Cherry MX Black vs. Red Switches: What’s the Best Linear Switch?

Written by Azzief Khaliq
Last updated Jul 23, 2023

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cherry mx black vs red switches

Choosing the right linear switch can be difficult, especially if you’re new to mechanical keyboards. Cherry MX Blacks and MX Reds are popular beginner choices, but deciding between them isn’t that easy, especially if you can’t try them yourself. But fret not, we’ve compared Cherry’s MX Black vs. Red switches to hopefully help you decide on the right Cherry MX switch for you.

We’ll discuss the specs, typing feel, and give you a sound comparison to help you choose one of the two. Let’s get started.

Cherry MX Black vs. Red Switches: The Basics

SwitchTypeActuationPre-travelTotal travel
Cherry MX BlackLinear60 g2.0 mm4.0 mm
Cherry MX RedLinear45 g2.0 mm4.0 mm

The two Cherry switches are broadly similar: they have the same pre- and total travel distances, and also boast the same lifespan. The only major difference (aside from the color) is the weighting, with the Cherry MX Black requiring significantly more force to press than the MX Red.

While we’re comparing Cherry MX Black vs. Red here specifically, most Cherry MX-style manufacturers follow the same color and weighting standard for their mainstream linear switches. Gateron, for example, makes Black and Red switches with the same specs as Cherry’s originals.

Unfamiliar with terms like actuation or travel? Check out our guide to linear vs. tactile vs. clicky switches for quick explanations of mechanical switch terminology and concepts.

Cherry MX Black vs. Red Switches: Typing Feel

Cherry MX Black mechanical switches

Source: Cherry

Both the MX Black and MX Red feel similar to type on. They’re linear switches, so the stem moves smoothly and consistently, with no tactile feedback or click sound. They’re slightly scratchy and not as enjoyable as the best linear switches, but both are definitely usable in stock form.

The main difference is the weighting. As the specs suggest, the MX Black is noticeably heavier to type on than the MX Red, at 60 grams of actuation vs. 45 grams. Whether this is a good thing depends on what you want from a mechanical keyboard switch.

For example, heavy-handed typists may prefer the heavier weighting of the MX Black. But that much weight can get tiring, especially if you’re gaming. That’s where the MX Reds come in; their 45-gram actuation makes them an excellent lightweight mechanical switch for fast-paced inputs. That said, it boils down to personal preference: I like heavier linears and used to game with MX Blacks with no problems.

Cherry MX Red mechanical switch

Source: Cherry

Some users point out that the MX Reds’ lighter weighting means it’s easier to make typing mistakes, resulting in a steeper learning curve for new hobbyists. They’re a lot lighter to type on than the average rubber dome keyboard, which may throw some of you off. I’m not convinced, but it’s worth considering if you haven’t used a mechanical keyboard before.

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to explain the weight difference in writing, so you’ll have to try both out. You can spend around $20 on a Cherry switch tester, which should give you some idea. Or, better yet, buy an affordable hot-swappable keyboard and a bunch of switches and swap between the two until you find the one you prefer.

If you want something light and easy to type on, go with the MX Reds. But if you want a switch that offers more resistance, get the MX Blacks. If you’re dead-set on buying Cherry MX linears, you may also want to investigate the MX Black Hyperglides and MX Red Hyperglides. These have the same specs as the standard switches but are manufactured with updated tooling for a smoother typing experience.

Cherry MX Black vs. Red Switches: Sound

Cherry MX Black and Red installed

Source: Voltcave

Once again, there isn’t much to separate these two switches. The Cherry MX Black and Red sound almost identical to my ears, with a similar bottom-out clack and slightly scratchy sound as the stem slides within the housing. They’re quiet compared to clicky switches like the Cherry MX Blues, but they’re not exactly silent switches either.

The Cherry MX Blacks sound somewhat deeper than the Cherry MX Reds, which I find more enjoyable. However, it’s not a huge difference, and certainly not enough for me to say the MX Black sounds better. It’s more of a personal preference and not an objective advantage.

Listen to these clips and decide for yourself. I installed the switches in my Skyloong GK61 and recorded them with an Audio Technica AT2020. First, the MX Blacks:

And then, the MX Reds:

I don’t think there’s an objectively better-sounding switch between the two. It’s another area where personal preference will help you choose. I like the MX Blacks, but I can totally understand someone preferring the MX Reds.

Cherry MX Black vs. Red Switches: Price

Cherry MX Black and MX Red mechanical switches

Source: Voltcave

The similarities continue here, as both of Cherry’s mainstream linear switches will cost you a similar amount of money. Both are mid-priced switches, hovering around $0.40 – 0.55 per switch, depending on where you buy them.

You can get 108 Cherry MX Blacks for around $55 and 108 Cherry MX Reds for about $45 on Amazon, but pricing is a bit inconsistent between sellers. We recommend shopping around to find the best deal if you want to buy from Amazon.

If you’re in the US, sells MX Black and MX Red 10-packs for a much more affordable $4, with bulk discounts if you buy more than 70 switches. That’s likely the best option if you’re in the Lower 48, as you can get free shipping to keep costs low.

Both switches offer reasonable value, especially considering their excellent longevity and good build quality. But these aren’t the right switches if you’re shopping for bargain linear switches. For that, you’ll have to look towards Far East clone manufacturers like Gateron.

Closing Thoughts

Cherry’s MX Black and MX Red linear switches are more similar than they are different. Both are reasonably smooth linear switches perfect for gaming, with only their weighting differing significantly between them.

And it’s that weighting that’ll help you choose between the two. If you want a Cherry MX switch that’s easier to press, then the MX Red takes the cake. But if you like a bit of resistance, then the MX Blacks have you covered. Our suggestion? Try both, and see which you enjoy more.

Ready to spend your money? Check out our list of the best places to buy keyboard switches.

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