Between Dewalt and Milwaukee, which brand’s jobsite radio and Bluetooth speaker is best?
I’ve been listening to a Dewalt Tstak music player for some time, and recently started testing a Milwaukee Packout radio/speaker. Which of these is the best (or at least better) jobsite radio or Bluetooth speaker?
In my opinion, the Milwaukee Packout radio + charger is the better product, besting Dewalt’s Tstak offering in quite a few areas, including sound quality.
(Both test samples were provided at no cost by the respective brands.)
Dewalt does have a new ToughSystem 2.0 Music player, but Dewalt hasn’t been able to provide a review sample and retailers don’t have it in stock yet. Some Home Depot stores had inventory around the 2019 holiday shopping season, but not around me that I could find.
One could argue that Tstak vs. Packout isn’t as fair a comparison as ToughSystem vs. Packout would be, but 1) I can only test products I have access to, and 2) the new ToughSystem 2.0 Music player looks to have much of the same audio design and user interface features as the Tstak model(s).
I have not compared Dewalt Tstak and Craftsman Versastack jobsite radios, but they look identical and are priced the same (depending on the retailer), and so I’d assume they’re the same aside from color scheme and cordless power tool battery compatibility.
Both Dewalt Tstak and Milwaukee Packout jobsite radios have similar features – Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM radios, aux inputs, and charging capabilities.
What makes one better than the other comes down to purely subjective criteria, meaning it’s a matter of opinion.
To start, I’ve been listening to the Tstak for far longer. It has decent sound quality and is fairly easy to operate. It’s a recommended choice for anyone looking to buy a Dewalt 20V Max-compatible Bluetooth speaker. And yes, it could also run on and charge FlexVolt batteries.
The Milwaukee can of course be powered by and charge the brand’s M18 Li-ion batteries.
Sound Quality: Milwaukee
To me, the Milwaukee Packout Bluetooth radio sounds better than the Dewalt Tstak Bluetooth radio.
There seems to be more of a difference when listening to a Bluetooth-streaming device than FM radio.
To my ears, the Milwaukee Packout pumps out purer or flatter-sounding music, while the Dewalt Tstak can be a little harsher. I’m sorry I can’t describe it any better. Music delivered from the Packout sounded “cleaner” to me.
I kept the volume on my streaming device (iPhone 11 Pro Max) the same, and dialed both radios in to approximately the same volume. Both radios seem to approach the same max loudness, but I didn’t check with a noise meter. They’re both plenty loud in my garage and even in wide-open settings although obviously less so at greater distances.
I had previously tested the Tstak radio with a Samsung Galaxy S8+.
Typical test tracks included:
- Voodoo, Godsmack
- We Will Rock You, Queen
- California Gurls, Katy Perry
- Heathens, Twenty One Pilots
- Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater
- Headstrong, Trapt
- Deify, Disturbed
- Hurt, Johnny Cash
- I Like it, Enrique Igelesias
- Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin
- All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix
- Clarity, Zedd
- Paradise City, Guns N Roses
- I Stand Alone, Godsmack
What? Let’s see what your workshop playlist looks (or sounds) like. There are others, but these were the last ones where I flipped back and forth between devices.
It’s really difficult to find any fault with the Dewalt Tstak radio, and it’s only through back-and-forth testing that the Milwaukee Packout’s audio differences shine through.
Both are perfectly acceptable music sources. But when I compared them to each other, Milwaukee’s Packout Bluetooth radio sounded better. There has yet to be a test track where the Dewalt sounds better to my ears.
Things might change as the Milwaukee Packout speakers continue to burn in, but I don’t anticipate the sound changing much from here.
Quite simply, Milwaukee’s controls are easier to operate. I didn’t find myself jabbing at buttons trying to get the radio to do what I wanted, it simply worked as expected
Both radios were very staticky when I tuned into two regional FM stations (likely due to interference within the garage, I didn’t investigate), but a third was crystal clear with both. With the Milwaukee, I was able to quickly tune into the intermediate stations despite the bad reception. With the Dewalt, it kept tuning past them. I couldn’t find the user manual, but I eventually realized there’s a setting to toggle auto vs. manual tuning.
Control Panel Sophistication: Dewalt
The Dewalt has a more sophisticated control panel. You can select different sources more easily, you can toggle auto or manual rotation for the LCD display, in case you want the radio to be positioned vertically instead of horizontally. The Dewalt control panel is simply more advanced.
