Earlier this week I posted about the new Milwaukee M12 Bluetooth radio and charger, and some of your comments got me thinking – what features add up to create the BEST cordless jobsite radio or speaker these days?
A lot of people feel strongly about what new tools offer, and what they don’t, but this seems to be especially true for jobsite radios.
Every new jobsite music player offers Bluetooth audio streaming connectivity these days. I had a wireless music player maybe 16 years ago, and it was “okay” at best. Fast forward to smartphone prevalence and ubiquity, and Bluetooth audio streaming is a vast improvement compared to what used to be top of the line.
- Bluetooth audio streaming
Now, does the best-in-your-opinion jobsite radio need an AM or FM radio tuner?
- Radio tuner?
While it doesn’t seem very expensive to throw in a radio tuner, jobsite radios inevitably cost quite a bit more than comparatively featured Bluetooth speakers. At the least, this is because a radio typically requires additional display and user interface elements. Plus, there’s an antenna – movable in most cases.
- Cordless battery compatibility?
Of course a jobsite radio needs to be cordless. But would you make it an 18V-class device, 12V-class, or dual-powered with 12V Max and 18V/20V Max battery ports?
- AC Adapter style?
There has been a lot of comments about the kinds of AC cords jobsite radios can work with.
What do you prefer? A wall adapter that provides a DC input into the radio? These adapters are replaceable if necessary, but you’ll either have to dig around for off-the-shelf compatibility info or pay a little more for a proper brand-supplied replacement.
With Milwaukee’s latest M12 Bluetooth radio, they specify that it has a 12V DC input, which shouldn’t make sourcing a 3rd party replacement all that difficult, you just need to confirm the size of the port. This sounds easier than done for some products – I have an LED worklight and even with a multi-port adapter kit I can’t seem to find a way to charge it up again with 3rd party products.
Because of this, I know a lot of users like it when jobsite radios and speakers feature built-in AC ports that can be used with off-the-shelf cords. One type is a somewhat standardized 2-pin plug, the kind you might find on printers or other electronic devices.
Larger radios will feature a 3-prong port that can be used with standard extension cords.
I think that the design decisions often look at the product size, pricing, and user intent.
Personally, I think that an AC adapter is the best choice for smaller Bluetooth speakers and radios. For one, you get everything you need to start playing your chosen audio source, but most of the appeal is in the smaller footprint. If a device can be powered by DC battery or AC power cord, then it usually means there’s AC to DC conversion inside the product, and that takes up space and adds to the complexity.
Plus, an AC adapter works better for placing a more compact radio or speaker on a shelf or workbench, rather than having a much thicker extension cord snaking around. There’s also the matter that extension cords generally aren’t very short, or at least not the kinds of cords that pro users or DIYers are likely to have lying around.
This is one of those factors where you can’t always please everyone, but I’d guess brands seek to please most with their design decisions.
- Carrying and mounting options
Handles are convenient. A keyhole slot is good to have. Beyond that, what other carrying and mounting options would your ideal jobsite radio feature?
- Battery charger?
Raise your hand if the best-for-you jobsite radio or speaker must have a built-in power tool battery charger.
- Auxiliary input?
While this is – or used to be – good to have, does anyone use it anymore? These days, even some smartphones designers have done away with headphone jacks.
In theory, I like knowing that I could connect an older mp3 player, CD player, or even my minidisc player to a speaker. But in practice, does anyone still use mp3 players, CD players, or other audio devices? Or rather, does anyone still use these devices with cordless power tool brands’ jobsite radios and speakers?
It has been a major source of frustration that after ~4 years I still cannot find my iPhone Shuffle, not so much because I miss that music player, but because it’s with my much-loved earbuds.
It’s good to have an aux port, but I think it’s more of a feel-good feature for most, rather than something they actually use. Or is this just true for me?
- USB charging?
I can’t say that I’ve powered or charged my phone with a Bluetooth speaker very often, but this seems handy. I’d be willing to spend a little more for this feature, over a comparable product that didn’t offer it.
If the choice is between an auxiliary input or USB charging output, I’d take the USB port.
