by: Darren Baker [ ]
I was recently given the opportunity to review a new compressor in the Sparmax range by Airbrushes.com. It is my understanding that this is the latest or one of the latest offerings from Sparmax. I will say here and now that this compressor is designed to run the small airbrushes common to modellers and not the larger brother the spray gun. I was looking at trying a video, but as I know that a certain Todd Michalak is doing a video review review, I was not willing to even attempt it against that competition.
This product represents a significant outlay by the modeller and I am pleased to see that Sparmax has taken some time and effort and placed some thought into the packaging of the product. A good quality cardboard box is used for an outer layer of protection; inside of this are further cardboard inserts that create a robust structure to protect the contents. There are also a number of foam pads inserted to prevent movement and further protect the contents. The last layer of protection is the ubiquitous plastic bags and bubble wrap. So you can see that Sparmax has taken the time to do their best in ensuring that the compressor reaches you in the same condition it left the factory. I feel this is an important aspect with so many people now doing their shopping online.
In addition to the compressor, you get:
A silver bullet
A power pack for the compressor
Power lead for the power pack
Where to start? The compressor itself seems the best place. The body of the compressor is surprisingly compact, the body coming in at;
Length 18.1cm x width 12cm x height 15cm
You do need to add 3cm to the height for the carrying handle and it could be said that the body is a little longer due to the on/off switch and the hose connector. I found the weight a surprise as it comes in at 2.5kg for its small size.
The body of the compressor has a gun metal grey body surround with chromed end panels. The chromed end panels are where the pressure gauge, airline valve, on/off switch and power socket are located. The chromed ends are also vented in order to keep the innards cooled; visually I think the compressor body is very well done as it looks a quality product and is visually pleasing, I do feel that the plastic carry handle lets the look down even though perfectly functional. The last part of the compressor body is a cut-off switch mounted on the top that is activated when an air brush is placed in the supplied holder. On the base of the compressor are four substantial rubber feet, these do a good job of preventing vibration and so noise transference.
As I have now touched on noise levels I need to go further. The sound level is listed on the Airbrushes.com website as 45db, I have no way of measuring the sound levels, but I would not be concerned about running this compressor in a home where there was a sleeping child, so quiet in my opinion. The cut off on the compressor when an airbrush is placed in the holder is a nice touch, but I would have liked it if the compressor also shut down when the airbrush is out of the holder and not in use: for example altering the paint in the airbrush; so stops when the desired pressure is achieved, but this is not possible due to the silver bullet method covered in a while. The pressure gauge on the compressor could do with being a little larger as I had difficulty reading it, a sure sign of getting older. The pressure gauge goes up to 80psi, but the compressor can only generate 55psi when on but not in use. When the compressor is under load its maximum output is 20 to 21psi, not high but a suitable pressure output for most makes of airbrush and purpose.
The hose provided with the compressor is a braided hose of about 2metres in length. The hose is a perfect fit for the 1/8 BSP valve connector on the compressor and did not require any PTFE tape to ensure the seal. The other end of the hose attaches to a Sparmax Silver Bullet Plus with Adjustable Bleed Valve; this is an item that I like the idea of, but I also see things I don’t like about the bullet. I like that the bullet provides a comfortable and convenient hand hold while using the air brush, but I do not like the fact that the hose is being screwed to a plastic connector point; I feel this could be easily damaged or even shattered if the hose line is screwed on too tightly. The bullet works as a moisture trap and the spraying pressure setting via a screw on the side of the silver part of the device and it does work, I attached my Badger Krome to the compressor via a quick release (also purchased from Airbrushes.com) and after 10 minutes of playing with the settings I noted water vapour starting to appear inside the clear blue plastic body and that indicates to me it is doing what is intended.
The battery and charger supplied with the sample sent to me; but also available separately should replacements or extras be required, is fairly small in size: 81mm x 58mm x 39mm. the battery is supplied charge and a date of charge plus signature is present in the packaging, it is also stated that the battery should be kept charged. I have always been dubious of the benefits of battery powered devices as I always know that ‘Murphy’s law’ will mean that the battery will die on you at the most inconvenient moment. It is not listed anywhere I can find what the life of the battery is and so I plugged in the battery and held down the trigger; it is recommended that the compressor is rested for 10 minutes after being run for 40 minutes, the batter powered the compressor for 40 minutes with no loss in pressure over that period, if you cannot get done what is needed in 40 minutes and do a clean-up of the airbrush then it must be a big model. After a 10 minute rest I switched the compressor back on and the battery ran it for 10 minutes before slowing down. Charging the battery takes between 4 and 6 hours, a full charge being indicated by a constant red light changing to a constant green light.
The conclusion for this product is not as straight forward to write as I first thought, the problem being it really depends on what you are looking for. I like the small size of the compressor and I am very impressed by the lack of noise and vibration when in use. The silver bullet is a product that does as it should, but I would have preferred a moisture trap and pressure regulator mounted on the body of the compressor. The battery has its uses for those modellers who attend meetings and events where an air brush would be of use, but power is impractical. This product is available with or without the battery and charger and that reduces the cost from £240 down to £180, so it really does depend on what you require.