The Best Switches For Mechanical Keyboards in 2024, Linear Edition

What are your favourite switches? What are the best switches for mechanical keyboards? Well, I am back with a second part to my top five series. To reiterate, this is an opinion piece and these types of lists are based on my biases and preferences. I will always recommend checking out reviews, and to do your research before you pick up any product. But grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive into some of my thoughts. With that being said, I hope to make picking a switch easier if you like the style of keyboards I use!

Before we begin

Some quick history on my experience in keyboards, I have been building keyboards for nearly 4 years and my taste in switches has really evolved since then. I started off deeply in love with tactile switches and my tastes have swapped to mainly linears as of now. I plan to also cover other ‘top’ things in keyboards, so if you like this style of article, let me know! 

Just like last article, setting some expectations here, there is no real order to this. I will be talking about the linear switches I like most and use the most often. They also work for just a lot of boards. I’ll also give recommendations and a quick sound demo.

IMPORTANT: The sound demo will be done on a single board [Event Horizon], using GMK keycaps, an aluminum plate, and only pressing the “h” and “j” keys along side the space bar. Also I have fully modded every switch, so you may actually not hear much of a difference! All switches were lubed, and some (Nixies and Milky Yellows) were filmed.

By the way, none of this is sponsored but you may find some affiliate codes in this article that help support my content. Enjoy!

Cherry Clear Tops (Nixies)

If you watch my live streams, you knew this would be the first thing I speak about… and I am not sorry.

Here are some quick specs:

  • Pre-Travel: 2.0mm
  • Total Travel: 4.0mm
  • Operating Force: 63.5cN
  • 5-Pin, PCB Mount

     

There is a reason why I like Cherry Nixie switch so much Cherry scratch. These are what I think are the best mechanical keyboard switches. Remember, this is all preference! With most Cherry switches, there is this subtle scratchy sound that comes alongside the switch, even if you lube it. Some people combat that scratch with breaking the switch in, but I love it. To me the keyboard scene is full of great linear switches that are already smooth as butter, so this has character. The Nixies also have a plastic polymer top (clear top) and this makes them sound a bit different then something like the Hyperglide. It adds a slight bit of fullness to its already bright sound signature. It’s a lovely switch and I highly recommend it.

Now, there are some downsides to this switch. While I don’t think the switch is absurdly pricey at almost $0.70 USD per switch (depending on where you get them), it does fall on the high side to switch pricing we have seen as of late. It also doesn’t have the best stock spring in the world and I would highly recommend swapping it out. Some of the stock springs can be inconsistent, feel bad, and they are also a very heavy stock spring. The Nixies also suffer from some housing wobble, meaning they benefit from using films, which is another cost.

Pros:

  • Full, bright (clacky) sound signature
  • Makes for a great spacebar switch
  • Cherry quality
  • Works great with light – medium coats of lubricant

Cons:

  • Stock lube variant just isn’t good
  • While the stock springs aren’t as bad as other cherry releases, they are heavy and feel inconsistent and I would recommend swapping them out
  • Can be pricey
  • While you don’t need films, as I mentioned I recommend them and that can add to cost
 
My recommendation for these switches: These go great with a classic top mount and I find these shine on an aluminum plate or a PC plate for top mount. They also work great in an oring build.
Cherry Nixie Switch
  • Cherry Nixie on Event Horizon
Cherry Nixie Switch

Gateron KS-3 Milky Yellow Pro Linear

I get really excited talking about the Gateron Milky Yellows. They are my other go to switch when I want something more smooth than the Nixie switch but with that same type of full sound signature. The key thing here is how inexpensive these things are. Coming in at roughly $0.24 USD a switch, these are very nice. These have always been a staple in the hobby and if you lube these right and film them, they can make a keyboard sing.

Specs:

  • Actuation: 50g
  • Pre-Travel: 2.0mm
  • Total Travel: 4.0mm
  • 5-Pin PCB Mount

These are another switch that do benefit from being filming and spring swapping, so again this does add cost and labour. However, when you’re building the perfect custom keyboard that extra love and care goes a long way. While the stock factory lubricant process is certainly better than the Cherry Nixies, it’s still far from perfect and I would recommend some 205g0 on these.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Full and bright sound signature
  • Buttery Smooth with lube
  • Works great with light – medium coats of lubricant
  • Great for per-key RGB boards!

Cons:

  • Stock lube needs some work
  • Films help make the switch sound more full and help with some minor housing wobble (so you need to buy films)
 
My recommendation for these switches: These are very much like the nixies and pair well with everything, especially top mount, gasket mount, and o-ring builds. I find myself reaching more for these on plates other than aluminum as they are very fuller sounding.
Milky Yellow Switch
  • Milky Yellow on Event Horizon
Milky Yellow Switch

Obscura Switches

These are one of my favourite long pole variant switches. The Obscura switches are manufactured by Outemu for Mode and sport a long spring as well as a shorter total travel due to the long pole stem. They sound full, they are loud, and they also have an extremely slight scratchiness in their sound profile to the keen ear.  I love that.

They do come with a light coat of 205g0 on the more important areas of the switch, but still need a proper coating in my opinion. However, I have tested them completely and found them to be great! They were smooth, I just found the sound was a bit too harsh and adding additional lube really helped round out the sound profile.

The stock springs have a 65g bottom out which I found a bit too heavy personally, but I am happy to say they are good quality springs too, so that’s one less thing to worry about. In my experience with them they didn’t need films either.

Obscuras come in at around $0.65 USD per switch, which is slightly lower than the nixies. However, you won’t need to film these, and may not have to spring swap them (preference) so that makes the price much more desirable. 

