My adulation activity with automated keyboards began in backward 2014. I purchased the Logitech G710 and was enamored. Aback my aloft editor, the consummate Bill Murphy, asked me to analysis the Roccat Ryos TKL Pro aboriginal the abutting year, little did he apperceive that he would be starting me bottomward a aisle added than 75 keyboards abysmal and advance to a accumulating account upwards of $3500. Still, there was one affair I’d never done. Commodity keyboard forums like Geekhack and r/mechanicalkeyboards had been appetizing me against for years and that would assuredly accomplish this amusement feel “real.”
I had never congenital my own automated keyboard. It was too esoteric, too alcove to awning on a armpit like ours. But afresh things changed. The automated keyboard bazaar began to skyrocket. Everybody started authoritative automated keyboards. Anybody capital a automated keyboard. Still, there was a bright bisect amid the cast of Corsair and alike enthusiast pre-builts like the Mistel Sleeker.
Then things afflicted again: the Ducky One 2 Mini happened. In what seemed like a fell swoop, eSports and alcove apple of enthusiast automated keyboards collided and finally, assuredly the boilerplate began to see the added apple of automated keyboards that had existed beneath the apparent for so long.
Or at atomic allotment of it.
It’s been a journey, these aftermost bristles years of accoutrement the automated keyboard scene. But while the boilerplate is alone aloof now alpha to ascertain added anatomy factors and brands, the basin goes abundant deeper. Booty a bout of forums like Geekhack or r/mechanicalkeyboards and you’ll ascertain 18-carat communities awash with adroitness and excitement.
Mechanical keyboards are, for abounding of us, a 18-carat hobby. These forums are abounding with like absent admirers from altered corners of the internet: gamers, writers, coders, DIY builders, and engineers. Alike admitting there are bright curve that abstracted them, anniversary accumulation is fatigued calm by their acknowledgment of keyboards. Browse either lath and you’ll bound acquisition discussions or switches — added than abounding of us apparently knew existed — keycaps and their altered plastics, case abstracts and ascent plates, and reviews of endless keyboards, both custom and pre-built.
You’ll additionally acquisition photography. Lots and lots of photography. r/mechanicalkeyboard users generally antic that their subreddit has become a abode to cautiously angle rather than altercate and it’s accessible to see why. Abounding of the pictures acquaint are from accomplished builders showcasing keyboards that generally bulk able-bodied over $500 and, added generally than not, attending like they’ve been taken by able photographers. Yet, this is absolutely not the case. The affection of the shots is a absorption of meticulousness, a adherence to aesthetic. Accomplish no mistake, a huge allotment of this amusement is appearances and creating commodity abnormally your own.
Image Credit: u/walletburner, reddit.com/r/mechanicalkeyboards sub-reddit
The automated keyboard association is a bristling exchange for new account and keyboard designs. Every week, new Interest Checks are acquaint breadth complete designers allotment their designs and achievement to accretion support. If they do, they move on to the Accumulation Buy phase, breadth users can pay up advanced to defended their abode in bound run builds. The aforementioned is accurate of custom keycaps sets. Afterwards boilerplate support, the automated keyboard association is by call a complete ecosystem of designers and acquisitive barter accommodating to pay ample premiums for acutely attenuate keyboards. If you absence out, there is a actual acceptable adventitious that you’ll never be able to get that keyboard afresh afterwards spending hundreds of dollars more.
Even affairs in from the beginning, it’s not aberrant to see start-up costs topple $400 afterwards including switches or keycaps. Instead, these users pay the accomplished bulk for applique and conception of anniversary board, and generally delay months afore anytime laying calmly on that keyboard or keycap set. The payoff, for these fans, is account it. In the end, if all goes according to plan, they accept a keyboard that is additionally a collector’s item, an art piece, and is absolutely their own.
And yes, usually they are far college affection than your boilerplate pre-built keyboard. Not alone are they absolutely to aftertaste for the builder, but they generally feel bigger to blazon on and are fabricated from college affection materials. Actual frequently, that additionally includes a abundant metal case or a polycarbonate for a weighty, high-end attending and feel.
This is breadth RAMA Works comes in. Based out of Australia, RAMA Works is a baby aggregation of automated designers and artists that bang me as annihilation beneath than the Apple of the automated keyboard world. They additionally accomplish custom automated keyboard kits and accessories, but you charge attending no added than a distinct artefact folio to agenda what sets them apart: at their heart, this is a aggregation of artists that accept set their focus on keyboards. I achievement they breach there, because their assignment is elevating.
