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In search of a quiet air compressor

comments (32) February 23rd, 2010 in Blogs
JFink Justin Fink, Senior Editor

Click To Enlarge Photo: Courtesy of Bostitch

I had high hopes for my Bostitch CAP1516 1.5HP air compressor when I bought it several years ago. This little compressor was quiet, compact, and extremely light -- perfect for trim jobs. Unfortunately, my model steadily deteriorated a little bit at a time. First the outer housing cracked, then a wire to the switch came loose and required a bit of invasive surgery to repair. Shortly after that, the housing finished cracking, and required a bit of crude wraps of tape to hold the whole thing together. When the seals went a few weeks back, causing the compressor to cycle on and off frequently to make up for the air it was leaking, I decided it was time to pull the plug on this tool for the last time.

Time to buy a new compressor. No problem, I'm the tool editor at Fine Homebuilding, after all. Problem is, in the era of online shopping, it's pretty hard to find out just how quiet a compressor is, and quiet is definitely something I'm looking for. And our most recent air compressor article, though very thorough, didn't include decibel ratings.

So, I'm turning to all of you readers. Tell me about your compressors. Anybody using the small Senco PC1005? I've used it on a couple of jobs (borrowed one), but have no idea how it handles over the long haul?

How about the single tank DeWalt D55141? I'm tempted by it's slim design durable construction...

I've not seen or heard of anybody using the Makita MAC700, anybody have any experience on this one?

Visit the compressor section of our online Tool Guide to post your ratings and reviews of more portable compressors.

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Comments (32)

marcofisher74 marcofisher74 writes: Everyone needs to get a flawless thing, most likely. In the event that you need to buy a genuine and in addition immaculate air compressor, you ought to know the ins and outs of the item. air compressors reviews
Posted: 5:23 am on December 30th

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Posted: 1:36 am on December 10th

radliehunter radliehunter writes: It's just a matter of looking at enough models. Some places even list the number of decibels the compressor makes. I'd suggest asking a hardware professional or looking through specifications for the right one.
Posted: 10:39 pm on September 10th

Dilon Dilon writes: Hey Pal,

For Small application tasks, I'd definitely recommended Senco PC 1010 -- It is working great to me. Capable to delivering 20-40 drive per min. In a couple of mins, it can move 0-120 PSI -- Till to this date, I have never suffered any problem with this model of this company.

For more info, go to this link,

Posted: 2:35 am on September 10th

RolloTomasi RolloTomasi writes: I'm on my fifth compressor, and will be picking up a sixth tomorrow. The first was a CH I got at HD ($300)that died after a couple of months so I exchanged it for something else. Don't remember much about that one.

Next had a Senco 2000 (1999 model) that had plenty of air but which didn't like extension cords or cool weather and had lousy drain valves, regulator gauges and hose fitting and liked to walk around a lot.

Sold it after several years and got a Dewalt/Emglo 55155 ($350, I think). Much quieter but heavy with a stiff hose fittings and stiffer regulator . Built like a tank though, but no wheels and I got sick of lugging it around.

Picked up a Dewalt 2 gal 55141 (oiless) a few years ago for light duty stuff and it became my go-to compressor. Sold the 55155 and the Senco. The 55141 is about half the weight and I can light frame with it (just) but it struggles to keep up with a siding gun for Hardi. Pretty quiet and good air pressure, but I had to put an in-line water filter on it for cabinetry and trim as it spat a lot of moisture(main reason I'm getting rid of it) and you cannot talk over it indoors. Not a do-it-all compressor, but I managed to get by with it for a few years and my back thanked me.

I have never used or seen Thomas compressors, but no-one sells them round here so I gave up investigating.

Got a Rolair JC10 ($200) last week from a local dealer and, so far, am hugely impressed. At first I thought it was faulty because it made so little noise. You really have to (not) hear it to believe it. Oozes quality.
It is not quite as ergonomic as the 55141 and a little heavier but produces more air and I'm hoping it will fill the gap that I've had for 15 years between light, portable and quiet and a do-everything compressor. Very high quality fittings and guages. Easy enough to carry upstairs and no-one will complain if you use it in their home.
The grip on the handle needs an upgrade, and I've already fitted a 90 degree brass elbow so the pressure gauge points upwards so I can see it without tipping the compressor on it's side, but it's definitely a keeper. Time will tell if it does all I need. It's not a shop or two man compressor though.
One thing to note... this, and most of Rolair's small compressors are 100% made in China, not the US.

