Cherry MX Mechanical Switch Guide (With Sounds)

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The most popular mechanical switch in the world – the Cherry MX mechanical switch.  There are so many variations of this switch nowadays that it is daunting for anyone trying to decide which to choose on their new mechanical keyboard.

If you were like me back when I first started buying mechanical keyboards you probably feel overwhelmed with the amount of choice you have.  What is the difference between a Cherry MX brown vs Cherry MX red?  Which switch is better for gaming or typing?

The goal of this guide is to help you pick the switch that is best for you.  Whether you are an avid gamer, typist or anything in between I will try to answer all your questions.

A quick disclaimer that just like trying an office chair or a pair of shoes, choosing a Cherry MX switch often involves trying them.  This is difficult as there is no easy way of trying a keyboard before buying.

To get an initial feel of each of the most common switches I recommend picking up a switch tester like this one.  They are relatively cheap and although this only offers one of each switch to try it will at least help you get a feel for them.  This can be a huge help towards narrowing down your selection.

If you are still unsure of which to choose then please leave a comment below and I will be happy to help you.

Cherry MX Mechanical Switches Chart

Quick Cheat Sheet Guide:
For those of you wanting a quick answer, check out my Cherry MX mechanical switches chart below. This is a rough guide towards narrowing down what kind of switch might be best for you and should not be regarded as a definitive guide for everyone. For more information on the switches keep reading as this might help you decide in more detail!

Different Types of Cherry MX Mechanical Switches

Let us have a look at some of the switches in more detail to help you decide.  The three main types of Cherry switches are linear, tactile non-clicky and tactile clicky.

Linear Cherry MX Mechanical Switches

Linear Cherry MX mechanical switches are the ‘softest’ of the switches you can choose. By softest I mean they glide straight down and feel smooth as you press them.  There is no intermediate bump half way down the switch press, hence why they are called ‘linear’ (think straight down).

What do I mean by bump?

So what are the options for linear mechanical switches?

Cherry MX Black Mechanical Switch

The Cherry MX black switches were actually one of the very first Cherry switches, introduced way back in 1984 but have since been updated.

They have an actuation force of 60 cN which is considered quite high. In fact they are the stiffest switch out of the four standard Cherry MX mechanical switches.

The blacks are suited towards gaming and typing.  But the main thing to be aware of here is how heavy these switches are.  If you are used to a membrane keyboard this switch will feel very different.

If you are looking for a switch for typing then the Cherry MX Blacks might be too heavy as a first mechanical switch.

The heavy actuation force actually comes in handy if you find yourself accidentally key pressing. This was something I did a lot with my first board that had Cherry MX reds.

The Cherry MX Blacks also come in a silent variety offering quieter keypresses.  The silent blacks have a slightly shorter actuation (1.9mm) compared to the regular blacks (2.0mm).  They also have a shorter total travel distance at 3.7mm compared to 4.0mm of the blacks.

Cherry MX Mechanical Black Switch Guide
Cherry MX Black Mechanical Switch
Credit to Lethal Squirrel for the animations.

Cherry Black Sounds

Operating Force: 60cN
Pre-travel: 2.0mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry MX Red Mechanical Switch

Cherry MX red switches have grown in popularity significantly due to their versatility.   The reds have an actuation force of 45 cN which is the lightest out of the switches.

These are exactly the same as the Cherry MX blacks above but much lighter.  You should try both to decide whether you prefer a higher actuation force (blacks) or lighter (reds).

They are ideal for gaming because of how easy it is to double tap them and great for typing too. It primarily comes down to personal preference as to which one you will like most.  Personally I found them to be too light for me but these are one of the best switches for your first mechanical keyboard.

The Cherry MX Reds also come in a silent variety offering very quiet key presses.  The silent reds also have a slightly shorter actuation (1.9mm) compared to the normal reds (2.0mm).  They also have a shorter total travel distance at 3.7mm compared to 4.0mm of the reds.

Cherry MX Red Mechanical Switch

Operating Force: 45cN
Pre-travel: 2.0mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry Red Sounds

Cherry MX Speed Silver Mechanical Switch

Cherry MX Speed Silver switches have soared in popularity amongst gamers due to the marketing around them stating that they have a short travel time allowing for faster actuation. 

