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Talk to anyone from old codger to young whippersnapper and they’ll tell you tunes are important in the shop. There’s nothing like stone-cold silence to convince you you’re working and not having a good time in the shop. Hate if you want to — the shop stereo made honorable mention.

The first of my four shop rules is, “The music doesn’t stop.” I’m not kidding around about that either. You can suggest other music, you can change it, or even bring music with you to add into the mix, but under no circumstances does anyone cut off the music.

There’s just a completely different vibe to the place when tunes float about. It makes you feel at home, like whatever you’re doing, whether it’s work or not, is actually playtime. I can’t explain it better than that — but folks who get it know what I’m talking about.

Life is better with tunes.


24 Responses to TM’s 2008 Favorites: Honorable Mention – Shop Stereo

  1. Eric says:

    If for no other reason than helping add rhythm to repetitive tasks, shop stereos rule. But then, working for a commercial audio installer might bias me a wee bit.

  2. Michael says:

    I have become a HUGE fan of in-ear headphones especially for the shop. They are hearing protection + tunes (or in my case, podcasts). I can listen to my NPR discussions without missing anything while I use the router, table saw, etc.

    My current favorites are the etymotic ER6i. They’re pricy (at nearly $100) but perfect for the shop. I run the cord down my back (inside my shirt) and it works perfectly.

  3. Bren R. says:

    Up here where temps drop to -20F to -30F in the winter, a good solution for getting music into the garage is a 12V power supply and a car head unit. The CD parts are usually direct drive (no belts to freeze), and if you get one that handles MP3 discs, you can put 10 to 15 albums on one disc, minimizing disc handling.

    Everyone’s got some old 6×9 speakers laying around, and with 4 channels, you can put up two pairs of speakers in a large garage, or (like me) one set in the carpark part, and one pair in the workshop part.

  4. SharkyTM says:

    I’ve got a 10-year old Sony boombox now, but its beat up and barely reads CD-Rs. The radio antenna has been replaced with some stainless welding wire.

    The replacement is another thing that should be an honorable mention: The Garage Computer. Its perfect for looking at plans or reading forum posts about the job at hand, and you dont have to wash your hands or track dirt into the house to check the main computer. I’m assembling mine from used parts, with a total cost under $150. I’m going to mount an LCD on an arm, or just stick in on the wall. It’ll play mp3s, podcasts, and let me do my garage-related research from the comfort of the workbench.
    I’m putting an oversized heatsink on it, so no fan will be necessary for the CPU. Integrated graphics and sound means no cards to get loose. The HDD will be mounted on rubber isolators.

  5. Tom C says:

    I prefer the drone of NPR as well while I am in the shop. I have been in places where the music was up so loud it prevented communication and was a safety risk (not to ears).

  6. DaveD says:

    Yep, I second the garage computer. I’ve got an older one connected to my home network via WiFi and I stream tunes online as well as play things from my mp3 library.
    I can’t imagine working on something without being able to google for pictures or message board posts of other people who have done the same thing and read up on hints/tips.

  7. Peter says:

    My little JVC bookshelf CD/shop radio died a few weeks ago. The speakers had been half fried for a year or more anyway so it was time for something new. I picked up a a pair of Paradigm Mini Atom speakers thinking that I could resurrect an ancient Onkyo receiver but the receiver was fluky as well and the footprint on my bench was huge…

    So I ended up back at the stereo shop and picked up an Arcam Solo Mini bookshelf system. Wow. Now I’m in a state of rapture over the great sound quality and I’m looking for any excuse to go back downstairs and work. This is going to be a great winter in my chilly shop after all. 🙂

    WAMC Northeast public radio sounds incredible on it btw.

  8. Baba says:

    Totally agree, Gotta have the tunes to work!

  9. Barri says:

    Ditto on the tunes. If anyone is thinking about a great portable radio then take a look at the makita lxt radio. It can run with most makita batts and has a psu. It also has a AUX input for MP3 players. It also sounds great for it’s size. Most customers who hear it cant believe the sound quality. Cheap as chips as well.

  10. keith says:

    I’ve got a speaker dock for my mp3 player that I use mostly when doing non-continuous noise work. If I am doing alot of loud work, I use my full ear enclousre noise cancelling headphones. Ear protection and music in one!

    I have been considering what Sharky suggested about a garage computer. Just trying to figure out a good dust reduction system for the computer and monitor.

  11. techieman33 says:

    Gotta have some music, but I disagree with Michael, headphones in the shop are a bad idea, you have to be able to hear the tools your using, and any other people that may be working in the shop with you.

  12. zoomzoomjeff says:

    I have a Pansonic boom box that I bought in high school, circa 1989. Still runs strong and I agree, that music is a MUST.

    Holy crap, I just realized that thing has survived 20 years of hard work!!!—don’t make ’em like that anymore.

    I’ve also toyed with the idea of buying a 12v power supply and wiring up an old car stereo with the excess of old speakers I have laying around.

  13. keith says:


    even with my noise canceling headphones I am able to find a nice medium between hearing music and still be able to hear the tools. I always work alone in my shop so hearing others isn’t and issue.

  14. Brau says:

    I find music distracting. I rarely listen to music while working in the shop and if it’s on I generally shut it off. I do turn the radio on for occasional sports games though.

  15. Chris W says:

    This may be a bit off topic, but I have an HD (Hybrid Digital) radio which picks up free digital radio. Many FM and some AM stations now broadcast HD Radio with extra program channels. I get 24/7 Bluegrass, Classic Country and other programs not available on our local AM/FM broadcasts. The only problem is that you need a pretty strong signal to receive HD radio.

  16. Michael W. says:

    Our studio is right next door to my shop, so I routed a couple of speaker wires through the adjoining wall (our studio stereo has separate channels for two sets of speakers). That way we can either share music, or just have music in the studio or shop. Works for my wife and me.

  17. gEEk says:

    It depends on what I am doing. If I am messing around with the cars or sanding, then I crank the tunes, but if I am working on a micro-controller project I like it quiet, so I can think.

  18. Coach James says:

    Another post lost to auto refresh. Back to lurking.

  19. keith says:

    Coach James, try switching to a better browser (like Firefox) that wont lose your post in the auto-refresh.

  20. JT says:

    Music in the race shop always!!

  21. George K. says:

    Auto refresh can be turned off in IE. They bury the switch in an unlikely location, but it is easy to find and change.

  22. Coach James says:

    George, many thanks for the tip! I just turned it off a couple minutes ago. Now I can actually try to write a coherent post and not lose it two words from the end.

  23. _Jon says:

    I agree with the must have tunes.
    I also agree with using an old computer. Streaming music – even if it is the local radio station on the www – is great. I used to recommend launch.com, but they are switching to something else next month. I’ve been told that pandora is a great streaming music source.

    A PC’s line out is just the same as any other line out with a 3.5mm jack.

  24. Mike says:

    I agree that music is great to work to, but not always. Where I work I am often putting up large wall panels or working in the air. It has to be quiet so that if there is an emergency everyone else can hear the warning and get out of the way. Music in the shop: great! Music on the floor: bad!
    Oh, and I also use earbuds when working by myself and I can hear the machines that I am working with. I keep whatever I am listening to low enough that it doesn’t drown out the machine noise. It’s all about moderation.

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