Getting a Makita MAC2400 tomorrow. Got a great price so couldn't say no. It will replace my 55155 and live in my shop most of the time(hopefully) but will be there if the Rolair can't keep up (fingers crossed - I have high hopes for that little thing). I've seen several Makitas on job sites and framers seem to love them! They are extremely well built, and quieter than you could wish for, for the air you get.

A good compressor (for me) is occasionally the difference between a good day and a frustrating day on the job but sadly, there are too many shoddy compressors on the market. I'm hoping this JC10 lives up to my expectations. I know the Makita will.
Posted: 11:07 pm on December 16th

EthanB EthanB writes: Caveat, I haven't used this compressor but it looks to be excellent from everything I've read heard or watched.

The Rol-Air JC10 super quite compressor looks to be around $200, is oil-less, weighs 40bs, is made in the USA, 2.5gal tank, puts out 2.35cfm @90PSI and reportedly runs at 60DB!

I have a Makita MAC2400 which has been great for the last 2 or 3 years but is a bit of a beast to lug around. I'm very tempted to pick up the Rolair as a smaller more portable second compressor.
Posted: 5:09 pm on December 16th

PeterShepherd PeterShepherd writes: I used a 60 lb but durable Hitachi EC12 twin-tank for ten years as it was familiar from commercial sites. Last year I bought the much lighter & popular Porter Cable C2002, 6 gallon pancake - longer cycle, $139, oiless, 34 lbs, DB 82 - is LOUD, as the clerk in the Dewalt service center recommended it for general contractors over the Dewalt D55141 oiless [that he owns himself for light duty work] - $ 153.30, weight: 30 lbs, 2 gallon, DB is 79, likely much louder than Grip Rite GR152CM compressor [75 dB, 39 lbs, $220, twin-tank], but $70 cheaper, tank less likely to rust, 9 lbs lighter, so noise is really the biggest factor.
If you can overlook a greater weight (53 lb, but more compact than a twin-tank) & price for the sake of quiet, the Thomas AIR-PAC Model T-30HP is wonderfully quiet at 74 dB, and very long-lasting. Our worker's coop has used it for many years, the tank shows zero sign of rust, and everyone appreciates the lower noise level.

Posted: 9:25 am on December 3rd

johnb johnb writes: In case you missed the article a while back, every 3dB means a double in the sound's volume. So the difference between 69dB and 80dB is that 80dB is about 4x louder than at 69. That's huge, especially if you have to listen to it for hours at a stretch. Ear plugs and muffs are a great investment.
Posted: 11:35 am on May 13th

BKFranks BKFranks writes: I've had the Dewalt for over two years now. I originally saw a cabinet installer on a job with the 1 gallon D55140 and was impressed with how quiet it was. When at a local supplier I picked up the the two gallon D55141. Over the past two years I've run what seems like miles of molding. The Dewalt has held up and haven't had a single problem yet.

I've owned the Senco PC1010 for around 5 years and the motor/pressure switch went out after about 3 years of use. I have yet to take it in for service and been relying on the Dewalt ever since.

According to the Makita website the MAC700 runs at 80db which is louder than my 2 gallon Dewalt. Sounds like too much for a 1 gallon compressor.
Posted: 9:11 pm on March 20th

rf_engineer_5 rf_engineer_5 writes: This is a great topic. I have been searching high and low for a small compressor that is quiet and light and relatively cheap but decent quality. The makita seems well built but is heavy. The Thomas versions seem great but are pricey. I would rather buy American made but when the price is $200 vs $400 and for something that you do not use a lot, it makes it tough to justify. And if you are just doing wknd projects, throwing down $400 is quite a chunk. But then again, buying a PC pancake compressor is cheaper but the thing is loud.

This topic would be good for a product shootout. There are several vendors that make something smaller but since there is no standardization about noise measurements, what you may get may be loud. I think that FHB mag should devote some print space to such a beast. Everything from Dewalt to Makita to Craftsman and in between. Limit the upper price range to something like $400. If I was going to run a test like this, I think at a minimum I would want something for trim jobs and something that could handle minor framing capacity. Minor framing in my mind is putting up a 2x4 wall as a DIYer. You are nut running the compressor flat out as in a production setting but something where you are using a half dozen nails every so often. And when you tabulate a chart, you have sound level at 'x' feet away, product weight, recovery time, types of guns it can supply w/o destroying the compressor, cost, etc.

