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The best air compressor is a durable and reliable power source for a variety of pneumatic tools around shops, garages, and contractor sites. Air compressors generate noise because of how they work, but the best air compressor is designed to be quieter and reduce noise on the job site, in your garage, or in your shop.
An air compressor uses a piston to force air into an air tank which build up pressure until a preset pressure is reached. When you use the compressed air to drive your tools the pressure is released and the compressor restarts to recover the pressure. The process creates a lot of noise in most air compressors. The best air compressor uses innovative technology to reduce noise and increase durability.
There are a variety of factors that you should consider when choosing an air compressor including the air compressor types, air compressor pump types, power sources, performance ratings comparison, air tank size, and features.
Air Compressor Types
We have a stationary electric air compressor in our garage. Like most stationary models, it has high horsepower with a bigger storage tank that allows it to drive pneumatic tools for longer periods before needing to recover pressure. Like ours, most have a vertical design that reduces its footprint even though it has the large tank.
Interested in learning about other air compressor systems? Be sure to see this article about one of the best 12V models!
Portable models come in a variety of styles with smaller tanks that make them easier to transport. They are perfect for light use such as airbrushing or finish nailing. The most popular portable air compressors are the pancake style that have flattened storage tanks that are more compact and more stable. A hot dog style air compressor has a single cylinder storage tank that is oriented horizontally. Some models have twin horizontal cylinder-shaped storage tanks. Heavier portable models may come with wheels and a handle so that they can be moved in a wheel barrow fashion. To find the best air compressor for your needs, you need to decide on the type that works best for you.
Compressor Pump Types
You have a choice between single-stage and two-stage compressor pumps. Single-stage have one or more cylinders that compress air to the desired pressure. Two-stage models use two or more cylinders where the first stage cylinder feeds compressed air to the second stage cylinder that compresses the air even more. By using two-stage compression, more compressed air is forced into a smaller tank than would be required for a single-stage compressor. More compressed air means longer runtimes without waiting for recovery. Two-stage air compressors are used in constant-use applications where tools are used continuously for extended periods. They are also capable of delivering a larger volume of air at higher PSI.
You have a choice between oil lubrication and oil-free pumps. Oil-lubricated compressors use oil to reduce friction between moving parts in much the same way that it works in your car or other mechanical devices. Oil lubrication requires an oil reservoir and you can expect these models to be heavier than oil-free models. The advantage of an oil model is that they are typically more heavy-duty and used in applications that require a more durable and longer-life machine. The disadvantage is that you need to maintain the oil and change it periodically.
Oil-free models are mostly more compact and lighter than oil models and do not require oil for lubrication. They use special material piston rings that don’t require lubrication. They are not as heavy-duty as oil models, but their compact size and light weight make them very portable and the perfect choice for situation where you need to take carry a compressor with you from job to job.
The process of compressing air generates heat. To prevent the pump from overheating, many models come with thermal overload switches that shut off the pump to prevent damage from overheating. Some models come with integrated roll cages to reduce damage to the compressor from the wear and tear of contractor jobs.
Your power source choice is between electricity and gasoline. An electric compressor doesn’t use fuel so it doesn’t generate exhaust gases making it the best choice for indoor jobs. Electric compressors use electricity to drive the pump and may require either 110VDC or 220VDC depending on the running horsepower of the compressor. Compressors with larger electric motors will use 220VDC.
Gas compressors generally produce a higher output and are ideal for job sites where electricity is not available. They generate exhaust gases so they should not be used in unventilated areas.
There are several specifications that can be used to compare air compressors. First is horsepower (HP). The higher the HP, the greater the air pressure (PSI) and the more air that can be store in the air tank. More air means longer run times between recharges.
The pressure generated by an air compressor is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). It’s common for smaller, light-duty compressors to have a rating of around 90 PSI while larger, heavy-duty compressors will rate at 150 PSI or more.
Airflow in cubic feet per minute (CFM) measures the volume of air a compressor produces at a given PSI. Higher CFM ratings mean more airflow and compressors with higher CFM ratings are generally used in heavier applications like commercial garage pneumatic tool use or contractor construction framing operations.
Standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) is used to match your tools to any given compressor. Most pneumatic tools have an SCFM rating or airflow requirement that can be used to determine if the compressor your considering can support it. It’s common for the rating to be expressed in SCFM at 90 PSI. Expect smaller pneumatic tools to require SCFMs less than 5 while larger tools might require more than 10. Plan on choosing a compressor with a higher SCFM than you think you need as SCFM can vary during operation. If you need to use multiple tools simultaneously, you will need to account for the SCFMs of all the tools when you choose a compressor.
