The Quietest Air Compressors in 2020: A Comprehensive Guide

Researched & Written by Craig

Why put up with the WHIRRRR of an air compressor that sounds like a jet engine? After nearly going deaf from noisy compressors, I’ve looked into finding the quietest models around.

The quietest air compressors are industrial rotary-screw or scroll types, but these cost thousands of dollars. Regular home users should look for a dual-piston compressor with an enclosed motor, rubber pads, and good build quality. Use an extension kit to maximise the distance it sits from you. Let’s look at some of the quietest air compressors below.

There’s plenty of options out there, so I’ve narrowed them down into the table below.

Each compressor is reviewed in detail later in this article.

Quietest Air Compressors – Overview

Briggs & Stratton 4.5-Gallon Quiet Power Technology Air Compressor 074045-00
California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 hp Steel Tank Air Compressor, 8 gal, Silver
Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor (DC080500)
STEALTH Ultra Quiet Air Compressor, Oil-Free 1.5 HP 12 Gallon, 150 PSI, Long Lifecycle >1000H, Noise Less than 70 Decibels, Model: SAQ-11215
Ford Silent Series 15 Gallon Vertical Tank 2 HP, 125 Max PSI Oil-Free Air Compressor, FCE6150QV
Eagle EA-6500 Silent Series Air Compressor 125 Psi Max Hot Dog with Wheels, Blue, 20 gallon
Capacity
4.5 Gals
8 Gals
8 Gals
12 Gals
15 Gals
20 Gals
Decibels
58dB
60dB
68dB
68dB
59dB
53dB
Horsepower
1HP
1HP
1HP
1.5HP
2HP
2.5HP
PSI
125PSI
120PSI
125PSI
150PSI
125PSI
125PSI
CFM
2.4CFM
2.2CFM
3.7CFM
4.0CFM
2.9CFM
2.5CFM
Rating
Briggs & Stratton 4.5-Gallon Quiet Power Technology Air Compressor 074045-00
Capacity
4.5 Gals
Decibels
58dB
Horsepower
1HP
PSI
125PSI
CFM
2.4CFM
Rating
Price
California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 hp Steel Tank Air Compressor, 8 gal, Silver
Capacity
8 Gals
Decibels
60dB
Horsepower
1HP
PSI
120PSI
CFM
2.2CFM
Rating
Price
Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor (DC080500)
Capacity
8 Gals
Decibels
68dB
Horsepower
1HP
PSI
125PSI
CFM
3.7CFM
Rating
Price
STEALTH Ultra Quiet Air Compressor, Oil-Free 1.5 HP 12 Gallon, 150 PSI, Long Lifecycle >1000H, Noise Less than 70 Decibels, Model: SAQ-11215
Capacity
12 Gals
Decibels
68dB
Horsepower
1.5HP
PSI
150PSI
CFM
4.0CFM
Rating
Price
Ford Silent Series 15 Gallon Vertical Tank 2 HP, 125 Max PSI Oil-Free Air Compressor, FCE6150QV
Compressor
Capacity
15 Gals
Decibels
59dB
Horsepower
2HP
PSI
125PSI
CFM
2.9CFM
Rating
Price
Eagle EA-6500 Silent Series Air Compressor 125 Psi Max Hot Dog with Wheels, Blue, 20 gallon
Compressor
Capacity
20 Gals
Decibels
53dB
Horsepower
2.5HP
PSI
125PSI
CFM
2.5CFM
Rating
Price

Types of Air Compressor

The way that you compress air has the biggest effect on how much noise is produced. There’s three main ways this is done:

Typical Reciprocating Compressor.

1. Reciprocating Compressors

By far the most common type of air compressor. They range from anywhere between $200 to $500.

Reciprocating compressors use pistons that pump air in by rapidly cycling up and down. It’s the exact same way as how the pistons in a car engine works. You can either get single or dual (duplex) piston models.

Having two pistons is much better than one – since each of these need to work less. Meaning they both produce much less noise. They are also typically built to tighter tolerances and stay cooler.

If these pistons are powered using gas then the motor’s going to be loud. Since it’s essentially being fuelled by mini explosions. Alternatively, an electrical-powered model doesn’t have any of that noise – just the sound from the pistons. It’s much quieter.

