Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Hirose Cherry MX Orange Switches

By Ryan Whitwam

The rarest of Cherry switches.

You've no doubt heard of all the standard Cherry switch variants like MX Blue, Brown, Black, and Clear. Then there are newer options like Speed Silver and Silent Red. What about Orange, though? There is, in fact, an Orange Cherry switch, but it's not something you'll see offered on modern retail boards. The so-called Hirose Cherry MX Orange is among the rarest keyboard switches in the world. Yes, that matters to some people.

The story of how this switch came to be is unusual. The Hirose Cherry Orange is a Cherry-style switch, but Cherry didn't manufacture it. Today, there vast numbers of Cherry style switches manufactured by other companies—Gateron, Kailh, and Outemu to name a few. However, the Hirose Cherry Orange comes from an era long before the Cherry patents expired in 2012. Some time in the 90s, Cherry licensed its switch design to a Japanese electronics firm company called Hirose. It was Hirose that created this mysterious key switch.

At first glance, the Hirose Cherry MX Orange looks like any other Cherry switch, except the slider is orange. It's a linear switch very similar to the MX Black. The actuation force is about 55g, slightly lighter than the Black. It bottoms out around 70g, which again, is a bit lighter than the MX Black. The Hirose Orange has a reputation for being incredibly smooth like a vintage MX Black.

The Hirose Cherry MX Orange is pin-compatible with other MX switches, and the contact leaf design inside is the same. Even the housing is almost identical to the switches Cherry itself makes. The fascinating thing about this switch is how it differs from Cherry's in-house switches. While the stem looks a lot like a Cherry cross, it's actually a bit smaller and has a series of nubs. Those were probably intended to lock keycaps in place. As a result, you can put Cherry-compatible keycaps on a Hirose Cherry MX Orange. However, you're likely to gouge the plastic of the keycap taking them off.

There are better linear switch options today than the Hirose Cherry Orange, but the rarity attracts people. Hirose only produced a few runs of these switches, and there are no unused switches left. The only place you'll find them is in a handful of older keyboards and electronic devices like the Yamaha QX3 Sampler. You'd have to desolder the used switches to use them in a modern keyboard, but they work just fine. Depending on how much they were used, you may need to add some lubricant.

Hirose Orange next to a Vintage Black.

If you don't want to go around hunting for 20-year-old keyboards and samplers, you can buy individual Hirose Cherry MX Orange switches from a few retailers, but they are not cheap. KBDfans usually has some in stock. These were harvested from old keyboards, so you'll need to clean them up. Each switch costs almost $10, which is admittedly insane. Still, people will pay that price because of how rare they are.