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California Air Tools 8010: How Quiet and Powerful Is It?

I recently tested a best-selling air compressor advertised as being ultraquiet. Find out if it lives up to the hype.
Glenda Taylor Avatar
The California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor on a cement pad with all its included manuals and accessories.

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

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Air compressors are significant time and labor savers, but if you’ve ever been near a large shop compressor when it unexpectedly cycled on, you probably jolted with a startle and maybe even mumbled a choice curse word. Traditional air compressors are notoriously loud, so I was intrigued when I recently got the opportunity to test several models marketed as quiet air compressors.

The California Air Tools 8010 was one of the models I tested, and it ended up taking top honors—not just for its quieter operation, either. It also proved it could provide enough air pressure to inflate tires and power a brad nailer, a finish nail gun, and an air duster. As just one of the successful models California Air Tools makes, the 8010 impressed me with its quiet noise level and performance.

California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor: At a Glance

A person using the California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor with an impact wrench during testing.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Rating: 4.75/5

SPECS

  • Type: Portable
  • Power source: Electric
  • Sound level: 60 decibels (dB)
  • Maximum pressure: 120 pounds per square inch (PSI)
  • Tank size: 8 gallons
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • CFM at 90 PSI: 2.20 cubic feet per minute (CFM)

PROS

  • Ultraquiet while operating—air compressor registered just 50.6 dB on our tester
  • Oil-free pump design reduces maintenance and helps maintain cleaner air
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use; will power a range of pneumatic tools
  • Very portable thanks to wheels, handle, and light weight of just 48 pounds

CONS

  • Not powerful enough to run more power-intensive tools, such as impact wrenches or framing nailers

Get the California Air Tools air compressor at:

What is the California Air Tools 8010?

Called the CAT 8010 by many, this air compressor is designed to be efficient and quiet. It has a 1.0-horsepower motor that produces less noise than most traditional air compressors. It has an 8-gallon steel air tank, delivers up to a maximum of 120 PSI, and generates 2.20 CFM of air pressure at 90 PSI, making it well-suited for light- to mid-duty use.

One of its key features is an oil-free pump, a design more manufacturers are going with these days for reduced maintenance and cleaner air output. The California Air Tools 8010 is suitable for use indoors and outdoors.

It comes almost fully assembled; I only had to attach the wheels and air filter before plugging in its 6-foot power cord. Most of the compressors I tested came with standard 6-foot cords, which aren’t long enough for many applications, so if you need to use an extension cord, make sure it’s heavy duty. The 8010 requires at least a 14-gauge cord. If you’re using a long cord—50 feet or longer—it wouldn’t hurt to go with a 12-gauge.

A person using the California Air Tools 8010 air compressor to inflate bike tires during testing.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Tool Compatibility

With a pressure rating of 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI, the CAT 8010 is best suited to powering small-gauge nailers and pinners as well as construction staplers, airbrushes, and blowers. I tested it using a finish nail gun, an airbrush, a blower, and an impact wrench. It ran all but the impact wrench successfully. The impact wrench required more air pressure than the CAT 8010 was capable of delivering, but that’s to be expected.

Before buying a home air compressor to run a specific tool, I suggest checking the tool’s pressure requirements. You can reduce the amount of PSI on an air compressor so it’s not too strong for your tool, but you can’t increase the compressor’s maximum PSI. The California Air Tools 8010 is a good pick for running many pneumatic tools, but it may not be sufficient for delivering the pressure needed for higher-PSI tools.

A person holding a decibel meter reading 50.6 next to the California Air Tools 8010 air compressor during testing.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Decibel Level

The manufacturer lists the CAT 8010’s noise level during operation at 60 dB of sound. For comparison, that’s about the same sound intensity you’d expect from everyday conversation. However, when I tested the sound level from just a few feet away with my decibel tester, it only produced 50.6 dB, so it was even quieter than I expected. This was a pleasant surprise since I’ve previously worked with loud air compressors.

California Air Tools credits some of the quietness to the 8010’s low-rotation motor that operates at just 1,680 rotations per minute. Whatever the company is doing, I hope they (and other manufacturers) keep doing it because until now, air compressors have been gratingly loud and unpleasant to work around.

Portability

The air compressor weighs 48 pounds, which is light enough to lift to the back of a pickup when needed, but not light enough to carry around for long. Fortunately, it comes with large wheels and a handle that allowed me to tip it up and pull or push it around, wheelbarrow style. This design is handy for rolling the air compressor from room to room when working indoors or even down a gravel driveway, which I also did. The wheels rolled smoothly and evenly, and the handle allowed me to tip it up without exerting myself.

Compared to traditional shop-type compressors that can weigh several hundred pounds, the CAT 8010 is very portable and would serve well as a reliable portable air compressor.

The California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor on a driveway next to its box before testing.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Build Quality

Overall, I was impressed with the solid build quality of the California Air Tools 8010. This is a steel tank air compressor, and as far as I could tell by inspecting the components, they appear to be durable and of high quality.

One of my assessments while evaluating all of the air compressors I tested was to determine if they would hold pressure when not in use or if the air in the tanks would leak out. I filled the 8010 to its maximum 120 PSI and then turned it off to keep it from automatically cycling back on if it lost pressure. I set it aside and returned after 6 hours to check the gauge. It still read 120 PSI. There had been no air leakage, which tells me the components are of good quality.

During continuous testing with the air blower, I ran the blower for about 45 seconds before the CAT 8010 cycled on. It took less than 1 minute for the pressure to reach 120 PSI again. That’s a relatively quick recovery and indicates a powerful motor.

A person using the California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor with a power tool during testing.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Is the CAT 8010 right for you?

Ultimately, your power needs and desired operational noise level will determine whether the CAT 8010 is a good choice for you. It sells for between $210 and $235, making it moderately priced, and I feel it’s well worth the cost if you’ll be using it to inflate tires or power small-gauge nailers, airbrushes, or blowers.

However, it’s not powerful enough to run high-capacity framing nailers or impact wrenches. For me, its main selling point is its quiet operation, which makes it a pleasure to work around. I’m also a big fan of the oil-free pump, especially when working in closed quarters where compressors with oil pumps can emit an acrid odor.

If you want to power high-PSI tools, you’ll want to choose a more powerful compressor. But if you’re looking for a quiet air compressor that won’t send everyone within earshot running when it cycles on, the CAT 8010 might be the right air compressor for you.

Where to Buy the California Air Tools 8010?

Get the California Air Tools air compressor at:

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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