Air tank size has a significant impact on the applications that a compressor can support. If you’re planning to use your compressor in automotive work or dedicated construction or remodeling projects, then you should choose a tank size larger than 6 gallons. If you’re only planning to use the compressor for small projects and light duty like airbrushing or finish nailing, then a model with less than 6 gallons is appropriate.
When you buy an air compressor, you may find that it doesn’t come with hoses or connectors unless you buy it as a kit. Keep the extra cost of these necessary accessories in mind when pricing your compressor.
We searched contractor forums, automotive forums, manufacturer sites, social media, consumer sites, retail sites, and customer review sites to find the most popular and highly rated portable, low-noise air compressors.
Take a look at our choices and see if one of these quiet air compressors is the best air compressor for your needs!
California Air Tools is the largest manufacturer of ultra-quiet, oil-free, and lightweight compressors. Their mission is to provide the highest quality products with the latest innovations and their California Air Tools CAT-4620AC Ultra Quiet Twin Tank Portable Air Compressor is a perfect example of their commitment. It’s designed to be one of the quietest 2 HP air compressors available with a sound intensity of only 70 dB. For comparison, normal conversation is about 60 dB and a lawn mower generates about 90 dB while prolonged exposure to sound intensities above 85 dB with hearing protection is considered harmful to hearing. It uses oil-free lubrication with a motor that operates at only 1,680 RPM to reduce noise levels and increase longevity. Its dual piston pump system has been designed to increase duty cycle to 3000+ hours and allow for longer continuous run times. It’s oil-free design also allows for its use in a variety of temperatures and uneven terrains. It has an Easy Start Valve that releases a small amount of air from the pump at startup completely removing the load and reducing startup Amps. This is a fairly lightweight unit at around 67 lbs. making it easier to move around the job site, garage, or shop. Its 4.6-gallon aluminum tank contributes to the unit’s light weight and delivers plenty of runtime for light jobs.
Best Air Compressor: Features
- 2.0 HP, ultra-quiet, twin-tank, dual-piston pump, oil-free, lightweight air compressor
- Oil-free lubrication and a low 1,680 RPM operating speed contribute to its ultra-quiet 70 dB sound intensity
- Oil-free dual-piston pump system is engineered for high performance, durability, and low maintenance and allows for use at a variety of temperatures and on uneven terrains
- Easy Start Valve releases a small amount of air from the pump to produce a no-load start with a reduced Amp requirement of only 14 Amps
- Designed to increase duty cycle to 3,000+ hours and allow for longer continuous run times
- 4.6-gallon rust-free aluminum air tank
- Airflow rating is 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI
- Two pressure control gauges
- Two universal ¼-inch quick connectors
- Safety features include a thermal overload protector
- Time to fill of only 60 seconds and recovery time from 95 PSI to 125 PIS of only 20 seconds
- 125 PSI maximum pressure
- Low heat dissipates more efficiently
- Portable and easy to transport
- UL Certified
- Dimensions are 19.1L x 16.7W x 19.7H inches and it weighs 64 lbs.
- 1-Year limited warranty
- 2 – Air filters
- Ultra-quiet operation
- Quick recovery
- Powerful compressor air flow
- Portable, but heavy
The Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor features Makita’s Big Bore Technology pump that is engineered with a larger bore cast iron cylinder and longer stroke that deliver increased compression, faster recovery, less noise, and improved durability for tough job site conditions. Its powerful 3.0 HP motor generates 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI that can easily support two nailers simultaneously. Ease-of-use and convenience features include tool hangers, a built-in storage compartment for air fittings and accessories, and an air hose wrap to store 50 feet of 3/8-inch air hose with handle folded or upright. Rugged wheels and a folding handle make transport easier and faster.
- 3.0 HP Big Bore, 5.2-gallon, 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI, low noise, oil-lubricated portable air compressor
- Big Bore Technology pump design features a large bore cast iron cylinder and longer stroke that increases compression, speeds up recovery times, produces less noise, and provide greater durability
- Large, automotive-style industrial air filter increases air intake and improves efficiency
- Higher output 3.0 HP and big bore support two nailers simultaneously
- Large 5.2-gallon tank sustains an operating pressure of 140 PSI
- Oil lubrication provides cooler running temperatures and reduced wear
- Durable cast iron cylinder reduces wear and increases pump life
- Removable for easy maintenance
- Transport and store this model easily using its rugged 8-inch pneumatic wheels and low-profile folding handle
- Integrated storage compartment conveniently holds air fittings and accessories
- Onboard air hose wrap stores 50-foot of 3/8-inch air hose with handle folded or upright
- Built-in tool hangers store tools when not in use
- Roll cage construction provides extra protection to pump and motor assembly
- Oil sight glass makes it easy and fast to see oil level
- Copper-finned discharge tubing delivers increased heat dissipation and reduced moisture in the air
- Lever handle tank drain ball valve is easier to use than standard petcocks
- Convenient oil drain at the front of the pump
- Built-in thermal overload for additional motor protection
- Dimensions are 29L x 19W x 19.5H inches and it weighs 88 lbs.
