Gahh! How much to spend on a multimeter (and what meter)?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by TheLaw, Sep 10, 2010.

  1. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
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    Well I am in a bit of a dilemma. I am going to be doing some small scale hardware development with mostly pretty simple circuits. To name some: Arduino, and possibly building a couple of basic lower current power supplies. 1-2A supplies I suppose.

    Well, I've seen electronic enthusiasts using $500 meters and electronic also enthusiasts using $5 meters. :eek: Again, what I am doing is not mission critical stuff and I usually plan components over-speced to make sure we have a lot of breathing room.

    But that doesn't mean I want a crappy meter. And my general rule of thumb if it is very good, I don't mind paying the extra dollar to get that unparalleled quality or atleast better quality.

    What do you guys reckon is a good price for a good meter?. Max is $100 and that's only for something that is going to really have a huge benefit over a cheaper meter. Sub-$50 is where I'd like to stay I suppose.

    But in your opinion, is it necessary to have a $50 meter. Is that $20 meter really that bad?

    Also, if you guys have any favorites that you'd like to reccomend.

    Right now, I am considering the Amprobe AM-220 which I can get for about $45. I also have seen a lot of MasTechs. Are MasTechs regarded as good or bad?

    I know its a lot to ask. If you would like to contribute, you don't have to answer every question.

    It is much appreciated.

    -Tim
     
  2. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
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    There's several considerations and they're really all your call. Any meter can work for you just fine.

    1) Safety.
    Cheap meters won't be guaranteed to not explode under high voltage conditions, such as surges / mains voltage. Good meters will be solidly built and are protected.
    There are also basic safety features like the meter beeps if you set it to voltage mode when the probes are actually inserted into the current measuring contacts.

    2) Features.
    Accuracy, measuring frequency, capacitance, duty cycle, true-RMS, auto-ranging, whatever

    3) Build quality.
    A good meter has a clicky dial that feels solid, good buttons, a solid visible display...

    4) Annoyances.
    My meter's only reads capacitance up to 100 uF and it takes forever.
    The auto-ranging function takes a few seconds to settle down.
     
    TheLaw likes this.
  3. Audioguru

    New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    9,411
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    About 15 years ago I bought a $200 Fluke multimeter. My boss bought a $100 RadioShack multimeter. My Fluke works like new today (it has been used a lot). The RadioShack one lasted only one week. It was never replaced nor fixed.
     
  4. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    Well I am hoping that my regulated PC power supply-benchtop convert won't be putting out immense voltage spikes, for that would be quite odd.

    I am just having a hard time justifying such expensive multimeters when I see people getting away with $10 Chinese meters.

    Well, I am no professional as you can tell.
     
  5. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
    655
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    Then don't get one, spend $20 or less and use it.
    At the very least you'll figure out what kind of features you care about so you can make an informed purchase later.
     
  6. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    I suppose so. I have one old multimeter with a shot fuse from a long time ago. I think I got it at Radioshack or the Home Depot or something. I wasn't using it for electronics but rather general household stuff. Not familiar with what I might need.

    Anyway, I spend money where it is due. I am just asking what you think the minimum price or a good price would be for a mid end/0.5% accurate multimeter.

    Regardless, I suppose I'll keep on researching. I was hoping maybe someone had a favorite.

    Thanks.
     
  7. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
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  8. Jaguarjoe

    Active Member

    Apr 7, 2010
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    Electronix Express has DVM's for sale, many in the $100 range.
    Harbor Freight has their $2 DVM. Good for non-critical apps.
     
  9. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    Yeah I've watched a lot of them...and they are all like hour-long videos. I just watched his $50 faceoff. It's quite useful.
     
  10. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    Ah thanks.
     
  11. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,766
    2,536
    Another point that has been mentioned in other similar threads, there is nothing wrong with having more than one meter. Occasionally you need to do simultaneous readings. I am impressed how accurate even the cheap DVMs are.

    I have a Radio Shack meter with a RS232 out. It has given me decades of good service. I also have a couple of other nice meters, and some throw aways for use in places where sticky fingers abound.

    If you are getting an expensive meter I would recommend you make sure it has a capacitance meter and frequency counter. Both are really handy feature. Also stock up on replacement fuses before you blow one, oops can happen to the best of us.
     
