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Article: Grain Gold Bubble Gum: Review by Vere

Grain Gold Bubble Gum: Review by Vere

Grain Gold Bubble Gum: Review by Vere

Opening Words:

Hello everyone, this review goes over a switch that really surprised me, the Grain Gold Bubble Gums were switches I decided to test since they were so cheap but they were hidden gems. As always, I will try to be as unbiased as possible and go over both the positives and negatives of this switch.

 

Switch Introduction:

The Grain Gold Bubble Gums are long-pole linear switches with modified POM top housings with PTFE added, PA66 nylon bottom housings, and modified POM stems with Silicone added. The Mint and Strawberry Bubble Gums are identical and simply have different colors so you don't have to worry about getting only one. 

It has a 22mm extended single-stage KOS spring that operates at 37g and bottoms out at 45g with 5g of possible variance on springs. They are factory lubed.

They have standard long-pole travel at 3.5mm.

These switches were designed by ZUOCE who have also designed other switches, most recently the Zuoce Lavender (BSUN) besides these switches.

(Was never really a fan of this type of bubble gum)

Short Summary

Volume

Moderate volume on the lower end of long poles, the Silicone on the stem and standard PA66 bottom housing leads to a slightly quieter bottom out.

Pitch

Medium-low pitch with a slight amount of brightness in the bottom out, ultimately it is still POM on Nylon.

Sound Profile

Slightly muddy sound profile reminiscent of Polycarbonate plates, it is low pitched with some poppy notes, with the addition of some audible scratch they remind me of softer MX Blacks.

Stock

Consistent lube coverage, with low amounts of transient noise, fairly decent stem wobble control and not much to complain about at $0.15 per switch. I have received many reports of large pools of lube in the bottom housing however.

Design

Though not a rare colorway, it is very nice that they produced two versions of this switch for different color preferences while also keeping them identical. The very specific usage of added materials also seems to have paid off.

Other

A killer switch at half the price of other budget competitors.

 

Stock Experience:

The Bubble Gums apparently use a special lubricant which was specially ordered from Italy called (Solvay Fomblin) M60 PFPE. This lubricant has the properties of being chemically inert, more stable, and has a low volatility.
If these terms seem confusing, it simply means that this lubricant won't undergo any reactions, easily move around, or suddenly vaporize/disintegrate when affected by something like heat, it should sit in the switch normally.

When looking through the switches, the lube was fairly consistent and was applied somewhat thickly over the stem sliders and bottom housing rails, with lighter applications on the stem legs and leaf. I did notice some lubricant had ended up in the bottom housing but I have not experienced any leakage with these switches. (Others have reported serious amounts of lubricant in the bottom housing however)

When it comes to the transient sounds, I can hear them when close to my ear, but it wasn't very loud during actual typing. Overall, their stock form hits above their price point by a large margin.

Would I re-lube them? Probably not, I don't plan to do so since more lube would dampen the sound even further. I currently enjoy the stock sound profile but feel free to fix any spring ping or leaf tick if your batch has some. I do think that some people may want to remove some excess lube however.

          

 (The excess lube is noticeable in some of the bottom housings)

Who is Grain Gold?

Grain Gold seems to be a lesser known manufacturer that seems to specialize (or prefer?) producing budget switches. Some of their work includes the G-Square Dark Warrior / White Samurai series which is also a cheap budget switch line, but they also allegedly manufactured some older Duhuk switches which were great.

The main takeaway is that they seem to experiment with their budget switches by reinforcing the materials with less commonly used plastics and polymers, in my opinion, this adds more variety and flare to the switch space which is slowly polarizing with the lack of creativity.

I would keep an eye out for their products as they are priced nicely, and they seem to be improving with new releases.

(Left: Dark Warrior / Right: QK01)

Silicone (Not Silicon):

First off, I will clear up any confusion with the addition of silicone on the POM stem. Silicon is a naturally occurring element and is on the periodic table of elements, Silicone is a man-made synthetic polymer which is made up of silicon, oxygen and other elements. 

A lot of people probably know about both silicon and silicone from other media and or regular objects, but how would it affect a switch?

Silicone is a very flexible material that's commonly used in a rubber-like form, it has good heat resistance and is able to be easily molded and compressed. If you read my other reviews you'll know that this checks a few things off the list for a switch material, however there is a flaw that prevents it from being an "ideal" material: friction. Silicone generally has a high coefficient of friction which means that its not the smoothest material around, it has a lot of non-stick properties but will still rapidly be affected by friction (around twice the amount of POM). 

This makes it a soft, flexible, yet unsmooth material to work with for switches (which could be the source of the slight audible scratch).

Thankfully, it was an additive material onto POM which is one of the better materials for smoothness in switches, and the result seems to be a still smooth switch with no noticeable friction in the travel. The main takeaway would be the affect on the sound profile, slightly dampening but not deteriorating. Silicone is soft and flexible like UHMWPE but is exceedingly less dense, which means it won't absorb sounds frequencies as much.

In short, Silicone as an added material will dampen or deepen a switch's sound profile by adding softness, but will not overly mute them like UHMWPE.

           

 (Common uses of Silicone)

Short note on PTFE:

PTFE or Polytetrafluoroethylene is a fluoropolymer and is commonly known by the trademark name Teflon. Teflon or PTFE is used in many fields as it is incredibly versatile, for example, it is used in Cookware, Aerospace, Automotive, Construction, Medical, and Electrical fields.

PTFE has the lowest coefficient of friction of any solid material, it even puts LY and POM to shame at 0.05-0.10. 

