Earlex HV6900 Spray Station- Review

Back in March of 2008, I had a chance to review the Earlex HV5000 Spray Station, and I recently added an update to the review to reflect my current opinion of the unit. You can check that out here: Music to my Earlex

The HV5000 is one of the best bargains out there in HVLP turbine sprayers. Despite the excellent performance of the unit, I did have my questions about motor power, longevity, and overall quality of parts. As someone who used to drag my spraying rig around to job sites, I know the beating these units have to endure. So for those of you who need a little more beef in your turbine, the HV6900 just may fit the bill.

hv6900The HV6900 features a 3-stage industrial Ametek motor (5psi), a more durable 13-ft hose (with an optional 30-ft super flex hose), front-loading filters, an improved gun design, and weighs in at under 25 lbs. The turbine itself is exactly what you would expect from a 3-stage unit. You can literally see the power of the airflow in the robustness of the spray pattern. A smooth even fan was achieved with numerous finish types and the unit completely atomized everything I threw at it. Now the one thing I didn’t test was latex paint. Honestly, I never really spray latex so its hard for me to offer an informed opinion. But when I ran some latex through the HV5000 in my previous review, the results seemed decent enough once the paint was thinned. So my assumption would be that with the more powerful 3-stage turbine, latex would be no problem at all.

gunsThe gun on the Earlex is very similar to the old model, but features a new hose connector. I am told it was re-tooled for greater longevity but I never really saw a problem with the old one. Regardless, once connected, the hose is secure and doesn’t fall out.

I have sprayed about 5 projects using this system with finishes including lacquer, water-based poly, shellac, and water-based dye. In general, I can safely say that this unit performs every bit as well as my $700 Fuji 3-stage turbine. And the HV6900 retails for $200 less at $499!

So how does it stack up to the other 3-stage turbines on the market? Well, the only unit I have extensive experience with is the Fuji, which I feel is on par with other similar units on the market. And generically-speaking, here are the things your extra money will get you:

  • A more durable hose. A rubber hose will generally take a little more of a beating. The HV6900 hose is much improved over the HV5000 and appears to be made of a thicker plastic with a hard rubber coating, but its still not quite as good as a heavy-duty rubber hose. Now there is an optional 30′ super flex hose available for $129. Earlex says this upgraded hose is as strong as a standard rubber hose, with the added benefit of being lighter and more flexible. Pictured below are, from left to right, are hoses from the HV5000, the HV6900, and the Fuji Q3.
  • hv5000 hv6900 fuji

  • A gun with more settings. The Earlex gun features only two controls: one for fluid and one for fan orientation. On my Fuji gun, I have an additional control for the size of the spray pattern and an air flow valve in the hose itself. I rarely touch either setting so I really don’t miss them on the Earlex.
  • A little more psi. The HV6900 is rated at 5 psi, and comparable units (Fuji, Apollo, Campbell Hausfeld) are rated at 5.5 – 6.0 psi.

You’ll need to decide for yourself if the above things are worth the extra money. But if I were in the market for a new 3-stage turbine, I would buy the Earlex HV6900 and spend the extra $200 on things like new tips, cups and maybe even an extra gun.

As with all my reviews, you should always read through the comments section below. Our readers tend to add valuable insights that I either didn’t know about or didn’t think of. After all, I am NOT a professional reviewer. So to really get the full picture on a product, be sure to include these comments in your research.

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Comments

  1. Ed Harp November 23, 2009

    I would be interested to hear how these compare to air compressor driven HVLP spraying.

    Also, how does this one compare to the HV5000 sound wise?

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 23, 2009

      Hey Ed. My only experience with a compressor-driven system was back when I worked in a refinishing shop. It was a decent sized compressor and a set of pressure pots. The gun was a Binks unit and it sprayed like a dream. But we also had a nice spray booth and great lighting, which certainly played a role in the whole positive experience. And although it was quieter since the compressor wasn’t on the whole time, the spray booth was on, lol, so it was loud as hell. As far as the final finish result, I doubt I would be able to tell the difference between something that came from that shop and something I could produce in my shop now.

