The Alpaca is a benchmark switch in the world of linears
If you’re a fan of custom switches you’ve almost surely heard of JWK’s Alpaca Linears. Released back in December of 2019, these switches enjoyed mainstream success which eventually lead to the release of the v2, featuring a revised mold. On this latest batch the v1 and v2 naming convention has been dropped and they’re simply called Alpaca Linears now, with vendors stating they will always be made with the latest iteration of the mold. That being said, this batch matches the v2 housing for the most part.
I picked up the Alpacas on iLumkb, where they are selling for 8 Singapore dollars per 10-pack, which translates to $0.59 per switch. This is roughly in accordance with their typical selling price of $0.55. The Alpacas are linear switches manufactured by JWK. These switches have a spring weight of 62g, and we have the characteristic combination of nylon, POM and polycarbonate. The dark grey and pink colourway is based on Minterly’s SA Bliss keycap set, and the Alpaca was actually one of the first JWK switches based on a keycap design.
As mentioned, the v2 featured a completely revised housing, so there were changes in the bottom and top housing as well as the stem. Most of the differences are subtle, but there are some more apparent ones like the inward taper on the slide rails of the v2 stem. For a more detailed comparison, I would highly recommend checking out ThereminGoat’s review, and there are some interesting side-by-side pictures. It’s also worth noting that while the v1 only had factory lube applied to the stem legs, the v2 and subsequent batches come with factory lube on the legs and slider rails. I never tried the v1, but the general consensus seems to be that the v2 has a smoother feel with a deeper yet softer sound.
The first thing that struck me about the Alpaca Linear was the smoothness and consistency of the keystroke. There is practically no feeling of friction and it is incredibly smooth. I would put these right alongside the Black Ink v2, and I’d even daresay they’re slightly smoother.
The factory lube is very thin, so it’s not really necessary to clean it off before applying your own. The main reason I applied my own lube was to improve the acoustics, as the switches are already buttery smooth. With lube you’re going to get a deeper and richer sound. I did pick up a tiny amount of spring ping, so I also added lube to the tips of the springs. I popped on my Deskeys 0.3mm films, and again this was to improve the sound profile. The housing is very tight so it’s not essential. As far as stem wobble, the East/West wobble is very minimal, however there was some more wobble on the North/South line. Overall definitely less wobbly than a Gateron, and more or less on par with the NK Cream and Lavender. The spring weight of 62g is a sweet spot for me so there was no need to replace the springs, but you can always do a spring-swap if you’re looking for something heavier.
While the stock sound was a little bit thin and high pitched, there was a significant improvement in the acoustics after lubing. The bottom out sounded much deeper, which gave the switch a richer sound overall. Not only did it have that nice deep pitch, but it had a rich and creamy quality. The bottom out feels and sounds more solid than something like a Black Ink, but not quite as sharp and aggressive as the NK Cream. For me this is almost the perfect sounding linear: it has a deep and rich texture while the bottom out feels substantial. I especially like a more solid bottom out sound on polycarbonate, as the cushioned bottom out of a Gateron can sound somewhat dull. This is the main reason I like the NK Creams, and now the Alpacas, on my KBD67 Lite. No linear I’ve tried thus far matches the smooth and consistent keystroke of the Alpaca.
The Alpaca has more of an understated aesthetic as opposed to the funky colourways we’re seeing on switches nowadays, and I really like this dark-grey and pink colourway.
In summary, the Alpaca offers an incredibly smooth keystroke with a stunning sound profile once lubed. If you’re looking for a high-end linear, you cannot go wrong with this switch. For me the Alpaca is a benchmark switch in the world of linears.
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