# Best place for test equipment

#### Maintenance Man

Joined May 12, 2010
25
Where is the best and cheapest place to purchase electronics test equipment, such as power supplies, frequency generators, oscilloscopes etc. Also to purchase electronic components. I have heard the best places are on line stores. Could you all give me some of your best spots to get these things? Thank you very much for your help.

#### oidium45

Joined Apr 24, 2010
138
Be weary of eBay. You could get lucky and end up with a good deal (i did) or get screwed entirely. Shop around for your equipment. You will find a better price that way. As for components there are a wide variety of places to choose from. Each will vary in price depending upon the component. I have ordered from Newark, mouser, and allied. I prefer mouser so far. It really depends upon what items you need.

#### marshallf3

Joined Jul 26, 2010
2,358

#### Wendy

Joined Mar 24, 2008
22,647
In early June Dallas HamCon will be happening. It by far has the cheapest and best deals I have found anywhere, both in parking lot sale and the indoor sale (which you have to buy a ticket to get in). Air conditioning is nice that time of year. Look it up on the internet. It is definitely worth your time.

#### marshallf3

Joined Jul 26, 2010
2,358
For any state, use Google to type in "Ham Con" + the name of your nearby cities &/or states until you find one that's going to be close to you soon. Bill is correct, there's usually a ton of stuff thee. Dallas also used to have a monthly electronics "flea market" one weekend a month.

#### K7GUH

Joined Jan 28, 2011
190
I have had very good results from local hamfests, from HRO in Portland OR, and from qth.com. Occasionally, I'll find something at Fry's Electronics. If you are willing and able to build some of your own equipment, check out FAR circuits on the 'net. It can take years to build a suitable collection of test equipment, so a) don't try to get everything all at once, and b) keep looking for what will really suit your needs.

#### Wendy

Joined Mar 24, 2008
22,647
For any state, use Google to type in "Ham Con" + the name of your nearby cities &/or states until you find one that's going to be close to you soon. Bill is correct, there's usually a ton of stuff thee. Dallas also used to have a monthly electronics "flea market" one weekend a month.
Still does, and until gas started rocketing out of site I've been pretty faithful going. The first one I went to was in 1978, in a muddy empty lot. It changed to computers, and now isn't sure where it is going next. The 1980's and 1990's definately were very active for these kind of venues, it is is a shadow of what it used to be.

The Dallas HamCON also deminished, but seems to be building back up nowdays.

#### russ_hensel

Joined Jan 11, 2009
825
Around Boston MIT Flea ( market ) can be very good. Google it.

#### mcgyvr

Joined Oct 15, 2009
5,394
New equipment=find their distributors.
Used equipment=ebay/craigslist or auction sites like Dovebid/Xline assets/ branford group. amazing what you can get if you can wait for the auctions to come around.

Electronic components (prototype quantities)=digikey, newark, mouser.
Electronic components (production quantities)=find their distributors. We use Beyond Components for quite a lot of stuff.

Joined Jul 7, 2009
1,583
Well, "best" depends on the eye of the beholder -- you're the one that has to define what "best" means to you. Some folks want low cost, some want fast delivery, some want other things.

I had to build my set of test equipment up slowly over the years, as I had too many hobbies at the end of the cash. What worked for me was to:

1. Define exactly what it was I wanted -- and know why I wanted it.

2. Do my homework on ebay and other sites and find what used versions of what I wanted cost.

3. Be prepared to wait for a long time to get what I wanted by defining the maximum amount I would pay for an item, then sticking to that decision.

In one case, I waited over 5 years to get a gorgeous version of an older instrument I wanted for $50 delivered -- I would have paid hundreds of dollars for it in the condition I got it. The reason it took so long was I knew I had to see an auction with the correct parts being offered (most of these auctions were missing a key part) and one where I didn't get outbid. It turned out, for some reason, that I was the only bidder on this particular item and it came to me like it was in new condition. (It's an older vacuum tube instrument that was in production for 30+ years.) Another item I got last year came for$19 delivered -- and it was in nearly brand-new condition. I was curious what a new one cost and the distributor in LA told me \$1800!! Clearly, the seller had no idea what it was worth.

Another way to find stuff is to let your friends know what you're looking for. I lucked onto finding a local guy who bought and sold government surplus stuff and got some good older stuff from him for incredibly low prices.

Another method is to do consulting work in your spare time and use that to help pay for instruments. I've done that for a number of instruments.

The auctions and Craigslist are where you'll likely get the best prices -- but you also run the biggest risk of getting a dud. I was always careful to only bid on items where I could return it if I wasn't satisfied; since many items don't sell that way, that's another reason it takes time. Out of 20 or so instruments, I only had one that didn't work when I got it; I returned it and got my money back.

The companies that sell used test equipment typically want from 2 to10 times what you can get things in the auctions for. Their possible value-add is that they recondition the instrument to make sure it works within specs and, if you're lucky, it will be calibrated. Some places simply overcharge ridiculously, so you have to do your homework and know what things are worth -- and what you're willing to pay.

