Earlex - Spray Station 5500 (Rating: 4)

So, my partner and I have a big cabinet job which has quite a bit of priming and painting to do. In order for us to both be able to work, I picked up the Earlex spray station HV5500 last week from Rockler on sale ($299 with the extra 1.5mm tip and a $50 gift card).

I finally broke it out today and put 4-5 hours of fairly continuous work in spraying Zinsser BIN primer. I'm no expert, but I've been spraying lacquer, poly, etc top coats from a HF gun for a couple of years with pretty good results (imho). So I at least have some experience to compare to.

First off, the good:
1. The gun couldn't be simpler to use. There's only one adjustment for fluid volume since it's fixed air flow and it took me about 30 seconds to dial in a good spray using a piece of cardboard to test against. The Zinsser BIN primer was a good starter material with a cup vis of about 35 seconds, so pretty thin to start. I used the 2mm needle, but will probably switch to the 1.5mm needle for the next session to see if I can cut back a bit on the heavy laydown in the tighter interior corners.
2. The quart cup holds plenty of material and you get quite a bit of use without having to worry about running empty.
3. Up, down, left, right - it didn't seem to matter much which way I held it, I still got good feed unless the cup was getting pretty low and I was trying to do a weird angle.
4. No air adjustment means setup is much simpler and no need to worry about feed pressure, regulators or moisture traps, etc like my other setup.
5. Cleaning is pretty easy, I had it all cleaned up and put away in 20 minutes.

Now, the not so good:
1. There is always air coming out of the gun when the machine is running. You have to be a little careful to not induce ripples into the finish in tighter corners. For areas where I could maintain a reasonable distance with more normal gun positions, this really wasn't an issue.
2. Following on #1, the air coming out of the gun makes some noise all the time. But that noise is nothing next to the blower in the base unit. This thing is surprisingly loud, between the howl of the base unit compressor and the air coming out of the gun, after about 15 minutes of using the unit, I had to go get my ear protectors too keep going. It's a lot of CFM from a small unit, so while I get there is a direct connection here between portability and noise, buyers should be aware of the noise. In my opinion (and I haven't done any testing or measurements) this thing is too loud to use in an enclosed space without some type of noise mitigation.
3. It's a pet peeve, but wrapping the hose for storage has two annoying things. First off, the blue plastic top that retains the hose is just a bit too small of a diameter to easily push the hose between the blue part and the center piece. So you have to work it a bit to get it down in there. The second thing is the last 1 1/2 wraps don't fit down inside the storage area and sort of lay on top. There's a clip to hold the hose end, but the storage area should just be big enough the hold the whole hose.

The neither bad nor good, but things that might be of interest
1. The gun itself is pretty light, but the steel quart can has some weight. Add a quart of paint and 2 or 3 hours of holding the gun at various distances from your body at various angles and it starts to feel heavy. I used it pretty much straight for almost 5 hours and while it wasn't a work out, I did notice the weight towards the end.
2. The gun and cup is pretty big, add in the hose coming straight out of the back and it's a tight fit in smaller spaces.

All in all, I give it four stars as it seems to deliver exactly what it promises, an easy, quality spray experience at a reasonable price. The noise is still a down side for me and if it hadn't been so easy to use right out of the box I would have gone 3 stars for the noise.

At the end of the day, for $250 (remembering the Rockler $50 gift card sale) I would buy it again even knowing what I know. While it just happened that I did nearly all the spraying today, my partner used it for 10 minutes with good results and he has essentially zero experience spraying.

How this helps someone looking at this unit.
Thanks,
Mike