Quiet Shop Vac *Quietest Shop Vacs for Your Projects in 2018
Article Last Updated: Tuesday, December 11th 2018
Vacuuming isn’t fun no matter how you look at it. Perhaps the only upside of this somewhat tedious job is the sense of satisfaction you get when the space looks sparkling clean afterwards. Apart from having to meticulously cover the space inch by inch, squeeze past various objects, and get under and behind an array of obstacles, you also have to put up with the deafening noise. We wanted to determine once and for all what is the quietest shop vac, so we went and did a bit of research.
FEIN 9-20-27 Turbo Set I
Measured at Noise Levels of only 66 Decibels!
In an effort to deliver a comprehensive review, we also used performance, durability, and ease-of-use as criteria, but our emphasis was on noise levels, as we wanted to find a quiet, top-performing vacuum cleaner.
Vacuum cleaner noise levels
Noise levels are measured in decibels. So what measurement can you expect from an average vacuum? Well, let’s look at the different measurements first:
- Less than 70 decibels: Quiet operation during which you can still have a conversation.
- 70-85 decibels: You need to raise your voice when speaking to someone.
- 85 decibels and above: You need to shout.
Most domestic vacuum cleaners fall into the 70-85 decibels group, while many commercial vacs are very noisy at 85 decibels and above.
Because low noise levels were our top priority, we went on a search for a vacuum cleaner with a decibel rating below 70. We also wanted a vacuum capable of delivering top cleaning performance, as well as all the functions you expect from a vacuum.
To make this task even harder, we decided to try and find a quiet shop vacuum cleaner with lots of extra functions and still operating at below-average noise levels.
Our extensive search brought us to the Fein 9-20-27 TURBO I SET Turbo Set, a German-manufactured commercial vacuum cleaner. You’ll be glad to hear that this shop vac comes at a noise level of just 66 decibels.
Fein has been operating in Germany since 1867 and is known for manufacturing a wide range of quality power tools and vacuum cleaners. The Fein 9-20-27 I Turbo Set is suitable for use in retail spaces and commercial units and is tough enough to handle heavy dirt and large amounts of dust. Let’s look at the main specs:
Size, design, and accessories
Like all commercial vacuums, this one is rather heavy at 29 pounds and large at 15.5” x 15” x 18.5”. Still, it maneuvers quite easily thanks to the 360° swivel wheels. The design isn’t much to write home about, but you wouldn’t buy a shop vac for its aesthetics, would you?
The hose is 13’ long and the cord 18’, providing plenty of scope to vacuum a large retail space without having to change electric outlets every few minutes. The maximum capacity is a 5.8 gallons.
On purchase, this shop vac comes with two metal extension tubes, a combination tool with interchangeable inserts, a dusting tool, a crevice tool, a filter bag, filer, tool coupling, and the hose.
Looking for something cheaper?
Without sacrificing much quality the Ridgid WD 1450 can provide a nice alternative for about half the price. We measured this shop vac at 90 decibels which is still quieter than most shop vacs out there. Ridgid also offers a muffler which can bring noise levels down to the 78 decibel level!
Need More Capacity?
The FEIN 9-20-28 TURBO II offers 8.4 gallons vs the 5.8 gallons of storage the TURBO I model can hold. The TURBO II is slightly heavier but just as quiet. Other than size the models are identical and if you need more capacity it may be worth the slightly higher price tag.
FEIN 9-20-28 Turbo Set II
Noise Levels of only 66 Decibels & 8.4 Gallons of Storage
This is one of the best wet and dry vacuum cleaners, and it also provides a dust extraction function.
This vacuum boasts plenty of suction power, in fact, it performs at a 151-cfm flow rate which is more than adequate for lifting dust and heavy dirt.
Thanks to the four swivel wheels and its compact shape, reaching tight spaces and getting around is easy. Regardless of the surface, be it carpet, hard flooring, or concrete floors, this vac performs well.
With the help of the crevice tool, hard-to-reach places are easy to tackle. The operation is quiet, which is precisely what we had hoped for. The combined length of the hose and cord make it possible to vacuum an entire shop floor without having to change the electric outlets in use.
We were also impressed with the filtration system. Unlike most vacs, this one doesn’t emit unpleasant smells or allow dust particles to escape, instead, leaves a fresh clean smell in the air.
The performance when wet vacuuming is just as satisfactory. This wet vacuum has a 98.4" of static water lift capacity. Using the appropriate attachment, puddles vanish and wet surfaces quickly dry once you progress across them.
Power tool dust extraction function
With the Fein 9-20-27 TURBO I SET, you can also remove dust from power tools. Once the power tool is connected to the vacuum, it automatically switches on and begins extracting the dust from the tool. As soon as the tool is turned off, the vacuum shuts down within 5 seconds.