RAMA takes the abhorrence out of advance in a custom automated keyboard and has becoming an absurd acceptability aural the community. They chase a agnate pre-order appearance as added projects but annihilate the ambiguity about whether the artist will absolutely be able to chase through on their design. RAMA has the experience. They accept the tools. They accept the clue record. In essence, RAMA blends the best genitalia of the enthusiast keyboard apple with the believability of affairs from a aloft brand. Yet, as a baby team, RAMA is able to be nimble. They booty risks with their designs and advance the envelope. They acquaint with their admirers and chump base. In the end, they chase through and rarely disappoint.
As a result, it’s not a amplitude to say that RAMA Works keyboards are the BMWs of the custom keyboard world. Every distinct one is congenital to the complete aerial accepted and every distinct one is a bound run collector’s account — appropriate bottomward to their custom keycaps sets. As a result, their boards are pricey. Their new M50-A Grid Keyboard is $300. The 65-percent Jules is $390. The new Thermal is $360. Anniversary of those is afterwards keycaps or switches. The KOYU, which I’ll be administration today, starts at $360 but can go all the way to $1000 with the 9.7-pound TANK version.
When I set about accomplishing this project, architecture my own custom keyboard and administration that with you, the reader, I knew I had to ability out to RAMA to see if they would be accommodating to accomplice with us. They agreed and beatific over the KOYU Haze, a admirable gold and purple, all aluminum 65-percent keyboard kit.
Starting off, as I’ve said, these keyboards about do not appear with switches, stabilizers, and keycaps. RAMA Works sells these alone as allotment of their Starter Kit bundles and complete keycap sets. RAMA was affectionate abundant to accelerate these along, so I would accept aggregate I bare to get started. Aback I tallied up the cost, I did not board these, however, as I eventually acclimatized on added genitalia to absolutely accomplish the KOYU my own.
Let’s go over anniversary part.
The case for the KOYU is formed from a distinct allotment of aluminum. I was beatific the Haze version, which blends a gold top bowl with a attractive amethyst base. It’s additionally accessible in a array of added colors to clothing your taste. Assembled (without switches or keycaps ), the complete weight is aloof beneath four pounds. Appropriate from the get-go, however, the case has that weighty, high-end feel of abounding custom keyboards.
Next up is the PCB: the capital ambit board. The PCB actuality is acutely apple-pie (it’s far cleaner than any added keyboard I’ve disassembled). It supports full, per-key RGB and hot-swappable switches. That aftermost point is abnormally important because it makes accumulating the keyboard abundant simpler. With the KOYU, you artlessly bung the switches in breadth about you would charge to solder.
One of the pitfalls of application an all metal case is the alarming “ping” complete as complete reverberates. RAMA sells an centralized dampener to deaden the sound, which I included in this build. Alternatively, you could bandy it out for an centralized weight to add added heft.
For switches, I accomplished out to Zeal PC to see if they would sponsor this body with some of their acclaimed Zealios switches. Zeal switches aren’t commodity you’ll acquisition in any store-bought keyboard but are complete allegorical in the keyboard community. Zeal makes abounding altered types of switches — linear, tactile, bashful — and are admired are some of the complete best you can buy.
I autonomous for the concrete Zealios adaptation for this build. As a fan of Cherry MX Browns, I like a acceptable concrete bang in my keypress. The Zealios has a abundant added arresting bang than browns. By comparison, browns feel about linear. You can buy Zeal switches in altered weights, too, to custom bout to absolutely your preference. I autonomous for the 67g (bottom-out force), which are alone hardly added than Cherry MX Browns.
Zelios 67g switches feel outstanding to blazon on. The concrete bang is college in the columnist and is added pronounced, which gives them a poppiness that I haven’t acquainted on a about-face before. They additionally somehow administer to breach acutely bland accomplished the bang afterwards any scratchiness.
Zeal switches are big-ticket at $1.00 or added per switch, but they’re account it.
Along with switches, you charge stabilizers. Any key that is two units or more, needs one to accumulate it from angry and not abiding correctly. Zeal beatific over some of their PCB arise screw-in stabilizers, which retail for $30 as pictured. Screw-in stabilizers are absolutely adopted to abate bang and to appropriately administer the band-aid mod, which I’ll appearance you later. This keeps them anchored to the PCB with beneath all-embracing movement.
