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Advice on buying a DMM

Discussion in 'Electronic Equipment' started by [email protected], Jan 14, 2006.

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  1. Guest


    I have already scoured this group for suggestions on buying a digital
    multimeter but it has only confused me more. Here is my situation: I
    have taken some electronics classes in the past working with circuits
    but that all involed working with hundred dollar equipment. I have
    just recently started to get back in to working with electronics in my
    spare time but I will be taking some more advanced electronic classes
    in the future; factor that in to the equation however you may. I am
    looking for a meter to do the typical DC voltage/current as well as
    accurately read resistance as I am working with pretty basic circuits.
    I originally was looking for a DMM that had the major features I was
    looking for at roughly around $20. However, I would like to future
    proof myself by buying a meter that has features that I might not have
    a full grasp for (diode/transistor tester, capacitance, temperature
    probe, etc) and would consider spending ~$100 (whatever is reasonable).
    My question for everyone is, what type of meter should I buy given my
    background as well as future in electronics? Should I go ahead and
    apply that $20 to a more expensive meter that has the extra features or
    wait until it is necessary? If I go with a cheap meter, which one is
    good to start out with (same with a more expensive model)? Any
    suggestions, ideas, info related to the subject would be greatly
    appreciated. Thanks for your time!

  2. Buy a Fluke, bite the bullet and pay the money. It will repay you over the
    years, as long as you use it of course!

    The 73 series is a good general purpose range, of the different models within
    the range, the 73 III is a good starter unit, the 78 series is automotive based,
    or for more sophistication go to the 83 and 87 series.


  3. Rich Webb

    Rich Webb Guest

    On 13 Jan 2006 23:59:53 -0800, "" <>

    The Fluke 73 that Peter mentioned is a good, solid meter, although I
    think that it has been discontinued and replaced by the 17x series,
    so you're now pushing $200.

    On the other hand, the wonders of modern electronics also brings some
    cheap multimeters that are "good enough" for many uses. One possibility
    is this give-away meter
    that's "free" for purchases over $50. If you're starting to set yourself
    up with breadboards, tools, wire, etc you might be able to pick up some
    needed supplies and get that "$20 meter" thrown in as a bonus.

    Disclaimer: Not associated with web-tronics other than as a customer who
    has scored about three of these meters over the last couple of years.
    While these are NOT Flukes (they sell Flukes, too) and don't replace my
    ancient 8050A, the meters are fine for basic functions and are also
    great for keeping in the trunk, garage, kitchen drawer, office desk,
    etc. for that odd contingency.
  4. RS Components are still selling the 73 series in the UK, but the later models
    are also available, so it may be the end of their stock.

    The other thing I forgot to mention was the ebay 'specials' that look like a
    Fluke and have a very similar sounding name. Usually selling in the sub-$20
    band, they are basically very cheap and not too accurate, but for £20 or less
    they may well fulfil the initial requirements of the OP.

  5. <snippety-two>

    A good multimeter is one of the most basic, versatile, and
    important investments that ANY techie will ever make.

    That being the case, get a GOOD one. Hard to go wrong with the
    Fluke 70, 80, or 180 series.

    Yes, a good one (and by 'good,' I'm talking robust enough to stand
    up to years of use in terms of reliability and stability) is going to
    cost you some $$. I bought a Fluke 187 at a ham radio swap meet last
    year for $135, and I have absolutely no regrets about it.

    Prior to that, I owned a Fluke 77 that I bought back when they
    first came out in the mid-80's. That little beastie lasted me over 20
    years, and was still working just fine when I sold it shortly after
    buying my 187 in 2004.

    Don't sell yourself short. I wasn't kidding when I said a good
    multimeter is an investment. Treat it as such.

    Dr. Anton T. Squeegee, Director, Dutch Surrealist Plumbing Institute.
    (Known to some as Bruce Lane, ARS KC7GR,
    kyrrin (a/t) bluefeathertech[d=o=t]calm --
    "If Salvador Dali had owned a computer, would it have been equipped
    with surreal ports?"
  6. DaveM

    DaveM Guest

    Although you're likely to get a wide range of recommendations from "just get
    a cheapie that has the basic features" to "get a Fluke that will last for a
    hundred years", my recommendation is somewhat in the middle. In light of
    the fact that this will be a learning instrument that will help you get back
    into the world of electronics, I suggest that you get a DVM that will give
    you most of the features that you're likely to need for the foreseeable
    future. AC/DC voltage and current, resistance and diode checks are the bare
    necessities. There are many very reasonably priced meters that offer lots
    of other features, such as transistor Hfe, capacitance, frequency and
    temperature measurements. I don't know of any of the low-priced meters that
    offer inductance measurement... that is usually reserved for LCR type
    Take a look at and read about the
    model M-1750. It gives you the basics plus capacitance and frequency.
    The meter at
    offers the basics plus transistor and diode test, capacitance and
    temperature. The meter at
    has capacitance, frequency and temperature in addition to the basics.
    This was intended to give you an idea of the different models and features
    available to you if you do some searching. You might not find a single
    meter that will do everything for you, but judicious choices will give you
    the best bang for your buck in the beginning. As you become more proficient
    in electronics, you may want to invest in an instrument with more features
    (and probably will be more expensive). In the 60's and 70's, I saw many
    novice musicians who were just learning to play the guitar, get caught up in
    the excitement, and go out and buy expensive instruments costing thousands
    of dollars. In the end, many of them found that even a $2000 guitar
    couldn't make a bad guitarist sound good. I suggest that you start out with
    reasonably priced meter(s) and advance to more professional models as your
    expertise and desire to learn progresses.

    One last word of advice... no matter which brand or model you select,
    respect the meter and the circuits that you're testing, and the meter will
    likely give you many years of dependable service.

