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Which Quiet Air Compressor?

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Forum topic by Notw posted 11-01-2021 03:16 PM 1182 views 0 times favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Notw

1176 posts in 3086 days


11-01-2021 03:16 PM

I am looking to replace my 8 gallon Husky hot dog style compressor. I would like to upgrade to something with a little larger tank size to reduce the amount of cycles and I definitely want some that is quieter than I have now. It seems the California Air Tools compressors are the gold standard for quiet compressors but I am trying to figure if there is something less expensive that can be just as good. My main uses for my air compressor is blowing off surfaces, pneumatic nailers, tire inflation and some small pneumatic tools. Would be nice to use for future HVLP use and possible sand blasting (although I think I would need a much larger compressor for that, so blasting cabinets may be out of the question)

The compressors I have found so far that claim to be quiet are the Kobalt quiet tech 26 gallon at $349.

The Husky silent air compressor 20 Gallon at $349.

And last the California Air Tools 20 Gallon compressor at $550

My question is does anyone have any experience with the Husky or Kobalt and are they really quiet compressors? Also, is the California Air compressor worth the additional $200 (almost double) the price of the Husky or Kobalt?


41 replies so far

View jonah's profile

jonah

2273 posts in 4631 days


#1 posted 11-01-2021 03:25 PM

It seems to me that you’d be better off with a very small compressor for now (I love my CAT 2 gallon one), rather buying a big one for very limited uses now and possible future use.

I have the 2 gallon and it’s small, light, quiet, and reliable. It’s obviously not big enough for HVLP, but it does everything else you mention just fine.

If you don’t already know what you’ll be getting for HVLP, it seems like a waste to spec a much, much larger compressor than you need right now.

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

3719 posts in 3971 days


#2 posted 11-01-2021 03:30 PM

I have the harbor frieght version – very like the 2gal CAT unit. Works great. Fine for staplers, nailers and the like. Light enough (37 lb) to carry out to air tires.

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View JayT's profile

JayT

6444 posts in 3544 days


#3 posted 11-01-2021 03:54 PM

We have that Kobalt at work. Not sure how they classify it as “quiet”. It might be quieter than some, but is still pretty loud—not anywhere close to as quiet as the CAT compressors I’ve been around. We recently replaced it with a 30 gallon oil lubed Dewalt that is MUCH quieter.

I used to work at a place that was a CAT dealer and the 10 gallon upright (10020C) was the best selling unit. It takes up about the same floor space than a 2 gallon unit.

-- https://www.jtplaneworks.com - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View ManySplinters's profile

ManySplinters

25 posts in 112 days


#4 posted 11-01-2021 03:54 PM

Disclaimer – I have no experience with those models you’ve listed…

But I’ve never heard an oil-less compressor that was quieter than an oiled one. For me, it’s also the frequency/pitch of the noise. Oil-less being higher pitched than an oiled compressor.

They are all noisy though. Build a false wall between you and the compressor, add some sound mitigation insulation. You’re on the right track by reducing the amount it has to cycle. Bigger tanks take longer to fill though. Might run 5-10 minutes the first time and (depending on use) not kick on again all day… And don’t forget about power requirements. Most bigger units want more AC power too.

For your usage, you could probably get away with 30 gallon units for occasional use. I do. But if you had a couple hours of work to do, you’d wish you had 60-80..

Find a bored employee and ask about listening to them run. It’s been a while since I shopped for mine, things may have changed.

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

9130 posts in 3910 days


#5 posted 11-01-2021 04:11 PM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82ZAlKdEfBw&t=109s

https://www.californiaairtools.com

https://www.ultraquietaircompressor.com/Special-Offers_c46.htm

I have an oil-less 25 gal Craftsman and it’s quieter than an oil compressor and it serves my needs.

If you want quiet California Air Tools is the way to go.

Good luck on your decision.

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

9511 posts in 3598 days


#6 posted 11-01-2021 04:28 PM

I saw a Rolair at woodcraft recently. A smaller unit but extremely quiet.

View GR8HUNTER's profile

GR8HUNTER

9309 posts in 2045 days


#7 posted 11-01-2021 04:50 PM

i think when mine blows up i will get California :<))))))))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

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JAAune

2088 posts in 3649 days


#8 posted 11-01-2021 08:44 PM

All three compressors referenced below are 1 or 2 gallon portables.

My shop has a Harbor Freight Fortress and my dad owns a California Air Tools compressor. Both are quiet enough they sound more like air pumps than compressors. I don’t personally use the California and only checked it out once so I can’t say anything about long-term durability. It worked fine when I tried it out.

The Fortress seems to have gotten a little louder over time and is prone to over-heating but that could be because we ran it hard during some production runs or it could be due to buying it off Harbor Freight’s discount table.

Fini makes compressors that are louder than the above but not so loud as to be annoying. We’ve got one that’s used for for cleaning and pinning around the CNC router. Zero issues with that one. The CNC operator likes it enough that he bought one for his home.

