DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger Review
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.
DeWalt ToughSystem Music + Charger Design
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 there in just one trip. In that way, it reminds us of the Festool CTL SYS mobile dust extractor which puts a vacuum in a Systainer.
Bluetooth Streaming and Connectivity
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 doubleheader. 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.
Bluetooth provides the main connectivity. If you prefer, you also get a standard 3.5 mm auxiliary port. You can also keep your device charged with the 1.0A USB charging port. That won’t quick-charge your phone or iPad, but it gets the job done.
DeWalt DWST08810 Built-in Battery Charger
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: $259.99
- Warranty: 3 years
DeWalt DWST08810 Usability and Controls
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. The eight corners and outsides 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. It gives them another zone of protection.
Cord management is well worth noting. The auxiliary and USB charging ports are found under the top lid. The power cord stores here when operating on battery power. DeWalt made the box large enough to keep your auxiliary and USB cords stored here as well. 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 smartphone fits just fine.
Durability and Waterproofing
DeWalt provides a lot of protection for both the radio and its contents. The lid features a gasket that should keep out any rain or spills. 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.
DeWalt ToughSystem Music Sound Quality
You cycle through the five source modes 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!
Bass and High Frequency Response
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, the sound is directed out 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 of this radio to put out some good quality sound.
Volume Without Distortion
One of the biggest complaints about radios designed for noisy areas or that need to fill a lot of 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 DWST08810 ToughSystem Music + Charger all the way up on a song that had a nice bass riff running through it to see what would happen. Clear vocals rang through, though some of the crispness started to degrade at the higher volume levels. They didn’t sound like they were “underwater”—and that’s good. 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.