This shop vac delivers on all fronts and does so without producing the annoying humming noise associated with most vacuum cleaners. This means you can vacuum without disturbing anyone in your vicinity.
There’s no doubt about the power of the 1,100-watt motor in this vacuum cleaner. It boasts an air flow rate of 71 liters per second or 151 cubic feet per minute. As a result, this vac cleans with lots of suction and does so at considerable speed. The filtration system is impressive because no dusty air ever gets into the motor.
You won’t require top-level suction all the time, so the suction power adjustment button is very convenient indeed.
Even though this shop vac runs much more quietly than most, it delivers a top performance when dry or wet vacuuming or when extracting dust from power tools.
On occasion, you will need to change the filter, and you can do so by tapping it out of the filter cassette. This cassette removes the need to change the filter when wet vacuuming. Beyond that, this shop vac requires no maintenance.
Storing it is easy, as some accessories can be stashed away in the built-in compartment, while the cord, as well as the extension tubes, attach to the body of the vac.
Unfortunately, the cord doesn’t disappear into the body of the vac at the press of a button like we are accustomed to with domestic vacuum cleaners. Instead, you wind it up and hang it on the hook you’ll find on the body of the vac.
Pros and cons
This is a solid performing shop vacuum that runs much more quietly than most commercial vacs. Let’s look at the main advantages and disadvantages.
- Super-quiet operation at just 66 decibels
- Dry, wet, and dust extraction functions
- Easy to maneuver thanks to 360° swivel wheels
- Adjustable suction power
- Comes with lots of useful accessories
- Large capacity 5.8-gallon tank
- Excellent filtration stops dusty air from escaping into the environment or into the motor
- Long cord and hose facilitate easy cleaning of large retail or industrial spaces
- Heavy and a bit bulky
- The power tool dust extraction is not universal. Not all tools can be connected.
- No cord retraction function
Shop Vac Volume
Of course, when we are considering the quietest shop vacs on the market it is important to make sure that it puts out as little noise as possible. This noise is rated in terms of decibels, dB, with the lower rating being the better, though it is important to remember that the difference between some of the louder and quieter vacuums is only about 25 decibels.
Still, there is a fair bit of difference in only 25 decibels as the quietest shop vacs are about as loud as a normal conversation while the loudest shop vacs will be about as loud as traffic and are at the edges of what is considered technically loud whereby extended, unprotected exposure could result in hearing damage.
It is also important to keep in mind that the more powerful the shop vac is, generally the louder it has a tendency to be (with the exception of Fein). On the other hand, there are some mufflers that manufacturers can add which will decrease the sound generated by the pump and motor. In fact, the quietest shop vacs will always have some form of dampening attached to them if not multiple kinds for both the motor and pump.
Other Quiet Shop Vac Models
Makita VC4710 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
Makita makes a shop vac similar to the design of FEIN in that both of these brands specialize in power tools in a broad sense--though it is worth noting that FEIN has focused on power tools since its inception whereas Makita is best at making the electric motors which power their products. Still, this does present FEIN with a bit of a pickle as this means that the Makita will also be the first competition that it has had with another shop vac that is situated squarely within its market.
In fact, as we will see, the Makita not only gives the FEIN a run for its money, but it leaves the FEIN in its dust in many appreciable categories and is actually likely a better option depending on the specific circumstances of its use. For instance, considering how this is a review of the quietest shop vac, it is definitely worth noting that the FEIN produces a quiet 66 dB of volume. However, as good as that noise level is, the Makita is actually able to perform at a lower 59 dB which can be a truly meaningful difference if your workspace requires strict volume regulations. Our biggest concern with the Makita VC4710 is the poor amazon reviews and the higher price tag.
On top of the Makita being the quieter of the two shop vacs, it also has a more powerful motor than the FEIN with the Makita coming with a 12 amp motor--placing it squarely in the professional grade market--and the FEIN only coming with a 10 amp motor--though that is still more in line with a professional-grade shop vac than a consumer-grade. Still, this does mean that the Makita is likely to last a little bit longer--which is only further bolstered by the use of lightweight components in the motor as well as precisely engineered air ducting to generate as much power with as little force as possible.
Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the Makita being significantly less powerful than the FEIN when it comes to the suction power--at least in regards to dry vacuuming. With 135 CFM, the Makita is somewhat underpowered in comparison to the FEIN, though this will only affect how you use the shop vac, not how well the 2 shop vacs perform. Still, the Makita can more than keep up with the FEIN in terms of liquid suction as it has an SP of 92”--only 2” less than the FEIN.
Nilfisk 5 Gal. Professional Wet/Dry Vacuum [Stainless]
Though Nilfisk may not have the same storied history as Fein, it has been a manufacturer of cleaning tools for its entire existence and does pride itself in servicing the high-end consumer-grade market. When comparing the Fein shop vac to the Nilfisk, it is important not to get too terribly fixated on the difference in volume as the difference in performance is far more relevant to this comparison than a couple of measly decibels. In fact, there are other shop vacs on our list that are far quieter and truly give the Fein a bit more of a run for its money that respect.