Why gold? Because it looks cool, and as you’re apparently discovering, that’s a big allotment of the keyboard hobby.
We’ll allocution about keycaps afterwards the build, but these are acutely a cardinal allotment of any build.
The KOYU ships with its own USB Type-C cable, but aback you’re architecture your own keyboard, custom cables aback become important. I followed the trend and purchased an aviator cable from Dream Cables. They did such a acceptable job, I purchased a additional one aback I swapped keycap sets. I customized abundance to bout the amethyst of the lath and my adopted keycap set. What you see actuality is a neon blush cable with a neon dejected techflex wrapping and amethyst heatshrink. The aviator cable allows it to breach abroad to calmly bandy accessories but, let’s be honest, it’s addition nod to aesthetic.
I was a bit afraid about accumulation aback I’d never congenital a keyboard before, but with the advice of YouTube the action was quick and easy. In the account above, you see aggregate I laid out for my aboriginal steps. On the right, I accept some DuPont Teflon Silicone Adipose and Permatex Dielectric Grease to bless the stabilizers, as able-bodied as a acrylic besom to administer the Teflon. Above, you’ll acquisition two bolt band-aids for the band-aid mod. Below is a brace of tweezers, a keycap puller, and a about-face puller.
The aboriginal footfall was to adapt the stabilizers. This is one of the best important accomplish and makes a abstruse aberration in the all-embracing complete of the keyboard, blurred the angle of the counterbalanced keys and authoritative them feel abundant nice to use. I began by demography them afar and painting the central of the slider housings with the silicone lubricant. Then, I biconcave the ends of anniversary wire in the dielectric grease afore reassembling them. This makes for a bland accelerate and deadens out rattle.
Next, I activated the band-aid mod. This is a simple, but impactful mod I would awful animate new builders to try. You activate by acid strips of the band-aid bolt that bout the breadth area the balance will blow the PCB. Agenda that because of the LEDs on the amplitude bar, I had to use four abate strips. Then, you covering the band-aids in dielectric grease until they change blush afore blame the stabilizers in place.
Between the lubrication of the stabilizers themselves and the absorptive apparent breadth they accommodated the PCB, the counterbalanced keys on the KOYU acquainted absolutely altered and abundant bigger than any pre-built keyboard I’ve acclimated in the past. It was able-bodied account the added 15 account to do both steps.
Next, I removed the abject and absorbed the centralized dampener with three screws.
After that, it was time to spiral the PCB into abode and affix the USB cable to the anchorage on the appropriate on the aback of the PCB. I acquainted it in to accomplish abiding it was accepting ability and it lit appropriate up.
With that said, it was time to install the switches. With hot bandy sockets, this is a simple action of acute them into place. Usually, there is a bit of backtracking to actual any pins that became angled during installation, but aback the PCB accurate alignment pins, I was afraid to acquisition all but two switches were perfect. Accessible installs for the win!
With all of the keys working, the alone affair larboard to do was…
Install the keycaps (RAMA Works PBT Abundant Industry Seq 2)…
And remap any keys I capital changed.
All told, it took best to anima myself up abundant to body the KOYU than it absolutely took to body it. The absolute action was abundantly accessible with no soldering required. I shouldn’t accept been abashed in the slightest. It was easy, fun, and rewarding.
The end aftereffect is one I am above blessed with. The KOYU feels amazing to blazon on. The abutting case with the centralized dampener absolutely deadens out accounting sounds and lends the keyboard a actual ablaze accounting complete that is abundantly satisfying. The anatomy agency is additionally absolute for me. 65-percent is my adopted layout, and I was able to map the keys to bout my above-mentioned Massdrop ALT, so it was instantly familiar.
The keyboard additionally supports layering, so you can actualize custom layouts for altered programs or games. I like to accumulate things simple, so I confused aggregate I bare (including media, lighting, and action controls) assimilate the aboriginal two layers. The customization abeyant actuality is absolutely absurd and the provided VIA software is actual user friendly.
After I congenital the keyboard, commodity happened. I fell bottomward the aerial hole. This was my journey.
I admired the Abundant Industry keycap set but longed for commodity amethyst to bout the rear plate. I searched and searched, eventually clearing on a set from Tai-Hao.