For comparison the actuation on Cherry MX Reds is 2.0mm whereas on Silvers it is 1.2mm so nearly half the distance.  The total travel of the Cherry MX Reds is 4.0mm and the Silvers 3.4mm.  

So effectively they have made the switch travel time shorter and the actuation time shorter.  You can feel the shorter travel time so they will offer faster actuation but there is no real way of testing this.  

I also found myself accidentally pressing the keys far too much, even more than the Cherry MX Reds so I could not get used to them.

Resting my fingers on the keyboard often resulted in my accidentally moving my character in game or mistyping.

Cherry MX Speed Silver switch
Cherry MX Speed Mechanical Switch

Image courtesy of Cherry MX

Operating Force: 45cN
Pre-travel: 1.2mm
Total travel: 3.4mm

Cherry Speed Silver Sounds

Tactile Non-Clicky Cherry MX Mechanical Switches

‘Tactile non-clicky switches’, what does that mean?

Tactile switches are exactly as they sound, they give you a tactile feedback as you press the switch.

This can be described as a small hump / notch as I talked about earlier. The hump gives you a satisfying pop feeling & feedback on each of your keystrokes.

Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Switch

The most popular tactile switch is the Cherry MX Brown which is probably the most popular switch altogether amongst mechanical keyboard fans.  This is thanks to its universal use in consumer mechanical keyboards.  There are better tactile switches available to custom mechanical keyboards but these are not widely available unless you build the keyboard yourself.

The Cherry MX brown has ranked number 1 in /r/MechanicalKeyboards polls on numerous occasions thanks to its availability.

The Cherry MX Browns are an ‘in between’ switch as I like to describe them. They have a subtle bump for tactile feedback and are light with an actuation force of 45 cN the same as the reds.

I prefer the browns compared to the reds because of the tactile feedback.  But this is entirely personal preference.

Cherry MX Mechanical Brown Switch
Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Switch

Operating Force: 55cN
Pre-travel: 2.0mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry Brown Sounds

Cherry MX Clear Mechanical Switch

The Cherry MX Clear switches are very similar to the browns except they have a higher actuation force (65 cN) and a more prominent bump.

If you like a heavier key and want strong feedback from your keys then you should have a look at the Cherry MX Clears.

In recent years they have actually grown in popularity significantly and manufacturers are starting to notice this.

It is a lot easier to obtain boards with these switches now so I would recommend giving both the brown and clear a try if you are unsure whether you want lighter or heavier switches.

Cherry MX Clear Mechanical Switch

Operating Force: 65cN
Pre-travel: 2.0mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry Clear Sounds

Cherry MX Grey Mechanical Switch

The Cherry MX grey is less used and a little harder to find. It is basically a variant of the Cherry browns just a little firmer. They are often used as spacebars in Cherry black keyboard layouts.

Sometimes they can be used by those that find Cherry blacks to be too light so they opt for the greys which are a little heavier.

There are two variants you can often find for the Cherry greys. The ‘grey-brown’ and the ‘grey-black’. The former is a tactile 60g cN actuation force switch with a slight tactile bump.

The latter is a 80 cN actuation force switch with a firm tactile bump.

I recommend avoiding the Cherry MX Grey’s particularly if you are about to choose your first mechanical keyboard.  

The heavy actuation force on these can be tiresome if you are switching from a membrane keyboard.

Tactile Clicky Cherry MX Mechanical Switches

Tactile clicky Cherry MX switches are the switches you want to buy to annoy your neighbours.

They have an audible ‘click’ noise which provides great typing satisfaction. They are often the most popular choice if you are looking for a keyboard primarily for typing.

Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Switch

Cherry MX Blue switches are easily this most used tactile clicky mechanical switch. They have an actuation force of 60 cN and as discussed, an audible click.

They are great for typing but it is a mixed opinion when it comes to gaming on blue switches.

Some people enjoy the tactile click but others don’t like the fact that the release point is above the actuation point. 

Be mindful of others if you are using the keyboard in an office surrounding. I used blues in my office and it started to become distracting for others around me so I brought in a Cherry red board instead to the delight of my co-workers.

Cherry MX Mechanical Blue Switch
Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Switch

Operating Force: 60cN
Pre-travel: 2.2mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry Blue Sounds

Cherry MX Green Mechanical Switch

The Cherry MX Green switches are identical to the blue switches. The only difference is that the greens have a harder spring so have a much higher actuation force (80 cN).

