You either love them or hate them. Quick-release connectors (QRCs) provide an extra design element to your cable that serves the purpose of both aesthetics and functionality. There are many different styles of QRCs, however, they all functionally serve as a way of splitting a cable into two parts so that they can become more portable, while also allowing for the ability to mix and match different cables, coils, or USB connectors.
Arguably the most common form of QRC, the aviator connector is well-known for it’s hefty form factor and affordability. While traditionally used in the aviation and navigation industry (among other commercial electronics applications), aviator connectors have quickly gained popularity in the customer keyboard scene as the connector of choice for custom cables.
Typically aviators are seen in either a 4-pin or 5-pin variant (corresponding to the number of internal USB wires), and feature a circular design with the two halves securely attaching in place with a threaded metal locking ring.
Standard aviator connectors come in a silver/aluminum or gold style, however it is becoming increasingly common to see an application of Cerakote paint applied to the connectors to better suit the wide variety of keyboard and keycap themes available. In terms of sizes, the GX-12 and their larger sibling the GX-16 are generally the most used for custom cables.
A lesser known connector, the YC8 is slim and compact while offering the same functionality as an aviator. Featuring a sophisticated (yet imperfect) push-pull system for securing the connection of both halves, YC8s require less work than aviators to attach and detach both halves of your cable. On the contrary however, the slim build of the connector results in an extremely tight fit on double-sleeved cables, and thus requires an extra amount of care when assembling.
Similarly to aviators, YC8s will typically come in 4-pin or 5-pin silver variants, and can occasionally be Cerakoted for added colour options.
When it comes to luxury connectors, the LEMO connectors take the cake. For a quick history lesson, LEMO connectors are revered for their exceptional build quality and tight manufacturing tolerances, and have traditionally been used in military and telecommunication applications. LEMO style connectors utilize a push-pull connecting system (similar to, and better than YC8) that is quick and efficient for attaching and detaching. Premium quality comes hefty prices, with LEMO connectors costing upwards of $80 CAD each.
Of course for the applications of custom keyboard cables, it is extremely overkill to use such a premium quality connector (although they are very cool!). As such, most of the times you will see a non-genuine (fake-LEMO, or FLEMO) connector being used as a substitute. That is not to say that genuine LEMO connectors are never used, as they still provide a sense of prestige and exceptional build quality to those who value these characteristics in their cables.
Available in a wide variety of standard colours; silver, black, gold, rose gold, white, blue are most common, while Cerakoted options are becoming increasingly available. Size wise, 0B and 1B (smaller and larger, respectively) are standard, with the 0B size generally being to small to accomodate the diameter of a double sleeved cable.
Another great push-pull connector, the WEIPU is a new addition to the QRC lineup with its unique design that gives it a industrial look. While slightly larger in diameter than an aviator GX-16, they are actually lighter in comparison due to their aluminum housing (also available in the SF variant, made of brass).
WEIPU connectors are generally available in the slim SA10 and chunkier SA12 styles (or SF10 and SF12 for the silver coated brass variants), with a few different colour options to choose from.