Perhaps, the more you spend on a jobsite radio, the more your mentality shifts towards a “throw in the kitchen sink” perspective. If you’re spending say $220 on a cordless power tool brand’s jobsite radio or speaker, you want “the works,” which means an auxiliary input, USB charging, radio tuner, battery charging, and maybe even a clock with built-in time-saver battery.
- Clock with time-saver battery?
Does your ideal jobsite radio need a clock? If it has a digital display already…
- IP water and dust resistance rating?
Jobsite radios should be fairly durable, but what about water and dust resistance – does it have to be IP-rated against mist, spray, or jets of water?
Seeing how many conversations we’ve had about jobsite radio and speaker pricing, the price is absolutely an important factor. How important is it to you? Which features would you nix in favor of lower pricing?
- Sound quality
This is a tough one. The pricier the jobsite radio, the more you get in the form of speaker count, loudness, and even audio quality.
- Storage features?
There are only a couple of brands that offer modular tool box-compatible jobsite radios. Craftsman and Dewalt have ToughSystem and Tstak-compatible radios, Milwaukee has a Packout-compatible radio, and Bosch has a radio designed to store away inside of an L-Boxx.
But some also have internal storage and storage bays – compartments for battery packs and to protect your smartphone from jobsite dirt, debris, or accidental impacts.
- Other features?
Bosch’s Power Box 360 has a built-in power center where you can connect up to 4 AC devices.
What else am I missing?
Describe your ideal cordless power tool brand jobsite-style radio or speaker! Or does it already exist?
Can’t think of anything in particular? It’s okay to get silly. For example, maybe your ideal jobsite radio has a built-in 10mm socket dispenser? Or maybe a mute button that sends out a noise-cancellation wave to nullify your buddy’s comments about whatever topics you can’t stand.
The best radio is someone else’s radio. Bragging rights for owners? Sure, but no thanks. I am interested to see what others think though, unless its purely hatred towards a particular brand.
Koko the Talking Ape
For me, sound quality is pretty important, much more than volume or low bass. Distorted sound is very irritating. Better to have silence.
In a roundabout way I think you’ve pointed out why no one ever seems happy when you post about a new jobsite radio or speaker – everyone seems to want just one extra feature and the price to be just a little bit lower.
That new Milwaukee speaker looks pretty good to me. I’d be interested if it came in yellow, gray, blue or lime green.
What I’d like in a speaker is a small size, bluetooth, aux, USB, battery powered (but doesn’t need to be battery-charging) and AC adapter (yep, the much-hated wall wart). Then I’d like it to display what music track/podcast I’m playing and somehow mirror my phone controls so I could select a different one without taking out my phone – touchscreen perhaps?
Well until DeWalt fixes their subwoofers from blowing avoid them. My DWST1750 blew and it’s just my rare use garage speaker. I will credit DeWalt though, drove to the service center, got handed a brand new one in box in about 2 min.
1) good sound
2) replaceable locking A/C cord, no wall wart, 12 or 14 gauge wire
3) bluetooth, with hard wire connection available, USB C and whatever the current iphone connector is
4) connects to the manufacturers stacking tool box modules
5) ability to be powered by 12 or 18v batteries or a/c, when plugged to a/c radio to run off a/c and charge all batteries at same time
6) am/fm radio tuner
7) charging for 4 batteries, (2) 12v and (2) 18v
I like your idea of a radio combined with a multi battery charging station,. That idea never occurred to me but I think it would be a big hit.
Hate to say it, but my Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining Bluetooth ear muffs are my favorite! Can run from room to room/tool to tool without dinking around.
Who want’s to listen to ambient noise anyways?
Only downfall is people can sneak up on you…
Get a Pair! and send some money back to Minnesota where it belongs.
Same here. I wear them all the time and I don’t have to justify my music choice to anyone.
Plus our safety compliance person, who didn’t know they were headphones as well, complimented me on strict adherence to the hearing protection policy.
“Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining” You mean 3M? You do know that all that stuff is made in China.
Well, I think all the tool manufacturers radios are made in China. Except for Makita.
Of course Rigid TTI is all over.
Need to be “ hybrid “ AC power and battery power.
Not cost double anybody prefers to pay
Be able to charge the phone via usb cable from battery and 110v.