      Now here’s the deal with the sound. I decided NOT to test it on this go round. The reason is because they are all loud. Even my Fuji Q3 is loud enough to require ear protection. So a difference of 5-20 decibels isn’t going to really make a difference to me. What I didn’t account for is what Izaac says below, and that is the “neighbor factor”. I live under a flight path for an air force base so a little compressor or turbine noise is the least of this neighborshood’s problems, lol. But for others, this is a valid concern. But here’s the thing with turbines. Unlike compressors, turbines sound like loud vacuum cleaners. The higher frequency noise dissipates significantly with distance and is easily blocked by things like walls and doors. A small oil-free pancake compressor is going to be SIGNIFICANTLY louder at a distance and through walls.

      So regardless of the comparative noise level between turbines, you are going to want to protect yourself. And pretty much all turbines will be quieter and easier to muffle than a compressor. My opinion of course. :)

    • Michael Morton November 23, 2009

      This page has a great volume demo between the Mini-Mite 3, Q3 Pro and a Vacuum cleaner.

      http://www.hvlpsales.com/Q3Pro.html

      If you want to be neighbor-friendly, the Q3 Pro does seem quite a bit quieter – but for $200 more, you want to really like your neighbors ;)

  2. iZAAC November 23, 2009

    how noisy is this system compared with oil-lubricated compressors and the oil-free ones?. My neighbors are not happy when I varnish my projects with my Porter Cable 13 gallons oil-free compressor. :(

  3. Michael Morton November 23, 2009

    Seems like this space is heating up a bit. Fuji recently? released the Mini-Mite 3X, which is the “loud” version of their Q3 Pro turbine – at $500; exact same price as the HV6900. So in terms of Marc’s comparison, it looks like you can get all those extras for the same price, but I’m not sure how the noise volumes compare.

    I think I saw that the Mini-Mite 3X (and Q3 Pro) use the same motor as the HV6900.

    I’ve used neither and never sprayed :) – this is just based on web research.

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 23, 2009

      Yeah I saw that too, after I wrote up my review. Definitely becoming a more crowded space now. Now I knew the Q3 and Mini Mite use the same motor, but I didn’t know it was the same one that’s in the HV6900. That would be very interesting if that were the case!

      • Michael Morton November 23, 2009

        Yeah – more web research seems that they are the same manufacturer, but different motors, my bad.

        Looks like (from the web):
        Fuji: 101 cfm at 6 psi (http://www.fujispray.com/what_is_hvlp.html)
        Earlex: 5 psi and 71 cfm (http://www.earlex.com/pdf/6900US.pdf)

      • jdog November 23, 2009

        if your q3 and the mini-mite 3 were the same except for sound would you rather have the HV6900 or mini-mite? They cost the exact same amount. what gun do you like better?

        Is the pre-cat cab acrylic lacquer you mention in the viewer questions section a pre-cat or acrylic lacquer?

        Thanks
        jdog

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer November 23, 2009

          Well, I would buy whichever one I could get on sale lol. As for the gun, well, I like them both. But the Fuji gun has more adjustments. So some people would definitely prefer Fuji gun so they can really dial everything in. For beginners though, I recommend the Earlex gun since you really only have two simple adjustments.

      • john January 6, 2010

        why dont you lol some more, is that not the worst accronym ever duh lol, excuse me lol, lol.lol. iam so funny lol.just go paint something.

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer January 6, 2010

          OK lol. Since you mentioned it, maybe I’ll lol even more! You know what makes me lol? A person who gets upset at an acronym! lol

  4. Dean (aka Onboard) November 23, 2009

    I couldn’t find any relatively new test review of HVLP sprayers and nothing comparing the Earlex, but if there’s any interest, here’s a test review of some HVLP sprayers. I didn’t see a date on the review and the last page (page 5) has a summary of the units but all of the picture links are broken, however the information is there.

    http://www.toolsofthetrade.net.....ionID=1497

    Here is an HVLP review in an old Wood Magazine article (April/May 2006) on 10 HVLP systems and their picks if anyone is interested:

    http://www.southern-tool.com/s.....LPTEST.pdf

  5. Richard November 25, 2009

    Comparing the HV6900 price to the Fuji Q3 Pro price is not fair. It should be compared to the Fuji Mini-Mite 3X wich sells for $479.