This is similar to the brown/clear dilemma in that if you prefer a heavier switch then go with the Cherry MX Greens, otherwise just stick with the blues.

This is primarily personal preference but I would advise the blues unless you are sure that you prefer heavier switches.

The green switches are a little harder to get your hands on too so you might be restricted in the keyboards you can buy.

Cherry MX Mechanical Green Switch
Cherry MX Green Mechanical Switch

Operating Force: 80cN
Pre-travel: 2.2mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry Green Sounds

Cherry MX White Mechanical Switch

The Cherry MX White are not as common but they are very similar to green switches. They have an actuation force of 80 cN but the click is a little quieter than the greens.

So if noise is a deal breaker for you then maybe consider the Cherry MX Whites.

It is often a wonder why whites are not more popular.  Many have commented on the fact that they preferred whites after they gave them a try.

CherryMX White Mechanical Switch
Cherry MX White Mechanical Switch

Operating Force: 80cN
Pre-travel: 2.2mm
Total travel: 4.0mm

Cherry White Sounds

Bespoke or Top-End Cherry MX Style Switches

Cherry MX switches have been the most popular mechanical switches for years now.  However, many mechanical keyboard enthusiasts use bespoke switches that are based off the Cherry MX switch design but offer a better typing experience.  I am not going cover all these switches here as there are literally hundreds and they are much more difficult to acquire. 

These switches are also not available on consumer off the shelve mechanical keyboards.  They must be purchased separately and built as part of a custom mechanical keyboard build.

If you are interested in reading more about bespoke switches check out the Zealios, Tealios, Gateron Inks and Novelkeys Cream switches.

The Topre Switch

There is one other type of switch I would recommend that you consider. The topre switch is a tactile capacitive switch, not technically a mechanical switch. They have a travel distance of around 4mm and can range in actuation force from 35 cN – 55 cN.

They are older switches yet still prove to be very popular, although they are slightly harder to acquire. The topre switch feels in some ways, similar to Cherry MX browns, except with the tactile bump being near the top of the actuation.

After the bump there is no more resistance and the key continues flat and smooth. When the switch bottoms out, it has a unique tock sound that makes the switch unique. Most users of topre switches find the sound pleasant and that they are one of the quietest switches.

The lightest of topre switches can be too light for some. This may cause accidental key presses, something to consider if you are familiar with Cherry MX reds.

Conclusion

Choosing the right Cherry MX mechanical switch is very difficult. I have gone through Cherry Blues, Cherry Reds and Cherry Browns.  Out of all the Cherry base switches I like browns the best closely followed by the Clears.

The best advice I can give is to try and narrow down your choice to two.  Then, if you can, buy both and try them.

That is the best way to know for sure what Cherry MX mechanical switch is your favourite.

Another option is to buy a Cherry MX mechanical switch tester. These are a great way to get a feel for each switch and are relatively affordable.  This is the one I used which helped me towards picking my first keyboard.

If you are still stuck or you have more questions please leave a comment below and I would love to help you.

Barry H

Barry H

Barry is the sole writer here at GamingGem. Having played games since the age of 7 he is a gamer at heart. His mission is to make GamingGem the primary resource for gamers to find accurate and unbiased reviews on the latest gaming and tech gear.

6 thoughts on “Cherry MX Mechanical Switch Guide (With Sounds)”

  1. Thank you so much for this comparison and explanation of Cherry Switches. I came a cross a keyboard I am very interested in buying and they offer Red, Blue, or Brown, on the particular model I am looking at, and after reading your guide, you have saved me from getting the wrong ones (Blue). Like yourself, I also like to slightly feel the key press while gaming as long as the bump isn’t overly noticeable, and requires too much force to press them. So it looks like Brown is what I am going to order with my new mechanical keyboard. Great guide!

    Reply
  2. The tree diagram really helped the process become more simple than trying to figure out each aspect of each switch.

    Reply
    • Yes the Zealios v2 67g are the switches I am currently using in my custom board they are a great tactile option. They are quite expensive though and can only really be used in a custom keyboards as there are no stock keyboards that come with them. For most people reading about Cherry switches though they will be looking at the stock switches. I mention a few other bespoke switches towards the end of the article. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply

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