Portable Job Site Radios Round-up Review
While I love tools, I happen to have a background in recording engineering and have even been a sound editor on several feature films. Over the years, I’ve really come to develop an ear, and a passion, for good audio. It goes without saying that it didn’t take a lot for me to be interested in looking at all of the available job site radios to find out which ones sounded good, and which ones just had cool or gimmicky features.
For job site radios to be good they have to accomplish a few things well. First, the radio has to be loud. And by “loud” I mean without a ton of distortion. There’s nothing worse than cranking up a radio to max volume and hearing what sounds like a speaker that’s playing back audio while submerged underwater. In my opinion, a volume knob shouldn’t allow the radio to go beyond its ability to reproduce audio that sounds good.
What is Distortion?
You may hear the word “distortion” bandied about whenever you look into audio devices or loudspeakers. In a nutshell, the distortion we’re talking about here occurs when a driver is pushed beyond its limits. This is absolutely an issue with job site radios. When you play back audio, the track has loud and soft points that vary in frequency and intensity over time—and they are layered. This can be represented by a waveform, something you’ve probably seen somewhere, such as in a television show where they analyzed a recording in order to track down an audible clue. The point is, when a speaker driver exceeds its capabilities, that waveform is pushed straight into the “ceiling”, a place where it can’t go any higher. And like anything that gets pushed too hard into an immovable object, it will start to flatten out. Now instead of a nice smooth waveform with lots of resolution, you get a nasty, flattened sound. Some radios don’t let their volumes exceed the point where massive audible distortion occurs, while others will drive right off the cliff. I prefer the former to the latter.
The second thing a job site radio needs is durability. It won’t do any good to have a radio that can’t take a few splashes, get covered in dust or handle a fall off a sawhorse onto concrete. Without adequate build quality, a job site radio is just a pretty battery powered radio that isn’t going to last you very long. You really want something that you can toss into the bed of your truck or leave in a large tool bag or truck box. If you have to baby it, you didn’t buy the right radio.
The last thing you need to do is match the radio to your needs. If you want something really small and portable, perhaps because you’re a plumber and you’re not trying to spank an entire job site with 96 dB of output, then the last thing you need is to carry around a full-sized unit. Get a smaller, portable radio that will run off the batteries you already use in your day-to-day work. If, however, you are going to be working outside with your crew and you want to provide tunes for framing, siding, painting or roofing, then by all means look for something that’s going to produce an ample amount of volume no matter where you place it.
Portable Jobsite Radio Features Matter…Sort of
While I’d rate sound quality as the most important aspect of a radio, having the right features is certainly a big deal. For example, a few job site radios, like Bosch’s PB360D, DeWalt’s DCR015 and the Ryobi P745 feature an integrated charger and may save you some room in your work truck. You may also want a radio that includes some outlets to power additional low amperage tools. Or maybe you just want something that can hold your MP3 player securely so that it doesn’t get wet. These are the kinds of features you want to look out for when shopping for a job site radio. To help you out, there’s a “cheat sheet” at the end of this review to give you a checklist of features included with each of the eleven radios reviewed.
Jobsite Radios Tool by Tool
The best way to cover each of the radios tested was to go through them one-by-one. Each radio was listened to outdoors, measured for maximum output, checked for audible distortion, and I used as many features as possible. I also spent considerable time with each radio, listening to FM music as well as connecting my iPhone to the AUX input(s). This allowed me to listen to the same tracks on each radio and really get a feel for what it sounded like. As I’ve professionally reviewed speakers costing anywhere from $50 to upwards of $20,000, this is a process I’m very familiar with, and I quite enjoy it!
Procedurally, I began with the smallest, single-speaker radios and worked up to the larger ones. Each time I jumped from one segment to another (There are three total: Single-speaker, small stereo and large stereo.), I began again in alphabetical order so as to eliminate as much bias as possible in my listening.
Ultra-portable Single-speaker Radios
Ridgid R84084 18V Mini Radio
Ultra-portable radios are perfect for when you just want something nearby to listen to while you’re working. These
radios will play sufficiently loud for personally use, but they aren’t likely to be enough if you want to set them on the roof or fill an entire warehouse with tunes. The Ridgid R84084, for example, put out about 86 dB SPL according to our meter before it began sounding like a Fender Stratocaster had been hooked up to a clock radio.
