleagues with loud keyboards. And in my quest, I have but one principle: with colleagues like these, who needs enemies? I took our collective return to the office as an opportunity to build the loudest keyboard possible.

A thunderous symphony

The most important feature for any loud keyboard: Clicky Switches. In other words, switches that provide audible as well as tangible feedback. I still have some Kailh Box Navy ones lying around. These are among the loudest you can legally acquire at the moment. Cue the maniacal laugh: anyone who uses Box Navys in an open-plan office is a real pain.

A Kailh Box Navy Switch in all its glory.
A Kailh Box Navy Switch in all its glory.

If you want to really crank up the decibels, the switches also have to be in an appropriate case. Aluminium would be an obvious choice. However, I already own keyboards with aluminium sheathing, which is why I opted for wood. My reasoning: instruments are often made of wood, and they are quite loud. After all, why else would the instrument and the interface share the same name? I make music, therefore I annoy. In the end, I chose the GK64X. An entry-level DIY keyboard that also comes in a wooden case. Thanks to hot-swap sockets from Kailh, soldering is no longer necessary.

Wood instead of plastic. That should create more sound.
Wood instead of plastic. That should create more sound.

The keycaps on a keyboard are usually made of ABS or PBT plastic. PBT is slightly harder, therefore generating a little more noise. Consequently, the material is quickly determined. It has to be PBT. When it comes to the actual dimensions of a keycap, their height is crucial. A rule of thumb: the taller, the louder. I still have a keycap set lying around, an MA profile. At 12.38 millimetres, they’re slightly taller than the most commonly used OEM profile, at a maximum of 11.9 millimetres. An SA profile would be even bigger, but I don’t own one of those. Long story short: my selected keycaps are certainly not the loudest, but they’re more than loud enough to really get on the nerves of my work colleagues.

An MA profile keycap (left) is taller and more bulbous, and therefore should be louder than the OEM profile (right).
An MA profile keycap (left) is taller and more bulbous, and therefore should be louder than the OEM profile (right).

Nothing is more annoying on a keyboard than rattling stabilisers. It’s the things that provide stability for your longer keys, such as the space bar, shift and enter. The GK64X comes with stabilisers, and I decided not to change anything about them. I wonder how good stabilisers can be on such an inexpensive keyboard? Hopefully not that good, creating the perfect loud and annoying keyboard.

I leave the stabilisers as supplied. After all, they’re supposed to rattle.
I leave the stabilisers as supplied. After all, they’re supposed to rattle.

Ready in an instant

Thanks to hot-swap and the omission of mods, the keyboard is quickly assembled: I just have to put the keycaps and switches on it. Before doing that, I took a quick look inside the case. Awesome, there’s a large cavity at the bottom, more than enough room for sonic waves to reverberate. After a few minutes, the keyboard is ready for use. Here’s how it sounds:

That’s already pretty loud. But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to be gained. After a short pause for thought, I know: it isn’t just the keyboard itself that determines the volume, but also the surface it is placed on. I don’t have a desk mat in my office. Wood on wood should clang much louder. Speaking of wood on wood: the keyboard stands on rubber feet. Absorbing the sound. That won’t do, which is why I attach some small wooden feet. There, much better.

Muahaha

Office, here I come. My backpack now contains the loudest keyboard I have ever built. With it, I’ll show my colleagues what fear sounds like. They’ll wish I’d have just stayed home forever.

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Kevin Hofer
Kevin Hofer

Editor, Zurich

From big data to big brother, Cyborgs to Sci-Fi. All aspects of technology and society fascinate me.

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