With the radio tuning, for instance, you can select manual or auto tuning. Once you learn how, it’s easy to do so. But if you never referred to the manual about this setting, or forgot about it, you might get frustrated (as I did) about not being able to use the tuner buttons as intuitively as Milwaukee’s controls.
You can set an auto-dim for the LCD display.
One thing I didn’t like about the Milwaukee was that it emitted a rather loud beeping sound when playing around with Bluetooth connections. From a distance, that acknowledgement beep can be very helpful. It let me know that my phone was connected and that the lack of audio playback was due to my music player app auto-pausing due to the connection change. But up close, it was a little shrill and annoying. Still, to me it’s an indication that Milwaukee aimed for a streamlined and intuitive experience.
Frankly, I find Dewalt’s control panel to be more sophisticated, in that it gives users some extra controls in case they want it (or for when they need it, such as with tuner controls).
Milwaukee’s volume dial could have a little more tactile feedback or turn-resistance, but that’s an observation, not a gripe.
I like Dewalt’s Tstak music player better than their original ToughSystem radio/speaker/charger. I don’t recall much about the differences in sound, but I liked its smaller form factor better. Because of this I was worried I’d find Milwaukee’s Packout system radio to be too large, but that hasn’t been the case so far, mostly because it sits on a short Packout stack and dolly.
Milwaukee’s Packout radio has a built-in power cord and cord-wrap. The Dewalt Tstak has an AC adapter with thinner and more easily damaged cord. But, if you do damage the Tstak’s cord, you can replace it. From a “I’m a jobsite radio capable of handling rough and tough conditions,” neither Bluetooth radio/charger is at all delicate. The Dewalt power cord looks wimpy, but in use I haven’t had any problems with it. In fact, it might be easier to route around tools and equipment in a workshop setting, although some users might prefer having a standard AC plug rather than the included wall wart.
I’m not about to start tossing either box off a roof, and so my determination that they’re both quite rugged isn’t very developed (yet).
At the time of this posting, the Dewalt Tstak radio can be purchased for $199 (it’s priced at up to $279 at some other retailers), and the Milwaukee Packout is priced at $299.
For the purpose of the review I ignored all on-paper specs and based it simply on the products put in front of me. The Milwaukee is a better product in my opinion, but $100 better? That’s a tough question to answer for someone who isn’t tied into either cordless power tool system or is plans to power either radio via AC.
Personal Preference: Milwaukee
I have more listening and testing to do. Most listening has been done with the radios plugged into AC sources. For the Tstak, that’s how I listen to it most of the time, and for the Milwaukee I sought to establish a baseline as the speakers broke in – if this is even needed.
But right now, I feel that Milwaukee’s Packout jobsite radio is the clear winner. I like that I can stack Packout tool boxes on top of it and still have perfectly unobstructed access to its controls.
In my experiences thus far, the Tstak radio is relatively easy to use, but the Milwaukee is even easier and it sounds better.
Buy Now: Milwaukee Packout Radio via Tool Nut
Buy Now: Dewalt Tstak Radio via Acme Tools
(Both test samples were provided at no cost by the respective brands.)
First off, nice diverse selection of music and great write up. Considering the investment that I have in Milwaukee products and after reading this review, I believe that I will have to purchase one of the Milwaukee units. My M18 radio has never been what I had hoped and this sounds like something that can work as a stand alone unit in most any situation.
Does the Milwaukee radio get any interference when charging a battery? I had a radio at one time that when charging a battery it would distort the music while playing the radio at the same time.
anything with a unshielded (or badly shielded) switching power supply will do that when listening to FM. Switching power supplies depend on a inductor that stores energy via a magnetic field. Power out is drawn by ‘pulling’ power out of the magnetic field. A switch is opened and closed millions of times a second to keep the magnetic field within a specific range, depending on voltage required out. Unfortunately, that frequency can be easily picked up by radios, as most send to trow a lot of EM radiation.
This is also why you may sometimes have FM interference when charging your phone in your car with a crappy USB charger. The switching power supply (called a buck converter) is dropping the voltage from 14 to 5 for USB. Often, the buck converter is run near max frequency to get the most amperage out. but this puts the EM into FM range.
That’s something I hope to be able to test since I’ve observed this type of interference in older Dewalt radio chargers. I just need a different setting where I can get better reception.
I ordered a Toughsystem 2.0 Home Depot ship to store on black Friday had it in my hands Tuesday. Woofer was blown right out of the box. Instead of going through the trouble of warranty I upgraded with a direct fit replacement I found on Amazon. Sound quality is wonderful, though can’t compare it to factory or another system.