All of the audio for this radio comes from a single 3-1/2″ driver, which puts out a remarkable amount of bass given its size. I liked the sound, and was surprised by how well the solitary speaker played back my tunes. The controls are super-easy to use on this radio—there’s really just a mode button and two dials for volume and tuning. If you bump the tuning dial it will let you select the exact station you want, or you can hold it to seek to the next available station that it senses. The Volume dial also serves to turn the radio on and off. Make sure you dial it all the way to the Off position when not in use, or the battery will be dead the next time you pull it out. The solitary Mode button switches between AM, FM and the Aux input.
I used this radio with an iPhone source, and I believe Ridgid made a great call to permanently affix the Aux cable to the back of the unit. It even has a place to plug in the connector when not in use. There’s a strap on the back to hold your mp3 player, but it’s only about 2-3/16″ wide—suitable for smaller devices only. In terms of durability, I’d rank this radio a mixture of good and bad. It’s nicely protected by a stiff plastic frame that makes it great for taking tumbles, but the front speaker is left completely open to dust and moisture. There’s not even a screen to discourage larger particulates from hitting the driver and settling in.
And that’s pretty much it. There’s no EQ, no fancy features and no presets. It’s simple and it can be used easily, even when you’re wearing gloves. And that’s what makes this radio make sense—especially for the price. At $40, it’s not quite an impulse buy, but it’s a great addition to your existing Ridgid tool collection. About the only thing I would have liked to have seen added to this radio was a better means of hanging it up. Technically, you could catch the rubberized side handle, but that doesn’t have the feel of something that will stand up to repeated hard use, particularly if you’re constantly hooking it on a 16D nail.
- Pros: Simple and durable for indoor use, Glove-friendly
- Cons: No hanging hook, Open speaker design
- Verdict: A very nice-sounding compact portable radio that can go just about anywhere.
Ryobi P741 One+ Radio
While it puts out less bass than the Ridgid R84084, the Ryobi P741 produces a reasonably good, if thin, sound—but it also costs 25% less. This radio lacks the simplicity of the Ridgid R84084, replacing straightforward dial controls with a more complex membrane-style button-based interface. You get more features, like presets and a clock, and everything is spaced out nicely. Still, I found that my gloved hands couldn’t find the volume and scan buttons nearly as easily as with radios that had more physical controls. The upside is that a membrane-style layout is naturally weather-resistant, along with the metal screen-covered front-firing speaker.
The single 3-1/2″ driver did a great job reproducing music, just don’t push it to maximum volume where the audio will distort like crazy, and you’ll just be amplifying mush. We got about 88dB SPL out of this radio—the same volume as the Ridgid—before distortion set in. That’s plenty loud for personal use or a small work area. It’s not the best small speaker I’ve heard, but it gets the job done.
Feature-wise, the Ryobi kicks in a bit more, with 10 radio presets and an area roughly 2-1/2″ by 5-1/8″ in which to secure an mp3 player via a provided elastic strap. The Aux input on the back is just like the one on the Ridgid R84084, securely stowing in place when not in use. A rubberized, but more-or-less rigid antenna folds up from the top of the radio. It is well-protected when retracted, but may be susceptible to breaking if the radio is dropped while it’s extended. In this way, more flexible designs have a slight advantage.
The P741 is very much an inline design, with the radio sitting atop the Ryobi post-style battery (supporting NiCd or Li-ion One+ models). Overall, the radio takes up barely any space at all and can be placed in just about any tool bag.
- Pros: Compact with very few protrusions, Inexpensive
- Cons: Distorts at high volumes, Difficult to use with gloves on
- Verdict: Priced at just $30, the P741 is difficult to pass up, particularly if you’re already on the Ryobi battery platform.
Small Stereo Radios
Bosch PB120 Compact Radio
Going from mono to stereo is a big improvement, but only if you’re sitting in front or behind of the radio. For the most part, stereo isn’t terribly important for job site applications, but having dual speakers does allow for a couple of benefits: More sound output and less distortion. The reason is simple: You’re sharing the load between two drivers instead of one, and you can support twice as much amplification.
