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.