User interface is a joke. Not keeping my fingers crossed for firmware updates. FM reception is poor. When I took it apart to do the speaker seemed it will be easy enough to install a port for an external antenna. Internal build quality is quite robust, padding everywhere it needs to be and gobs of fasteners. Speaker system seems designed as well as possible for the intended abuse.
I don’t listen to much AM but silly it doesn’t have it. Plenty of guys still listening to talk radio on the job site these days.
Plan to hack in wireless Qi phone charging next time I open it up which IMHO should be standard.
Overpriced but I’m not terribly unhappy.
no interferance with my packout at all
I’d be curious to hear (no pun intended) how they stack up vs. the Makita, Ryobi offering(s). While I’m already invested in T-Stak (which I somewhat regret, but not enough to try and switch), it doesn’t really benefit me to get that radio since I have no Dewalt batteries. I still have my old boombox-style Dewalt 18v, but the battery I saved for it is pretty much shot, so it mostly stays plugged in.
As a owner of the packout , ridgid, versa stack, and t-stak systems. Personally i love to T-stak system, my ONLY qualms with the t-stak is that they don’t have a huge box for larger stuff and that it’s not weather proof like the versastak system.
I feel like the packout system is great in theory but…. i have more dislikes with the packout system than any of the others. While they have lots of ‘features’ yes, personally i have issues with a majority of those features. And thats coming from someone who loves milwaukee and has 15 or so packout boxes. So don’t regret buying into the tstak system
I completely approve of your music track sound test list.
You should be comparing the tough system 2.0 radio instead of Tstak radio!
He literally said the mfr could not provide a test unit yet and that there are none out in stores …
stuart should have changed the font color so it will stand out…
That doesn’t help. I can have something in bold, italic, or a break-out quote with color border, and some readers will still skim past it.
These are the two top flagship products that will be offered for the next few months. If I can get my hands on the ToughSystem 2.0, and there’s any difference in the comparison, I’ll reassess.
This product is of a different class
I have the original Dewalt Toughsystem radio and I have loved it. Use it in my 32×48 shop and in my race trailer on race weekends. Puts put a lot of volume. Fills my shop with sound and is loud enough to be heard at race tracks (SCCA Road Racing).
Originally bought it because I had switched to the Dewalt system after Milwaukee obsoleted all my V18 tools.
I see a new model came out this year but I am not aware of any reason to buy new.
Milwaukee is my platform and would love the packout radio. at $300 it should have a super charger and a m12 charger tho. As a audiophile I dont care too much about the sound quality of a job site radio. between the compression of audio files, streaming music, room acoustics and bluetooth I dont expect much. I just dont like to hear myself work.
I’ll echo what others mentioned Stuart, you have a pretty great song list there! I’ve heard the Craftsman & DeWalt side by side and they sound identical to my ears. There’s a smaller Craftsman one that I actually thought sounded better than the smaller DeWalt. However it isn’t as rugged if you’re tossing it around on a job site regularly. I haven’t heard the Milwaukee & DeWalt side by side. I have heard them separately though and the Milwaukee indeed sounds great! You can’t go wrong with any of them IMO.. I’ve heard a Ryobi one blasting away and it too sounded just fine.
Really hope theres a promo coming up on the Packout radio, even at 15% off it still isnt worth buying for me, at least want a free 8.0 or tool. I have the big M18 jobsite radio and many people want me to get the packout so they can buy my old one lol
Last year before Black Friday, I saw the Black & Decker version on sale at Lowes for $79.99. It looks identical to the T-Stak but I was wondering if they are different internally because of the massive price difference. I did hear the Milwaukee at Home Depot. I also tried out the new DeWalt Toughsystem 2.0. Honestly, the Toughsystem 2.0 blew the Packout away. So I bought the Toughsystem 2.0. It has better bass, in my opinion. Also the higher frequencies sound better on the DeWalt. I couldn’t do a real good analysis of both because the HD guy told me to turn it down when I turned on the DeWalt. I was only able to sample Feed Me by Blood Red.
I’d like to see how these hold up against the Bosch PB360. I can’t imagine either the Milwaukee or Dewalt being anywhere near as durable or approach the Bosch in terms of sound quality.
I parted with my last PowerBox sample a while ago. It sounded great, but it hasn’t been updated in a while (there have been advancements in Bluetooth music streaming in recent years, but I don’t know if it would make a difference), but most of all the form factor is somewhat impractical for certain environments. The PowerBox delivers rich sound, the outlets are very useful, and it is indeed very robust.