We managed to get 88db SPL out of this radio at it’s max volume setting (20). Immediately, I loved how this radio wasn’t tuned to overly distort, even when the volume was pinned. All radios and sound systems have distortion, but I’m talking about audible distortion that really affects the playback quality at a level that’s obvious. The Bosch has very little of this, so the engineers have apparently kept the amplifier and maximum volume output of the system set to ensure that the radio always sounds good. That’s just good design.
The fact that all of this sound is coming off a pair of speakers approximately 1-3/4″ in diameter is also pretty impressive. The small driver size explains the rather thin sound of this radio, but I hardly minded that because it had a nice midrange and some good top-end clarity. If you’re looking for more bottom end you’ll want to keep reading for some more options (and stay away from the integrated Equalizer, which I felt simply bloated the bass).
There are a lot of buttons on the Bosch, and many of them are small and in close proximity to one another. This may result in questionable usability with gloved hands, though the power and preset buttons are easy to get to. The PB120 includes everything you need to get started, including two AA batteries that are used for long term storage of the clock settings.
On back is a compartment which can store the included 12V DC power supply and 1/8″ aux cable, but there’s not enough room for your mp3 player. If you want to power the PB120 with a battery, the bottom allows for a 12V Max pack to be inserted up into the center—a design that keeps from disrupting the thin profile of the radio. There are also large-diameter keyhole mount points in the event you want to hang the radio up against the wall. Since the battery loads in from the bottom, it allows for true flush-mounting. I could actually see a space for this in a shop, with the added benefit of being able to simply grab it and go when needed. Altogether, the radio is really thin, making it easy to place just about anywhere.
- Pros: Compact and easily portable, Wall-mounts easily
- Cons: Not very loud
- Verdict: A compact radio that works well for smaller areas and has a nice multi-purpose design.
Milwaukee M12 2590-20 Cordless Radio
Even though smaller stereo speakers are more about increased output over stereo separation, I would be remiss to fail in noting that the Milwaukee 2590-20 throws an almost impossibly wide soundstage. That means that the space between left- and right-panned sounds is impressively wide. If I had to guess, I’d say they implement some digital processing to take some of the upper midrange frequencies and widen them up. Tempering that a bit is the tendency for the radio to distort easily. I measured around 92 dB SPL of output from the two 1-3/4″ speakers, but had to back the volume all the way down to around 82 dB SPL to avoid significant distortion.
Like the Bosch PB120, the Milwaukee has a rather thin profile. While it’s a little thicker, it’s for good reason. The 2590-20 offers a front compartment to store your connected mp3 player. It’s a roughly 3″ x 5″ space, too, and it was almost big enough to store my iPhone 4S—while in its Otterbox case! If you don’t have a super-large mp3 player or an oversized case you should be able to have some success storing your player within the radio while in use.
On top of the radio, to the left and right of the backlit LCD, are two buttons that serve as tuning controls. They also select and store presets (0-9) as well as adjust the bass and treble EQ levels. While most buttons are simple to use, even with gloved hands the elusive both-in-one volume control may present a challenge. Fortunately, a Mute button means that if you need to quiet the radio suddenly, you can just slap the dedicated button on top, and it will stop all output in any mode.
There is some well-placed rubber overmold across the front above and below the stereo speakers as well as on back. The rubberized overmold is more than just plastic—it’s actually shock-absorbing and you can dig into it with your fingernail to see how it gives. This two-piece bumper forms dual handles towards the back of the radio, making this an easy unit to pick up and toss around as needed.
- Pros: Durable, Integrated music player storage
- Cons: No mounting points, Unified volume button, Not very loud
- Verdict: This radio is deceptively tough and, when you don’t overdrive it, its deep bass and wide soundstage is impressive.
Large Job Site Radios
Bosch PB360D Deluxe Stereo
Somebody at Bosch really had their head on straight when they designed the PowerBox PB360D. For starters, t’s an upgrade to the original Bosch PB10-CD PowerBox, and this radio has nearly everything you could want in an outdoor or job site radio. But more than that, it takes into account the fact that not everyone is going to be working directly in front of the radio. Instead of the traditional front-facing stereo speakers, the PB360D has an array of four 1-3/4″ drivers that fire up and outward in all directions at once. A 4-1/2″ flush-mounted woofer fires downward to provide additional bass. Put this in the middle of your job site and everyone is going to hear your tunes. Measured from any angle, the PB360D puts out a full 94 dB SPL of output. It’s not the loudest radio we tested from the front, but it certainly puts out more sound if you factor in how it fares when listened to from the sides or behind. I suppose this is the first truly “social” radio that cares about everyone in the room, regardless of where they’re working. Now you just all have to agree on the music!
