Drop K-type Keyboard 5-year follow up and mods

Discussion in 'Geek Cave: Computers, Tablets, HT, Phones, Games' started by purr1n, May 15, 2023.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Over five years ago, I wrote a review for the Massdrop x Input Club K-Type keyboard. I definitely don't count myself as a mechanical keyboard geek, but I certainly do appreciate nice things. This keyboard was pretty good for it's day. The only thing that sucked about the K-type was the included stabilizers, which I wrote a guide on replacing them in the article. Fast forward five years later, I got another chance to examine keyboards again, mainly because my son wanted one. I got him a Drop ENTR which is a decent base (much better than the discontinued K-Type here as it should be). However the switches that came with it, the Halo True, didn't work well for his purposes. They lacked feel and required too much pressure to depress. They were horrible for gaming. In addition, several of the keycap stems broke. And they weren't on the WASD keys mostly used in gaming, more like the J key. My son said screw this and decided to build his own keyboard from scratch with a Glorious base and Cherry MX red switches, but that is another story.

    When I moved to Texas a few years ago, my K-Type got damaged in shipping. I had no idea how this happened because the keyboard was stored in its original box which did not look damaged. I mean this is supposed to be a solid piece of aluminum right? How the heck was this even possible?
    IMG_0839 (1).jpg

    This obviously wasn't a desirable situation with the keyboard off balance whenever I hit the enter or right shift keys. I could have just thrown this away, but I felt that throwing it away would have been wasteful. A few weeks ago after modding a cheap mechanical for better "thock", I was inspired to try to repair the K-type. I figured if I could somehow bend it back into shape, I could get different switches and keycaps. I could get a makeover on this keyboard and continue to get good use out of it for another five or more years.

    Well, it turns out that the K-type was easy enough for bend back!
    IMG_0840.jpg

    The reason is although the Massdrop K-type felt solid, it really wasn't after all the switches were removed. I was horrified at the bargain basement skimping of material. We are talking about thin aluminum sheet metal here with what appeared on the outside to be something like machined billet or a forged piece. Ding ding ding, ring ring ring. No wonder the keyboard was sooo easy to bend! FWIW, this cheap $38 Amazon special utilized a super strong steel plate!
    IMG_0861.jpg
     
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    Last edited: May 15, 2023
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    So the Halo Clear switches that came with the K-type - they were OK. I eventually got used to them. However, like the Halo True that came on the Drop, they required a bit more force than I would have desired to depress. Not as bad as the True, a better bottoming feel, but still, less force and a little less click would have been desirable. The Halo Clear are a tactile switch on the louder sound. I wanted something that actuated a bit quicker with just slightly less resistance, but not like barely any resistance like the Cherry MX Reds that my son uses. I also wanted something just slightly quieter. After doing some research and talking to a few subject matter experts, I decided Drop's Holy Panda X would be the one to use.

    [​IMG]

    There is a great review here on the Holy Panda X switch along with some history and of course drama associated with Drop and mechanical keyboards. https://www.theremingoat.com/blog/holy-panda-x-switch-review

    Like Discord, or perhaps along with it, Drop and mechanical keyboards bring out the... well I will let @YMO fill in the blank before I get into trouble.

    The Holy Panda X switches met my requirements. The resistance is perfect and exactly what I was looking for. It's a bit less clicky than the Halo Clears, again what I was looking for. The tactile bump is a bit longer than I would have desired. I would have preferred a more immediate actuation, but this is likely a needed tradeoff for the feel and more muted click sound. The stems are less wobbly too. Very slightly wobble left-to-right, and barely any up-to-down. One unexpected bonus was how buttery and smooth they felt. Supposedly the Holy Panda X are lubed from the factory. There are supposed to be more gains if they are hand lubed, a super laborious process which I was not going to do. When these switches came out, they were about a dollar per switch. I got them when they were on sale for 54 cents each. The clear versions which I have purchased have since gone back to their regular price.