- 1-Year limited warranty and 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- 2 – ¼-inch Universal Quick Coupler, Male (447013-E)
- 1 – Air Compressor Oil (181122-A)
- Great for high volume tool requirements
- Heavy-duty construction and materials
- Recovers quickly
- Several reports of damaged wheels and axles in shipping
- Has wheels, but even so, it’s marginally portable
SENCO is a company you may not have heard of that has been pioneering innovative technologies in tools and fasteners, that meet the unique needs of their customers, for more than 60 years. Their Senco PC1010 1-Gallon Air Compressor is the lightweight, maneuverable, and portable compressor that offers ultra-quiet, high performance. Designed specifically for finish, trim work, and a variety of crafts and hobbies, it weighs only 20 lbs. but delivers 1-HP peak power. It has the power to support a wide range of small to medium jobs requiring pneumatic tools.
- 1-HP peak, 1-gallon, ultra-quiet, oil-less, lightweight, compact portable air compressor capable of delivering 20 to 44 drives per minute depending on the tool and application
- Weighing in at only 20 lbs., it delivers 1-HP peak and 0.5-HP running power from its oil-less motor and is easy to carry around your garage, shop, or job site
- Direct drive motor/pump provides extra-efficient operation for a variety of tasks
- Aluminum cylinder head offers reduced weight and durability
- Oil-less lubrication means no mess, no disposal, no maintenance
- Individual tank and regulated output pressure gauges
- System fills the tank pumps up from 0 – 120 PSI in around 2 minutes and has a fast 35-second recovery time
- Rubber-covered vibration isolation feet won’t scratch hardwood floors
- Thermal overload/reset protects compressor from overheating
- Safety relief valve
- 1-Year limited warranty
- 1- ¼-inch quick disconnect coupler
- 1 – Air filter
- Very well made
- Quiet operation
- Lightweight design is highly transportable
- Only useful for small jobs like finish nailing, tire inflation
- Does not come with hoses or any pneumatic attachments
One of three Makita air compressors in our list, the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor has Makita’s signature Big Bore engineered pump cylinder and piston for higher output, less noise, and improved job site performance. Big Bore Technology uses a larger bore cast iron cylinder and longer stroke for increased compression, cooler operation, faster recovery, lower noise levels, and longer pump life. It delivers industrial power and results with improved durability to handle the tough job site environment. It also runs cooler at half the RPM of most competitors for longer life. Its 2.5 HP motor generates 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI which is plenty for two nailers. Convenience features include an oil drain and oil sight glass, a tank drain valve designed for easier maintenance, and copper-finned discharge tubing that dissipates heat more efficiently. Another Makita that may qualify as the best air compressor for your needs.
- 2.5 HP, 4.2-gallon twin-stacked tank, 4.2 CFM @ 90 PSI, low RPM (1,720 RPM) low noise (79 dB), oil-lubricated, Big Bore Engineered pump-equipped air compressor with 4-pole motor
- Big Bore Technology pump uses a cast iron cylinder with a larger bore in conjunction with a longer stroke to great compression, lower noise, cooler operation, faster pressure recovery, and longer life
- Cast iron construction is engineered for increased durability to take tough job site conditions
- Large, heavy-duty automotive-style air intake filter increases air intake and improves efficiency
- Low AMP draw reduces tripped circuit breakers and voltage drops that can cause premature motor failure
- A roll bar handle and integrated roll-cage construction provides portability and additional protection against rough job site conditions
- Convenient oil drain and sight glass
- Specially designed lever-handled ball valve drain system is easier to use than a standard petcock
- Copper-finned discharge tubing dissipates heat more efficiently
Easily removable cast iron cylinder reduces wear for increased pump life
- Dimensions are 19-3/8L x 18-3/4W x 18H inches and it weighs 77 lbs.
- 1-Year limited warranty and 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- 1 – ¼-inch universal quick coupler
- 1 – Container of lubricating oil
- High-quality construction and materials
- Quiet operation
- Compact footprint
- Powerful pressure can handle a variety of tools
- Heavy, luggable transportability
- Air filter not protected by a cage
- Many reports of damage in shipping
The super-quiet Rolair JC10 1 HP Oil-Less Compressor has a single-stage, oil-less, twin-cylinder pump with cast aluminum cylinders, stainless steel reed valves, and a slow rotation of only 1,725 RPM that results in sound levels of only 60 dB. Integrated roll-cage design protects both the pump and motor from damage on site. Intake filter also functions as a silencer to further reduce noise during operation. This is the ultra-quiet, super light air compressor that’s easily transported around the job site to satisfy a variety of tasks.
