Find out more about the prominent mechanical keyboard company and some of its most popular switches
The mechanical keyboard hobby is a virtuous cycle. On one end of the cycle are the enthusiasts who eternally seek out just the right feel and sound for their next keyboard project, and on the other is a growing assortment of component designers and manufacturers who meet the community’s desires with an ever-growing range of products. Though it’s hardly a household name outside of the hobby, any mechanical keyboard enthusiast will be quick to tell you that Kailh is one of the biggest forces in modern mechanical keyboard switch design.
With that distinction in mind, we’ve created this Kailh switches guide to introduce you to the company behind the switches, as well as some of its most noteworthy creations from recent years. And no — they don’t just make keyboard switches, even if that’s what most folks outside of the electronics industry know them for.
Check out our comprehensive guide to the world of mechanical keyboard switches.
Kailh is a trade name for Dongguan Kaihua Electronics Co., Ltd., a design and manufacturing firm based in Zhejiang Province on China’s east coast — and if you were wondering, it’s pronounced just like “kale,” the leafy green vegetable. The company was first founded in 1990, specializing in the research, development, and manufacturing of precision electronic switches for communication products, automotive systems, household appliances, and many more applications. While Kailh’s products appear in all manner of places thanks to partnerships with other manufacturers, its main consumer-centric offering is its wide range of mechanical keyboard switches.
Like many other keyboard switch manufacturers, Kailh’s line of products began as an alternative of the Cherry Corporation’s influential MX switches, including their own takes on linear, clicky, and tactile standbys. While Kailh has stuck with MX-style cross-compatibility for many of its switches, its line now offers typing experiences you can’t find from any other manufacturer. This includes standouts such as the influential BOX series as well as the low-profile Choc series — but more on those in our Kailh switches guide section.
Did You Know?:You can learn about the finer points that distinguish one type of switch from the next with our guide to the difference between mechanical keyboard switches.
A broad selection of Kailh switches are available on the market, each with their own design philosophies and ideal applications. Here are five of the main switch series you can pick up and drop into your next custom build.
True to their name, Kailh BOX switches are marked by the plastic box surrounding their standard cross-shaped stems; this box is purported to help keep dirt and moisture out of the inner workings of the switch, but it’s also helpful for ensuring stability. Starting with the BOX line, Kailh introduced a specially engineered bar to its clicky switches that make a sharp click sound on both actuation and release (instead of just the one click on actuation made by click jacket switches, like the industry-standard Cherry MX Blues). Kailh BOX Jades in particular are prized as some of the most satisfying and loudest mechanical keyboard switches you can buy.
One of Kailh’s latest developments is its line of Turbo switches, which use a special low-friction POM plastic on their stems to promote smoother and faster actuation — ideal for gaming and other high-speed applications. The Kailh Turbo line includes three different types of linear switches to provide the fastest presses possible, as well as a tactile option for those who prefer a little more feedback under their fingertips. The Turbo series is new enough that it’s still rolling out to retailers around the world, but they look like they’ll be one to watch for enthusiasts.
Want a speedy switch that doesn’t sacrifice on feel and sound? The Kailh KK series brings longer springs to Kailh’s previous Speed line while still focusing on short key travel and snappy actuation. KK switches are available in linear, clicky, and tactile, with the linear KK Red switch integrating an extra-stable dust-proof wall to minimize distracting side-to-side movement. Their understated design featuring a dark gray lower housing and translucent smoke-colored upper housing lends itself well to daily driver work keyboards.
Did You Know?:Making your own custom keycaps is surprisingly approachable: Read our guide to how to make artisan keycaps to find out more.
Speaking of professionalism, the Kailh Pro series is a business-class experience: Cushioned downstrokes and springy returns reduce the potential for finger fatigue without spoiling the responsiveness you expect from a well-crafted mechanical keyboard. Kailh’s Pro line is offered in linear Burgundy, tactile Purple, and clicky Light Green (though if you truly do want to use them in an office setting, you should probably stick to the Burgundy or Purple, since the Light Greens could hardly be called quiet). They first hit the market in 2018 and their design has been unchanged since then, which makes them a solid pick for typists who want a premium feel without the new-hotness boutique price tag.
Each of the switch types we’ve highlighted so far have fallen into standard MX-style territory, which makes them cross-compatible with many of the most popular keycaps and keyboard frames/PCBs available on the market. Kailh also creates components for other kinds of keyboards, though, and one of the prime examples is its Choc line of low-profile mechanical switches. These switches are designed to take up less vertical space while still offering a pleasant and precise typing experience, and as such they’re only compatible with specially made keycaps. As for their name, it’s pretty easy to see the comparison to a delicious little square of chocolate — especially if you opt for the tactile Kailh Choc Browns.