Features to Look Out For:

Low RPM – compressors focused around the pistons not working as hard. This is massive in keeping noise down, since the pistons are the main source of the noise.

Cast Iron Cylinder – thicker cylinder means less noise from all the vibration

Aftercoolers Included – these don’t do much for quietness, but do help a ton with drying out the air making your compressor more efficient (and longer lasting)


Typical Screw Compressor

2. Rotary Screw Compressors

A far quieter option, these are for serious users that highly value quietness. They range from $2,000 – $15,000.

It’s a hell of a price jump, but a rotary screw compressor is far, far less noisy than a reciprocating one.

These are powered by massive ‘screws’ that are synced up together. They don’t actually touch, but when spun they force air forwards and into the container.

They’re far quieter than the piston models – particularly because the motion of the screws is continuous, so it doesn’t produce vibration. Unlike pistons which are rapidly bouncing up and down – shaking everything around. This also means they operate at much lower temperatures. Cooler air holds less moisture, so poses less of a threat to air tools.

If possible, look for oil free models – while more expensive upfront these have less maintenance issues and are just as quiet. They’ve surged forward in development because medical and food industries have a huge demand for oil-free compressors.

Outside of medicine or food, the less expensive oil models work just fine for pneumatics, crack sealing, and inflation work.


Typical Scroll Compressor

3. Scroll Compressors

The absolute quietest type of compressor, but also the most expensive. Prices range from $8,000 to $40,000 (yes, you read that right!).

Scroll motors are similar to rotary screws in that they use a rotating element, rather than vigorous piston action.

These compressors have one large stationary spiral element, and another smaller one which fits inside the first. The smaller one moves in a circular fashion up and down a cylinder, which quietly forces air into the container.

Being so quiet (and so expensive), these are made to run continuously in commercial factory settings. Never found in a home, these are relied upon for high-end medical, pharmaceutical, and laboratory use.

Quietest Air Compressors - Detailed Reviews

California Air Tools 8010

One of the most popular models in our list is this 8-gallon model by California Air Tools.

These guys are a household name, with one of the best and well-known dual piston air compressors.

For a very modest price point, you’re getting a 60dB-rated compressor which is one of the most popular on the market . More popularity typically means an easier time with customer support and contacting the company.

The quietness is helped with an exterior casing around the compressor, and

The compressor’s more than capable – with 2.2CFM at 90PSI, and a maximum pressure of 120PSI.

The compressors are available in 8-gallon and 10-gallon sizes. The 10 gallon model is louder at 70dB with more air movement (5.3CFM), but less satisfied customers.

Pros Cons
Great PriceHorizontal Tank
Quiet (60dB)
Well-Known Model
Available in Aluminium or Steel

Our Verdict

All-in-all this is a great all-rounder of a quiet air compressor.

The price tag is fair, as is the power and quietness. You’ll be hard-pushed to find another 8-gallon model that’s quieter than 60dB. Especially at this price point.

If you like the look and have the space for a horizontal tank, have no hesitation in going for this model. It’s got a solid reputation, quiet operation, and is more than capable at handling most air tools.

STEALTH Ultra Quiet Air Compressor

These STEALTH models are one of the most varied ranges on the market.

Offering sizes in 4.5, 10, 12, and 20 gallons – there’s a model for almost any use case.

The compressors themselves are well-made, albeit priced slightly highly. They’ve fully enclosed the motor which is a great help in noise reduction, with 68dB on the 12-gallon model being a very respectable rating.

The controls look professional with the dedicated panel.

Looking further at the 12-gallon, the 1.5HP, [email protected] level of power can easily handle multiple air tools. And luckily, there’s 2 outlet ports just for that purpose.

The overall customer satisfaction is great, and the company themselves have a good reputation.

Pros Cons
Great LooksExpensive (ish)
Powerful
Quiet (68dB at 1.5HP).

Our Verdict

I wouldn’t say that ‘STEALTH’ is the exact adjective for these models.

They’re quiet compressors – sure – but they pack a lot of power, too.

So while they aren’t frontrunning on the silence front, they are offering a great package to their customers. Good power, looks, and ratings justify the slightly higher price points.

Campbell Hausfeld DC080500

Campbell Hausfield’s take on quiet air compressor’s is extremely similar to the California Tools models.

