Whether you're a veteran contractor or a novice do-it-yourselfer, you can no doubt appreciate how much faster the work seems to go when your favorite tunes are playing in the background. That's why we set out to find the best worksite radios on the market today, those offering superior sound quality and the strength to withstand all the rigors of home improvement. Click through to see which models excelled (or fell flat) in our testing.
Though it only weighs about three pounds, the Bosch PB120 ($120) was among the loudest of those we tested. Powered by 12 volts, the easy-to-grip radio features separate bass and treble adjustors, while an auxiliary input gives you the option—the very welcome option—of hooking up your portable mp3 player.
Able to charge (older) 7.2-volt or (newer) 18-volt batteries, DeWalt's $170 worksite radio is more versatile than many competing products, especially since its trio of integrated outlets can power up to three separate gadgets or tools. The roll cage design makes it highly portable, and the control panel is refreshingly straightforward. The tuner's performance proved lacking in our tests, however, and the radio's volume output was average, not outstanding.
Plug a portable mp3 player into the dock, and your device will charge even as music plays through the rubber-encased radio's side-mounted speakers. Its boxy shape makes the Makita LXRM03B ($140) easy to pack, and many will appreciate its removable antenna (though some might prefer if it were fixed in place). Meanwhile, the auto scan feature is nice to have, and the tuner's reception is good, but the controls are somewhat complicated.
The loudest and clearest radio of the bunch is also one of the heftiest. Available for a modest $100, the Milwaukee 2790-20 runs off (but does not charge) several different types of batteries. The tuner performed exceptionally well in our tests, and the uncomplicated control panel causes no headaches. While the inelegant design may not win awards, anything goes on the job site, where any sturdily constructed object like this sometimes doubles as a step stool or seat.
Milwaukee M12 2590-20
Boasting superior bass and treble range, the compact Milkwaukee M12 ($100) gets good reception and includes useful features like mute and auto scanning, but the controls are less user-friendly than those of other radios tested. One thoughtful design detail is that inside a gasket-sealed compartment on the rear, there is an elastic band to hold your portable mp3 player securely away from the elements and construction hazards (e.g., sawdust and paint spatters).
Hard plastic grips ensure you won't lose hold of the Porter-Cable PC18JR ($80), a unique product in our testing group due to the long length of its power cord. Two outlets for peripherals are built into the body, and a front-mounted auxiliary input allows for your portable mp3 player to be connected. But while an extra bass button improves sound quality, the radio's reception and the volume of its playback do not meet the standard set by other models.
The remote control included with the Ridgid R84082 ($150) did not work very well in our tests, but the radio's sound quality and tuner performance stood out. And while we thought the controls were overly finicky, it was easy to like the fact that so many different kinds of devices were compatible with the dock. Amazingly, shock absorbers built around the Ridgid mean that it won't break even if dropped off a roof—the company has video to prove it.
Capable of charging any Ryobi Tools 18-volt battery—within 30 minutes!—the P745 worksite radio includes an auxiliary input (plus an attached aux cord) and a handy USB port. In our tests, the tuner left a little to be desired, and the sound quality was imperfect, but the $140 price tag makes this a model worth checking out.
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