Posted: 12:20 pm on March 15th

Davo304 Davo304 writes: For light duty work...finish nailers, brad nailers, some light framing, I reach for my 1 gal Senco PC1010. Its very quiet, and more importantly, very light to lug around. Senco used to offer this compressor as a "package deal" which included an 18 guage brad nailer and 25 ft air hose ...price was under $200 for all. I've carted this lil work horse for years inthe back ofmy pick-up...still runs great.
Posted: 11:58 pm on March 3rd

JFink JFink writes: Well, I'm glad I asked, because all of the comments about the weight of the Makita have me second guessing the decision, but the lower cfm of the Thomas combined with it's higher price is also a concern, as I sometimes do light siding and framing, as well as flooring, and I certainly don't want to burn out the compressor. The best bet may end up being some combination of the two categories - as we all know, it's often not realistic to expect one tool to solve multiple needs (and still do a good job at all of them).
Posted: 9:28 am on March 3rd

eddand eddand writes: I have and older speedair 2 hp durable machine, was quite raucous. I adapted a vacuum attachment to a pleated paper filter,replacing the piece of felt that was supplied and the result was wonderful the compressor could breathe and was much quieter. Don't settle for the tools as purchased they are frequently the result of competitive cost restraints. We frequently can do much better. eddand
Posted: 4:42 am on March 3rd

ronaldsauve ronaldsauve writes: LocalHero, The Thomas is a little quieter, and lighter, and what I think is important: it's much easier to carry because the handle is placed well so it is well balanced. As for the 1.7 cfm, (at 90 psi if I am correct), that works well for trim work, and only light duty framing or sheathing, but I have other compressors for that anyway.
Posted: 2:43 am on March 3rd

3pinner 3pinner writes: I've used the Thomas air-pac T-30 for years. Quiet, runs 2 to 3 trim guns fine, although with that many guns it runs constantly (which it is designed to do).
Only drawback - heavy as heck. but a well made long lasting tool.
Posted: 1:22 pm on March 2nd

3pinner 3pinner writes: I've used the Thomas air-pac T-30 for years. Quiet, runs 2 to 3 trim guns fine, although with that many guns it runs constantly (which it is designed to do).
Only drawback - heavy as heck. but a well made long lasting tool.
Posted: 1:21 pm on March 2nd

LocalHero LocalHero writes: ronaldsauve, That's interesting, I too have the Prime Source dual tank. It's a PAC 2000 and I've used it for years but it's showing it's age and I have to baby it to get it to run on colder days.

I certainly could use lighter but I'm leary of the 1.7 cfm of the Thomas. The fact that it's rated for continuous run is impressive.

I agree, there's a big difference between 69 and 80 db. How does the Thomas compare to the Prime Air noise-wise?

Posted: 5:48 am on March 2nd

maistar maistar writes: I worked on a site with De Walt D55141 very loud. I own the Makita MAC2400 it is very quiet, but very very heavy. I have had it for 3 or 4 years now and it has been excellant. A friend of mine has the Makita MAC700 it also is quiet but, it is top heavy and can tip over easy, that being said it is light and very portable, don't expect it to do fast framing . Excellent for trim and siding.
Posted: 11:11 pm on March 1st

stconcours stconcours writes: i was carrying a double tank commpresor until i got a 20oz co2 tank on the end of my omar pin nailer no noise fits in a lunch bag nailer pins &hose Quick strike band name . works with any nailer canadian tire sells a smaller one 9ozs ithink around 100 bucks no power cords or long hoses clips on my pocket carrying a comppessor for finishing work is the way of the 8track.
Posted: 10:47 pm on March 1st

ronaldsauve ronaldsauve writes: Oh, I forgot to say, the Thomas is $369 on Amazon.
Posted: 8:42 pm on March 1st

ronaldsauve ronaldsauve writes: I like the Thomas T-635HD - 3/4 HP Ultra Oil-less Air Compressor for trim work. Yes it is expensive compared to cheaper models, and it is not something I use for framing and sheathing, although it can do light duty for these. But, I think the clincher, and what justifies the price, is that it is a CONTINUOUS DUTY compressor.
I have the Senco 1010; very quiet, but certainly not continuous duty, and not a lot of capacity.
I also have the Prime Source dual tank, I don't have the model number handy; small and pretty quiet compressor, very durable, and enough capacity, but fairly heavy at 41 pounds, and also a little awkward to carry with one hand.
But, I am very happy with the Thomas; Quick recovery, Continuous Duty, 27 pounds, Very quiet, (and contrary to the previous comment, there is a significant difference between 69 and 80 decibels). I guess it depends on what you place a value on. Depending on your level of use, will you ever have to replace it, given the continuous duty rating? Are there any other compressors that have that?
Posted: 8:39 pm on March 1st

SBerruezo SBerruezo writes: For the money, the Makita is a great compressor. Powerful, fairly quiet, and like Kit Camp said, it oozes quality. Also has one of the best petcock designs I've ever seen.

