Keyboard, Opinion

Custom Keyboard – Gasket Mounting Is Overrated (Sometimes)

One of the biggest buzzwords in the custom keyboard hobby in recent times is “gasket mounting.” This year alone, we’ve seen plenty of keyboards using this mounting style; even bigger brands like Keychron and Glorious are doing the same thing.

But not all gasket-mounted keyboards are created equal. While there are some excellent keyboards that use this mounting system very effectively – such as the Jelly Epoch and ai03 Vega, to name a couple – there are also a fair number of gasket-mounted keyboards that are just not very good.

In short, just because a keyboard uses a gasket mounting system doesn’t automatically make it good. There are a number of other aspects to consider, and there are instances where a gasket mounting system is…well, overrated.

Implementation Matters

There are many ways to implement a gasket mounting system in a keyboard. Take the Jelly Epoch: instead of using strips of gaskets, it uses thicker, “jelly-like” gaskets that are (essentially) just sleeved to the plate itself instead of having to use adhesives. This makes for a much, much easier installation process.

These “jelly gaskets” are also very effective, which gives the Jelly Epoch a soft, flexible typing experience. Basically, the defining characteristic of a gasket-mounted keyboard…most of the time. The thing is, there are also keyboards with a gasket mounting system that provides a stiff, firm typing experience.

One such keyboard is the Glorious GMMK Pro. While it is technically a gasket-mounted keyboard, the gaskets are compressed so much in the case that there’s barely any space for the plate to flex. The result? A much firmer typing experience than one would expect from a gasket mounting system.

Of course, both firm and soft typing experiences can be appealing to different folks, but it’s important to take into consideration how the gasket mounting system is implemented by specific keyboards. This is so that you’ll really know what to expect out of a particular keyboard.

The last thing you’d want – after waiting for months, or even up to a year – is receiving a keyboard that is not up to your expectations.

Sound Profile Can Differ Greatly

How a keyboard sounds is a huge draw in this hobby, which is actually one of the reasons why gasket-mounted keyboards are so popular. Compared to, say, a top mount system, a gasket-mounted keyboard offers a cleaner sound profile as the gaskets are absorbing the impact of every key press – many folks (myself included) like this characteristic.

But as mentioned, different gasket-mounted keyboards have different implementations of the mounting style, not to mention other unique features of a particular board. Because of this, a keyboard with a gasket mounting system…is not guaranteed to have a pleasant sound profile.

Take the Keychron Q1. On paper, it definitely qualifies as a gasket-mounted keyboard, but it doesn’t exactly have a pleasant sound profile. Out of the box, every key press generates an audible case ping. The Q1’s gaskets are too soft, so they’re not able to absorb these undesirable sound qualities.

Granted, there are plenty of mods that can improve the sound quality of the Q1, but that is besides the point. A gasket-mounted keyboard is not guaranteed to have a fantastic sound signature. If you’re comparing a gasket-mounted keyboard with another mounting style – such as a top mount system – know that the former is not always the best.

And that brings us to the next point..

Other Mounting Styles Can Be Better

Don’t be fooled by the gasket mounting buzzword: there’s so much more to a keyboard than mounting style alone. Want a keyboard with a particular sound profile? Then look at the keyboard as a whole; there are many aspects that affect sound profile.

These include the case material of the keyboard, what kind of sound deadening material is used, the plate material, switches, and even the keycaps. Don’t just limit yourself to gasket-mounted keyboards because you want a clean, higher-pitched sound profile, as other mounting styles can offer the same thing too.

What about typing feel? Surely most gasket-mounted keyboards can offer a soft typing experience? Well, yes and no. It really depends on how the gasket mounting system is implemented. Plus, if you don’t mind using a solderable PCB, custom keyboards that support half plates can offer a soft typing experience as well.

The Salvation, a custom keyboard by Wilba.tech and Salvun – two well-known individuals in the enthusiast keyboard scene – is a good example of why you shouldn’t judge a keyboard based on its mounting style. Despite the fact that it’s a tray-mounted keyboard, the Salvation also has a unique leaf spring mounting system.

As a result, this keyboard offers a soft, comfortable typing experience with a clean, “poppy” sound signature. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Salvation is an innovative product: it’s a tray-mounted keyboard – which is usually considered to be a “budget” mounting solution – with the characteristics of a gasket-mounted keyboard.

So the next time you see an interest check or group buy for a custom keyboard, don’t just judge it purely by its mounting system. Just like any other mounting styles, there are good and bad “gasket-mounted” keyboards, so look beyond the buzzword and really evaluate the board as a whole.

Who knows, once we get beyond the gasket mounting hype, perhaps the custom keyboard community will come up with an innovative mounting system that’s just as unique as the Salvation.

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