- 1-HP, 8.0 Amp, 2.5-gallon air tank, 1725 RPM, 2.35 CFM @ 90 PSI, oil-less, small air compressor
- Heavy-duty, industrial-grade motor incorporates low-friction ball bearings for greater durability and long life
- Oil-less design results in reduced maintenance and downtime
- Low amp draw reduces circuit breaker cutouts
- Automatic overload sensor shuts down the pump to protect the system
- Cast aluminum cylinders reduce weight
- Automatic motor overload protection
- Air line regulator and pressure gauge
- Dimensions are 17L x 16W x 15H inches
- Amazingly quiet air compressor
- Recharges quickly
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Oil-less design is low maintenance
- Gauge angle makes them difficult to read while standing up
- Drain valve location is awkward to use
- Protective cage doesn’t cover the intake muffler
#2 – California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0-HP 5.5-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor
Another star performer from California Air Tools, the California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0-HP 5.5-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor is another ultra-quiet model producing only 60 dB sound levels during operation. It features a powerful 1.0 HP motor that operates at only 1,680 RPM to reduce noise levels and increase motor life. Its new technology design incorporates engineering that increases duty cycle and allows for longer continuous run times. A new oil-free, extra-large, dual-piston pump system has increased performance and durability, delivers air faster, produces cleaner air for better tool operation, and reduces maintenance time and costs. This model is ideal for indoor use where excess noise is a problem. Low-maintenance dual valve plate design with stainless steel reed valves increases durability and longevity. California Air Tools is known for some of the best air compressor models.
- 1.0 HP, 1,680 RPM, 5.5-gallon air tank, 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI and 120 PSI maximum, oil-free air compressor
- Extra-large, dual-piston, oil-free pump system has longer continuous run times, increased duty cycle, delivers cleaner air faster, and reduces maintenance
- 1.0 HP 4-pole motor is designed for longer life
- Cast aluminum cylinders reduce weight and Teflon cylinder rings provide oil-less lubrication
- Dual valve plate design with stainless steel reed valves
- Low Amp draw of only 8.5 Amps reduces the likelihood of circuit breaker tripping
- Built-in thermal overload protection
- Short time to tank fill of only 130 seconds and fast recovery time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI of only 50 seconds
- Wheel kit and twin-handles makes the unit easier to lift, store, and transport
- Dimensions are 23.2L x 10W x 19.7H inches and it weighs 46 lbs.
- 1 – ¼-inch universal quick connector
- Wheeled design is very portable
- Ultra-quiet operation with quick recovery
- High-quality construction and materials
- Great value
- Gauge location makes them awkward to read
The top-rated air compressor in our list, the Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor has Makita’s exclusive Big Bore cylinder and piston design that combines a greater bore with a longer stroke to deliver maximum performance. Its low 1,720 RPM pump speed produces lower noise levels of around 80 dB and enables greater displacement at lower RPM. Low Amp draw reduces tripped circuit breakers and voltage drops that can cause premature motor failure. The pump also runs cooler minimizing wear. The combination of horsepower and Big Bore engineering deliver industrial power and results with improved durability under tough job site conditions. Casts iron cylinder constructions insures durability and long life. Is this the best air compressor for your needs?
- 2.0 HP, 2.6-gallon hot dog air tank, 1,720 RPM pump, 3.3 CFM @ 90 PSI and 130 PSI maximum, oil-lubricated air compressor
- Big Bore system combines a larger bore cast iron cylinder and piston with a longer stroke for maximum performance
- Low Amp draw reduces circuit breaker tripping and reduces voltage drops that can damage the motor
- Oil drain and oil sight glass are conveniently located for easy access and maintenance
- Heavy-duty automotive-style air filter allows increased air intake and greater efficiency
- Roll bar handle provides both portability and additional protection against harsh job site conditions
- Its tank drain valve is easier to use than standard petcock designs
- Copper finned discharge tubing dissipates heat more efficiently
- Dimensions are 18L x 10W x 22H inches and it weighs 52 lbs.
- 1-Year limited warranty with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- 1 – ¼-inch brass Makita universal coupler
- 1 – Container lubricating oil
- Very quiet operation
- High-quality construction and materials
- Easily luggable
- Easy to use and maintain
- Regulator and gauges are too exposed to damage
- A little heavy for one person
- Tank may be too small for contracting
- Very top heavy
Best Air Compressor
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What do you think of these ultra-quiet air compressors? Which portable air compressor are you planning to buy? Please take a moment to leave a comment below.
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An air compressor is a key tool in any garage or shop supporting a variety of functions. Newer models deliver their performance at lower noise levels than ever before. We sincerely hope that this article has provided you with valuable information that helps you choose the best air compressor for your needs!