Our Guide to Buying: Air Compressors
We recommend this air compressor for its consistency, convenience and low noise level, which is great for woodworking, do-it-yourself projects and crafts.
So, how did we test? Since air compressors can be very loud, we began with testing the noise output using a decibel meter. These machines can be surprisingly noisy, creating only slightly less noise than the average lawn mower. We considered PSI or pounds-per-square-inch because it helps decipher the power and capability of each machine. Portability was also an important testing factor since you will likely be moving it around your house or at least, pulling it out, then storing after projects. We tested each compressor with a sander to measure performance, and power by making patterns on plywood and tracking speed with a stopwatch.
As always, overall usability is important to note for functionality and ease of use. The California Air Tools stands out from the competition with its convenient wheeled design, one-handed hose connection and exceptionally low-noise output. Whether you move this bad boy from project to project or keep it in the garage, the user-focused design pays off.
While the other machines we tested required hearing protection, we could operate the California Air Tools compressor without protection and maintain a conversation, at least while it filled up. The Dewalt is a well regarded brand that impressed us in the sanding test by running considerably longer than the other compressors This was the most powerful air compressor we tested at the six-gallon capacity. Be sure to consider that earplugs are recommended when operating the Dewalt and just about any brand compressor due to its louder noise output. Now, some of our other finalists, the Ridgid compressor is a solid unit that boasts a convenient all-around design and larger PSI capacity.
Staying neck and neck with the Dewalt. The Bostitch stands out because it is able to connect two tools at once. Whether it’s keeping two different tools attached or working with a partner, this can be a big time saver One notable downfall is the screw-style drain compared to the ease of turning a handle. While the Porter-Cable gets the job done, it has a noticeably cheaper feel.
A better option if you do not plan on using an air compressor frequently. Six-gallon air compressors fulfill the needs of most homeowners and avid do-it-yourself-ers. They’re convenient, take up little space and deliver enough power for nearly any tool you would use outside of a professional setting and we feel confident recommending the California Air Tools unit due to its low noise output, convenience and reliability.