I reviewed the original nearly 10 years ago: https://toolguyd.com/bosch-power-box-360-jobsite-radio-hands-on-review/ , and most if not all would still apply to the more recent Bluetooth model.
I’ll hit up Bosch to see if they could supply one for the next round of comparisons.
Thanks for looking into this Stuart.
I believe the 360 has been updated a couple times. I’ve seen “C” and “S” versions.
I concur on the bluetooth front.. I have a third party dongle connected to my 360 but since it’s powered via the 12v plug I rarely think about it these days.
My 7 year old PowerBox still sounds fantastic and it charges my batteries. Better than my Bose portable speaker. Typical Bosch to be the best out there and fail because they are slow to innovate. No combo 18V / 12V charger. No L-BOXX integration. Still a winner in my heart because of the number of falls it has survived.
I agree I have not seen or heard anything out there that can stand up to the bosch
I wonder how deep discounts will get on the packout. I have a Panasonic Rf-2400d portable(ac & AA battery powered). Now selling on Amazon for $26.00. I think i’ll Save the money for tools.
I wouldn’t hold my breath. Milwaukee generally doesn’t discount such items unless they are EOL. They generally discount last generation tools like brushed vs brushless. When they do discount anything good, it is the most popular things like impact drills and drill drivers during the holidays and offer a free tool that is usually brushed.
I have the packout storage, but i’m on the Dewalt system. So the packout won’t charge my batteries( or use them). And the Dewalt radio won’t work with my packout system.
Absolutely no complaints about your music selection. I will promote this CD to you (and everyone I’ve ever met) for testing. It’s one of my favorite to listen to while working.
You can get a lot done to either the Hymn To The Red October or The Anvil Of Crom.
I don’t work on jobsites, but I’ve never understood the pricing on these things.
Looks like $80 worth of radio for $200-$300.
I’d rather use a boombox or a regular old bluetooth speaker than pay for overpriced jobsite radios.
What am I missing?
Tough enough to withstand the rigors of getting hauled around. They also have onboard charging, and run off your tool platform battery. Made to mate with your storage system, to aid in moving and provides an operating base. Usually comes with a good moisture and dust resistance rating.
Like the other dude, I’m not on job sites either, but use a speaker in our large warehouse and trek it around.
The only benefit I see to this, and other tool brands’, is the compact and maneuverability.
The speaker I use at work is a Pathfinder 3 from Costco. It’s rugged, waterproof, has wheels and a handle bar to wheel it around like luggage or a Packout. It’s LOUD as hell, can be playing Bluetooth or radio for 24+hrs, charge my phone wirelessly on top, can adjust bass and treble, and can plug in a microphone (separate knob for audio and mic volume too). $150.
I can’t imagine these small ones can get near as loud as this thing, it’s 100+ watts .
BUT.. it’s a whole other piece of equipment to lug. I think it’s worth it though. I’ll set it up in the back of the warehouse, crank it up, control the volume on my phone/watch, and hear it a great far away.
If I were more tech inclined, I’d consider getting a 3D printer and scan the Packout design for a base to put atop of it. Would need to beef up the wheels if a lot of weight was added but this would be my ideal set up. It’s an unbelievable speaker for value.
Here’s a picture of it: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/513mdSb5z8L._AC_.jpg
Speaker phone, front shirt pocket/in nearby metal box= $0. The drive is where I care about music and sound quality lol If I have white noise while working, it’s usually a podcast like Hardcore History, or an old Rogan episode. I don’t need any more things draining my batteries (between lighting, my tool use, and however many I have lent at any given time, I’ve got enough) and/or needing an outlet. Would I like one? For sure. Just can’t muster any motivation or justification for the prices. Always great to get a review, though!
But it comes in DeWalt Yellow or Milwaukee Red!!!
I am with you tho. Im still rocking a Magnavox boombox. 5 speakers, 5 channel equalizer and it plays tapes. Sounds awsome. I got it and an S ton of tapes from the dump last year. And let’s face it no one’s going to steal my cassette tapes. Hell some of the young guys probably don’t even know what those are lol.
The jobsite radios are a nice to have but far from needed accesory. Ruggedized, bluetooth, battery charging and long cordless runtime (does a 12ah flexvolt battery last a week or what) are nice but I guess Im still too cheap to pull the $300+ trigger on a radio. I also don’t need any of that stuff. Usualy a spot out of the rain for the boombox. Usualy a spot to plug it in. We still have a good local rock station that has not been replaced with some nationaly syndicated watered down add revenue generating vehicle so bluetooth isn’t needed (yet). When it is $5 buys you a bluetooth adapter.