    Dave M
    MasonDG44 at comcast dot net (Just substitute the appropriate characters in
    the address)

    Never take a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time!!
  7. headphones

    headphones Guest

    Aks yourself what does lifetime warantee mean. Then ask what does
    the manufacturer mena by life time guarantee/warantee. Nothing
    lasts for ever and no company ever backs up lifetime guarantee. You
    can think about this, history does not stop and there are always
    better ways to design and build things. That's why next year there
    will always be a better DMM that will excite the people, ex.
    Tekronix introduced a DMM w/ the blue holster, w/ 1 yr. warantee.
    Fluke never backs up their life time warantee. Greenlee has a green
    holster DMM for around $125.00, works great. Simpson has a range of
    DMM's. So what.

    I've owned Fluke; 77, 87 and now the 85. The fluke 87 broke, I
    contacted fluke and they said it's out of warantee. I asked what
    about your life time warantee & I'm the original owner. Fluke says
    it's not covered by the warantee. So I'm screwed. I took it apart
    and tossed in the dumpster & kept the holster. The only reason I
    got the 85 is because it can be sent to a calibration lab and get a
    sticker put on it, at the company's expense. Your starting out &
    you don't really need a very expensive DMM. You need 'your brains'
    to understand the circuit your building, testing, or repair
    equipment you've never seen before, know how it works just by
    looking at the board. Go to Harbor Freight and buy the DMM that's
    $50.00. It can test transistors, the fluke 85 can't. You can
    build a temp to volt converter, infact fluke used to sell a plugin
    for that. You take a J or K thermocouple out of a small yellow box
    with a dual banana plug. So it's a temp to volt converter, at this
    stage in your game, it's much better to understand how the Temp to
    volt converter works, build one and use a cheaper DMM to work. It
    won't be as precise as the fluke, but I bet you it'll be +/- 1 deg.
    And when you get better at designing circuits, you can't make it
    +/- 0.5 % accuracy? You will have to test transistors, so get a
    DMM that can test transistors. Buy a DMM for $50.00, buy a dozen
    breadboards that are 7" long by 3" wide? Build a big breadboard
    panel and start building circuits. The only thing you get from
    owning an expensive DMM is braging rights that you got money to buy
    expensive tools. But do you know how to use that tool? Sure, you
    can test a transistor w/ a fluke, triplet, greenlee, simpson by
    probing all 3 leads, but how about plugging the transistor into
    some holes and know it's npn, pnp and read the hfe. What is more
    useful to you at your level? I have two small $12.00 DMMs that I
    toss in the car and boat tool box. They are in zip lock bags & they
    are perfect for everyday use. I still have a simpson 260 with
    needle movement for analog circuits. I had a $30.00 radio shack
    that worked for 8 years before it fell over board. Can you image
    how you'd feel if you damaged that $300.00 DMM and the manufacturer
    won't cover that damage?
  8. BFoelsch

    BFoelsch Guest

    Well, $20 won't get you much, but there is a guy on eBay selling NOS
    Tektronix 252 DMMs for $25. They are obsolete and unsupported, but the
    feature set is decent for a beginner. I ordered a couple from him and they
    were fine, the calibration was dead on.
  9. Don't assume one is enough... for instance, tonight I had three multimeters
    in use at once on my lab bench, taking measurements on several different
    parts of a circuit simultaneously as I varied some parameters. I think I
    probably own 6 or 7 multimeters in total, ranging from "free" ones that came
    with purchases to the Fluke 87 that is my mainstay. They all get used,
    often a couple at a time.

    The point being, a high-quality meter will serve you well for a long time,
    but don't let that stop you from getting a meter you can afford right now,
    you'll end up using both of them.

    Even the very cheap meters are surprisingly good. They're not as accurate
    and not as reliable, but for 95% of what you're likely to do they'll be just
    fine. And as "headphone" pointed out, the cheap ones sometimes have
    features such as transistor testing that the expensive ones lack.
  10. Jamie

    Jamie Guest
    look at the LCM-1950
    its not a fluke but for what your doing and
    the price, it has just about every thing in
    one meter and its only $65.00
    with a basic LCR, Freq count, tranny tester.
    high scale range on Ohms etc..
  11. Wade-

    Having a good DMM (or VOM) can make quite a difference. When I was a
    teenager building my own Ham Radio equipment, I saved my money and bought
    a Triplett model 310 handheld analog multimeter. I believe that was the
    single most important item I could have had for experimental work in
    electronics. I suddenly had a new window into the way things worked. My
    boxes of scavenged resistors and capacitors were shrunk to a handful of
    each after checking with the Ohm meter range of the new VOM.

    In about 1980 I bought a new Fluke Model 8020A handheld DMM. The only
    problem I've had was a black LCD display soon after the warranty expired.

    About five years ago I bought a used Fluke 8012A bench DMM for $35 at a
    Hamfest. A couple years later I found a Fluke 8050A bench DMM for $45 at
    a surplus store. (This one had a bad set of NiCd batteries, and possibly
    one bad resistor for the highest voltage range.) A few weeks ago I found
    a Fluke 8024B handheld DMM for $5.00 at a pawn shop. (This one was a
    grimey, filthy mess that I disassembled and bathed!)

    Except for one voltage range of the 8050A, all the Flukes have held up
    well, and all agree with each other well within their tolerances. Manuals
    for all can be found on eBay, as well as at some Hamfests. For probes, I
    buy Radio Shack 278-7138 Banana Plug to Test Probe Leads.

    My point is that you can get a better instrument by looking for a used one
    made by a reliable company. Yes, it might be best to go ahead and spend
    the price of the "ideal" DMM new, but that can wait until you have an
    income. Others have also made some good suggestions, but buying used is
    worth considering.

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