October 20, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio Review

The 2590-20 Milwaukee M12 Radio offers big sound in a small package thanks to features like a digital tuner, a built in MP3 player storage pocket and a sturdy design that can take job site abuse. This radio can operate with either the compact Milwaukee 12 volt Lithium-ion batteries or the included 120V A/C adapter.

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio Review

The Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 radio offers big sound in a small package thanks to features like a digital tuner, a built in MP3 player storage pocket and a sturdy design that can take job site abuse. This radio can operate with either the compact Milwaukee 12 volt Lithium-ion batteries or the included 120V A/C adapter.

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio Features

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio storageOne of the first things we noticed with the test radio that was sent to us was how compact it was. Up to now, we have pretty much been checking out full size job site radios and, needless to say, we were pretty surprised at the size of it. It almost begs the question – why are some job site radios so big?  With its largest dimension the 10.5 inch width, the Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 radio weighs in at 3.5 pounds which gives the little radio a pretty good heft. This weight is for good reason since the main body of the radio is actually made of steel and an ABS polymer. These materials help absorb shock and take job site abuse. There are handles built in to either end of the body and the speakers have perforated steel grills over them to protect them from debris and falls. The front, center of the radio flips open to reveal a pocket that is weather sealed to keep your MP3 player safe. Also inside this compartment is an elastic band to secure your player and a removable 1/8” mini stereo cord that should be compatible with most MP3 players on the market. The controls for the radio are simple and minimal – minimal being preferable when it comes to these kinds of radios. The buttons are easy to press even with gloves on and the backlit LCD display is easy to see in both bright sunlight and in dark rooms. Should the weather turn wet when you are using your radio, it is no reason for concern since the radio is designed to be weather resistant with nice touches like weatherproof aluminum speakers, rubber covered buttons and rubber gaskets on all openings.

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio
Very Compact Size

While our Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 radio did not come with any batteries or chargers, it did come with a 120V A/C adapter. We would expect that the main market for this radio is for most folks that already have some M12 tools and would have a spare battery around to use in it. One small disappointment is that the radio will not charge batteries while it is plugged into 120V power. We found that when we used freshly charged M12 batteries, we would get on average about 4 hours of sound from the radio. One of the nice features of the display on the radio is the battery energy level gauge that gives a good visual on how much power is in reserve. To keep the clock time and the presets, the Milwaukee 2590-20 uses—in addition to its M12 battery—two AAA batteries which are inserted into a small compartment.

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio kit

Testing and Use

The biggest hype we heard early on about the Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 radio was not about what was on the outside but rather what is on the inside. According to the folks at Milwaukee, they used an exclusively designed digital processor that is supposed to make the radio’s reception exceptionally good. Well, this was actually pretty easy to test since there were several scenarios that we had in our area that made testing radio reception easy. First off, our testing facility is located where certain stations are not easy to lock on to, especially if we are inside the building. I enjoy listening to a local FM radio morning show on my way into work but as soon as I get to the office, I have to change stations once inside since it does not come in clear enough to my liking. I simply set the Milwaukee M12 Radio on my desk to see what it would do. With the stubby rubber antenna in the down position I was able to tune into my station with just a hint of static coming through. When I raised the antenna up the static cleared and the station was quite clear. I used the scan function and found that the radio actually had an excellent ability to lock on to almost every FM station in our area. I am not much of an AM radio guy, but to be fair to all radio listeners, I did a scan of the AM stations in our area also and found that it was easy to hone in on them. When it did find one, it came in loud and with as much definition as we’d expect from a band dedicated to talk radio and sports networks.

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio controls
Easy to use controls

Milwaukee 2590-20 M12 Radio Testing

Ok, so now that we knew we could get great radio reception, our next quest was to check the sound quality. While this is not exactly an audiophile piece of equipment, it did sound surprisingly good for being a compact radio. Some folks that are likely to listen to this radio may already have some kind of hearing damage from working with loud construction tools or in loud construction related environments. For those that still have acute hearing, you will find that this radio has a bit of a tinny sound and does not replicate real low frequencies very well. But this should be expected given the type and size of the drivers that were incorporated into the design (which of course answers our question about why some radios are bigger than others). There is a very basic treble and bass equalizer and we found that if we turned down the treble just a tad and left the bass in the middle, we were able to get a pleasant sound from the radio.

Our only gripe would be that when we were trying to quickly turn down the volume, we almost always hit the larger tuning buttons first rather than the smaller volume control buttons. We think that it would not hurt to make either the volume level buttons larger or located in such a way that they are more intuitive.


The 2590-20 Milwaukee M12 Radio is a great compact radio that is small enough that it can be tossed into your tool bag but it will give you both plenty of volume and hours of music for your job site. It will even work great for camping, fishing, boating trips or any other activity that would call for a battery operated radio. With excellent FM and AM reception, thanks to its digital tuner and the added versatility of the auxiliary MP3 input, this radio should be a big hit, especially if you have already bought into the Milwaukee M12 line of compact Lithium-ion battery powered tools. For those who want a bigger sound you can always opt for the larger 2790-20 Jobsite Radio which steps up to 4″ speakers and still runs on the M12 (as well as M18 and V28) batteries. For our Performance rating we gave the 2590-20 Milwaukee M12 Radio an 8/10 because it is a great performer that comes in a compact package. For our Value rating, we gave the radio a 9/10 since it actually provides decent sound, great reception and MP3 player functionality at a fair price.

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