Great performer, should have bought it earlier

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Review by JayT posted 08-20-2018 01:03 PM 3709 views 2 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great performer, should have bought it earlier Great performer, should have bought it earlier Great performer, should have bought it earlier Click the pictures to enlarge them

About a year and half ago, I was tired of having to leave the shop whenever my compressor kicked on due to the noise level. The compressor was one of the tried and true Porter Cable pancakes and it worked great for everything except my eardrums. Thinking about how I used a compressor, decided to downsize a bit and purchased a small one gallon unit from California Air Tools.


Noise Level. This thing is QUIET! I knew it was good from being at a show where CAT had a booth and talking with their people. Actually we were having a normal conversation standing right on top of the compressor while it was running. Even so, getting it into the shop and doing a side by side with the Porter Cable was amazing. I seriously used to leave the shop anytime the compressor kicked on. Now I can barely hear it over the low volume radio. I’ve demonstrated it to several people and every single one is totally shocked at the volume level.

Size & Weight The compressor spends most of the time in the shop, where it fits very nicely tucked under the bottom shelf of a tool stand. Its compact size is far easier to store than the previous compressor. When there is a need to move it to the house for a job, at less than 30lbs it is extremely easy to carry.

Fill & Recovery Time Fill time from completely empty is less than a minute and recovery takes about 15-20 seconds. As seen in the pics, I recently redid our living room floor and with a stapler, I would have to pause about every 10-12 staples to let the compressor catch up. It took just enough time to for me to stand up, stretch my back and then was able to go back to work.


The only con is that it is a very small compressor, so you aren’t going to be running a framing gun or roofing nailer with one, much less a high demand tool like an impact wrench or pneumatic sander. If being used as a compressor this size ought to be, there is no downside I’ve found so far. For a brad nailer, inflation, or dusting off projects, it works great.

After owning and using this compressor for the past year and a half, my only regret is not making the switch much earlier. For light duty use, I haven’t seen or heard anything else that compares.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View JayT's profile


6455 posts in 3671 days

19 comments so far

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1344 posts in 1849 days

#1 posted 08-20-2018 02:11 PM

Great Review – Both my PC pancake and Craftsman 20Gal always requires hearing protection. 90% of my usage is 16ga or 18ga nailing and filling bike tires. So the CAT sounds like a good alternative.

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View MrRon's profile


6322 posts in 4704 days

#2 posted 08-20-2018 03:08 PM

You did well. I have the same compressor for 2 years. I have 4 other compressors and the noise drove me crazy. It is the perfect size for the type of work I do, which is model building. My other compressors are used when I have to run a framing nailer or impact wrench. I can usually drive abou 20, 18 ga brads before it kicks back on.

View kocgolf's profile


408 posts in 3639 days

#3 posted 08-20-2018 03:10 PM

I need this. I would use my compressor SO much more for the “shop projects” if I could just stand the noise. Thanks for the heads up on a cool product.

View CharlesA's profile


3470 posts in 3258 days

#4 posted 08-20-2018 03:20 PM

+1. made the switch and really like it.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View jayseedub's profile


240 posts in 3425 days

#5 posted 08-20-2018 03:31 PM

I have the same one, and love the quietness. Though it’s the same size a my previous (non California branded one) air compressor, I think it turns on much sooner/quicker than the other one—it seems to cycle more often, in otherwords.

Still, since it’s so much quieter (it’s not QUIET—but much, much quieter) it doesn’t bother me much at all.

No hearing protection needed, so far as I can tell!

View builtinbkyn's profile


3036 posts in 2401 days

#6 posted 08-20-2018 03:38 PM

I have the 5.5gal version. It is much quieter than any other compressor I’ve owned. I was thinking of adding a 10gal reserve tank to it. It would be nice to have more capacity.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View fivecodys's profile


1772 posts in 3096 days

#7 posted 08-20-2018 09:16 PM

I have the 5.5gal version. It is much quieter than any other compressor I ve owned. I was thinking of adding a 10gal reserve tank to it. It would be nice to have more capacity.

- builtinbkyn

If you do add a capacity tank, will you share with us how you did it?
I have been thinking about doing the same thing.

-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View Peteybadboy's profile


4845 posts in 3410 days

#8 posted 08-21-2018 03:49 PM

I will check that out

-- Petey

View Tim_456's profile


173 posts in 5056 days

#9 posted 08-22-2018 02:14 AM

Great review, I have the same compressor and I second that the noise level is almost unbelievably low. My Craftsman compressor freaks out the dog so I could never use it as much as I want. The dog doesn’t even flintch with this one. The capacity is small so I added a 5 gallon reserve tank. Takes longer to fill up (of course), but does last a bit longer. It doesn’t make it framing nailer capacity, but it does give me more nails between recovery.

View BurlyBob's profile


10510 posts in 3726 days

#10 posted 08-22-2018 03:05 PM

Thanks for this. I’ve been hoping to replace my PC air compressor with something quieter.

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 2276 days

#11 posted 08-22-2018 05:02 PM

With regard to increasing air storage capacity, it doesn’t really do any good and can compromise the life of the compressor. It takes a certain amount of run time time to deliver a certain volume of air at a certain pressure. That is true whether the tank capacity is large or small. With an auxiliary tank, the compressor will cycle less often but it will run longer when it does come on. Therein lies the problem. Compressor motors are not designed to run continuously due to heat buildup. The longer a compressor motor runs, the hotter it gets. More storage might just cause the motor to stay too hot for too long and damage it.

Has anybody besides me ever run a nailer for several hours at once? It takes only a very small amount of air to run one gun. I watched a team of Mexicans roof my house and they used 4 guns at the same time and used a tiny Porter Cable pancake compressor. It kept up just fine.

View Andybb's profile


3489 posts in 2064 days

#12 posted 08-22-2018 05:59 PM

Have it and love it. Allows me to work at night without waking the wife.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View cpd011's profile


91 posts in 4698 days

#13 posted 08-22-2018 06:05 PM

+1 This compressor is unbelievably quiet. The sound it makes is almost soothing. I wish I had found this thing 10 years ago.

View oldnovice's profile


7791 posts in 4828 days

#14 posted 08-22-2018 06:18 PM

I think I need one of these because I can’t hear anything when my Porter Cable pancake one is running, it has to be noisiest power tool I have!
I think my neighbors would appreciate that too.

-- "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -- Aldous Huxley

View Rayne's profile


1319 posts in 3000 days

#15 posted 08-23-2018 02:30 AM

If anyone is on the fence about getting a California Air compressor, Home Depot and Amazon both have the 8 gallon ultra quiet compressor for sale $156. Almost the lowest ever. You have 4 hours left from the time of this posting to get it.

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