Is a Brown Switch Louder Than a Membrane Switch?

Is a Brown Switch Louder Than a Membrane Switch


When it comes to selecting a keyboard, one factor that often influences the decision-making process is the level of noise produced during typing. Brown switches and membrane switches are two popular options with distinctive characteristics. In this blog post, we will explore the question of whether a brown switch is louder than a membrane switch. By examining their design, construction, and performance, we aim to provide a comprehensive analysis to help you make an informed decision when choosing a keyboard switch that suits your preferences and environment.

Section 1: Understanding Brown Switches

Brown switches belong to the mechanical keyboard switch family and are known for their tactile feedback. They are a compromise between the linear and clicky switches. When a key is pressed, the brown switch provides a tactile bump without producing an audible click sound. This tactile feedback enhances typing accuracy and responsiveness, making it popular among typists and gamers.

Section 2: Understanding Membrane Switches

Membrane switches are commonly found in low-profile and budget-friendly keyboards. They consist of a thin, flexible membrane layer with conductive traces that form a circuit when pressed. Membrane switches do not have individual mechanical components for each key, resulting in a quieter typing experience. However, the absence of tactile feedback can impact typing speed and accuracy for some users.

Section 3: Noise Level Comparison

When comparing the noise levels between brown switches and membrane switches, several factors come into play:

  1. Tactile Bump: Brown switches have a tactile bump, which creates a slight audible noise as the key is pressed and the switch actuates. This noise is typically quieter than that of clicky switches, but it is still audible. In contrast, membrane switches lack tactile feedback, resulting in a quieter typing experience.
  2. Bottoming Out: When a key reaches the bottom of its travel distance, it can create noise due to the impact. This factor applies to both brown switches and membrane switches. However, the noise produced when bottoming out a brown switch can be slightly louder than that of a membrane switch, as the mechanical design of the brown switch can generate a more distinct sound.
  3. Typing Style: Individual typing style can affect the perceived noise level. Some typists tend to type more forcefully, resulting in a louder sound regardless of the switch type. However, membrane switches, due to their soft cushioning, may absorb some of the impact and reduce the noise generated during forceful typing.
  4. Environment: The surrounding environment plays a significant role in noise perception. In a quiet room, even the subtle noise produced by a brown switch may be more noticeable. On the other hand, membrane switches are often favored in shared or noise-sensitive environments due to their quieter operation.

Section 4: Factors Affecting Noise Perception

In addition to the switch type itself, several other factors can influence the perception of noise:

  1. Keycap Material: The material of the keycaps can affect the sound produced during typing. Thick keycaps made of materials like PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) or ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) can dampen the noise to some extent. However, thin keycaps or keycaps made of materials like polycarbonate may amplify the sound.
  2. Keyboard Build and Case Material: The overall build quality and materials used in the keyboard’s construction can impact noise levels. Sturdy metal cases tend to absorb sound better than plastic cases, which can result in a quieter typing experience.
  3. Lubrication: Lubricating mechanical switches with appropriate lubricants can reduce noise by minimizing friction between the components. This technique is commonly used by enthusiasts to achieve a smoother and quieter typing experience.
  4. O-ring Dampeners: O-rings are small rubber rings that can be added to the keycap stems to dampen the sound when the key reaches the bottom. They can help reduce the noise produced by both brown switches and membrane switches.

Section 5: Conclusion

In summary, while brown switches produce a tactile bump and a subtle noise when compared to membrane switches, the noise level can still be influenced by various factors such as typing style, keycap material, keyboard build, and environmental conditions. On the other hand, membrane switches offer a quieter typing experience due to their lack of tactile feedback and softer cushioning.

When deciding between brown switches and membrane switches, it is essential to consider your personal preferences, the intended usage environment, and the desired level of tactile feedback and noise. If you prioritize a quieter typing experience, especially in shared spaces, a membrane switch may be the better option. However, if you value the tactile feedback and prefer a mechanical switch, with some noise consideration, a brown switch could be a suitable choice.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to finding the right balance between typing experience, noise level, and personal preferences. We recommend trying out different switches whenever possible to determine which one suits your needs best.