    For here, I went ahead and did most of the typical mods. I taped the back of the PCB to get a better sound.
    upload_2023-5-15_15-17-11.jpeg

    I then went ahead and did the usual stabilizer mods per here:
    https://switchandclick.com/how-to-mod-your-stabilizers-band-aid-clip-and-lube/

    The K-type is an older keyboard without screw in stabilizers. I tried Durock plate mount stabs with beefier parts, but they did not work. The fit was too tight and the parts bound. So I stuck with the Cherry stabs which performed admirably after mods. The twist to the mods was that I put some medical tape over where the stabs mounted to the plate to get a tighter fit. I also glopped on the lithium grease on to the stab parts (which I have used form plastic gears to turntable bearings).
    IMG_0868.jpg

    Finally, I applied some creatology felt to the bottom plate. I would have used Dynamat Extreme, but there wasn't enough clearance to the bottom of the PCB for the thick piece that I had on hand. I will order a thinner mat material and revisit later.
    IMG_0863.jpg

    And finally, the Pudding V2 keycaps that @CEE TEE sent me. The pudding caps are doubleshot PBT? They are actually very nice quality although I do have two complaints: they are a bit high pitched as opposed to "thocky". Had I not done the mods to the keyboard base, I don't think I would have liked the sound.
    kbd.jpg

    The spacebar, being longer than the other keys, sounded hollow and made an annoying ringing sound when it bounced back after being depressed. To get a more solid sounding spacebar, I poured a little E6000 adhesive into the key. It sounds much better now. Could still be more thocky. I got some doubleshot ABS keycaps that I will later. (UPDATE: I will be sticking to the Pudding V2 keycaps. Less thocky, but they are nicely muted for when I need to type during meetings).
    IMG_0870.jpg

    So there it goes. I did my part in conservation and staving off the effects of climate change by repairing and making over a keyboard instead of tossing it into the trash.
     
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    Last edited: May 15, 2023
  3. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    most thocky key I have is the metal nautilus enter key I have :p
     
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  4. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    With how much more time I've been spending at my desk since COVID started I started investing more into peripherals. Had a Ducky One 2 SF for a good long while and while there were quite a few issues experienced with it (chattering keys, having to RMA a few boards because of cracks in the steel plates) it nonetheless managed to serve me well for a good few years.

    Stock sound was far from grand, but I did tape mod the PCB and stuffed the board with some leftover Dynamat Xtreme scraps I'd gotten off @bengo several years ago now. Still wasn't a big fan of how it sounded, but it was an appreciable improvement over stock: https://on.soundcloud.com/xX1eg

    ... No "before" samples taken, I'm afraid.

    Then one of the cats knocked it off my desk while zooming about and the key chatter got even worse. I feasibly could have just busted out the soldering iron and replaced what bits needed replacing, but I've not soldered anything in a few years now and when I tested it out my old iron seemed to have given up the ghost. I have it stowed away in my bag now as a travel board to plug into my phone when I wanna do stuff on the go (I can live with some chattering, just means I'll be making extensive use of backspace).

    Luckily enough there's an active keyboard community hereabouts and someone was letting go of their old Keychron Q1 that'd been previously modded for a relative pittance a few months ago (about $80 if memory serves?). They'd also tape-modded it and used some masking tape to run a "force break" mod, not to mention covered the top of the PCB with a random sheet of PE foam. On top of having access to an f-row again, this sounded and felt MUCH nicer to me: https://on.soundcloud.com/tSps5

    Looking inside the board, though, the way the mods were executed wasn't very... neat, so I made a bit of busywork for myself and redid the force break mod with thicker silicone tape and also just removed all the masking tape covering the back of the PCB to shape the sound more to my liking (I seem to prefer medium tones, not super deep thock but more pebbles clattering against each other?). Found some cheap Akko ASA profile keycaps that claim to be PBT but started shining after just four or so days of use; they turned out to sound nicer to me than the stock OSA profile keycaps did: https://on.soundcloud.com/BHnki

    It's fun using what little I know about acoustics to be able to shape a keyboard's sound profile (there's a dude on YouTube called Keybored who makes spectacular content: https://www.youtube.com/@Keybored), but I emphatically refuse to make this another hobby even IF some local friends have let me try out headphone rig-priced keyboards that do sound and feel rather nice.