All of the buttons are rubberized and easy to use with gloves on. Plus, they’re backlit, so you can see what you’re doing when the lighting isn’t so hot. The Tune and Volume knobs are simple to spin, but I wish they reacted with a bit more sensitivity. They seem to take forever when you want to dial forward from one extreme to another—fast or slow, the increments move at the same pace. You’ll want to put your favorite stations into one of the 10 AM or 20 FM memory slots to avoid having to slow tune or seek from one extreme of the dial to the other. Also, unlike the fancier Makita LXRM03, the Bosch PB360D acts like most other job site radios and doesn’t “sense” inputs. You’ll need to cycle through AM, FM, Aux 1, Aux 2, USB, SD and Sirius to go between active sources—which can be a pain when going from FM to AM, for example.
Jobsite Radios in the Round
There is so much going on with the Bosch PowerBox that each side almost needs its own description in order to take it all in. The left side features the Aux 1 input, line output, 12V DC (1A) port as well as a hinged compartment. Inside that is a 250V/1A fuse (for the 12V outlet), SD card slot, USB port and Aux 2 inputs. You also get some hook and loop to strap your mp3 player to the door to keep it out of the elements. That USB input is also unique. When plugged into a 120V power source, it will charge your smaller portable devices, but it will also allow the PowerBox to play back audio from a connected USB storage device (like a thumb drive). If you happen to have a favorite playlist, you could dump it to a 4GB drive and insert it into the USB slot for a week’s worth of music.
On back you have connections for the FM antenna (included) and Sirius antenna (optional). Open up the compartment and you’ll find the integrated 18V lithium-ion battery charger (which is also where you power the radio via Bosch 14.4V or 18V batteries).
On the right side you’ll find the four covered 10A GFCI outlets that let the radio double as a power distribution center for all but the most current-hungry power tools. I liked that Bosch thought to provide covers for the outlets. While they’re not waterproof, they will serve to keep out dust and dirt when not in use. This is a job site radio, after all, and it’s remarkable how many times details like that go unnoticed. The top of the Bosch Power Box has a handy carry handle that also stores the included key fob-style remote control. The remote gives you access to Volume, Skip, Source, Power and Mute controls, and it will easily clip to your keychain or a belt loop.
I really liked the sound of the Bosch radio. It plays loud and clean, with more real bass than most other systems out there. The multi-directional speakers are a great concept, and the entire design of the radio makes it incredibly durable because there truly is isolation of the central radio from the surrounding roll cage. About the only downside of this radio is that it weighs over 25 pounds with a battery inserted—that’s nearly 8 pounds heavier than the next-heaviest model reviewed, the Milwaukee 2790-20.
- Pros: Great coverage, Lots of features, Battery charger, 4 GFCI outlets, USB playback
- Cons: Heaviest model tested by far, Expensive
- Verdict: If you can afford it, the PB360D is a feature-rich model that will take a beating and provide music to an entire job site.
DeWalt DCR015 Worksite Charger Radio
This is a medium-size radio that has a lot more output than you would at first think possible. It measured an impressive 95dB, and there was no significant audible distortion with the volume set to its maximum output level. I love it when a radio is designed well, and the DeWalt DCR015 fits this category to a tee. Part of the reason the radio sounds so good is the company made it a two-way system, with dedicated 1″ tweeters to support the dual 3-1/4″ drivers. The result is a nice, even sound that can play loudly and remain clean and clear. We actually preferred it to our former favorite DeWalt DC012 worksite radio.
This is also a combination radio/charger, like the Bosch PowerBox PB360D, and it offers a lot of bang for your buck—particularly since you can leave your charger in the truck and have a battery in the chute while you crank your tunes. I also liked the simplicity of the volume control and the easily-accessible buttons which worked just as well with bare or gloved hands. Bass response was also quite good with the DeWalt, and it had a lot of projection, filling the job site with ton of sound.
Another surprising feature of this radio was its ability to charge DeWalt’s new 12V Max batteries in addition to 20V Max lithium-ion packs. And, of course, the radio will run off AC or either of those batteries as well. To increase energy efficiency, there is a small dial on the back that lets you disengage the radio circuitry, turning the radio into charger-only mode–a feature I suspect will get little to no use in the field.
