Even if you’re relatively new to the keyboard hobby, you’ve likely observed that some pre-built keyboards have a distinct sound and feel. One reason for this is its mounting style. There are a variety of mounting styles, but one of the most popular would be the top mount.
Top mounting secures the PCB and plate to the upper portion of the keyboard case, allowing more downward flex and consistency since the PCB and plate are attached at the edges. Top mount is a premium mounting style that achieves a consistent typing feel and sound profile across the whole keyboard.
Top mount keyboards have dominated the mid-price and high-end custom keyboard market for quite some time now. Popular mechanical keyboard models, such as the Space65 and the Cannonkeys Satisfaction75, use this mounting style to achieve their unique typing feel and sound profile. And even though gasket mount keyboards are becoming more popular than top mount keyboards, they still have a sold place in the custom keyboard market.
In this article, we will be learning more about top mount keyboards. We will talk about how it is implemented in keyboards, how it feels and sounds, and other manufacturers’ mods to improve the usual top mount keyboard formula.
What are Keyboard Mounting Styles
A keyboard mounting style pertains to how the PCB and plate are secured to the keyboard housing or case, which affects its assembly, sound, and feel. Given this, there are many possibilities on how the components are secured together. That is why the keyboard community came up with various mounting styles to acquire a particular sound and feel.
Different types of mounting styles offer different types of typing experiences. But the sound and feel aren’t just limited to the mounting style. Other plate materials also contribute to this.
Top Mount Keyboards
What is a Top Mount Keyboard, and How Does It Work?
The top mount has been around as early as the late 2000s. To this day, high-end keyboards still use this mounting style as a default. Tried and tested by enthusiasts alike, it is still a favorite for its consistency and balance.
A top mount means that the edges of the PCB and plate are secured to the upper portion of the keyboard housing or case. The PCB and plate are held in place only at the edges, allowing more flex downwards to relieve harshness. Harshness, in this context, means high-frequency vibrations that translate into the overall typing experience.
The case vibrations travel from the upper portion to the bottom with this mounting style, allowing the case vibrations to disperse into a large area. Due to this, the top mount can produce a more consistent and crisper sound throughout the whole keyboard.
Burger Mount (Modified Top Mount)
If you’re looking for a way to spice up a top mount, this is it. The burger mount, also known as the modified top mount, has an added O-ring between the case and plate.
The O-ring isolates the plate from the case screw and acts as tiny gaskets. The more isolated the plate is, the less vibration there is to the case, which reduces the keyboard’s pitch, resulting in a ‘thockier‘ sound. Cannonkeys most commonly use the Burger Mount/Modified Top Mount mounting method in their Brutalist keyboards.
What are the Advantages of a Top Mount Keyboard Over a Tray Mount?
Let’s define what a tray mount is to put things into perspective. In a tray mount, the PCB is mounted onto the case by screwing it on mounting posts attached to the bottom of the case.
Due to the mounting posts, screws are attached in several places. This process results in holding the PCB and plate in place without allowing much downward flex. It also produces an inconsistent sound all over the case while making it feel hard and stiff. These inconsistencies compromise the quality of the build and the typing experience.
On the other hand, the top mount’s plate and PCB are held in place and secured on the edges, allowing more downward flex and a soft, bouncy feel. This construction evenly distributes tension than a tray mount, producing a more consistent sounding keyboard.
One upside to this is that it is relatively easy to mod, and the tray mount can feel and sound better. Whether or not it is good is entirely up to you.
Top Mount Keyboard Typing Experience
Top Mount Keyboards Typing Feel
Since the only edges are attached in the top mount, it allows more downward flex and produces a soft, bouncy feel. Its downward flex also offers an excellent semi-cushioned and consistent typing feel across the keyboard. But compared to a gasket mount, it provides less flex.
Top Mount Keyboards Sound Profile
A top mount keyboard produces a consistent and singular sound throughout the case, sounding crisper. But it sounds drier compared to a gasket mount without a distinct sound.
Popular Keyboards that Use Top Mount
Here is a shortlist of popular keyboards that make use of the top mount:
- 65% top mount with two noise and vibration reduction pads.
Cannonkeys Brutalist Series
- Burger mount; to help with sound and feel. It is optional but recommended.
- 60% top mount with burger mount compatibility.
- 75% top mount featuring a USB-C daughterboard, USB-A hub, and brass plate.
- 65% top-mounted aluminum board with a brass or stainless steel weight.
Should You Buy Top-Mount Keyboards?
For a good reason, top-mounted keyboards are popular and used as a default for high-end keyboards. It produces a consistent sound and typing feel throughout the keyboard, making it adaptable to different mods without compromising the build quality and typing experience. It is a mounting style that you can freely experiment on as it serves as a good base.
So if you have been in the keyboard collecting hobby for quite some time, it might be worth investing in one as you can play around with different sound profiles and feel. There are a lot of other factors that affect the overall typing feel and sound of the keyboard, and it is not only limited to its mounting style.
One way to experiment with the top mount and produce various sounds and feel is to try different plate materials and see what works best for you. Another option would be testing the modified top mount, also called “the burger mount”. The o-rings act as tiny gaskets, making the typing experience close to a gasket mount. Adding dampeners would also be nice to absorb the case vibrations, making it quieter.