Hilti Charging Radio RC 4/36 120V Review
Hilti's Charging Radio has one of the most complete feature sets we've seen, but a loss of sound quality at the high volume end and high price tag hold it back.
Back at World of Concrete, we got our first look at the new Hilti Charging Radio. It boasts a pretty impressive set of features, but where does it fit? Every manufacturer has their own radio. Some go for sound quality, others for durability. Some go for the home run. No matter what the intent is, some brands make a better radio than others. So let’s see what Hilti has to offer.
The Hilti Charging Radio has a pretty basic set of controls. The power button is clearly marked and also serves as the volume dial. On the right, you change stations when you’re connected to AM or FM radio and you skip songs if you’re connected to a streaming service like Spotify. When you want to adjust settings, you’ll use the right-hand dial to make them.
5 buttons allow you to select the mode, go to your presets, connect via Bluetooth, adjust the bass/treble, and set the clock.
You get the full suite of connections with the Hilti Charging Radio. You have 9 AM and FM presets and connectivity to your devices via auxiliary cord or Bluetooth. NFC (near field communication) is also onboard to make the wireless connection process a little easier. As a matter of interest, many of Hilti’s tools are moving to NFC connections with your phone as they develop smart tools.
Anytime you’re looking at a jobsite radio, you need to look at the antenna. Those old metal ones will never survive and some leave them rather exposed. Hilti cleverly puts their pivoting antenna on the inside of the back housing, offering plenty of protection for when it’s not in use.
One of the features that’s certainly not standard for jobsite radios is charging. Sure, nearly all of them give you a USB port for charging (it’s on this radio as well), but most of them won’t charge your power tool battery. Those that do, typically run off of and charge just the 18V pack. Not so with the Hilti Charging Radio. You can charge Hilti’s 12V, 18V, 22V, and 36V lithium-ion packs or power the radio with them. Though the 12V pack does require an adapter, it’s an unusual trait that I’m glad to see!
The particularly nice thing about the USB charging port is that it’s a 2.1-amp port. That means you’ll charge your device much faster than the standard 1-amp ports on most radios.
The Hilti Charging Radio gets protection on several levels. First, the weight of the unit (15.3 pounds) actually works in its favor. The weight and rectangular base make it pretty tough to knock over if it’s on a flat surface.
The housing itself is a pretty tough thermoplastic design and the battery slot is recessed into the back. Additionally, rubber overmold protects all four corners, the handle, and the speaker’s face. There’s plenty of open surface area that’s vulnerable if it strikes something sticking out. But for drops to the ground, it’s in pretty good shape.
Yes, I’m pointing out the cord wrap. A lot of radios have them around the base or top of the tool. I like the way Hilti recessed theirs into the back so it really is out of the way.
Listen to the Sound
Hilti doesn’t play around in the volume department. Each turn of the dial offers an increase in volume that’s pretty meaningful. With a pair of 20-watt speakers, it gets pretty loud. How loud?
I turned on some Switchfoot and measured 84 DB(a) – at half volume. Turned all the way up, the volume maxed out at 101 DB(a). I took those measurements at 36 inches – roughly how far away my ears are when I’m adjusting the volume. Obviously, those numbers will back off quite a bit at a normal listening distance.
When it comes to sound quality, there are several things to consider. First, the general clarity of the music followed by the depth of the sound range. Finally, how the quality changes as you move into the high volume range. A good speaker will give you clear highs and full lows that balance toward the low end. And as you turn it up, you only hear the sound louder without losing the quality as you go.
The Hilti Charging Radio does pretty well at low volumes. Like many radios we review, the low end suffers. You can hear it, but it’s not as filling as it needs to be to balance out the highs. Even adjusting the bass doesn’t really bring out a quality low that I like on my home speakers.
It gets a little worse when you start turning the volume up. You’re in pretty good shape up until ~75% volume when it starts to muddle and lose the quality.
The Bottom Line
The Hilti Charging Radio has one of the most complete feature sets we’ve seen on a jobsite radio with its ability to charge and run off of 4 different battery voltages. Fast USB charging along with AM, FM, auxiliary, and Bluetooth connections give you access to just about any source you want.
Where Hilti stumbles is in the sound quality department. Compared to high-quality speakers, you’re missing some of the fullness of the sound range. But compared to other jobsite radios, it’s in the upper middle class. The quality is high enough to genuinely enjoy your music or clearly hear the early game’s radio broadcast. The only major complaint is the quality drop off as you get near the top of the volume range.
Pricing on this model is set at $249. That makes it one of the more expensive options out there by about $50 over other charging models. All things considered, it’s a little more than I’d like to pay, but if you’re on a Hilti battery platform, it’s worth considering.
Hilti Charging Radio Features
- Bluetooth pairing with NFC to easily play music from all relevant devices
- 2 x 20W powerful two-way speakers provide excellent sound
- Can charge all Hilti Li-ion battery sizes and voltages (12-36V), 12V requires CA-B12 battery adapter
- Thermoplastic bumpers protect the entire unit
- Comes with Hilti Tool Service
Hilti Charging Radio Specifications
- Model: Hilti 2144800
- Battery type: Li-Ion
- Rated voltage: 110 V
- Weight: 15.3 lbs
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.4″ x 11.7″ x 13.8″
- Mains frequency: 60 Hz
- Warranty: 2 years
- Price: $249