-- See my work at http://altaredesign.com

View JohnDon's profile

JohnDon

212 posts in 2502 days


#9 posted 11-01-2021 09:37 PM

Regardless of having the same sound level, I personally find some noises more irritating than others. For example, I hate the sound of a high pitched leaf blower much more than the louder bass rumble of a motorcycle engine. My old direct drive (oil-lubed) HF compressor was a screamer, and I was happy when I replaced it with a used belt drive oiled P-C compressor. With the belt drive, the piston rpm is slower, and so has a lower sound frequency. Even with light to moderate use in mind, I’d say get an oil-lubed belt drive compressor with a largish tank (25-30 gal.). As already mentioned, the cycle frequency is less than with a small tank. So, you can turn on the compressor, walk away to someplace quiet for a few minutes until it cycles off. Come back and do your tasks, with a good chance that the compressor won’t start up again while you’re working.

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JohnDon

212 posts in 2502 days


#10 posted 11-01-2021 09:40 PM

Deleted

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

8781 posts in 2720 days


#11 posted 11-01-2021 09:52 PM

I have a 10 gallon CAT and it is much quieter than my old Porter Cable pancake compressor. I hate the regulator though. They must have gone cheap 2 years ago when I bought it. The first one could not maintain the set pressure. Anytime I used a relatively constant air flow, it would drop to about 10 PSI. They sent me a new manifold/regulator unit that is identical but it still drops about 10 PSI below the set pressure while using it. My old PC didn’t drop at all. When I turn the pressure on the new regulator down to zero, it slowly lets all of the air out of the tank so I have leave it at about 5 PSI according to the gauge. The other annoyance is that it has a soft start valve that is supposed to stay open until the compressor is running. It worked well when I first got it but now takes up to 30 seconds to close when the tank pressure is low as happens when I forget to leave the regulator at 5 PSI. That valve is also the noisiest part of the system. When the motor turns off, it gives off a pretty loud hiss that is pretty annoying. Overall the unit is a huge improvement over most oil free compressors but for the money and with the issues I have had, I would probably explore some of the other quiet options that are now available.

I almost forgot, when I first got the unit. It came with the wrong wheels. They dropped them in the mail as soon as I called about the problem but it took over a week before I could use the unit. 2 years ago at least, they definitely had some quality issues that should not have occurred with a premium priced unit. They did let me keep the wheels and the faulty regulator and manifold.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Notw's profile

Notw

1176 posts in 3086 days


#12 posted 11-01-2021 10:36 PM



Regardless of having the same sound level, I personally find some noises more irritating than others. For example, I hate the sound of a high pitched leaf blower much more than the louder bass rumble of a motorcycle engine. My old direct drive (oil-lubed) HF compressor was a screamer, and I was happy when I replaced it with a used belt drive oiled P-C compressor. With the belt drive, the piston rpm is slower, and so has a lower sound frequency. Even with light to moderate use in mind, I d say get an oil-lubed belt drive compressor with a largish tank (25-30 gal.). As already mentioned, the cycle frequency is less than with a small tank. So, you can turn on the compressor, walk away to someplace quiet for a few minutes until it cycles off. Come back and do your tasks, with a good chance that the compressor won t start up again while you re working.

- JohnDon

I agree saws, dust collector, shop vac, etc don’t really bother me but the sound of my husky compressor just annoys the crap out of me.

View Notw's profile

Notw

1176 posts in 3086 days


#13 posted 11-01-2021 10:37 PM



I have a 10 gallon CAT and it is much quieter than my old Porter Cable pancake compressor. I hate the regulator though. They must have gone cheap 2 years ago when I bought it. The first one could not maintain the set pressure. Anytime I used a relatively constant air flow, it would drop to about 10 PSI. They sent me a new manifold/regulator unit that is identical but it still drops about 10 PSI below the set pressure while using it. My old PC didn t drop at all. When I turn the pressure on the new regulator down to zero, it slowly lets all of the air out of the tank so I have leave it at about 5 PSI according to the gauge. The other annoyance is that it has a soft start valve that is supposed to stay open until the compressor is running. It worked well when I first got it but now takes up to 30 seconds to close when the tank pressure is low as happens when I forget to leave the regulator at 5 PSI. That valve is also the noisiest part of the system. When the motor turns off, it gives off a pretty loud hiss that is pretty annoying. Overall the unit is a huge improvement over most oil free compressors but for the money and with the issues I have had, I would probably explore some of the other quiet options that are now available.

I almost forgot, when I first got the unit. It came with the wrong wheels. They dropped them in the mail as soon as I called about the problem but it took over a week before I could use the unit. 2 years ago at least, they definitely had some quality issues that should not have occurred with a premium priced unit. They did let me keep the wheels and the faulty regulator and manifold.

- Lazyman

This is interesting as I had always heard they had high quality but it sounds like their quality (at least 2 years ago) was hit or miss. But it does sound like their customer support is good.

View DS's profile

DS

4041 posts in 3753 days


#14 posted 11-01-2021 11:15 PM

I know this might be in a different category altogether, but, the quietest air compressor I’ve ever seen, by far, was a screw drive rather than a belt drive.

It was a very large 480V 3ph industrial unit with an integrated pre-chiller, so… maybe hard to find these for a home shop. But easily, it was the quietest piece of equipment in the shop.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS

View Wood_Scraps's profile

Wood_Scraps

203 posts in 352 days


#15 posted 11-02-2021 07:13 AM

For your needs, I don’t know that a 20 gallon(ish) compressor is necessary. I have a similar set of needs and have no complaints with my 8 gallon California Air Tools compressor. It’s an outstanding compressor for the money. And you truly can’t appreciate how quiet they are until you see one firsthand. So, that’d be my vote.

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