They’re both focused on 8 gallon models. They both have 1 Horse Power. They both are rated at exactly 68dB.

But which is better?

Well, the difference is in power.

While the California Tools is quoted for 2.2CFM at 90PSI, this Campbell Hausfield model is quoted at 3.7CFM at 90PSI. That’s a whopping 40% increase!

This, coupled with it being a well known model, has given it the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ award for Air Compressors (at the time of writing).

However, as I write this it’s also around $30 more expensive, and with lower overall customer ratings – though they’re still above 4/5 stars.

Pros Cons
Great Power (3.7CFM @ 90PSI)Only ‘Good’ Customer Satisfaction
Quiet Operation (68dB)
Good Price

Our Verdict

If you’re considering this model, then you need to weigh it up against the California Air Tools model above.

In short, this one has more capability – but is more expensive and with less overall customer satisfaction. Mostly due to poor customer service reports (i.e. things breaking and repairs not being offered). Which is why I’ve placed it slightly below the Cali model.

Need the extra power? Go for this compressor. Otherwise – get the peace of mind with the California Tools option above.

Briggs & Stratton 074045-00

I personally love this Briggs & Stratton range.

They only produce models up to 4.5-gallons in capacity, but they’re fantastic in both quality and quietness.

When on, the compressor sounds more like a quality motorbike engine, rather than a rickety compressors. It’s a whirr instead of a clunkclunkclunk. (Yes, those are defined engineering terms).

The two-cylinder containers don’t take up much space, and the extendable handle makes this kit super portable.

With the compressor being lower down on the model, it means it’s also very easy to cover and is naturally further away from our ears. This helps even more reduce the noise.

Speaking of noise, this is the quietest smaller air compressor on this list. At just 58dB, you barely need to raise your voice to have a conversation next to it.

Pros Cons
Small & CompactOnly available up to 4.5-gallon size
Super Quiet (58dB Rated)
Compressor Tucked Away

Our Verdict

One of the best small compressors for tasks like tire inflation or light air tool use like staplers, nailers, and wrenches.

Totally compact and as quiet as you can get, it’s easy to move around and place where you want it. I love that the compressor is tucked in with the air cylinders, since it makes it easy to cover for extra silence. (Of course, make sure that there’s still plenty of air flow).

Overall this is a fantastic air compressor for anyone simply looking for a quiet air compressor to use for light tasks.

Ford Silent Series

Moving into the larger-capacity compressors we have Ford’s Silent series – including this 15-Gallon model.

As with any major brand, the design looks great with the ever-recognizable Ford logo on it.

The compressor’s fully covered in a good case, which might be why Ford have managed to quote this as producing just 59dB of volume with a 2 HorsePower engine.

To put that in perspective, that’s just 1 decibel louder than the tiny, quiet Briggs & Stratton model!

That said, I think Ford have been very generous with the conditions they recorded this in. It doesn’t sound as quiet in reality – when compared to a similar quiet model that has half the horsepower.

Pros Cons
Great Size Option (15-Gallon)Limited Customer Satisfaction
Great Design
Good Motor (2HP; [email protected])

Our Verdict

Despite being a great middle-of-the-road size at 15-gallons, there’s not too much else going for this Ford model.

Sure, they state it’s super quiet at 59dB, but not all customers agree (though some do).

Overall it’s a solid choice if you specifically need a 15-gallon tank, but I’d recommend considering a more dedicated 8 or 20 gallon model instead. That said, some people absolutely love these models – and Ford aren’t going to shortchange you if you try it and aren’t the worlds biggest fan.

Eagle EA-6500

Last up I wanted to complete our size range with a 20 gallon compressor.

And hands down, this is the one.

The massive tank is filled using a powerful 2HP engine that moves a whopping 6CFM at 90PSI. That’s almost triple some of the other models in this list.

The real kicker, though? It’s rated at JUST 53dB. For this size of a machine that’s unheard of.

Eagle state that this low noise is due to their low-RPM motor. To me this suggests it would be lacking in power… but it isn’t. At all.

It’s so satisfying to have something so powerful yet so quiet. This is a perfect choice for a serious home user, or even a small commercial shop.

It’s also made in the USA – a rare perk these days that guarantees great customer service.