    If noise is a concern, it’s nice to have the option with the Fuji Q. The HV6900 is more than 3 times louder.

    Fuji guns are non-bleeders. Fuji offers choice of gravity feed (pressurized) or syphon (GT-X2 or XT-2). Fuji has 25 ft quality hose (13 ft is way too short). Fuji turbine has higher output. The choice seems obvious.

    Reviews written 2 or 3 years ago are useless now. The manufacturers enhanced their products since then.

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer November 25, 2009

      Keep in mind the only reason I compared this unit to the Fuji at all is because the Fuji Q3 is the unit I own. I have never used the Mini-mite so I didn’t think it would be fair to discuss it in the review. But you are absolutely right about the price comparison. The Mini-Mite would be the more fair comparison.

      In the 2-stage and entry level arena, the HV5000 seems a much clearer bargain. In the 3-stage space, it seems their position in the market isn’t quite as solid as I originally thought. Maybe if they hit the $399 price point (although that’s a lot to ask for)?

      • Richard December 2, 2009

        I think that quality tools generally cost a little more. But in the long run, one always saves by buying once.

        Fuji (http://www.fujispray.com/index.htm) just introduced a new line (Gold series) of turbine systems and a new gun. In my opinion, the Fuji systems are top systems at very decent prices. And, they’re made right here in North America.

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer December 2, 2009

          Ooooooh Gooooold! I didn’t know about this new line. I’m gonna take a look now… Thanks for the link Richard.

  6. Virgil Mullins December 19, 2009

    Marc,

    Have you seen the Feb. 2010 issue 210 of FWW? They do a small review of the Earlex 6900. The writer was not all that impressed. He dislikes the gun. His comments were the gun was uncomfortable and had to much spray volume with no air control. I would like to hear you comments on the review.

    Virgil

    •  
      thewoodwhisperer December 20, 2009

      Yeah I read it today. No real surprises there and its accurate. I agree that the air feed tube is in a bit of a weird place. It would be better if it were to the side of the can or in the front. But its in the back where your fingers are. I don’t know that I would call it uncomfortable and it certainly doesn’t affect spray performance. I just went out in the shop and compared the feel of my Fuji gun to the feel of the Earlex gun, and the Fuji is more comfortable to hold. But on my way back in to write this response, I realized why I never thought to compare them before: because it really doesn’t matter to me, lol. I suppose if I were spraying all day every day in a finishing shop, I might consider the handle an important feature.

      As for the spray volume and air control….I agree it would be nice to have air control for special situations. But for most spray jobs, the constant air pressure won’t be a problem.

      The system is considered a “budget” setup, so you would have to expect sacrifices somewhere. And I think the Earlex system sacrificed in the right places. The real question is, as mentioned in the above comments, is this really a “budget” unit. With comparably price units like the Fuji Minimite on the market, this unit is going to be a little bit of a hard sell for some folks. So it should be interesting to see how the landscape changes over the next year or so.

      • Marc,

        A couple of comments on your observations of the review;

        Even if you weren’t in a spray room all day with this gun it would be tiresome. The moment I picked it up it felt strange. Using it for under a half hour at a time I found my forearm getting tired. I finally figured out that the flatness of the grip contributed to that. That and the air tube constricting the space for your fingers…. Let’s face it, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

        Having an air control valve is essential even for the beginner. Say I’m spraying cabinet doors. I turn the air down a bit when I’m doing the edges. It helps greatly with the amount of over spray I send onto the back of the door.

        Same with spraying shellac, dyes and other low viscocity liguids, I use less air. I can even air brush with it. I could go on and on but you get the idea. It would give the user far more versatlity and allow them to be better finishers.