Can’t count the number of times, I decided to stream some radio station or tunes and within hours the phone died, due to cold weather, remote cell towers, …
I will pay $150.00 +/- for what Randy described. Battery powered, ip68, Am/fm/Bluetooth radio and charger when hooked to 110v A/C. To clarify I want it to accept a regular jobsite extension cord (recesed male plug) and have pass through outlets, all 4 (or more) charging ports to charge 12/20/60v dewalt batteries. Also a robust antenna. Roll cage is ok if needed but not prefered andp it has to fit tough system. Some sort of illumination is a nice touch. Im ok if its large form factor. Don’t care about weight. And recessed, waterproof, locking and charging compartment for large smart phone. Bottle opener and lots of mounting options. Hint copy mileaukeee. On second thought I might even pay more if it comes with all this.
I’d pay more. I’ve taken back nearly every Makita and m12 Milwaukee Bluetooth radio because of the pisspoor Bluetooth connectivity.
It sure as heck isn’t anything made by Milwaukee, that’s for sure. Returned the Packout radio after realizing it sounded noticeably inferior to my TSTAK and even Gen 1 ToughSystem. The bass and immersion just weren’t there, and given its size and weight that’s inexcusable. Honestly, I WANTED to love it after the write-up here and given how I’m more of a Milwaukee fan than DeWalt, but in terms of sound quality DeWalt and Bosch are 1 and 1a.
Happy with the packout, works good for my style of music. My complaint is with poor FM reception. I have a $25.00 radio that pulls in stations 3 times better. But crank the Bluetooth up on the packout, it’s crystal clear. But the virus deal has changed things. I now just listen to FM in the middle of the night, on lowest volume.
I would not buy a tool manufacturer speaker. That’s just dumb. Audio companies have decades of experience in this field. JBL bluetooth speakers have some of the best sound for a small speaker, waterproof and simple to use anywhere, $80-100. Audio companies aren’t making tools, so why are tool companies making substandard audio.
I had a similar thought. Some of the audio company Bluetooth speakers can also be daisy chained together to have multiple speakers going at the same time. Few have built in radios. Sometimes I miss am/fm so I don’t have to stream talk radio through my
phone. Durability has been pretty good with mine. Since it’s waterproof, dust isn’t much of an issue.
Bosch has the same parent company as Electro-voice. Found that out when calling customer support for my PA setup.
Even though I have the Bosch 18v Caged Bluetooth boom box and love it’s power on location I’d never consider using it in a shop.
We’ve always (low voltage) hardwired multiple wall or ceiling suspended speakers and never had a failure in multiple installations or obviously any thefts. Plus any newer receiver can be remotely controlled by any cell phone.
Plus waay better sound quality.
I noticed the Dewalt tough 2,0 had just over 100 reviews( at Acme tools). 75 were five star, 19 were four star. Many of the other brands have favorable reviews also.
The feature I want would never come on a cordless jobsite audio device, due to licensing costs.
I’d want a device with a USB port and/or SD card reader that could play MP3 and preferably, FLAC, among other file/codec types.
I understand the reason the tool companies don’t do this and instead just have bluetooth is so they don’t have to pay for using the USB, MP3, etc. standard and associated software to make it work, but they already pay for it with bluetooth, but it sucks for those who don’t want to use a phone as an audio source for an external speaker.
I had the Bosch 12V jobsite radio and it was pretty good for what it was, had a radio, corded and cordless power options, aux-in, decent stereo sound, etc. but I sold it because of the lack of ability to directly play media files.
Besides, it’s pretty annoying and potentially unsafe to have music/sports/media blasting on a jobsite or in situations where you’re using the other power tools in the platform. Not everyone else within earshot wants to hear what you like, and I sure wouldn’t want screams for help to be competing with blasting music. In that regard, it’s actually kind of surprising jobsite radios and headsets are so popular, given the potential legal liability if say, someone died or was gravely injured and their cries for help went unheard and things turned out differently due to the long delay in getting medical attention.
Bluetooth SIG licencing is just a one-time fee of 2000-8000 per Bluetooth module registered by the company. Often multiple products share the same module and so a company like DeWalt can have multiple devices listed under the same registration. Other standards like HDMI,USB-C, SD etc. might charge a per unit royalty which can be very expensive. Basically what I’m getting at, is Bluetooth licensing is pretty inexpensive per unit for companies that sell a large quantities, compared to other technologies.