Pros Cons
Crazy powerful (6CFM @ 90 PSI)Expensive!
2 Outlet Ports
Ninja Quiet (53dB)

Our Verdict

While Eagle’s 20-gallon model is new on the market and priced highly, it really is the ultimate for this size of a tank.

I especially love the control panel that sits at the top of the compressor, including 2 outlet ports for maximum ease of use.

Super strong, conversationally quiet, and with air capacity for days – this really is, for me, the ultimate quiet air compressor.

Rotary Screw & Scroll Air Compressors

In this blog we typically look at standard home-based appliances. However, I also wanted to cover these more commercial compressor types.

Compared to standard air compressors, these can run continuously without overheating, last for decades (there’s no friction in the moving parts), and are super quiet.

Quick Note on Phases: Compressors these size come as either 1-Phase or 3-Phase models. To clarify, 1-Phase is made for use with residential outlets while 3-Phase is generally for industrial use.

Best Rotary Screw Air Compressor

When comparing between these kinds of appliances, it’s hard to look at anything other than the brand. This is because most manufacturers customize the compressors to match your needs, so it mostly depends on who is making your compressor.

As far as brands go, Ingersoll Rand are right up there with the best of them.

They’re not a massive outfit – instead they’re quite specialized. And air compressors are one of their best products.

Known for their quality, IR pride themselves on being all-American. So American, that they’ve made a company advert that would rival a trailer for the next Independence Day:

IR cover almost all size options; from 5HP to 15HP and 1 or 3  phase setup. Most of their range is available on Amazon via the link below.

Note that with products like this, it’s always best to give them (or a qualified specialist) a call to make sure you’re investing in the right product.

Scroll Air Compressors

There’s no air compressor better than a scroll air compressor.

Unfortunately, expensive is an understatement. Unless you’re running your own factory or lab these are likely overkill for your use. They’re also overkill for me to dive into on this blog.

However, I can give you some great resources.

If you’re interested in scroll air compressors, check out Air Compressors Direct – who stock the best models and have super helpful guides:

Scroll Air Compressors.

Scroll Air Compressor Buying Guide.

Quiet Air Compressor Buying Tips

An air compressor is a tool that should (hopefully) last you years, if not decades. Suffice to say, it’s important to buy a good one!

There’s plenty of options out there. But which model is the best for you?

To help narrow things down we can look at what makes a quality and quiet air compressor. Knowing what to look for can help tell you what model will best suit your space.

Size

Before we get into any details, size should be your first consideration. Generally it’s the size of your tank that will affect what you can use your air compressor for.

Here’s a rough guide based on my own experience and other sources. Try to think of the possible uses you’ll have for your air compressor, and make sure they’re all covered here.

Compressor Size for Each Use

Approximate sizing for each use type. Source: Cambell Hausfeld.

Note: You can use a smaller air compressor for a larger tool – it will just be a real hassle. You’ll only be able to use the tool in short bursts, then have to wait for the compressor to replace the air.

Build Quality

Build quality is the biggest predictor of quietness. And thankfully, it’s quite easy to spot – even just from a picture.

First is the material. If you make an air compressor out of thin, roughly connected metal? It’s guaranteed to make a racket. Look for models that have thick, heavily welded parts that are solid. These will ‘clang’ a lot less and be able to absorb much more vibration.

Second is rubber. Simply put, the more rubber the better. Rubber is what’s used to absorb the vibrations from the pistons, as they rapidly oscillate up and down. Look for thick rubber wheels and pads on anything in contact with the ground.

Last is the compressor. Or more accurately – what’s around the compressor.

Outside of the motor itself, one of the best ways to quieten a compressor is to surround it with a soundproof box. This helps to ‘trap’ the noise – and is one of the first steps when a company wants to create a quieter compressor.

It’s so effective that some people create their own compressor mufflers!

Look for solid cases or wrappings that sit around the compressor. These almost guarantee a quiet model. If a compressor has one, it’s also likely that quality touches run through the whole model.

Power

Power is often misunderstood in an air compressor.

Many think that it’s the power of the air that comes out of the hose. Not true. That is controlled by a regulator and can often be the same (i.e. 90PSI) no matter the air compressor.

Instead, power is the rate at which the compressor takes in air.

