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Looking at a matrix of compressors and their attributes on a printed page can be challenging. When I bought my first compressor, I had read a zillion articles (this was pre-Internet) but ended up calling a knowledgeable retailer and saying, "Help!" My needs were easy to diagnose and I got a compressor. A few years later, I bought another.

With special gear, you tend to trade up as you know more, or because your business grows, or both. You musicians reading this know what I'm talking about.

I'm not here to push one product or another, but rather, present experienced viewpoints that touch on compressors in general as well as some specific models. You may like others; write or email us and tell us why.

Also, some disclosure here. I own a Silentaire TC-30. It's a portable (well, luggable) oil-and-piston compressor that fills a small reservoir tank and has an auto shut-off valve. I had a Silentaire 20 that was a little smaller. I used the daylights out of it, never had a lick of problems, and gave it to my brother, who happily uses it to paint woodcraft items like duck decoys. He's pushing thinned oil paints with it, I might add. But my TC-30 is perfect to take with me to do detail work on
everything from leather to metal or the occasional small mural. In my book, the money you pay for a quiet compressor with a reservoir, filter, and automatic shutoff is worth the investment if you're doing any kind of professional paint work, or want to. But if your needs are smaller, your compressor can be, too.

New gear has come out in the 10-odd years since I bought a compressor. The usual beginning is, "I want a compressor. Where do I start?" How do I choose?