        You feel that Earlex sacrificed in the right places. Which ones?

        PG

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer December 21, 2009

          Could be all the spinach I eat, but my forearm does not fatigue when I use this gun. Well, at least it doesn’t tire any more than usual. 30 minutes with a full cup would fatigue anyone’s forearm. If the gun is more fatiguing than most guns, of course that’s something people need to know about. But I can only report how it feels to me, and in the context of 10-15 minute spray sessions, the gun didn’t really feel uncomfortable to me.

          While I totally agree that an air control valve is a nice feature to have and certainly offers versatility, I personally don’t consider it “essential”. To quote from the Fuji Q3 manual, “There is one thing to remember about the air control valve – it is the last in the chain of operations after thinning, adjusting size/shape of the spray pattern, and adjusting the flow of material through the gun.” I will add to that the need to use the right needle and cap set. But if you are going to cut a feature to save money, it just makes sense to cut the feature that is last in the chain of settings you need to check. And personally out of all the settings on a gun, I do consider the air control valve the least important simply because I use it the least.

          The hose is also a little “cheap”, and I feel that was a reasonable choice to sacrifice in the name of cutting coasts.

          Now the real problem with the Earlex, as we’ve discussed in the comments above, is that for a comparable price you can actually get the missing features in another turbine on the market. So although it isn’t reflected in my original review (I was comparing it to the Fuji Q3, originally), its pretty clear after reading the comments that the Fuji Mini Mite is a real contender. I really think $399 would be the sweet spot for this unit and might justify the sacrifices. But I don’t think Earlex will take my advice on that, lol.

        • Marc,
          I thought our exchanges would be in here.

          PG

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer December 22, 2009

          Your second response was via email so it was just an email exchange. For anything to appear on the site, the comments have to be written here.

        • Tom April 19, 2010

          Do you prefer the gravity or suction guns?

        •  
          thewoodwhisperer April 19, 2010

          Suction for me….

  7. Jason Martin April 22, 2010

    Anyone here used an Apollo HVLP? I was thinking about getting the Apollo 900 but am wondering if you guys think Fuji is better.
    http://wwww.hvlp.com/turbine_detail.php?id=4

    • Jason Martin April 23, 2010

      Oh man,now I think the Earlex is the way to go.
      It’s way cheaper than an Apollo……. but I did see a nice used one on Craigslist for $600…hmmmm lol

  8. Scott October 1, 2011

    I’m just reading this now because I just bought an Earlex 5500. I’ve tried it a couple of times now with no success. I get large gobs landing amongst the fine spray. I couldn’t level it so had to wait till in dried and then sand it all down and start again. I find the constant airflow annoying. I don’t have a spray booth and I vacuumed very well I thought but the constant blast of air going thru the gun raised lots of dust. I am not familiar with spray guns but a friend found it confusing too. He has used HVLP guns with an air compressor and says that there is no air comes out of the gun until he pulls the trigger. Am I missing something?

    •  

      There are lots of guns out there that have a constant air flow like that. I never really found it to be a major problem though. If you keep the finishing area clean it shouldn’t be too bad. As for the gobs, that sounds more like a viscosity issue. You might try thinning it a bit more.

      • Scott October 1, 2011

        OK, so I didn’t get a faulty one. I’ll try the viscosity cup to see how it “measures up” (snicker). I was using Varathane’s oil base varnish (black can). How do I determine the proper amount of product coming out of the gun? Do I adjust it slowly from “none” to “just a little” or is there a more accurate way to get it right?

        •  

          I usually spray a test surface. I start with the fluid closed off and slowly increase it until I see the spray pattern I like. There is some room for error here and it doesn’t need to be exact. Once you have a spray pattern that lays down a nice even coat at the speed you move your arm, you should be in good shape.

