[Photos] Zenith 163-73 & zkb-2 swap project

Image

A couple weeks ago I finally found a Zenith 163-73 on eBay, which I immediately snagged! I've been wanting one for a while mainly for it's caps (PBT zenith layout) and it's chassis - which is all plastic. Know I know what you're thinking "why the hell would you want a plastic chassis when the zkb-2 comes with a metal back plate?" But it was for acoustic reasons - I think clicky switches sound better in a plastic chassis!

The 163-73 comes with SKCL yellow switches, and it was in pretty damn good condition overall!

Image

Image

The plate was almost pristine - hardly any dust and no rust whatsoever! The PBT caps do have some shine on them, though - but it makes me feel less guilty using them, so I don't mind it at all - ANYTHING is better than the monterey caps that come on all zkb-2/2Rs...

Last March I click modded my very first alps keyboard - a ZKB-2 with SKCL yellows (feel free to read about it: photos-videos-f64/zenith-zkb-2-click-mod-t16123.html). I really liked how it sounded, but I always wondered how they would sound in a plastic case. After acquiring the 163-73, I decided I would swap the switches out! The switches have a little deeper thock sound, and it's quite nice! I will try to get a short video demo soon!

Image

The really cool thing about the 163-73 is it's dual color lock lights. You can set it to AT/GR for green lock lights or AT/RD for red ones! It's super neat! At first I didn't know what those setting meant, but after switching between them it was pretty obvious, haha. The integrated LEDs in the switch housing are a grey color. I'm not exactly sure how it can switch colors like that, but it's really neat!

There is, however, one HUGE downside to the 163-73, and it's the key rollover. I get my computer beeping at me when I'm just typing normally - and there are certain important key combinations you can't depress at the same time - like w, a, and d >_<

Now, I knew that one of the Zeniths would be getting SKCM undamped cream alps, and it took a lot of back and forth debating with myself to finally decide that it should be the ZKB-2 that gets them. NKRO and the fact that I seem to prefer metal back keyboards for tactile and linear alps. So the idea what to use the 163-73 PBT caps with the zkb-2 - which I did!!

Image

However...it wasn't easy, and I have to live with some consequences of choosing the PBT caps over the monterey ones. For one, the spacebars could not be swapped. The peg-like stabalizers on each spacebar weren't in the same position, so I could only use the monterey spacebar with the zkb-2 and the alps PBT spacebar wth the 163-73. I don't find that I'm minding that too much, though.

The second issue was the stab inserts on the zkb-2 mounting plate:

Image

They are basically normally alps stab inserts...but they have a much higher-off-the-plate profile, and are more...boxy, if you will. This casues problems with the stab retention clips in the 163-73 PBT caps - because those are also different from monterey retention clips. Basically, the clips in the PBT caps kid of hit the stab inserts on the plate. It causes a very minimal difference in how far the switch can be depressed - but it's still a little annoying. HAving been typing on it all night i'm starting to feel like it's not that big of an issue - but still, I did not anticipate that being a problem at all.

This is eventually what I settled on insofar as switches in the zkb-2:

Image

I, unfortunately, didn't have enough SKCM cream to fill the entire board. The SKCM undampened cream that I used came from an old canon typewriter I had, which filled the alpha block part of the keyboard... then the rest of the switches I had to rummage through my bag of miscellaneous alps switches to fill it all with tactile alps of some kind... The end result is certainly not pretty... I originally had SKCM dampened cream in non-alpha block parts of the board, but i eventually settled on just having the undapmed creams in the F row and on the mods in the numpad. Orange and salmon alps were used in the rest of the numpad so that it more closely matched the feel of the alpha block. I also used an SKCM brown switch for the spacebar and an SKCL heavy cream from the esc key.

By the way, BOTH plates were in really good condition. I thought about painting the ZKB-2 plate, but it had that neat chromate effect on it, so I decided to leave it even though there were minor rust spots and scratches.

Overall I'm pretty happy with both of them. The cream alps in the zkb-2 feel amazing, especially with the PBT caps! I wish I didn't have to use the monterey profile caps on the 163-73 (which, btw, it seems there are no compatibilty issue with that plate and the monterey caps - it's only the ZKB-2 that was fussy like that) - but between the two board, I'll definitely be using the zkb-2 more often - so I felt the better caps should go with that! Plus, there's the sentimental value of the zkb2 being my first alps board and everything. I've modded this board the most out of all my other boards - and It probably won't be the last. When I can get my hands on more SKCM undampened cream alps I'll finish the board!