Perhaps in the future,, everyone on the job site will be monitored. All the workers will have “help me I’ve fallen” remote buttons on them. These could kill the music & sound an alarm. A screen on the radio could pinpoint the workers location. Or the roofer could use it to get more nails, or tools sent up to him.
Given today’s tech, it’d be easy enough to have personal handsets or even headsets, with the ability to stream from your own phone or from whatever the main unit is linked to, with the music interrupted whenever someone uses it to talk. There could be a protected switch to call for help non-verbally, and also an impact sensor that automatically trips the help switch if not cancelled within seconds.
Unfortunately, even if these were fairly inexpensive and cost effective for worker safety and communication, I doubt there’d be widespread use unless laws required it. The people who will spend big bucks on power tools are often really stingy when it comes to safety.
The workers may not want to be tied to new tech. It could monitor there every movement, thus costing them their freedom to roam around.
FLAC over a jobsite speaker are you serious?
It’s fairly common on home and car audio units these days, and I doubt it’d cost much more to support most modern audio codecs vs just supporting MP3.
I’m waiting for a review of the DCR028.
I hate that their plugs are wall wart power supplies. I wish they’d make a power supply shaped like a battery that plugs into the battery slot.
Other than that, I just like options; with Milwaukee that’s like five(?) radio options. I think Dewalt has four or five also.
I think once you’ve got a handful of batteries, a radio charging one becomes a null point. If I’m near an outlet I’ll use a multi charger if I need batteries, and the whole point of the cordless feature is that you’re not usually around an outlet when you want to use the radio. If you’re in a place with power, 99% chance someone’s (or 3) regular beater stereos are already going. I’m sure other folks have different needs, but for my opinion I just feel that charging is a weird feature to get hung up on, especially given that it’s probably a large additional cost.
From a 50,000 foot view I think a good jobsite radio needs a few things to be good.
I’m going to assume it has bluetooth connectivity but not all bluetooth recievers are created equal. For example I have a dewalt bluetooth adapter that plugs into my radio for working in my garage and it works reasonably well but only from a distance of about 20 feet. I have a weird 2+1 garage where the 3rd stall is rotated 90 degrees from the other two and if I walk into the main part from the 3rd stall with my phone in my pocket it’s out of range. My airpods on the other hand will keep connected through the whole main floor of my house even if I leave my phone on the opposite side.
The next thing is I want it to be dual power sources where I can plug it in to the wall or run it off a battery. Along with that I want it to charge my batteries if it’s plugged into the wall.
I also want AM/FM on it. I still like to listen to the local stations when the weather is sketchy. I live in the midwest and those local stations can save your life in severe weather.
The last thing is I want it to connect to my jobsite storage (packout/systainer or whatever you use). If you can do those things I think you’ve got a winner.
Bosch PowerBox, but for Milwaukee and Packout. Thinking about a PC power supply and chassis, then adding the demands of a jobsite, I can see why they’re not cheap.
Speaking of “dinking around” that is the last thing I want to be doing, so for me, just good ol’ fm for music. Half the time with tool noise you can’t hear stuff so just not a biggie for bluetooth. I’m on my 3rd job site radio, currently the M12 Milwaukee. I think plenty loud enough and more important is small size to pack into modular crate with other tools and misc. job site bits. Connot abide distorted sound and so far have not encountered that as an issue. For fine listening, I can do that at home. Just give me something rugged and loud enough for the job site area I’m working in.
My idea of a job site radio is this. A radio that is powered by your rechargeable tool batteries.
I’d say the Bosch 360 is still the best overall radio out there. It mixes excellent sound quality, power outlets, good Bluetooth range, and plenty of other features. It’s been out for close to 10 years or so and still sounds better than any non-DeWalt stackable radio. The only thing against it is its bulky form factor, but that also speaks to the fact that the thing is a tank durability-wise.
Came to post exactly this.
The 360 is a beast. Sounds great, durable and meets just about every feature on Stuarts list – Bluetooth, FM, line in, USB charging/music, 2X18v charging, solid cable, indestructible, easy to carry/mount, awesome sound quality and it can handle getting wet.