That said, if the volume is the ultimate and overriding factor in your determination, then the 64-decibel volume level of the Nilfisk will please you a bit more than the Fein. Still, with only 127 CFM and 84” of sp, every kind of suctioning power that a shop vac can have is inferior on the Nilfisk when compared to the Fein. When you consider the durability of the two shop vacs, this is a bit more relevant to the setting and scenario.
For instance, the Nilfisk features a tank that is made out of stainless steel, and while this will make the Nilfisk a bit heavier than it might otherwise need to be, this will allow the Nilfisk to be used in circumstances that otherwise shop vacs composed primarily of plastic will not be able to accommodate.
That said, the Fein does feature a more powerful motor--and the difference is not insignificant with the Fein shop vac coming with a 10 amp motor and the Nilfisk shop vac comes with a motor that hovers just above 8 amps. This means that the Fein shop vac is actually more appropriate for a professional or commercial setting--its plastic tank notwithstanding--than the Nilfisk shop vac is which does not truly have a target market and could instead be considered a high-end consumer-grade shop vac. In that regard, the 2-decibel advantage that the Nilfisk has over the Fein shop vac pales in comparison to the power and suction advantages that the Fein has over the Nilfisk.
Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ 6 Gal. Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum (Bare-Tool) with Hose
Ryobi is not much of a comparison to FEIN in a large part due to the fact that they are not really trying to accomplish the same thing. With FEIN, the ultimate goal is to provide some of the best performing tools on the market, succeeding due to the quality of their products and how they perform in the field. With Ryobi, the message might be a bit similar, but the focus is definitely in a different direction--specifically, Ryobi is more focused on providing a wide range of tools and products that can function on their cordless batteries. As such, the two products are not even truly in the same class of product as the Ryobi is definitely a bit more of niche shop vac while the FEIN is a solid mid-tier, professional-grade shop vac.
Still, the versatility and portability that the Ryobi present cannot be denied, and if you happen to already be a user of a number of their tools, the Ryobi shop vac will also allow you to power it with the various 18V batteries that power your other Ryobi power tools. Of course, if you are looking for performance, then you are definitely better served looking towards the FEIN as the Ryobi is most certainly intended to be used by the niche consumer and not anywhere near a professional job site. This is most notable in the suction power of the Ryobi as this model is nearly half as powerful as the FEIN--severely limiting the Ryobi shop vac’s appropriate applications and settings.
In fact, not only is the 80 CFM the lowest dry suction power that we have in our comparisons, but the Ryobi shop vac is actually the only product on our list that does not indicate the SP rating which almost certainly suggests that it is not worth boasting. That said, the Ryobi does have its place and it is by far one of the more convenient shop vacs that are out there, and it is a far more convenient shop vac to use than the FEIN.
As such, if convenience is a primary concern for you, then the Ryobi will by far suit you better with the numerous different types of attachments all set securely and ergonomically placed for user interaction. This is also by far one of the easier shop vacs to transport as its light weight combines with a reasonably good frame and wheel set to make moving it from one place to another a breeze--another area in which the Ryobi does hold a distinct advantage over the FEIN. Still, the Ryobi takes its wins where it can get them while the FEIN is by far the superior shop vac for most situations.
If you are looking for the quietest shop vac, the Fein 9-20-27 TURBO I SET (or TURBO II SET) won’t disappoint. They’re more silent than most domestic vacuum cleaners and amazingly allow you to hold a conversation during operation. This can prove to be a major advantage in a retail space where you do not want to disturb customers or passers-by.
Although the Makita is quieter the performance of FEIN is much better and even though, at first sight, this shop vac looks a little bulky, it’s actually quite easy to maneuver and use.
Table of Contents
- 1 Quiet Shop Vac *Quietest Shop Vacs for Your Projects in 2018
- 1.1 Vacuum cleaner noise levels
- 1.2 Fein 9-20-27 TURBO I SET Turbo Set – The Quietest Shop Vac
- 1.3 Size, design, and accessories
- 1.4 Need More Capacity?
- 1.5 Functions
- 1.6 Dry vacuuming
- 1.7 Wet vacuuming
- 1.8 Power tool dust extraction function
- 1.9 Performance
- 1.10 Maintenance
- 1.11 Pros and cons
- 1.12 Other Quiet Shop Vac Models
- 1.13 Makita VC4710 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
- 1.14 Nilfisk 5 Gal. Professional Wet/Dry Vacuum [Stainless]
- 1.15 Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ 6 Gal. Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum (Bare-Tool) with Hose
- 1.16 Final thoughts