Downside is that it is freakishly heavy for its size.
Posted: 6:46 pm on March 1st

Pascanale Pascanale writes: I do have the Dewalt D55141 and it's very quiet--a real pleasure to use indoors and even in the presence of the homeowner(s). I've had it for maybe 3 years and nothing shows any signs of wear or failure. The pipe frame has saved it from serious injury upon falling out off someone's pickup tailgate, too. The cfm is sufficient for any gun if used slowly enough. I've even used it for a palm nailer and 16D commons. You'll get 2 in before it's too low on pressure. Not for normal use but good to know for those one-shot deals. Compact, lightweight, quiet and bulletproof.

BTW, it's not listed among the 15 compressors at the link given above. I tried to post a review there but no success for that reason.
Posted: 5:23 pm on March 1st

Kit_Camp Kit_Camp writes: Local Hero,

I think that is the compressor Gary Katz used to recommend. You can probably contact him through Breaktime or on his website.

- Kit
Posted: 9:57 am on March 1st

LocalHero LocalHero writes:
I'd like to hear from someone who has tried the Rol-air FC1250LS3. There's some confusion on the Rol-air site as to exact specs but I have an email from a Rol-air manager that tells me it's 45lbs, CFM Delivered is 2.9 @ 100 PSI and I think I remember the db level being 73.

The Makita 700 looks good but it's a little heavier and louder than I think I need.

The Thomas is nice and light but for me 1.7 delivered CFM is just too little and twice the price is too much....


Posted: 9:06 am on March 1st

sundancewfs sundancewfs writes: I bought a secondhand compressor off ebay.
Its an old 1950's Servex 15cfm. The sort of thing you use to see at a gas station. 415v, three phase. I was a bit concerned at what it was going to sound like.....
Turns out, it sounds like a chicken and about as loud.
Bwook bwook bwook bwook.....
Posted: 4:14 am on March 1st

Kit_Camp Kit_Camp writes: Justin,

I have had the Makita since moving down here. The thing just oozes quality and it's really quiet. It can easily keep up with two trimmers and should be able to keep up with the kind of framing you would be doing on your remodels as long as it's not shear nailing. Did I mention it's really quiet? Two down sides: it is heavy and it is tippy when riding in the truck. You'll want to bungie it to something.

During a multi-month job where I couldn't leave tools on-site and I was having some back issues, I purchased a Thomas T625HD. I like it a lot also. It's very quiet and very light. I've had some minor repairs to do. A hose started leaking and the handle was broken in shipping, but the people at Thomas are great and got me parts for free very quickly. I believe these nice machines are made right there in the Midwest, too. Down sides? Not much air for blasting stuff off at the end of the day, though it will still keep up with two finish nailers. It's also very tippy in the truck, though they have since come out with a squat model.

Now, the Makita mostly stays in the shop and the Thomas is the daily user.

You couldn't go wrong with either of these quality tools as far as I am concerned.

- Kit
Posted: 10:35 am on February 26th

JFink JFink writes: Cam - it looks like the Thomas runs $435. That's pretty steep for a trim compressor...I don't know. I guess it's like the Festool debate. Should I spend more up front to get quality that will last, or buy two lower-cost compressors over the course of a decade.

I just looked into the specs on the Makita and Thomas - the Makita runs at 80 db, and the Thomas at 69. In the world of decibels, that's not all that much of a difference. For instance, a normal conversation is about 60 db, while a vacuum cleaner is about 70 db.
Posted: 10:39 am on February 24th

RCollett RCollett writes: I just bought the mac700 a few weeks ago. I love the compressor so far. Fairly quiet, can handle a good work load, and has a small footprint for hauling around. My only complaint is that it is a little heavy.
Posted: 7:25 am on February 24th

Cam_papineau Cam_papineau writes: The 2hp makita rules. Small,comfortable to cart around. And quiet. $250+ Canadian I think
But I have not use the Thomas what's the $$ on that one?
Posted: 3:54 pm on February 23rd

crusier_32 crusier_32 writes: Patrick beat me too it but I was going to say a Thomas is hard to beat in noise and quality. But it is going to cost you.

Posted: 11:15 am on February 23rd

patrick_mccombe patrick_mccombe writes: At 26 pounds and 69 decibels, this Thomas is tough to beat.

Of course it costs more than lesser tools, but I'm sure you can afford it, Justin.

Posted: 11:11 am on February 23rd

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