Protection is good, with a nice big roll cage that surrounds all of the important parts of the radio, including the front panel, battery compartment and device storage box. I also liked DeWalt’s cord wrap in particular. It just seems easier to use than the more-common bottom-mounted variety. The rear battery compartment is large and easy to access, but it won’t fit much else in it aside from the battery that’s either being charged or used to power the radio. You’re going to pay a little more for this radio, but you also get some features (outlets, charging and 12V battery support) that you don’t get with a lot of other models.
- Pros: Great sound, Easy to use, Power outlets, 12V/20V-compatible
- Cons: Second-most expensive job site radio
- Verdict: The extra price of this radio is well worth it given the sound quality and features you will receive.
Makita LXRM03B Radio with iPod Docking Station
The Makita LXRM03B radio sounds good when backed off just slightly from max volume. While I’d describe the sound quality as excellent, it doesn’t play as loud as some of the other larger radios, putting out around 90 dB SPL (measured from the side or front) before audible distortion kicks in. The LXRM03B has two side-firing 3″ drivers as opposed to the more common front-firing designs used by most other manufacturers.
Makita’s LXRM03 is, by far, the most sophisticated of the radios tested—at least with respect to the interface. It features RDS (Radio Data System) which displays the artist and song on compatible radio stations. There is a large backlit LCD display, and all of the controls light up as soon as you adjust volume or touch a button.
The radio has a nice carry handle—great for toting it from location to location. The enclosure is very durable, with metal “roll bars” protecting the front controls and LCD screen. The antenna is rubberized and flexible, but screws into the top of the radio and doesn’t fold down when not in use, making it a breaking hazard if you don’t constantly remove it and store it in the rear compartment. A plastic clasp unlocks the back, revealing a huge space designed to hold a ridiculous assortment of batteries. You can run the Makita LXRM03B on 7.2V, 9.6V, 10.8V, 12V, 14.4V or 18V lithium ion—even the company’s older post-style batteries work in this radio (all of this according to the manual—we only tested it with 18V lithium-ion). Inside is also the second auxiliary 1/8″ stereo input (the other is on the front bottom, protected by a rubber cover). The aux inputs, when connected, will tell the LXRM03 to make those inputs available as a Source. That means that you don’t end up having to toggle the source button over Aux 1 and Aux 2 when nothing is connected to those inputs.
Aside from selecting your source with the diminutive Source button on the front of the radio, most functions can be controlled using the large multi-use Volume/Tuning/Select knob. Spin it and you adjust volume. Push it in and now you can tune to a different station quickly and easily.
But the features keep on coming. On top of the Makita radio, there is a 30-pin iOS dock with a hinged, gasketed cover to protect it when not in use. Next to a thermal imager, this radio just might be the most complex device you’re likely to bring on the job site. Still, with all of its features and functions, it lacks a simple USB port for charging your devices, and the ample space afforded by the rear battery compartment, while it stores all manner of batteries, seems to consider your mp3 player an afterthought in its design. Makita might do better to use more of its internal volume for giving its speakers more oomph and discontinuing some of the older battery support.
- Pros: Excellent sound quality, Carry handle, Automatic input sensing
- Cons: Difficult to use with gloves, No USB charging port, No battery charging, Non-folding antenna
- Verdict: This overdesigned radio has a lot of features you may not care about on the job site. Nevertheless, it sounds really good in medium-sized work areas.
Milwaukee 2790-20 Radio
The first thing I noticed about the Milwaukee 2790-20 was that it lacked very many buttons. As a person who often wears gloves, I found this to be a relief from some of the more complex radios that seem to assume I have nothing better to do than utilize all the myriads of features and modes they provide. Indeed, if I have to grab the nearest carpenters pencil to activate a preset button, the button is simply too small. Milwaukee gives me 11 well-isolated buttons. They get away with this by providing toggle-style functions for buttons like Preset and Scan. That killed four or five buttons right there, and the scan button is much preferred to having to hold down or repeatedly press a directional arrow to tune to the next available station. All of the buttons are also well-spaced and rubberized to withstand job site abuse and weather.