          You can get a lot more scientific about it and if you want more details on it, I recommend this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....1600850928

  9. Scott October 2, 2011

    OK, I’ll go from there. Thank you very much for your help

  10. Barr Tinney October 16, 2011

    Marc:

    Is their a considerable difference in the sound level when you are using your Fuji Q3 System versus the Earlex 6900 system? Does your Fuji Q3 have the sound reduction technology? I am trying to figure out if I should save additional money to purchase a system with sound reduction or go with the Mini-mite 3 or Earlex 6900 with no noise reduction. I have heard the Earlex 5000 and the sound level is bearable especially with even modest hearing protection.

    •  

      To be honest, I have yet to hear a turbine that didn’t require ear protection when in close proximity. The hoses are rather long though, so you can certainly get some distance between you and the noise maker. But to answer your question, I haven’t really taken notice of the difference. I am sure there is one, but I usually have hearing protection on when I turn them on so I wouldn’t really notice. I’d say shop by performance/quality/price and if you can get a quieter unit, that’s just a nice bonus.

  11. I use a Earlex 6900 and love it. It is everything I need. Has plenty of power to push the paints and finishes I use. The air tube that everyone says gets in the way, can easily be moved by loosening a nut and turning the feed tube to its correct position in the paint jar. The gun feels fine in my hand and the noise the turbine makes is no bother. The all make noise!

  12. cvalley March 28, 2012

    Nice read, answers a lot of my questions but leaves me with some new ones. I realize this is now 2012 while the original review was back in Nov 2009. That’s 2 and a half years. I debated even cranking up this thread but decided there are probably a lot of wood workers out there still dying for information, pun intended. I purchased a Wagner 518080 Control Spray Max HVLP Sprayer and I’m sorely disappointment. Hence my continued search for a viable sprayer system. Before I cast the first question I want to applaud you Marc for all your valued insight, I get a lot of valuable information from your whispers. My first question involves the gun and selecting siphon or gravity feed. I noted your preference as suction(siphon) and that was originally my first choice but now I’ve seen several video’s on line that feature the gravity (400ml) gun with the swivel fitting that appears to allow a lot of freedom and it would be easier to get into tight areas. So this brings me to my question, if I bought the gun (Fuji mm3) with 1qt suction(siphon) cup, couldn’t this be converted to a gravity cup that would be exactly identical if I had originally purchased the Fuji mm3 with gravity cup. I’d only need to buy a 400ml gravity cup and convert my gun from suction to gravity? I know the next sentence is simply vise versa. I’m considering buying with the 400ml gravity feed gun then convert at a later date as the need arises. Just want to make sure this is possible prior to investing my hard relaxed pension money. Now I can’t remember my next question, sheesh getting old sucks. just like walking around in my workshop trying to remember what i was doing. I’d leave a lol but I don’t want to get hammered by J….

    •  

      Thanks for the kind words my friend. I am by no means well-versed in the specifics of Fuji’s line of HVLP guns, so keep that in mind. :) From what I have seen, the guns do look like they share the same core “body”. But to my knowledge, I don’t believe the sell a conversion kit. Seems like it would be possible though. You might have better luck finding out the specifics directly from the source: http://www.fujispray.com/contactus.html

  13. Mark November 24, 2012

    Nice review of this and the 5000… I was wondering about your thoughts from a slightly different perspective.

    I have a large compressor and a couple of HVLP and LVLP guns that I use mostly for fine finishes, lacquers and polys on wood, and enamels and urethanes on equipment (automotive parts, tools…). It could be on anything ranging from small parts to something the size of a car or large piece of furniture and honestly, I hate them. I can get a nice finish, but dragging a hose around, figuring out someplace to mix/fill… especially without a dedicated spray boot and then the cleanup is a real hassle, and more often than I care to admit I’ll grab a spray can (gasp) if I can find a good one (on that note, some of the new Rustoleum stuff can give you a _really_ surprisingly good finish out of a rattle can, but a lot of what I want to spray is not available in a spray can, and for larger surfaces it’s just impossible to get the flow to put a decent coat down out of a can).