Except, that’s aback I apparent one of the bigger challenges to custom keyboards: award keycap sets that bout the admeasurement of every key. The KOYU has a longer, 7-unit, amplitude bar than best keyboards, which armament the surrounding keys to be smaller. Likewise, added keys were aloof hardly off, like the abate appropriate about-face to board the right-side cavalcade of aeronautics and alteration keys.
Twenty-five dollars later, the Tai Hao set arrived. I accumulated it with the Abundant Industry set and came up with this.
It looked good! Except… the larboard Ctrl was a little off. And the keycaps were ABS instead of PBT. And they were thin… too attenuate for a keyboard of this caliber. And that appropriate Control wasn’t Control, it was still Shift, it was aloof the alone key I had larboard that would fit and attending good.
So I searched for another. And searched, and searched, and searched. As it happens, amethyst sets are adamantine to acquisition afterwards authoritative aloft sacrifices. Best don’t accept the appropriate admeasurement amplitude bar, for one, others are added pastel. Others, like the Mitolet set, approached $200 and were awash out anyway.
Eventually, I became balked and alone purple. Instead, I best up the Drop Redsuns GMK Red Samurai set for addition $95. Yet, what about the amethyst base? I pushed it out of my head. Gold, black, burgundy… this set should attending great.
And you apperceive what? It did! I absolutely admired it. Except… it didn’t accept the appropriate amplitude bar and the basal row wasn’t admeasurement appropriate (just like the Tai-Hao) and the backspace was too big. Afterwards blame myself for not accomplishing abundant research, I angry to third affair sites to get blanks for the missing keys. It formed well, with the barring of the 7u spacebar which was out of banal everywhere in the contour of the blow of the keys. I was affected to aces up a abundant taller one. The end result, however, was appealing abuse good. I alike best up a additional Dream Cable to bout the new scheme.
So, actuality I am, admiring this keyboard that was now account over $600. And it started to abrade at me that I didn’t accept a able keycap set. I admired what I had but, for this abundant money, I shouldn’t be settling.
That’s aback I got an email from Drop that the Drop Mito SA Laser keycap set was briefly aback in stock. It was the absolute color. It was my admired profile: nice, tall, SA. It was… out of banal for the basal row keys I needed.
I was disappointed, but it was money saved. Still, I would be ashore afterwards my absolute amethyst keycap set for this absolute gold keyboard. Then, as I longingly browsed the Drop Mito SA Laser artefact page, the Cyberdeck set was in stock! I bound went to add it to my cart, acquisitive to defended it. Success! Only, that set was $178. Too affluent for my blood. I removed it from my barrow and addition abroad bound snatched it up.
I always arrested the folio for the abutting two days, acquisitive the banal sets would acknowledgment with aggregate I needed. They didn’t, but Cyberdeck did, anytime so briefly. As luck would accept it, I had aloof gotten a bit of added money. I bit the bullet. I bought Cyberdeck. And because I didn’t like the bifold legends, I bought the Alphas too.
This was, my friends, my bigger money splurge in months. On keycaps. I would never accept done this before, but I got bent in the aforementioned drive that pushes bodies to abutment Accumulation Buy afterwards Accumulation Buy. All told, the bulk of the keyboard and aggregate I bought to go with it is abutting to $1000. The bulk of the keyboard as congenital with the SA Laser keycap set is aloof over $819.
This is a absurd bulk of money, but automated keyboards are like any hobby. You can buy a kit that’s beneath than $60 or one that’s $600. You can go as bank or abysmal as you appetite to. Aback you’re done, you’ll accept commodity that’s abnormally your own and, if you absorb a lot of time at a keyboard, you’ll accept a apparatus that feels bigger than annihilation you can buy in a abundance today.
Is it for everyone? Surely not. But if you’re the creative, DIY type, architecture your own keyboard is a fun activity with a advantageous aftereffect you can absolutely use. Aloof as importantly, it’s a acquirements acquaintance that opens the aperture to added DIY projects in the future.
I appetite to acknowledge both RAMA Works and Zeal PC for sending forth abstracts to be able to allotment this alluring amusement with you all. It’s not every day that I’m able to body “the BMW of automated keyboards” and accommodate an central attending at a growing, yet still actual abundant underground, community. I aboveboard achievement we can do this afresh in the approaching with addition affection or academic review.
Disclaimer: This commodity is categorized beneath Hardware Reviews for allocation amidst our Hardware and Tech agreeable but is not a analysis (clearly). The keyboard kit, switches, and stabilizers were provided by their corresponding manufacturers.
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