Similar to the Milwaukee M12 2590-20 radio, there is a handy Mute button on the front of the unit. It’s not as convenient as having one right on the top that you can quickly hit if you need to silence the radio, but it’s still a great feature. An EQ button lets you adjust bass and treble—a feature most of the radios provided. Adding more bass, however, will throw you into distortion pretty quickly at the higher volume levels. At lower listening levels (like when you’re indoors) it’s effective enough to give you some more “boom” if you want it.
We managed to get the radio to output around 94 dB SPL at its highest levels before distortion kicked in too badly. This is mostly thanks to the dual 3-1/2″ drivers and a pair of 3/4″ tweeters. Where Milwaukee really excels in the design of this radio is the ability it has to handle M12, M18 and V28 batteries in addition to coming with a standard power cord. It’s truly a universal radio that does just about everything except charge your batteries**. And that last part is a real disappointment, because that’s a feature that would be ever so handy to have when working. The battery storage compartment is also centralized, which is unusual for a radio, and accessible from the top within a sealed compartment. In addition to storing the batteries for us, the compartment also allows access to your Aux input and a new USB charging port that crept into the model at some point (I have an older version of this radio which lacks this feature). There’s also plenty of room to store and secure even larger-sized mp3 players.
The aluminum and rubberized protective handles come out from all corners of the radio and protect the drivers and controls from damage from falls or bumps. It’s not quite as isolated (decoupled) as roll cage-style systems, but it does seem to provide a good amount of protection. You can also grab the radio from any side. It really comes off as a radio you can toss about without fear of damaging it—I just don’t recommend throwing it off of a roof.
I really liked the sound of the 2790-20. It’s one of my top three favorites for outdoor sound, and I think that’s a part of the job site radio factor that is easily overlooked. Features and durability are important, but after that, sound quality should rule the day.
** Check out the new Milwaukee M18 18V charging radio with Bluetooth the company just announced that we were unable to get in time fro our testing. A review is coming soon!
- Pros: Great sound, Simple to use, USB device charging
- Cons: No battery charging, Second-heaviest radio we tested
- Verdict: If you care about sound quality and simplicity, Milwaukee’s hits both out of the park.
Porter-Cable PC18JR Radio
When we first cranked up the PC18JR we though the radio sounded like it was trying to play back audio from speakers that were submerged underwater. Backing it off a bit, we realized that it just isn’t a system you want to max out, as it easily distorts at high volumes. So long as you don’t spin the volume knob all the way up when you use this radio, however, it actually ends up sounding reasonably good. We managed around 95 dB SPL from the radio, which is a good amount of output for a pair of 3-1/2″ pseudo-coaxial speakers. It’s very similar in output to the DeWalt DCR015, in fact. The Porter-Cable has a nice wide throw as well, so you don’t need to be terribly accurate when you set down the radio and begin pumping out the tunes.
Rather than tone controls, the PC18JR has a Bass button that’s good at lower volumes. Again, if you get your output above 95dB you’ll distort the bottom end and really ruin the sound. After running some tunes through it, we stood back and admired the fact that you can get a battery powered high-output radio with two front-mounted 120V outlets for around $80. If that’s not a steal, I don’t know what is. Presumably in order to keep the price so low, the radio isn’t a charger and also doesn’t support Porter-Cable’s new 20V Max batteries.
While I appreciate the simplicity and low cost, I do wish they had included a USB charging port. This is a feature that just seems practical today, particularly when you’re looking at connecting an mp3 player to your radio for an entire day’s work. The controls on this radio are even easier to use than the Milwaukee. There are a total of 6 buttons and a Volume dial—pure genius! Simplicity rules on systems like this, and Porter-Cable really nailed it.
This is just a nice, durable radio that should last a good long time. At $80, however, you also won’t feel like you need to baby it, either.
- Pros: Least expensive stereo in the group, Dual 120V outlets, Easy to use and great with gloves
- Cons: No USB charging port, Distorts at highest volume
- Verdict: With a simplistic interface that I could use with thick welding gloves, the Porter-Cable is the budget-leader.
Ridgid R84082 Radio
First and foremost, the Ridgid R84082 was the best-sounding radio in the group. It also played the loudest. When I cranked it up, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Grabbing the trusty SPL meter, I measured a whopping 104 dB SPL of max output—with no significant audible distortion!
