Keyboard enthusiasts are always on the lookout to improve their keyboard’s typing experience. Many famous customization options, like the Tempest Tape Mod and PE Foam Mod, strive to enhance a keyboard’s sound. But, equally important (if not more important) than your keyboard’s acoustic profile is your keyboard’s distinct feel. Multiple factors contribute to typing experience provided by your mechanical keyboard.
Often, users of tray-mounted keyboards report dissatisfaction with their keyboard’s stiffness. The keyboard’s screw standoffs cause unequal distribution of reverberations from users’ keystrokes. To remedy this, one can implement the O-Ring Mod. Using O-Rings on the standoffs softens the typing feel and distributes sound more evenly in tray mount keyboards.
In this article, we will be guiding you through the implementation of the O-Ring Mod in tray-mounted keyboards. We will also discuss why users of tray-mounted keyboards highly laud this modification. You will know how to do the mod on your tray mount keyboards by the end of this article.
Context: What is a Tray Mount Keyboard?
A tray mount keyboard is one of the easiest and cheapest keyboards to acquire. Many prebuilt keyboards and budget custom kits implement the “tray mount” style, which uses mounting posts to keep the keyboard’s PCB and Plate in place. These mounting posts are known in the community as screw standoffs (or simply “standoffs”). By putting screws in these mounting posts, the PCB and plate of your keyboard are affixed firmly with your keyboard’s case.
A tray mount keyboard has its plate, and PCB screwed into standoffs located at the bottom of the keyboard case. Famous examples of tray mount keyboards include the KBDFans’ Tofu60 custom kit and the Royal Kludge series of prebuilt keyboards.
The Problem With Tray Mount Keyboards
Keyboard enthusiasts often steer away from the tray mount keyboard due to its hard mounting style. The screws and their partner standoffs are situated in random places throughout the keyboard, which often causes inconsistencies in the typing experience—moreover, affixing the PCB and plate to the keyboard using screws results in minimal downward flex – making for an unpleasant and rigid typing feel.
Compared to different mounting styles, such as top-mounted and gasket-mounted keyboards, tray mount keyboards are simply outperformed by them in every way. The tray mount keyboard’s inconsistencies result in a typing experience of relatively low quality in terms of sound and feel. Tray-mount keyboards are simply off the table for anyone searching for a high-end build.
However, newcomers tend to purchase tray mount keyboards as their first mechanical keyboard build. There is nothing wrong with that, considering that their goal as neophytes is simply to get introduced to mechanical keyboards. They’re beginner-friendly in cost, assembly, disassembly, and modding.
The O-Ring Mod
If you’re looking to improve a tray mount keyboard, then the O-Ring Mod is perfect. Performing the O-Ring Mod to tray mount keyboards counters the keyboards’ stiffness. It causes them to feel bouncier and softer when typing, making for a much more premium typing experience overall. The O-Ring Mod also improves sound distribution. Enthusiasts that have implemented this mod mention that a louder and poppier sound profile is achieved after the mod.
This mod takes its roots in the continuous rise in fame of the gasket mounting style, often found in mid-range to high-end custom keyboard builds. The gasket mounting style employs soft gasket material to isolate the plate from the rest of the keyboard build, resulting in a more cushioned typing experience.
Specifically, the O-Ring Mod takes inspiration from the Gummy O-Ring mount modification that some enthusiasts used to gasket mount their originally tray mount keyboards. YouTube user Brian Stormy explains this gasket mounting mod in-depth using a KBDFans Tofu60 keyboard in his video. He cites his inspiration from the highly sought-after SINGAKBD’s Unikorn keyboard, which employs gasket mounting using the gummy o-ring.
The O-Ring mod employs the same technique by using something soft (in this case: silicone or rubber o-rings) to isolate the plate and PCB from the keyboard case. Reddit user u/nerdponx is the first to account for their experience using O-rings in their tray mount build in 2020. You may find more details about how they coined the mod in their respective subreddit thread.
O-Ring Mod Keyboard Compatibility
The O-Ring Mod is performed by putting silicone or rubber o-rings (often used to dampen keycap sounds) onto a keyboard’s outer screw standoffs and under the head of the screws’ head. Because of the way this mod is implemented, the O-Ring Mod is only compatible with keyboards that employ the tray mounting style.
How To Do the O-Ring Mod
Materials Needed for the O-Ring Mod
- Your tray mount keyboard of choice disassembled
- Appropriate-sized screwdriver for your keyboard
- Silicone or rubber o-rings (O-ring switch dampeners)
- Tiny tweezers
Installing the O-Ring Into the Keyboard
To install the O-rings into the keyboard, use your tweezers to gently pick up and then place the o-rings on the top of the outer standoffs. Forego any center standoffs as they are not crucial to the implementation of this mod.
Once you have the O-rings aligned with the screw standoffs, carefully place the PCB and plate back into the case without knocking any o-rings over. Make sure to align the holes of the screw standoffs for easy assembly. The best technique is to angle your PCB and plate to the back of the case and softly drop down the rest of the PCB and plate body. If you’ve installed the keyboard’s plate and PCB in the proper position, you should be able to see the o-rings underneath their standoff holes.
After which, you can take a screw and push an o-ring underneath its head. The o-ring should fit snugly on your keyboard screw and be mounted immediately where the screw head stops. This will effectively sandwich the keyboard plate and PCB in soft material and prevent any stiffness while typing.
Push down the keyboard’s PCB and plate so that the lower o-ring doesn’t fall out. Then, using your tweezers, drop the screw with an o-ring on any one of the standoffs with lower o-rings. Use a screwdriver to affix the screw on the standoff, making sure not to overtighten the screw, thereby preventing the o-rings from becoming too compressed. (If the o-ring is too compressed, the keyboard’s mounting will remain stiff and cause an unpleasant typing experience).
Repeat this process on all outer standoffs.
Noticeable Effects of the O-Ring Mod
After doing the O-Ring Mod effectively, you should be able to notice more flex in your typing experience. Specifically, the O-rings act as a cushioning material that allows your PCB and plate to bounce up and down, creating a softer typing experience.
You should also find that your keyboard’s overall sound profile is more consistent than before since the silicone or rubber material acts as a sound dampener of the reverberations from your keystrokes.
Lastly, the typing experience also follows suit in the roster of improvements. The cushioning effect of the o-ring eliminates the variable stiffness caused by the hard mounting style employed in tray mount keyboards. It gives an overall more pleasurable and consistent typing experience.
Downsides of the O-Ring Mod
One of the downsides of the O-Ring Mod is that it can make metallic cases more resonant. This is quite a considerable downside since it is often metallic cases that employ the tray mounting style.
The vibrations of your keyboard plate and PCB echo more because your o-ring modded keyboard is mounted only on the outer standoffs. Moreover, the plate and PCB can vibrate freely since no gaskets are placed between the two keyboard parts. Metallic plates can thus sound a lot more pingy, which is often looked down upon in the keyboard community.
Is the O-Ring Mod Worth Doing?
With the many perks of the O-Ring Mod, there is no doubt that this is a mod worth trying. Your tray mount keyboard will sound and feel much more consistent and premium without spending for a gasket-mounted keyboard or acquiring a custom-fit gummy o-ring with a new PCB.
Just be sure to have a handful of effective case dampening materials at the ready, too, so that you can counter the high-pitched resonant metallic sound.
Check out our other articles for more sound dampening techniques that you can try on your keyboard. You can also try making a silicone dampening sheet for your tray mount keyboard by following the steps outlined in our Silicone Dampening Mod article.