Image

Image

Thanks for reading!
またね。
//gains.
//gainsborough
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Unread post01 Oct 2017, 07:38

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Nice, interesting project, cool write-up :) .

One thing I didn't understand though, what do you mean by the "Monterey" caps on the ZKB-2?
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Unread post01 Oct 2017, 09:37

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I used the term as a type of profile for the caps. The caps on the zkb-2 are the same (minus layout differences) as on the monterey k-104:

Image
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//gainsborough wrote:The 163-73 comes with SKCL yellow switches, and it was in pretty damn good condition overall!

Image

That is clearly not SKCL Yellow. I don't know what you've done there.
//gainsborough wrote:I used the term as a type of profile for the caps. The caps on the zkb-2 are the same (minus layout differences) as on the monterey k-104:

Image

That I assume is a photo of the K104, as the Enter key shape doesn't match the Zenith keyboards, although it's also not a match for the K104 keycaps shown on the wiki.

The keycap in the photo is part of UKF DS01, although the typeface isn't the same as my K102 (the semicolon is based on squares instead of circles). However, it's the same tooling: outer corner radius smaller than inner corner radius and same first shot construction.
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Unread post01 Oct 2017, 12:24

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I'm not sure how the Zenith ZKB-2's keycap profile compares to anything found on a Monterey, but it is definitely different from the majority of Tai Hao style alps boards. The profile is lower and has a different shape. The ZKB-2's caps definitely add it's appeal.
Engicoder

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Daniel Beardsmore wrote:
That is clearly not SKCL Yellow. I don't know what you've done there.


Yeah that was the finsihed product after putting in the click modded yellows - for the native switches in the board see the pic without the caps!
Daniel Beardsmore wrote:
The keycap in the photo is part of UKF DS01, although the typeface isn't the same as my K102 (the semicolon is based on squares instead of circles). However, it's the same tooling: outer corner radius smaller than inner corner radius and same first shot construction.

Yeah I don't know what else to call the profile, haha. I saw e3e use the term "monterey" for the name of that profile, so I just call it that.
Engicoder wrote:I'm not sure how the Zenith ZKB-2's keycap profile compares to anything found on a Monterey, but it is definitely different from the majority of Tai Hao style alps boards. The profile is lower and has a different shape. The ZKB-2's caps definitely add it's appeal.

The pic I linked in response to chyros is a monterey k104 - the caps look exactly that like (minus obvious layout differences like the BAE and so forth). You're right about the lower profile! On all the ZKB-2s I've had, though, the caps always come super shined and really yellowed - I don't know if that's just the luck of the draw or if the caps yellow and wear down faster than tai-hao caps? In any case, I definitely prefer the taller doubleshot caps by alps or their PBT caps - in both look and feel. As much as I love the ZKB-2 its caps always bothered me, haha. Glad to finally have some nicer caps on one!
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Unread post01 Oct 2017, 16:34

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ewww alps
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alienman82 wrote:ewww alps

this
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alienman82 wrote:ewww alps

Image
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Nice project //gainsborough! I took your thread as an occasion to get out my ZKB-2 which I have not used in at least six months. The one point that makes the ZKB-2 great for me is the keystroke Buzzer in combination with the linears in the very solid case. Here's my ZKB-2:

wiki/Zenith_ZKB-2

Just for fun here's a vintage Zenith ad from 1989 that I found:

http://vintagescan.blogspot.de/search?q=zenith

Spoiler:
Zenith Z-286 LP (1989).jpg
seebart
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Unread post02 Oct 2017, 07:15

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Those are some delicious looking boards right there, well done.
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seebart wrote:
Spoiler:
Zenith Z-286 LP (1989).jpg



This is absolutely amazing, haha! Great stuff!!
macboarder wrote:Those are some delicious looking boards right there, well done.

Thanks =)
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//gainsborough wrote:Image

A couple weeks ago I finally found a Zenith 163-73 on eBay, which I immediately snagged! I've been wanting one for a while mainly for it's caps (PBT zenith layout) and it's chassis - which is all plastic. Know I know what you're thinking "why the hell would you want a plastic chassis when the zkb-2 comes with a metal back plate?" But it was for acoustic reasons - I think clicky switches sound better in a plastic chassis!