On SPL Levels and “Loudness”
Just to put things in perspective—when we’re talking about SPL (sound pressure level), it takes roughly an additional 10 dB SPL of actual measured sound to equate to a perceived “doubling” of the volume at your ears. That means that when I measured 104 dB SPL on the Ridgid R84082, it sounded twice as loud as either the Milwaukee 2790-20 or the Bosch PowerBox PB360D!
The Ridgid pulls all of this off with a pair of 3-3/4″ speakers and a pair of 3/4″ tweeters. If you want the neighbors to call the police (or OSHA) on your job site, just place this radio on the roof and let it fly at max volume…it shouldn’t take too long. In all seriousness, though, the R84082 radio isn’t just loud—it’s built like a tank. The roll-cage design is the best of all the radios tested, with actual shock-absorbers between the cage and the radio which literally float it safely within. This is the radio voted most likely to survive a fall off the roof or a “jaunt” down a concrete stairwell.
It has easy controls. With just 10 buttons and a Volume knob, there’s not much to figure out, and you can get to everything very easily, even with gloves on. The latch on the front mp3 storage compartment tends to be a little sensitive, making it difficult to open at times. Inside, however, it redeems itself, with a 30-pin iOS dock and adjustable holder for nearly any mp3 player, save the largest models.
There’s no USB charging port, battery charger or 120V outlets, but in a sea of successes it’s really hard to fault the Ridgid too much for those. If you’re already on the Ridgid 18V platform, this radio is a no-brainer. Just pick it up and enjoy it. If you’re new to Ridgid, this radio is good enough to stand on its own. It’s like a gateway drug to making you want more orange tools. Perhaps that was the idea.
- Pros: Best sounding radio, Twice the output of the next competitor, Extremely durable
- Cons: No USB charging port, No battery charger, Finicky storage compartment
- Verdict: This radio left the others in the dust with the exception of features. If you don’t need a charger, outlets or USB, this is the best and the loudest.
Ryobi P745 ToughTunes Radio/Charger
Not as loud as the Ridgid, Ryobi’s P745 ToughTunes radio put out a full 94 dB SPL at max volume with no audible distortion. It’s dual 3-3/4″ speakers actually sound presentable, and I’d rate the sound quality of this radio as “Good.” One thing the Ryobi has going for it is features coupled with simplicity. That may sound like an odd pairing, but I’ll explain. The P745 has just five buttons on the front plus a knob for Volume and Power. You can control this radio easily, and it’s a great design. Pop the front mp3 storage bay and you’ll find an Aux input along with a USB charging port. But you also get the added benefit of being able to charge Ryobi One+ batteries in the back bay. And you get all of this for just $139. It’s a brilliant solution for Ryobi users and one that I think will be popular for the reasons I just stated.
The weakest link on this radio is probably in the area of protection. Like the Porter-Cable PC18JR, the handle goes across the top center of the unit, leaving the front face, which protrudes quite a bit on the Ryobi, largely exposed. It can certainly handle some bumps and scrapes, but it doesn’t exude confidence for harder job site abuse.
- Pros: Beautifully simplistic, Charges batteries, USB charger
- Cons: Exposed front, Average sound quality
- Verdict: A great charging radio that should do very well for light- to medium-duty work.
After all of the radios were tested, each had their merits and the Tool-by-Tool breakdown should do a good job of pointing out the majority of my major observations. It was clear that the Ridgid R84082 was the clear winner in output. Sound quality on that radio was also particularly good, as was the audio from the DeWalt CDR015, Milwaukee 2790-20, Makita LXRM03B and Bosch PB360D. If you want a radio that can fill the largest area with sound, and do it evenly, the Bosch PowerBox is hard to beat, It also had the cleanest bass and a ridiculous amount of useful features. The DeWalt DCR015 has it all: battery charger, 120V outlets, USB charging and 12V/18V compatibility. Of the smaller radios there was a real toss-up. Milwaukee’s 2590-20 and Bosch’s PB120 were both extremely convenient, while both the Ryobi and Ridgid radios were so portable and inexpensive it would be hard not to want them in your tool kit if you tend to work alone or in smaller areas.
When it comes down to it, the market has a ton of options. Reading through this review, I’m hoping to have helped you narrow down your choices when selecting an appropriate job site radio for your needs. One thing is for certain, however: If you don’t already own one of these tools—get out there and start shopping.