    I’ve been looking at a turbine HVLP sprayer just to cut down on the hassle and cleanup and like the idea of something pretty much self contained that I can carry to where I want to use it and setup and go…. That got me to the earlex 5500, and reading the reviews I’m wondering if the slight loss of convenience with the 6900 but the higher flow and pressure (I’m assuming better finish, and being able to deliver more fluid faster) might make it worth the compromise. I’m wondering if I’ll get the finish quality of my “prosumer” or lower end professional HVLP guns with one of these. Is the 5000 still your go to setup for quick jobs?

    Really, the thing is that I’m probably more serious then a lot of hobbyists are about what I’m finishing and the quality I expect, am willing to spend a little money for the right thing, but at the same time, have the space and time constraints that many hobbyists do. I’m finding that it takes forever to get to some jobs or I just don’t do some things I’d like to because I don’t have the time or am willing to deal with the hassle to do it (as I write this I’ve put off finishing some furniture for my 8m/o twins room for 3 days because I haven’t been able to set aside the time for setup and cleanup, I have all the stuff sitting here).

    Recommendations?

    •  

      Well, if you’re coming from a compressor-driven world, you might be in for a bit of a surprise at the pressure and flow of something like the Earlex 5500. It’s still decent for the home hobbiest, but the 6900 is definitely getting closer to something you’d probably feel comfortable with. And at that price range, you start getting into Fuji territory. Personally, I’d rather see you go for a Fuji Mini Mite 3 stage turbine. The build quality is better and it isn’t much more, although I haven’t checked the prices recently. My primary turbine is a Fuji but I do still use my Earlex for jobs now and then. So just to reiterate, check out the Fuji line and I think you’ll be pretty happy with the results.

  14. James November 2, 2013

    Hi
    This is my first post to Marc’s site. I hope people are still tracking these old posts, and that I can get some opinions on my dilemma. I am looking to buy my first HVLP spray system. I have been thinking about the Earlex 5500- about $400 including sales taxes. However, I see a used Fuji mini mate 3 system on kijiji for $300. Does it make sense to buy the used Fuji system rather then the Earlex system? I would be doing this because the Fuji system is better than the Earlex system, rather then to save $100. The Fuji system is seven years old. It has been used to spray enamel on bathtubs. It sounds like it has been used extensively, however, the owner indicates that it is in perfect working condition.
    To date, I have finished my projects with brushed on polyurethane. I am hoping to improve the results of my finishing with a spray system. Additionally, I am going to buy 16 brand new unfinished oak mission style chairs in the spring. So the equipment I buy should be up to finishing chairs with spindles. I am intending to finish with lacquer.
    Any advice or comments would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    James

    •  

      I’d go for the Fuji personally, assuming it is as the seller says.

      • James in TO November 3, 2013

        Thanks Marc! I expect to get pictures of the Fuji on Monday before I decide whether to make the hour and a half drive (each way) to take a look. I am trying to think how best to evaluate the equipment – especially since I haven’t actually used a spray gun myself. My thoughts are – try the gun out using water; flip the spray through vertical fan, horizontal fan; and spot spray in-between positions; look for leaks in the hose; confirm that the cup is clean and not …. rusty??? Listen for any rattles or whines in the motor noise. Remove the air cap and look for… signs of wear? dirt?Any ideas how to check if the low pressure is not too low? Any other thoughts? Does anyone know the gun model number – it is not the current gun.
        Thanks again.

  15. Just found your site after watching a vid on YouTube. My wife and I are dealers in mid-century modern furniture and quite a bit of what we sell needs to be refinished. Thus far I have been doing hand-rubbed Danish Oil finishes using Watco products. Though the results we get are more than satisfying, we would like to increase our production a bit. The faster we can finish a project, the sooner it can be offered up for sale. To this end I am considering using some sprayed lacquer finishes and have been looking at hvlp set-ups. Wondering if an Earlex 5500 system would work for us or if we should spring for a Fuji; perhaps the Semi-PRO 2 Gravity package. We do about 3-5 projects per week, credenzas, end tables, coffee tables, etc. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Erik W.

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