Pros:

  • Full Nylon housing makes these sound full
  • Long pole switches are typically louder
  • Smooth
  • Good quality spring
  • Stock lube is acceptable!

Cons:

  • While the stock lube is acceptable, I still thing it needs a better coating of it
  • Long pole switches are not for everyone
 

My recommendation for these switches:  These shine on gasket and oring builds, I personally think they are bit too loud for classic top mounts, but this is preference. Plate wise, everything works here, I really like FR4 and PC plates for these.

Mode Obscura Switch
  • Obscura on Event Horizon
Obscura Switch

HMX Macchiato Linears

I almost want to completely cross out the title here and talk about the HMX switch line up as a whole, but I won’t. HMX switches are the best factory lubed switches on the market, at least for me. They are also a new player on the block so I am expecting good things from them! They have good quality springs, use totally different types of plastics for their switches which make for some unique sounding builds and they are well priced.

Quick little note that I am adding in the day this list launched, I did get some reports of users having minor issues with some batches of HMX switches. This is valuable information to have. They had batches where the lube was in the center well of the bottom housing (which I do not recommend) and/or spring ping. This has not happened to me, but it may be important to note. I have had about 11 + batches of these switches and a few client builds, and almost all batches were great. There was one batch that I needed to go in and fix a few switches, but nothing too wild! So again, I wanted to add community feedback here, but my personal experience with the switches has been fantastic.

Even with that info, HMX still has my attention. Now, I love long pole switches and HMX makes a lot of them, but the Macchiato’s are a full travel distance switch and I appreciate that. Most of the HMX switches I’ve tried almost instantly fell in love, but lately I have been enjoying full travel switches, which is totally my preference.

These are priced at around $0.47 USD per switch and need almost no alterations or modding to them. They are good out of the box, at least from my experience so far. It’s fantastic.

Pros:

  • Well priced
  • Outstanding factory lubricant, when done right
  • Unique plastic configuration for different sound signature
  • Sound signature is full and a bit deeper

Cons:

  • HMX switches tend to sell out quickly, but they seem to be restocking very quickly (is this really a con?)
  • A small batch of users have experienced a few switches not as consistent as other batches. With that being said, this is a reminder that consistency is key with switches. I always recommend hand lubing switches, but these are a great starting off point. It’s also important to note, that this has only been the experience of some, but it is still good info to have.
 
My recommendation for these switches: So far, these have good on just about everything as well. I do find they are not as bright as other switches, pair these with a board that is overly “clacky” sounding to help tone it down a bit
HMX Switch
  • Macchiato on Event Horizon
HMX Macchiato Switch

Gateron Cap v2 Golden Yellow

Gateron has two switches on my list, and I am happy to share what I feel is such a sleeper switch. Cap V2 switches are such a unique release from them and have some features other switches don’t. Now keep in mind, there is a proprietary bottom housing, stem, and spring. These are not frakenswitch friendly. 

Also small note here, I also really love the full milky variants of these, too.

So what makes these unique? Well typically the pole of the switch goes into a ‘well or cavity’ into the bottom housing for stability purposes. Gateron sought to improve on this and redesigned the stem and bottom housing to be more stable and add aerodynamic improvements. These switches are very smooth and because of these changes, also have quite a unique sound profile. I can understand why these switches didn’t catch on though. It does make the world of modding your aftermarket switches with more aftermarket parts a bit harder, but I have also had a love for these switches. They sound so good and are so smooth.

Factory lube is present on these but it’s very light and I recommend adding more. These also come in at $0.48 USD per switch.

Pros:

  • Very unique design
  • Extremely smooth when lubed
  • Fun sound profile, think ‘poppy’ and bright
  • No need to film or spring swap
  • Upgraded switch molds

Cons:

  • Proprietary parts
  • You have to love the spring weight here as they don’t accept regular spring (63g bottom out, 50g actuation)

My recommendation for these switches: Since these are slightly deeper sounding switches, I would highly recommend pairing them with a PC plate to help bring out more of the deep bassy sound or even something overly bright sounding to help round it out more.
Cap Switch
  • Gateronb Cap Yellows V2 on Event Horizon
Gateron Cap Switch

Here are all the sound demos again to compare. Enjoy the subtle sound differences! 

The audio gear used to record this was a Sennheiser MKH 416 into a Volt 176. There has been zero post processing done to the audio and it is recording from head height using a c-stand and shock mount. The typing is done on a desk mat in a room with minimal sound treat (carpet and furniture).
Nixies on Event Horizon by alexotos
  • Nixies on Event Horizon
  • Milky Yellows on Event Horizon
  • Obscuras on Event Horizon
  • HMX Macchiatos on Event Horizon
  • Gateron Cap Yellows V2 on Event Horizon

Wrapping up

An honourable mention is KTT Rose or KTT HaluHalo V2. These can go between $0.30 – $0.40 per switch and honestly they are still some of the best deals on the market. They JUST need some lubricant and you have such a smooth switch. This list wouldn’t be complete without them and the KTT brand was and is a staple for my personal boards. 

Well, I hope you liked this list! I will have a tactile version of my favourite switches soon, and I am currently even working on stabilizer recommendations, too. Ultimately, I wanted to do this to help people better understand what I typically use in my personal keyboards. Custom keyboards are a daunting thing sometimes, don’t shop off of hype and remember to be financially responsible when making large purchases.

If you want a list of keyboards to pair these awesome switches with, I strongly suggest checking out what I think are the absolute best keyboards to buy right now, too! And just one more reminder before we are done here. Lubing your switches is important. You may not get this right on the first try but I highly suggest reading some guides on how to lube your switches and taking your time to get these right. They will drastically chance how your switches feel. No matter what you end up choosing and dubbing the best keyboard switch for you, I hope you have fun along the way!

See you on my live streams!