Set-up home lab (inexpensive Oscilloscope's?)

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by RiottoiR, Nov 8, 2009.

  1. RiottoiR

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    Hi guy's and girls.

    Just finishing my 1st year (Elec Eng) and was wanting to play around over the break, I've decided to set-up a small lab and was wondering what basic essentials I would require? and is there any cheap alternatives?

    so far i thought of...

    Power supply (was thinking about a PC PSU, but i would like a variable voltage line)
    Function generator (maybe a PC? i guess the sound card but is that 50 ohm and can you control the voltage?)
    Oscilloscope (i found one at is it any good? looks alright for the price. )

    not sure what other equipment, I'd say there the basic's right?

    any help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. mkbutan

    Senior Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    you may required lots of thing's
    first start with Digital Multimeter
    Variable Power Supply
    Frequency Counter
    Oscilloscope (CRT or Digital as per requirement)
    Capacitance Meter
    Flux Meter
    Line Tester
    Clamp Tester
    Soldering & De-soldering Station
    set's of Spanner's
    set's of screw Driver's
    set's of Hex Key's
    and so on the list is very long
    As you sad you are a student it better to ask your Teacher

    It not necessary to collect all the measuring instruments to make the LAB only collect & purchase or make what you have the requirement (for the purpose of repair)
    there are add on card's available to convert your PC into OSCILLOSCOPE you can google for the same
  3. hobbyist

    Distinguished Member

    Aug 10, 2008
    Since this is your first year in EE, you probably learned a lot about transistor circuit design, so I think the best starter set would be to get a small breadboard, a multimeter, and a audio function generator, and if you can afford it a oscilloscope.

    With this equipment, you can apply what you learned about transistor circuit design, to practice, by designing the three classes of amps, as well as oscilators, and switching circuits, to get a good feel for hands on training.
  4. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    You can do a lot with just a DMM, breadboard and jumpers, an ATX-form-factor PSU converted to a bench supply, some hand tools and a selection of components.

    Cost and storage space are usually pretty big concerns for students. Security of your items should be another concern; if you arrive at a college dorm with expensive test gear, there is a high probability that you won't be leaving with it.

    You can find really inexpensive DMMs at places like Harbor Freight. Fluke DMMs are great, but you can spend a lot of money on them. The cheap-o DMMs are surprisingly accurate, and if/when they get lost, stolen or damaged, you won't be heartbroken over it. The likelihood of a cheap DMM being stolen is much lower than an expensive one.

    O-scopes are great to have, but they are generally bulky - which goes back to the storage/security problem. You might find that a unit that is USB compatible is easier on your wallet and much easier to store in a secure place. It's likely that most of your experimenting will be in the audio frequency range for the first year or so anyway.

    As far as breadboards, power supplies, soldering equipment, etc - I've found Marlin P. Jones & Associates to have good prices, fast shipping, and have never had a problem with any of my orders since I started using them 10 years ago.
    Solderless breadboards:
    Note that they have a powered breadboard with a variable power supply.
    Tool kit:

    There are plenty of places to buy components. Radio Shack is convenient, but their selection is extremely limited and prices are nearly absurd. is hobbyist/student friendly, no minimum order$, and will happily ship SMALL orders via 1st class USPS mail; this can save you money. Their component prices are not the best, but you have to consider shipping/handling costs in with the total. is another first-rate supplier. is a good place to find deals on stuff. is mainly a hobbyist site; $10 minimum order.
    You have to be careful to not go hog-wild buying components, or you will very quickly wind up with an organization and storage problem. There are some ideas on component organization and storage in a thread in The Projects Collection forum.
  5. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    My advice generally concures with Wookies. A DVM is the first piece of gear you should buy. Choose carefully, you can also get extra features such as a simple freq counter and capacitance meter included in the DVM very easily. A second DVM isn't bad either, sometimes you will want to make two measurements simultaneously.

    As for the Oscope, you can get a PC USB scope pretty cheaply too, and they are small. I assume you have a laptop, this can be the basis for a lot of good gear and projects.

    As for the rest, you *might* think about home brewing them. They aren't that hard to build, a home made piece of equipment are much less attractive to thieves, and it is excellent experience (especially if you design from scratch).

    Since you have access to a lab calibration of gear should be no problem (and more good experience overall).

    What Wookie said about experience resonates, even if you have a dorm room to yourself it isn't that secure. Mine wasn't.
  6. studiot

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 9, 2007
    I assume you have a laptop.

    Your cheapest route would be to use this.
    You can get digital voltmeters with usb or serial outputs to feed a laptop quite cheaply ie they are only a few £ more than a reasonable ordinary DVM. UK budget for this would be £25 - £50.

    These will give you a simple low frequency scope and dvm display plus data logging on the laptop.

    You can also get pc I/O cards as usb add ons that provide a wealth of 'electronics lab' functions, including simple waveform generation. Once again there are some very cheap ones about in the £25 - £50 range.

    Other kit you can gain some skill and experience by making yourself:

    Bench amp
    R & C substitution boxes
    Multimeter add ons for temp/light/sound/ humidity/you name it measurement

    Senior Member

    May 26, 2009
    Everyone has excellent suggestions! I must say that having the equipment is very helpful rather than just using simulations. You can perform various tests on circuits and you'll remember everything better because you actually experienced the situation.