The 163-73 comes with SKCL yellow switches, and it was in pretty damn good condition overall!

Image

Image

The plate was almost pristine - hardly any dust and no rust whatsoever! The PBT caps do have some shine on them, though - but it makes me feel less guilty using them, so I don't mind it at all - ANYTHING is better than the monterey caps that come on all zkb-2/2Rs...

Last March I click modded my very first alps keyboard - a ZKB-2 with SKCL yellows (feel free to read about it: photos-videos-f64/zenith-zkb-2-click-mod-t16123.html). I really liked how it sounded, but I always wondered how they would sound in a plastic case. After acquiring the 163-73, I decided I would swap the switches out! The switches have a little deeper thock sound, and it's quite nice! I will try to get a short video demo soon!

Image

The really cool thing about the 163-73 is it's dual color lock lights. You can set it to AT/GR for green lock lights or AT/RD for red ones! It's super neat! At first I didn't know what those setting meant, but after switching between them it was pretty obvious, haha. The integrated LEDs in the switch housing are a grey color. I'm not exactly sure how it can switch colors like that, but it's really neat!

There is, however, one HUGE downside to the 163-73, and it's the key rollover. I get my computer beeping at me when I'm just typing normally - and there are certain important key combinations you can't depress at the same time - like w, a, and d >_<

Now, I knew that one of the Zeniths would be getting SKCM undamped cream alps, and it took a lot of back and forth debating with myself to finally decide that it should be the ZKB-2 that gets them. NKRO and the fact that I seem to prefer metal back keyboards for tactile and linear alps. So the idea what to use the 163-73 PBT caps with the zkb-2 - which I did!!

Image

However...it wasn't easy, and I have to live with some consequences of choosing the PBT caps over the monterey ones. For one, the spacebars could not be swapped. The peg-like stabalizers on each spacebar weren't in the same position, so I could only use the monterey spacebar with the zkb-2 and the alps PBT spacebar wth the 163-73. I don't find that I'm minding that too much, though.

The second issue was the stab inserts on the zkb-2 mounting plate:

Image

They are basically normally alps stab inserts...but they have a much higher-off-the-plate profile, and are more...boxy, if you will. This casues problems with the stab retention clips in the 163-73 PBT caps - because those are also different from monterey retention clips. Basically, the clips in the PBT caps kid of hit the stab inserts on the plate. It causes a very minimal difference in how far the switch can be depressed - but it's still a little annoying. HAving been typing on it all night i'm starting to feel like it's not that big of an issue - but still, I did not anticipate that being a problem at all.

This is eventually what I settled on insofar as switches in the zkb-2:

Image

I, unfortunately, didn't have enough SKCM cream to fill the entire board. The SKCM undampened cream that I used came from an old canon typewriter I had, which filled the alpha block part of the keyboard... then the rest of the switches I had to rummage through my bag of miscellaneous alps switches to fill it all with tactile alps of some kind... The end result is certainly not pretty... I originally had SKCM dampened cream in non-alpha block parts of the board, but i eventually settled on just having the undapmed creams in the F row and on the mods in the numpad. Orange and salmon alps were used in the rest of the numpad so that it more closely matched the feel of the alpha block. I also used an SKCM brown switch for the spacebar and an SKCL heavy cream from the esc key.

By the way, BOTH plates were in really good condition. I thought about painting the ZKB-2 plate, but it had that neat chromate effect on it, so I decided to leave it even though there were minor rust spots and scratches.

Overall I'm pretty happy with both of them. The cream alps in the zkb-2 feel amazing, especially with the PBT caps! I wish I didn't have to use the monterey profile caps on the 163-73 (which, btw, it seems there are no compatibilty issue with that plate and the monterey caps - it's only the ZKB-2 that was fussy like that) - but between the two board, I'll definitely be using the zkb-2 more often - so I felt the better caps should go with that! Plus, there's the sentimental value of the zkb2 being my first alps board and everything. I've modded this board the most out of all my other boards - and It probably won't be the last. When I can get my hands on more SKCM undampened cream alps I'll finish the board!

Image


Thanks for reading!
またね。
//gains.
//gainsborough
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Unread post06 Oct 2017, 03:50

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