The world of mechanical keyboards opens you up to a lot of customizability to match your preferences.
Choosing a keycap profile is a great way to make the keyboard feel and sound better for you, so lets take a look at the differences between some of the most popular keycap profiles.
Here is a breakdown of the difference profiles:
We’ll go into more detail about the differences between each keycap and give some suggestions on the application and usage.
SA vs DSA vs OEM vs Cherry vs XDA
SA, DSA, OEM, Cherry, and XDA are five of the most popular keycap profiles in the mechanical keyboard hobby and there are multiple differences between them.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
SA: A tall, sculpted keycap profile that produces a thock noise.
DSA: A very short uniform keycap profile that mimics a low-profile design.
OEM: The standard size and shape of most keycaps.
Cherry: A short keycap profile that is sculpted with an aggressive angle for easy typing.
XDA: A short uniform keycap profile that is a little taller than DSA.
All of the profiles have different heights, sound, and feel.
Some are more bassy, like the lower profiles, and others provide a nice “thocc” sound, for example SA.
Cherry and OEM are the most common options being a middle ground for height.
Often you will find keyboards being sold with keycaps that are OEM profile and occasionally Cherry, but these 5 options are all very popular when looking for custom keycaps.
This profile is one of the most popular profiles for aftermarket keycaps. Keycaps of this type are sculpted making them vary between rows but also more comfortable compared to uniform keycaps.
They are a bit shorter than the OEM profile but usually are more expensive than OEM as well, unless you are buying from a company that is not using genuine tooling.
If you are used to mechanical keyboards then this height will probably be pretty easy to get used to and even if you are new coming from something at a lower profile, it should only take a couple weeks to get used to them.
The keycaps of this profile have a more bassy sound, due to there being less room within the keycap for sound to bounce around. In our experience we found cherry to be one of the best profiles, if not the best, for both gaming and typing.
The SA profile, which is sculpted, is one of the tallest profiles and the tallest out of all these options.
These keycaps can be difficult to get used to especially if you are coming from a low profile keyboard. For some it isn’t possible for them to get used to.
This profile is known for providing a great sound, a “thocc”, that many enthusiasts love. SA is known for having a more vintage look that many appreciate.
This profile might not be the best profile for gaming but for typing it is a good option although other profiles in this article may help you to type faster.
DSA, one of the most popular uniform profiles, is a low-profile keycap type.
It is pretty easy to get used to unless you are coming from a high profile keyboard, although the fact that they aren’t sculpted may be difficult for you.
Many people love the look of these because they really like the consistent height and look between rows as well as the sound is liked by many with the lowest pitch sound on this list due to there being little room within the caps.
These are pretty good for gaming, although sculpted keycaps are usually preferred. For typing, the uniform profile may have an adjustment period required.
Like DSA, XDA keycaps are low profile and uniform, which results in this profile being liked by enthusiasts for having a great look.
This profile is pretty easy to get used and will be easier than DSA if you are coming from a high profile like SA. The most difficulty you will probably have is if you aren’t used to the profile’s uniformity.
XDA sounds pretty similar to the Cherry profile just a bit lower pitch.
Overall this profile is a solid option for both gaming and quick or regular typing. One issue gamers might have is the uniform nature of XDA makes it harder for them to find the keycap.
This profile is probably the most popular keycap profile.
It is decently popular for aftermarket keycaps and comes on the majority of pre-built keyboards.
The keycaps are sculpted meaning they have different heights for different rows and they conform to your fingers being more comfortable during typing and gaming.
The sculpted nature is why we consider them a great option for both applications.
The OEM profile is usually the cheapest option here and is pretty easy to get used to unless you are coming from a low profile board, which could take you a few weeks to get used to.
The sound is very similar to the Cherry profile, being a bit bassy, but you will notice more of a sound difference between different materials, thickness, and the keyboard.
Sculpted vs Uniform Keycap Profiles
One of the biggest differences between these keycap profiles is whether the keycaps are sculpted or uniform.
Uniform keycaps have a flat surface and are not angled at all.
Sculpted keycaps have a slight angular shape to improve comfort when typing. Each row has it’s own unique angle.
Sculpted is more widely preferred, as it makes typing feel more fluid. Others may find uniform profiles such as XDA and DSA to meet their preferences.
The uniform profile can usually be found on some enthusiast keycap sets with unique designs.
Where to Find Keycaps With Unique Profiles
You can get keycaps that are constantly in-stock or from Group Buys, when multiple people can purchase a product before it is made as a group and then after it is made it is shipped to them during, typically, a single run.
Buying from a website with in-stock keycaps is a quick, easy way to get your hands on keycaps but Group Buys may take about 9 months but you can get more interesting designs that suit your preference better.
To get more unique profiles like SA, DSA, and more these are a few great places that you can visit for keycaps of many unique profiles:
- Amazon: A great place to get in-stock keycaps very quickly and they do sell some unique profiles like SA, DSA, XDA, and other profiles not mentioned before such as MT3, sold by Drop on Amazon. Amazon won’t have the best prices here or the best selection but has good shipping and usually doesn’t have stock issues.
- Banggood: Banggood is quite similar to Amazon and they have a lot of cheaper options as well as a bit better selection compared to Amazon but the shipping isn’t quite as good.
- KDBfans: KDBfans has many options for unique keycaps and is one of the best places to start with good pricing and decent shipping times. They don’t have really unique profiles but they have all the profiles that we have compared today.
- Drop: Drop is a great sight for both group buys and in-stock keycaps. Drop does many collaborations with companies like GMK and individuals like Mito or Tomb3ry. They have a lot of really unique profiles in addition to the ones we have named today like MT3 which is an even more sculpted version of SA and reminisces the old IBM keyboards.
- Mechanicalkeyboards.com: They have a fairly good selection and pretty good pricing with many midrange options for profiles like DSA, XDA and SA.
- Mechgroupbuys.com: This a great place to go to find the newest and most interesting designs on the most unique profiles but be prepared for long wait times.
- /r/mechmarket: A great place to get keycaps that are reused or being resold and often has very good options for profiles and designs of all types but the price will often be elevated. You can often bypass waiting for a long time for group buy products and just get them from here after they start shipping and even get your set with in a few days.
Your favorite profile is all based off preference.
It’s all about finding the perfect height and the sound that creates the most satisfaction when typing/gaming.
Things like sound can also be greatly affected by case material, plate material, thickness of the keycap, if the switches are lubed, if the stabilizers are modded, and the surface that the keyboard is resting on.
If you game mostly then OEM or Cherry may be best keycap profile option for you as the sculpted shape reduces the distance you need to stretch your fingers.
If you do a lot of typing, we found that both Cherry and OEM are great options, but you can really be fast on any profile that suits your preference.
Two things that might help your speeds are sculpted keycaps because you can find keys easily and keyboard mappings like COLEMAK or DVORAK.
Finding the right keycaps for you is all a part of the mechanical keyboard hobby.
If interested in checking out more mechanical keyboard content, be sure to check out our YouTube channel and explore some other articles.