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  12. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    Thanks. Instead of cheaping it out, I think I'll just invest into a good one that will last me for a long time. It's called the BK Precision 2709B and it sells for about $95. It is very accurate and really doesn't lack anything. High quality internals. No overshoot issues or anything.

    Well, I appreciate all of your help.
     
  13. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    2,613
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    I spent about £25 on a cheap Chinese auto-ranging multimeter and it seems OK.

    What I like:

    • Build quality is pretty good. The tilting bail is actually really well designed - you can also hang it up on a hook, and there are two 'settings' it will go into.
    • Internally, the electronics are OK. I had a look, I didn't take it apart completely, but there weren't any bad solder joints, it was all surface mount stuff except for fuses, and the zeners.
    • It beeps at you for about 3 seconds if on the wrong current range before you blow the fuse.
    • Fast continuity.
    • Pretty rugged. No explosion when on ohms range connected to 230V.
    What I don't like:

    • Autoranging on ohms mode is pretty slow. About 3 seconds to go from 40 Mohm to 0.
    • Cap range is next to useless - 400µF max, and takes ages.
    • Frequency counter is only good up to ~300kHz. I have a scope, though, which is good up to at least 300 MHz (frequency measurement only, b/w is 100 MHz. But, the maximum measurable input is about 200V, absolute limit is 400V.)
    • No real protection. There's a wimpy PTC, and some zeners. No MOVs, thermal fuses, spark gaps etc.
    One of the benefits of a cheap meter is that of course it costs less to replace it. However, if you get an expensive Fluke or Agilent or whatever, you'll probably find yourself using it for much longer than a cheap meter.

    My advice is to get a decent bench multimeter with high precision (say, ±0.01%) and then spend a smaller amount on a decent multimeter you can afford to lose.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2010
  14. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    I understand what you mean but I am not doing anything on a professional level. I just need something to give basic measurements and such. I mean a good bench meter will be like $500 or even more.

    For my intentions, I will probably barely even use it as much as a true electrical engineer would.
     
  15. R!f@@

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 2, 2009
    8,754
    760
    Search the fluke catalog. You won't regret it.
    Trust me, I know.
     
  16. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    2,358
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    I think the B&K was a good choice, they used to build high quality equipment and I haven't heard anything to the contrary to indicate they've changed.

    I'm also a big fan of having more than one meter. If you're just starting out get something in the mid range such as the B&K, it would work as your main meter for a long time.

    I would also take full advantage of that $2 Harbor Freight meter sale. They're far more accurate and durable than one would expect. At that price you just can't afford not to buy 2 or 3 of them to keep around, and get an extra to pop into your car trunk.
     
  17. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
    3,788
    945
    I've got a very nice calibrated meter($350 new) that gets calibrated every year(for my job) and I've also got about a dozen el-cheapo meters I picked up at a 2.99 sale at Harbour Freight. When checked against my good meter most of them register quite close on the DC scale 0-20 volts. Which means I can use the cheapo meters for most of my knock around hobby uses here at the house. I've had two of them stop working, but at $2.99 you don't really miss them, just grab another one, and keep on truckin.

    Do NOT trust them on the Amps scale, they are NOT telling the truth by a large amount.
     
  18. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
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    Circa 1982, I bought a Fluke 77 autoranger w/ "touch-hold" for 129.00 for work on top-of-the-line complex electronic / cybernetic automatic everything single-lens reflex 35mm cameras.

    Many features in camera circuitry ran on less than 25 μAmps, so I needed the accuracy. Have never regretted going without a good diet for a couple weeks to justify the purchase..........

    On my current job in HVAC, my employer provides those Harbor Fright el-Cheapo meters........... some of the guys with lesser experience blow them up like popcorn.

    Get comfortable with protocol for using meters, and bend the rules at the risk of a cheap meter.
     
  19. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
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    Well, instead of the $100 BK meter, I decided to get the $65 BK meter which lacks a couple of features but is otherwise still a solid meter. It does not have True RMS but I did not expect it to either. Nor do I really need it.

    The meter is the BK 2705B. Thanks to all. Hopefully it will have the same beefy components as the 2709.

    Thanks.

     
  20. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    2,358
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    I've got a couple of 2703A B&Ks that have run perfectly for about 16 years.
     
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