The main issue with this material is that it is not easily moldable, especially when we consider that switches need to be mass produced and do require precision in the molding technique. On top of that, it is apparently more expensive than other common switch materials which would make it difficult to experiment with. These reasons create some risk when working with PTFE.

There have been other switches that made use of PTFE/Teflon in the past such as the JWK Kaisya and the QK01 switch that Grain Gold had also allegedly manufactured.

After having tested another switch from Grain Gold that is mostly comprised of PTFE (Salmon Reborn), I can say that it generates a unique sound profile that is completely different from our usual plastics. To me, it almost sounds like a high pitch PE filter is already activated through the switch, adding an almost metallic sound signature. (The QK01's sound signature also has some kind of metallic aspect to it)

 

 (Common uses of Teflon plus countless other industrial and household items)

Smoothness (Excellent)

The Bubble Gums have pretty good smoothness thanks to the lube over the stem sliders and bottom housing rails, the material usage of POM + PTFE top housing also allows for very smooth travel.

For a budget switch at $0.15, this switch honestly puts some other manufacturers to shame, though the market price is slowly lowering towards the $0.40 to $0.50 range, many of those switches require re-lubing or just are un-lubed entirely.

These are not as smooth as other competitors like HMX, but they are still a strong contender.

 

Sound Profile:

The Bubble Gums have a slightly muted and deeper sound profile but still have the clack belonging to a long-pole linear with a POM stem on PA66 bottom housing.

During regular typing, they exhibit the slightest amount of scratch which creates a sound profile with personality. They are not as muted as something like an UHMWPE based switch, I can describe them as creamy since they are somewhat bright with a hint of a deeper undertone. 

Direct Comparison to other linears:

HMX Canglan v2 (P3/PA66/T2 Stem) 3.5mm Travel

  • With only the same bottom housing material and travel, these switches are very different in material. (Slightly brighter sound profile)
  • The Canglan is louder than the Bubble Gum
  • The Canglan has a better stock experience (less tick)
  • The Canglan is slightly higher pitched than the Bubble Gum
  • The Bubble Gums have slightly more N/S wobble (Not much)
  • The Canglan is slightly smoother stock

BSUN SSW v2 (LY/Mod. PA12/Y3 Stem) 3.6mm Travel

  • With similar top housings, nylon bottom housings, and similar travel, these switches share many traits. (Sharper sound profile but deep)
  • The SSW is louder than the Bubble Gum
  • The Bubble Gum has a better stock experience (less tick and ping)
  • The SSW is deeper than the Bubble Gum
  • They have a similar amount of wobble control (Great)
  • They have similar smoothness stock

JWK Vertex V1 (PA66/PA66/POM Stem) 3.8mm Travel

  • With only different top housings and travel, these switches are similar in composition. (Similar sound profile as well)
  • The Bubble Gum is slightly louder than the V1
  • They have similar stock experiences
  • The V1 is slightly deeper than the Bubble Gum
  • They have a similar amount of wobble control (Great)
  • The V1 is slightly smoother stock.

Flaws:

Let's go over the flaws once again.

First off, the most glaring issue would be the excess lube that seems to be found in most bottom housings of the switch. I have heard reports from others that it caused their switch to become sluggish (likely from entering the center post somehow), but my batch only had some in the bottom housing and not in the center post. 

This didn't exactly affect the sound of my switches at all, but I know it could be a possible risk for others. 

Secondly, the only other issue would be the occasional leaf tick, in my batch of 70 switches I had about 4 with noticeable leaf tick, this is fixable with some lube so it isn't the end of the world.

 

Personal Build Recommendations: (This is purely opinion/preference based)

With a medium volume and somewhat deeper tone, I would say these shine in a variety of gasket builds. 

I personally ran them in Plateless gasket as well as Polycarbonate gasket configurations with much success. They have a soothing sound profile that has a fair amount of character thanks to the slightly unique materials.

If you're a fan of foamy builds then these would serve your thocky endeavors quite well, I would skip the PE foam and stick to just plate foam or just case foam.

  

Closing Summary:

To close this review up, I can definitely say that there's no harm in trying out such high value switches at this price point.

For only $0.15 per switch, these switches live rent-free in my head as my go-to budget recommendation at the moment.

As Grain Gold keeps a low profile on their manufactured products, it is somewhat hard to gauge their performance overall in the switch industry, but recently they have been making very nice stuff in my opinion.

If you're tired of BSUN and HMX and are in the mood for a taste of something new, try chewing on these Grain Gold Bubble Gums for a pleasant surprise. With an unbeatable price, it will be difficult to deny their value.

 

Final Scoring: 8/10

Design: 10/10 

[The Bubble Gums have a cute aesthetic and even come in two different colorways, on top of that, they seemed to have been designed very meticulously by ZUOCE when it comes to materials and even lubricant.]

Sound Profile: 9/10 

[Soothing moderate volume with medium pitch that is pleasing to the average human ear, with the addition of some slight scratch creates a sound profile filled with character.]

Stock Experience: 7/10

[Great stock experience in terms of lubricant on the stem, but with possible pooling issues in the bottom housing. Wobble is well controlled and leaf tick is rare, though not nonexistent.]

Uniqueness: 8/10

[Though it isn't the first switch to use PTFE and Silicone, I can say that these switches pull it off very well, they are able to properly make use of unique materials and even a special lubricant while being extremely budget friendly. Also we don't see these kind of duo pairing releases for switches anymore.]

Flaws: 4/10 

[The main critical flaw being the possible lubricant pooling in the bottom housing (which may or may not affect your switch) can always be cleaned up if necessary.]

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