A more powerful compressor will move more air. This is represented by CFM; cubic feet of air per minute. The higher the CFM, the quicker the air you use will be replaced. Having a powerful enough compressor can give you the luxury of being able to operate some tools continuously, without having to ever stop and replace the air.

Maximum Pressure

Related to size, it’s important to make sure the compressor can output air at the pressure your tool is going to need. Thankfully, this is pretty standard. Most air tools operate up to a maximum of 90PSI, and any air compressor worth it’s salt will comfortably handle that.

What Makes A Compressor Loud?

Anyone who’s ever worked with a decades-old compressor will tell you how loud they can be. It’s like trying to work next to a car that’s being revved to the max!

Understanding what makes a compressor loud can help us figure out which will also be the quietest. Trust me – the days have long passed where you should need ear protection just to inflate your tires.

Motor Type

The method you’re using to compress the air is the absolute biggest influence on the noise you need to hear. There’s a section covering this in more detail below, but here’s a summary:

  1. Reciprocating Compressors: These are by far the most common type and are the only real choice for most home use. However, they’re also the loudest. They use pistons to pump in air, just like in a car. [$200 to $800]
  2. Rotary Screw Compressors: Instead of pistons, these use two large screws to force air in one direction. Since they aren’t oscillating they’re much, much quieter. However, they’re also large and very expensive. [$2,000 to $15,000]
  3. Scroll Compressors: These use one large stationary spiral, and another smaller spiral element which moves in circles. These are incredibly expensive, and only used for commercial uses in factories/labs. [$8,000 to $40,000]

Vibration

With the motor running, and the pistons rapidly vibrating, vibrations are what we need to start worrying about.

It’s hard to have all this movement without any shake, rattle, and rolling. To mitigate this, the best solution is using absorption materials (like rubber) between the unit and the ground, and between any connecting parts.

Fuel

Simply put – a gas powered motor is loud. Especially indoors. Try to find electric models where possible, which are a silent alternative. (Silent as in no extra noise; the motor friction is still the top factor).

Compressor

The cover on the compressor itself is hugely important. Especially in reciprocating models. If the pistons are left with minimal cover around them, expect plenty of noise and vibration to be firing their way into your ear drums.

Oil

It used to be that oil was absolutely necessary for a quiet (read: bearable) compressor. However, thanks to medical and food industries needing zero chance of oil in their supply, oil-free air compressors have come on leaps and bounds.

Unless it’s an old version, good oil-free models are fully capable of also being as silent as possible.

Proximity

Last up is how close you are to the compressor.

That’s ridiculous! This counts for any air compressor!

You’re right. But there’s more to it.

First, consider where the compressor is. In most cases, it’s been slapped on top of the cylinders – which is fine but it keeps it close to ear level. Some quiet models have a lower-placed compressor, which helps keep it that little bit further away.

Second is how portable and placeable the compressor is. A large, bulky model with a short hose is probably going to be roaring in your ear. On the other hand, a small model with an extended air hose means you can place it away in a corner, possibly with something between it and you.

Related Questions

How Does an Air Compressor Work?

If you’re having trouble visualizing air compressors, there’s a very simple way you can turn your own body into one right now.

Notice how you’re breathing. Just gently in and out, right? That’s because there’s no pressure in your lungs.

Try this: take a big breath and hold it.

Ok, now keep holding that while you keep sucking in more air.

Don’t let any air out, just keep forcing in more air in quick short breaths.

The more air you force in, the more pressure you are building up.

Do you feel the pressure in your chest? Your lungs are full, and the air that’s crammed in there is trying to force it’s way out.

An air compressor works in the exact same way. Just way, way, WAY more powerful! (You can breathe out now.)

The cylinder is like your lungs, and the compressor is like your breathing.

The motor rapidly forces more and more air into the same container. If we had this much air in our lungs, we’d explode! But the cylinders are built out of thick metal which are a thousand times stronger.

Once all that air is built up, allowing even a tiny bit to escape means a TON of air tries to force its way out. We can then use that powerful airflow to power tools like spray guns, nailers, or simply inflate a tire.

Conclusion

Air compressors are a big deal.

You’ll likely be working with one for years – maybe (hopefully) even decades.

Ensuring that your next model will be quiet and durable is a must. Hopefully this guide has helped you pinpoint which compressor will suit your space the best.

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Thanks for reading. Have a great day.

-Craig