Remember, something is worth what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller is willing to take. That's the only workable definition of the monetary value of something. So take what you see as the first price as a grain of salt.

It's also worth your time to find hobbyists who wind up collecting stuff and then get so much stuff they start repairing and reselling things. Years ago I found one across the country and he was extraordinary. He had good prices (but not the cheapest) and he included a photocopy of the manual. He was a retired electrical engineer and loved fixing things. I bought 3 or 4 things from him and they still work great. I'd continue to give him my business, but I think he's probably dead by now, as I can't find him anymore.

#### BillO

Joined Nov 24, 2008
990
Ham fest type flea markets are great. You can actually see, touch and sometimes test the stuff before you buy. However, I have had almost perfect luck with eBay. Out of ~400 items in the past 6 years only 2 deals went sour. In both of those cases PayPay refunded my money.

I consider eBay to be practically zero risk.

Just make sure the vendor has many transactions and high rating (better than 98%).

Local electronics surplus stores are a great source too, for certain things.

#### BillO

Joined Nov 24, 2008
990
I have ordered from Newark, mouser, and allied.
Just a question for edification purposes. Why would you order from these (US) suppliers when 95%+ of all components are sourced from the far east?

Juz' aksin'...

#### tom66

Joined May 9, 2009
2,595
Just a question for edification purposes. Why would you order from these (US) suppliers when 95%+ of all components are sourced from the far east?

Juz' aksin'...
That's surprisingly rare. I'd say about 50% of my components I order from UK distributors have a country of origin marked in the far east. A great deal come from Japan and the USA, especially integrated circuits. Which is one of the reasons Japan's earthquake and tsunami has badly hit the electronics industry.

As for test equipment look for local surplus stores. I had good luck near me, I found one just 10 miles away and they had very agreeable prices.

#### BillO

Joined Nov 24, 2008
990
A great deal come from Japan and the USA, especially integrated circuits.
Really? BTW, I consider Japan the far east. I just did a little browse through my component drawers. The only ICs not from the far east were some really old Intel 2716s. A few discretes have no marking as to origin at all, at least none that I can decipher.

#### Wendy

Joined Mar 24, 2008
22,647
Just a hypothetical, do you consider typical Chinese manufactured items on par with Japanese manufactured items?

#### and1_hotsauce

Joined Apr 6, 2011
19
why are oscilliscopes and signal generators so darn expensive? Is there alot of complicated gadgetry inside??

#### Wendy

Joined Mar 24, 2008
22,647
Yes, and designing isn't cheap.

Here is the thing. I can show you how to make a signal generator that will produce a square wave, a triangle wave, and almost a sine wave. It is the almost that is the killer. A good piece of equipment needs to be accurate, it is what the big bucks are buying. So if you buy a signal generator you can bet it has some very tight specs.

Which brings up another point. Specifications aren't cheap either. Any equipment worth its salt will tell you exactly how good (or bad) it is. It is published.

I spent a stint at Alcatel as a metrology tech, someone to maintains, repairs, and calibrates test equipment. Test equipment drifts over time, you have to tweak them back into spec occasionally. The good equipment doesn't drift nearly so much though. This is also what you are paying for.

#### BillO

Joined Nov 24, 2008
990
Just a hypothetical, do you consider typical Chinese manufactured items on par with Japanese manufactured items?
No. I don't at all. However, there are not that many Japanese manufactured things any more that are not laden with parts from China, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc...

Just wondering, why do you ask?

Edit: Here is an example I have in my hand a Pentax (very old and well respected Japanese company) battery grip for my Pentax K7 camera. It says on it "Assembled in the Philippines". On opening it, I observe the tray that holds the battery says "Made in Indonesia" and the Pentax Battery it holds says "Cells made in Japan, pack assembled in China".

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#### Wendy

Joined Mar 24, 2008
22,647
I don't equate Japan manufacturing with the far east because of the quality. It is like comparing Mexico's industrial capabilities with the USA, or Canada. After all, we are all North Americans.

#### BillO

Joined Nov 24, 2008
990
My original comment/question was not quality based. A few years ago I ordered some NE556 chips from Allied and paid quite a high price for them, especially when shipping was taken into account. They came marked "Made in Thailand".

A little research lead me to the fact that I could get them from Thai-Shop, an eBay seller, directly from Thailand for less than one quarter of the final price I paid Allied, shipping included.

It just makes no sense to me to fork over that additional cash for exactly the same parts and not get anything in return for it. It would be different if there was some value add, but there isn't. In fact, for some odd reason, shipments on small items to Canada from Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines take less time than from the US. Go figure. Bigger items are quicker from the US. Where do you think Allied, Mouser and such get their "Made in Thailand" components from?

Mainland China? Yeah, I order some components from there too. They don't always say "Made in China" on them though. Maybe 10% - 15% of the time. Usually one of the other myriad far east countries. Delivery times from mainland China can be quite erratic. Sometimes it takes a week, sometimes 6. There is no way to predict.

I am strong believer in supporting those close to me, but they actually have to do something for it. I can do without middlemen.