DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger Review
DeWalt's ToughSystem Music + Charger has the best sound of any jobsite music solution we've heard so far. Bluetooth connectivity and charging capability are on board, but you'll have to balance that with a premium price tag.
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We get really excited about cordless jobsite radios here at Pro Tool Reviews. Part of that comes from the fact that music and talk are an absolute must-have whether we’re out testing the tools or sitting in front of the computer writing reviews and editing photos. It also has to do with the fact that Clint DeBoer is a beast among men when it comes to understanding sound quality—he has the degree and experience to back up that claim. He’s also done extensive jobsite radio shootouts in the past. When he told me that the DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger had surprisingly good sound, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
What makes it surprising is the design. It’s relatively thin profile doesn’t meet the “dress code” of the fine quality voluminous boxes out there. That realization is only the beginning of what looks to be a really intelligent product from DeWalt.
With “ToughSystem” in the name, it’s a dead giveaway that the DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger is part of the DeWalt ToughSystem storage solutions family. It is fully capable of locking in as the top portion of any ToughSystem storage box or group. Combined with the rolling cart, you can keep your gear organized and get it to where you need to work with just one trip from the truck. In that way, it reminds us of the Festool CTL SYS mobile dust extractor which puts a vacuum in a Systainer.
Having “Music” for a middle name certainly means you’ll have ways to hear your favorite tunes, radio talk show, or catch the radio broadcast of the early game in a double header. You have Bluetooth connectivity integrated as well. You’ll be able to stream Spotify, iHeartRadio, or Pandora. If you’re feeling really frisky, you can listen to your favorite movie streaming from Netflix on your phone or tablet. Just don’t forget that your phone might have Bluetooth calling enabled. You really don’t want the guys to hear your wife call you Bitsy Pookums—that never ends well…not that I’m ever, EVER called that.
If Bluetooth isn’t your thing, or you don’t have it on your device, a standard 3.5 mm auxiliary port is also on board. You’ll be able to keep your device charged with the 1 amp USB charging port. That won’t quick-charge your phone or iPad, but it will get the job done.
With the last name “Charger”, DeWalt’s newest music player comes full circle by charging both 12V Max and 20V Max DeWalt batteries. Even better, you can use either voltage to run the player if you don’t have an outlet close enough to plug into.
Going beyond the name, we find some things that aren’t as obvious on the surface. The DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger carries an IP54 rating for dust and water ingress. What produces the sound is a combination of four “full range” drivers found on the corners and a pair of central subwoofers.
DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger Specifications
- Model: DeWalt DWST08810
- Power Source: 120V AC, DeWalt 12V Max Battery, or DeWalt 20V Max Battery
- Weight: 15.95 pounds
- Length: 21-1/8″
- Width: 14-1/2″
- Height: 6-1/8″
- Price: $209.99
- Warranty: 3 years
At First Glance
Someone with some know-how really took their time when designing the DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger. The unit’s protective rubber housing goes beyond basic overmold on the eight corners and outsides to create a crush zone style defense to falls. It’s recollective of the way the top handle on the DeWalt DC012 worksite radio. The handle runs across the front face and combines with a recessed design to keep the control panel safe. Those features also combine to create a recess between the fall protection and speaker covers, giving them a zone of protection as well.
Cord management is well worth noting. The auxiliary and USB charging ports are found under the top lid. Here is where you’ll find the power cord stored when it first arrives and where it can live when you’re operating on battery power. The box is big enough to keep your auxiliary and USB cords stored here as well. There’s also a bonus: that storage area is also large enough for many phones and MP3 players to fit nicely within. It’s too small for your phablet, but my Acer Liquid Jade smart phone fit just fine. If you’re worried about protection, DeWalt has you covered. The lid is completely surrounded by a gasket that should keep out any liquids that threaten it. A recess at the base is perfect for holding a tablet or phone in a viewing position if you need your hands free while Skyping with the office or watching an instructional video.
On the back, you’ll find the power cord connection and battery doors. There’s only one battery compartment, so there’s no guessing. With the unit plugged in, you’re charging your battery. With it unplugged, you’re using the battery for power.
Listen to the Sound
Five source modes can be cycled by pressing the “SRC” button. These include 2 FM, an AM, auxiliary, and Bluetooth (there’s also a dedicated Bluetooth button). 12 FM and 6 AM presets are available. Once you’re in the correct mode, the center dial/button becomes your best friend. By default, it’s the volume adjustment. Pressing it brings up other options, including scan and manual selection modes for radio stations.
One setting that you’ll find here that’s definitely not on many of the other jobsite radios out there is for adjusting your bass, midtones, and treble. It’s one of those little things that helps dial in even better sound quality.
A couple of features stand out on the LCD display. First, a cell phone style signal strength indicator lets you know how close you are to losing the radio signal. The DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger is also capable of pulling the song data and displaying the artist and song for you from the radio, though it’s not available when streaming via Bluetooth.
So what about that alleged excellent sound quality?
One word: Wow!
The DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger sounds great. Not just “great for a jobsite radio”, but actually great on its own. I’m not going to claim that it will outperform high end systems that cost thousands of dollars and can be micro-adjusted to produce movie-quality surround sound. However, it’s all relative. Put it up against the majority of battery-powered portable radios (not just the ones designed for jobsites), and you’ll find better sound with DeWalt.
Thanks to the distribution of tweeters on the four corners and subwoofers, sound is directed out well in all directions. Arguably, it could be slightly improved by orienting them out from each corner to fill a true 360 degrees. I found a slight amount of output volume drop from the sides, but not enough that I’d consider it a negative. The sheer volume of the box also contributes to the ability for this radio to put out some good quality sound.
One of the biggest complaints about radios designed for noisy areas or that need to fill a lot space is sound distortion at high volumes. Some music players trade off a lower upper limit to match where distortion starts to occur. Others just let you deal with it if you turn it up too high. I cranked the DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger all the way up on a song that had a nice bass rift running through it to see what would happen. I could clearly hear the vocals although some of the crispness started to degrade at the higher volume levels (but they didn’t sound like they were underwater—and that’s good). I don’t recommend trying that at home, by the way. The radio does get very loud—loud enough that you shouldn’t have any issues on a normal jobsite.
The DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger makes a run as the best jobsite radio currently on the market. It has an excellent blend of features including one of the most requested – the ability to charge and be powered by DeWalt 12V Max and 20V Max batteries. When I look around the unit, I can’t think of a single feature I’d add to it.
Sound quality is excellent thanks to the combination of four tweeters and two subwoofers. You do lose some crispness at high volumes, but it doesn’t reach a level of distortion that would cause you to turn it off rather than enjoy the music.