I have many, the M18 2792-20 I like for shop activities after adding a bluetooth module to better the flaky internal in, the M12 2592-21 if I have a spare bucket to shape amplify the sound. The one I really want is the one in the article with the subwoofer and works with the Pack out system. I don’t want to impress anyone, if I am working alone, I often wear bluetooth buds or muffs.
Milwaukee included the packout radio in some recent sales. Probably under $200.00, but you had to purchase an additional tool with it.
FIIO BTR5 paired to my samsung s9 with the LDAC codec, TIN HIFI T4 in-ears.
Usually only one in, if I’m alone and it’s a safe environment, I’ll pop in both.
My pet peeve is when people get all up in arms about zero tolerance earbud policies, but don’t treat hearing protection the same way.
There is a time for extreme situational awareness and vigilance, that’s when they go in my pocket. If I’m slinging filters on an empty rooftop with nobody else around, it drowns out the sound of the compressors banging on and off.
I have never, during regular work day exceeded 4 bars on my m18 charger radio volume dial.
Radio(music) is a background noise and should not dominate the workplace…period
“Best sound?”…dont care, give me a radio package that condenses the only tool that is unprotected into a ip container…sequential multi batt charger. Honestly, there are alot more practical music speakers that consume a 1/10 the space of (Insert brand) radios and weigh alot less.
Less “loud”, more charging
I have the m12 wireless speaker and really like it for what it is. It charges a phone, it has bluetooth and 3.5mm input. It is a great little speaker for small spaces or camping, I don’t miss the fm/am feature on it at all. However, I like a bigger speaker in the garage. I currently have an old 18v dewalt radio and it does a good job of filling the space with music.
My favorite jobsite radio I’ve worked with is the Bosch power box. The cube shape made it easy to store in the back of a truck and it had plenty of power ports on it. Everyone had different power tool brands so lots of power plugs was good for the different chargers.
I’ve had the DeWalt DCR025 for a couple of years now. It gets pretty loud and seems to have good audio quality, though I’m not an audiophile. I can control my music from my smartwatch, so I can turn it down or up without touching it. It gets good Bluetooth reception and charges the battery and my phone if needed. I pressure washed it once after I let some volunteers use it while they were drywalling. Still going strong.
Only bad part is that it’s bulky, but seems well made.
I have 2…the smaller Makita which runs on both thev18v and 12v batteries and the Craftsman Versastack. The little Makita is louder amd has better sound but the Bluetooth range is very short. The Versastack is bigger but the Bluetooth range is good and it can charge my batteries. I use them both equally depending on need and environment.
I like my makita radio, mostly because of its ability to run off of all of their different types of batteries from the old nimh stick packs to the 10.8, 12 and 18 lithium packs. What I wish it had with it is charging capability, no wall wort for 110, and a couple of outlets off the side to use it as a charger/ junction box
15 years ago, when I was on the Bosch 18 volt platform, I had their big cube speaker. It had better sound quality at the time then everything else on the job site, and was louder, so I was able to drown out other workers or force them to turn off their radios.
That is not a healthy job site, though. Too often, jobsite radios create comfort for some but discomfort and distraction for many more.
If you’re working solo, though: Tool manufacturers cannot match the sound quality for price that larger manufacturers are are producing. (Maybe Milwaukee could tap Harmon Kardon?) Their only advantage is when they also are able to charge batteries at the same time.
I own the Makita MR113 and prefer it for the following reasons and features: 1) 2nd amplifier for microphone input. I have found this helpful at events to MC or make announcements, such as calling out raffle numbers or birthday and other celebratory greetings. Since the music can remain on and volume controlled, you can use it for karaoke. 2) True stereo. With a second unit, or the new Makita Bluetooth speaker, it recognizes the second unit and splits the channel into true left/right stereo. It is effective and provides a nice effect. 3). The sound is very crisp and included a subwoofer. 4) It has different music modes such as Rock, Pop, Jazz, etc. you can also adjust the equalization manually Each music mode has a different color on the knob and vertical bars. Non functional, but cutzie.
I have Milwaukee M18, very satisfied with it. Robust design, high sound clarity, and quality, powerful too. It’s a little heavy but this thing puts out some good sound.
My ryobi 18v radio is almost without cons. Paired with a 4ah it will play alll day. I have the packout system and wanted to try Milwaukees radio as well.