Whether you work in construction, work outside with heavy machinery, or are looking for a radio that will withstand sawdust and other materials in your workshop, you should be looking for a high quality jobsite radio. Unlike home portable stereo systems, radios made for the jobsite are more durable, have better protection for their internal components, and can also generally play at higher volumes without distorting sound.
Jobsite radios should also have buttons and dials that are easy to use while wearing bulky work gloves, and which can use a battery or AC Adaptor. High quality jobsite radios may also include Bluetooth features that allow you to stream music or audiobooks from your phone or tablet, without bringing it into your work area, as well as features that make it easier to find a clear radio station in an unfamiliar location.
To accommodate my home shop, I recently went looking for a jobsite radio. I knew that I wanted to be able to listen to music, connect to my phone, and that the radio was going to need to withstand an awful lot of dust. It took a little while, but I found the perfect radio for my needs. These were the factors I considered as I was searching through my options.
Last update on 2020-01-20 at 20:57 PST - Details
What factors make a great jobsite radio?
There were a few things that I knew my perfect radio was going to have.
While I mostly prefer listening to music I’ve already chosen, streaming from my phone, I do sometimes listen to the local radio for music, or to a baseball game during summer. The ability to use Scan and Seek features were both helpful. For reference, Seek will generally take your radio to the next available strong FM or AM signal; the Scan feature will run through all available channels with a brief pause on each one; when you hear something you want to stick with, you tap the Scan button to stop searching. Neither of these features are perfect, and both can sometimes skip strong channels. When I’m looking for something different, however, something is better than nothing.
Auxiliary Input and Bluetooth Connectivity
Since I knew ahead of time that I wanted to stream from my phone, I was specifically looking for something that would connect to my phone. I was more interested in Bluetooth than AUX; with an auxiliary input, my phone would still be in my shop, exposed to all the dust and potential damage from which I was trying to protect it. Since Bluetooth works for about 100 feet, I planned to pair my phone with the stereo from inside my house, leave the phone inside, and then go into my shop to work. If your shop is located far from your home, you could leave it in your car or truck. Depending on the walls of your shop or jobsite, however, the connection could be weaker.
When I do listen to the radio, I want my signals to come in clear and strong. I live in a suburban area with plenty of good radio stations, and I knew that I could get good signals where I live, so if the radio wasn’t receiving well, I was sure the radio was the problem. Taking your radio on the road, this is even more important. If you rely on your radio for entertainment during your long day of work, having it not function is going to be frustrating, and make a day unpleasant at best.
While my jobsite radio was going to be used at home, my brother who works in construction asked me to do some research for him at the same time. After a conversation, we found that he had a very different set of needs for his radio. His included:
While my radio was going to be used in my home shop, his would be used everywhere he was going. It was going to bounce around in his truck as he drove from job to job, and it could potentially fall off staging, or even a roof. Everything in his life is extra durable, from his phone to truck; his radio needed to be able to live through just about anything. Being waterproof would be even better.
Most of the time, my brother has access to power on his jobsites, but there are also times when having a battery powered radio would be more convenient. When we were growing up, radios got a couple hours of power from a bunch of C Batteries; now, many radios have rechargeable lithium ion batteries that can last all day. Some can even recharge the devices for himself or his workers, giving them yet another use at work.
I wasn’t concerned how much my radio weighed; I planned to put it on a shelf and leave it there. Since my brother knew he’d been carrying the radio from his truck to its location, and then potentially from place to place at work, he wanted to know how much a radio was going to weigh. Since jobsite radios are built to be durable, some even using roll bars to ensure that they will survive anything, they can get pretty heavy. I promised to report back on the weight of the radios I was recommending.
Choosing the Best Jobsite Radio
I looked at a number of radios to determine the best ones for my shop and my brother’s jobsites. I’ve made a quick chart comparing some of the best features; keep reading to find my assessment of each one, or click the links in the chart to see the most up to date pricing on Amazon.
The Bosch Power Box radio is a great update of a jobsite standard, now with Bluetooth connectivity. This radio is incredibly durable, and is packed with awesome features. It includes:
- Roll cage, so if it gets dropped it will survive
- Great Bluetooth connectivity and seamless pairing
- Sturdy media bay to protect hardware while using the AUX port.
- AC Adaptor
- Runs on Bosch tool batteries, and will charge them when running on AC power.
- About the size of a milk crate, this is a great, durable radio from an impressive tool company. It is on the heavy side, however, so might not be ideal to carry around a job site on a regular basis.
For a smaller, more compact radio, the DeWALT Max Compact is a great piece of equipment for the jobsite. Like other radios in this category, the DeWALT runs on the same batteries that its tools use; the Compact model does not charge them, however. Other models in the line do have this feature. It also includes:
- AC Adaptor
- Auxiliary Inputs
- Media bay to protect items
- USB devices can be charged when AC powered
- Digital tuner
- Big, easy to use buttons, and 5 AM/FM presets.
- The one drawback on this radio for me was that it does not have the Bluetooth connectivity that I wanted. Its media bay is big enough to hold and protect my phone and flash drives, however, so it almost became more useable in that way.
When I first saw the Milwaukee Job Radio, I was surprised. This looks nothing like the portable stereos of my youth, or the other jobsite radios I’ve seen. But then, it doesn’t need to, considering the impressive features contained within its hardware.
- AC Adaptor
- Runs on Milwaukee tool batteries
- Charges batteries when on AC power
- Reinforced roll cage and metal handle for jobsite indestructability
- Auxiliary cable and media compartment which is weather protected
- 40W speaker.
- But my favorite feature on this radio is actually something that’s just fun: an attached bottle opener.
Which Radio Wins?
If you expect to use your radio to charge your tools and batteries, that’s going to make a big difference in which jobsite radio is best for you. My brother ended up opting for the DeWALT model because those are the tools most of his crew tends to use, and what he has in his truck. He went for a more expanded model than the Compact so that his batteries would get charged.
For my home shop, however, I went for the Compact DeWALT. I have plenty of space in my shop to make sure that my tool batteries are charged, and once I realized that my phone would be safe in the media bay, I thought about how much more convenient it would be, having my phone right there rather than in another room within the house.
My brother noted, however, that if he hadn’t needed the battery charging feature, he absolutely would have picked up the Milwaukee model. At twenty pounds, it’s heavy but not unreasonable, and he felt sure it would outlast his truck on jobsites.
What jobsite radio would you recommend?