    It just gets silly much faster here than in the headphone hobby, IMO.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    It seems daunting at first, but with a little help from real people, not so crazy. I used to be so confused with the different types of switches, Gateron, Cherry, whatever. Now not so confused anymore despite their being many many more types. It's easy to narrow down depending upon whether you want a linear, tactile, or clicky, resistance, sound, etc. It's like headphones, for most people, there's a shortlist of stuff to consider based on their preferences. Also like headphones, there is FOTM, which does settle down after the jury is out. I know what I like, so switches on my curent shortlist are the Anubis and these high-end ones that @CEE TEE told me @Vansen uses. You can do crazy modding too like taking apart every individual switch and lubing them, but some higher-end switches come factory lubed to be 80% there to hand lubing.

    If anything, I wish I had looked into setting up the K-type just right from when I first started; but five years ago, stuff like the Holy Panda X switches didn't exist. Keyboards are like monitors. We don't realize how good ones can benefit us until after the fact. That we wish we got one sooner. The best thing I did about 15 years ago was get myself a good 30" monitor. Dropping a few hundred on a keyboard that will be used day in and day out for years and performs exactly to one's preferences is nothing compared to the audio gear hobby where we piss thousands and can never be happy.

    There are even guys who rank switches Amir'ish style: https://github.com/ThereminGoat/switch-scores

    I did find that repository somewhat helpful, but in the end, relied on people's subjective opinions, friends, YT videos, etc. I very much disliked TherminGoat's "Context" numeric ranking though. Seemed like a BS number in some cases relating to how much drama surrounded a manufacturer or keyboard geek.
     
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    Last edited: May 16, 2023
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Sounding good!

    Keybored is my favorite keyboard guy on YouTube!!! I wish Google brought him up earlier to my attention. @CEE TEE sent me a link to his video on the Keychron Q2 and that's how I found out about him. I hate the Google algorithms. I wish Google would mix stuff up more or use AI to know what people think is quality content (as opposed to popular content).
     
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  7. netforce

    netforce MOT: Headphones.com

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    I dig Holy Pandas, think for almost a year they were my goto switches. Would rec hand lubing them if you had a few hours. Is it a pain in the ass, yes but the stock lube from factory is thin and weak. Lubing switches for me nowadays are rather cathartic and I usually pop on a movie or show while I do it.

    For the spacebar, if you had some foam around you could try cutting some out and fitting them in like this:
    https://kbdfans.com/products/spacebar-foam?_pos=1&_sid=f657d091e&_ss=r

    I bought a few set when I made KBDfans orders in the past since they were pretty inexpensive and easy to apply/change if I didn't like them.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Hmm, will pay my kids as employees. S-corp business expense.
     
  9. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Haha, the first keyboard vids I got tossed my way were Switch & Click and Hipyo Tech, and THEN Taeha Types, Andy V Nguyen, and some others-- it wasn't until I LOOKED into figuring out the rationale of this force break mod specifically that I stumbled across Keybored!

    To say that this all only added to my confusion at first would be somewhat of an understatement, but I do guess that more entertainment-oriented approaches to certain videos will indeed tend to outperform others in terms of reach and retention.

    What I meant about this hobby getting sillier than others is the value proposition. I've said this a few times but I can be alarmingly persnickety about some things that eventually contribute to me getting stressed out at random intervals, so keycaps of all things are a particular sort of pain point here with how the ones with very good legending tend to be hoarded and resold at scalper pricing down the line, like the nice GMK or PBTFans stuff.