Cassette tapes? I’m from the 8 track generation.
I will never own a dewalt over priced black and decker and Milwaukee are nothing like they use to be in fact bought a 6 PC Milwaukee battery powered tool set and tried it and returned it in 2 weeks 18 volt no power for the skill saw in fact made 4 cuts on plywood and dead and the impact driver died after driving 8 2″ screws I have the Hitachi set and it will run circles around the Milwaukee and I have put up against dewalt and put it to shame
You need to try the 60 v Flexvolt platform.
No thanks I have the 36 volt metabo hpt and I will put it up against any of the others
The 3 piece packout tool boxes usually went for $299.00, but sale priced at $199.00. If the Packout radio sale price drops to $199.00. It will then be a value purchase. Perhaps the 2020 holidays will provide that sale price.
I wouldn’t own anything made by dewalt over priced black and decker crap as far a radio Bosch job site has the best sound
You people sound like my cousin and his RIDICULOUSLY OVER ZEALOUS car audio system. He does car audio competitions…(yes apparently that is still a thing) And because he has over TEN THOUSAND watts in his Tahoe. He has forgotten how to appreciate less power. For example. I’m a Diesel Mechanic at a landscape outfit and we bought a new dump truck. It didn’t have Bluetooth. So I upgraded the deck and put about 800 watts total in a DAY CAB TRUCK. And all he could say was… “Why did you waste your money?) It’s all high end equipment from Kenwood and Pioneer. But because it’s not 10,000 watts. He thinks it’s worthless.
I said that to remind everyone that not 5-8 years ago. We were all still using little 20 dollar Wal-Mart radios on the jobsite. Then it was a very tiny radio with no extra input of any kind that had the brand name of your tools. Now we have good sound and built in subwoofers and people are complaining…?
I have the 1st generation DeWalt tough system radio. I have for 5 years. The bluetooth ALWAYS works flawlessly. It still charges and plays from a battery. And the sound is great! Are there better options out there. Probably… But it’s still playing music every time I turn it on…
My Bosch job site radio I have had since Bosch came out with it and it also has cd player and the sound is awesome and I hate that you can’t find cd players in any of the new job site radio because alot of areas you can’t pick up a good radio station that is when the cd player comes in
I’ve had my Bosch 360 for 4 years and it’s a beast. I’ve knocked it over more times than I can remember and it still sounds awesome.
Bosch needs to come back with a cd player
Who uses cd’s anymore? Rip your cd on your computer and put it on your phone. You can fit thousands of flac tracks on an sd card. Instead of fumbling around with cds that always wind up getting scratched, specially in a work environment.
Well u can keep using your phone for music while mine keeps ringing for more work that is why I keep my CD,s my phone keeps me busy with work not for holding music so rest in peace your music phone and use the phone for what it was for
Another portable bluetooth speaker died ( plus getting tired of non replaceable batteries ) so I’m just using a small amazon echo these days, the old model only needs a usb port so can be on a battery pack or 110v via wall wart ( new ones can’t do usb cord ).
Plenty of sound to stay motivated, catch some news and weather.
Hey that’s a crapman you’ve got there.
What replacement woofer did you replace it with?
Nice review. I would like to see the Milwaukee in person. I had the 1st generation DeWalt and loved it!! Sounded great and had some nice bass. It was the last DeWalt tool I got rid of when I switched to Milwaukee 1 1/2 years ago. Thought about trying to adapt it to run M18 batteries but never followed through on it and keeping 1 20V DeWalt battery charged just for it kinda got old after awhile. I finally was offered a great price on a Milwaukee Big square radio that was brand new and sold the DeWalt for enough to do an even trade. Would love the Packout radio since I also invested heavy in the Packout boxes when I switched but $300 is crazy. I think Milwaukee is an awesome company and love my tools, however I do think there popularity has caused there tool prices to get a little crazy in certain areas. We shall see. In no hurry to sell my current Milwaukee radio but maybe someday the Packout radio will find it’s way into my trailer. But only if the price comes down a lot.
I have the TSTAK radio and the Packout, and I came away with the opposite opinion. The Dewalt has much more bass and sounds more immersive. I’d attribute this to the fact that despite its smaller size, the subwoofers are much larger. Workshopaddict has a great comparison video of the two. Thus far most of the reviewers for the packout that have experience with the TSTAK/Tough system radios sound disappointed in how the packout compares in sound quality, especially for its cost. Milwaukee’s radios in general haven’t been as good as those by Dewalt, Bosch, or even Makita IMHO.