    It's like how there's a dearth of "good value and high performance" amps in the $1-2k range; that no-man's-land kicks in pretty early on at maybe a TENTH of that, but with the second wind of "oh this is appreciably better" coming back in around $500 or so and ramping up greatly. I got to try some REALLY neat boards courtesy of the one friend I keep referencing lurks here (sup) and I hate him for spoiling cheap membranes for me.​

    20230517_050029.jpg

    20230517_050323.jpg

    Not sure how well this will pick up on camera, but the line weights on this board aren't consistent, e.g. the "S" and "N" are significantly thicker than others. I can't stand to look at this board from up close now, haha. Also that shine is from just a month and a half of use.

    You get what you pay for, I suppose, but it's hard to be nitpicky and cheap when it comes to keyboards. The fact that this has a white chassis is VERY out of character for me, I actually dislike it, but again it was a steal of a deal and I could always just spray paint it down the line if I get annoyed enough.

    And yes, my unending goth kid phase is showing again with the keycap theme. Shh.


    ADDENDUM:

    Forgot to mention that I got a decentish mic for use with work and random projects (an sE Electronics V7). For calibration, the above soundcloud samples were all recorded using that mic being fed into an Arturia Minifuse 2. The gain was maxed out, grille was about 8 inches from the board, aimed at the G and H keys.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2023
  10. Garns

    Garns Friend

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    After years of using Filco boards with Cherry Brown or Blue switches, I started to develop moderate and continuing wrist pain (like many I spend a large part of my time typing). Recently I picked up a Keychron Q8 Pro with Gateron Reds and hey presto, complete recovery and no more wrist pain. I find them so much more pleasant and easier to type on. It's remarkable to me that people talk about accidentally activating keys on red switches just by resting their fingers on them, I can't even imagine that happening. I'm considering trying something lighter still than Gateron Red, but the choice is quite limited (it seems most people really like slamming the keys). Any other extremely light typers have any reccos?
     
  11. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Have you tried optical switches? I much prefer tactile feel but I do appreciate how those lighter weight switches are for longer typing sessions. I'm a Cherry and Gateron Brown dude (though I do sometimes wish they snapped back a bit faster while keeping the same spring weight) and found a lot of the Razer optical stuff to be a bit too light for me even relative to Cherry Red switches, so perhaps that could work for you?

    There's also this really interesting newish toy called the Wooting 60HE that allows you to set your own actuation points and when the switch "resets".

    https://next.wooting.io/wooting-60he

    Not tried it myself so cannot comment on the feel, but I presume that being able to adjust the actuation point to be as shallow as you want it to be could help ameliorate pressure on your wrists. It's only a 60% board though, but hoping they'll come out with a TKL or similar soon.
     
  12. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    The Wooting board uses hall effect switches. The board might be difficult to get though since Osu! players discovered the board could give them very high tap rates. (Edit: Looks like Wooting is releasing a macropad specifically for Osu! which should mean the full layout will be less demanded)

    There’s a kickstarter by Input Club (which made the K-type) for a hall-effect board as well

    https://kono.store/products/keystone-analog-mechanical-keyboard

    I’m pretty excited about the metal beam-spring switches. Though the kickstarter page indicates there’s been a lot of issues with production due to Covid.

    A lot of people consider IBM magnetic beam springs to be the holy grail of keyboards.

    https://deskthority.net/wiki/Micro_Switch_SW_Series

    This was peak keyboard engineering when a gigantic firm used their resources to make the best possible keyboards. Similar to audio engineers at RCA in the 50s. Enthusiasts spend a lot of money buying a used one and then another few hundred to restore the switches and installing a control board to use with modern computers. The newer projects allow users to get a similar experience without all the hassle.

    I have a sampler pack and my spouse preferred the Zealios Roselios specifically because they were the lightest ones

    something else you might want to consider is a split keyboard. I know one keycap designer that was hospitalized for wrist issues and eventually switched to a ergodox with a Dvorak layout to deal with it
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2023

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