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Good Digital Multi-Meter in $50 Range

Discussion in 'Electronic Equipment' started by Ken Hall, Jul 3, 2006.

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  1. Ken Hall

    Ken Hall Guest

    I just dropped my 20 year old Radio Shack digital multimeter and it
    stopped working. I use it probably once a month so I want to order
    another DMM.

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a good basic DMM in the $50 +/-
    $10 range?

    Most of the ones I've found on the web don't provide accuracy
    specifications. For example, I found this one that looks like about
    what I want but no specs http://tinyurl.com/jvkap . I couldn't even
    tell if the autoranging can be locked out.

    I think I'd like an autoranging model, but I've read that autoranging
    meters are not as accurate. I don't see why. Does anybody know the
    answer on this?

    Anyway, don't lose sight of the real reason for my post which is:

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a good basic DMM in the $50-$60
    or less range?

    -- Ken
     
  2. Ralph Mowery

    Ralph Mowery Guest

    A good quality autoranging meter will be just as accurate as one that is
    not. About double your price range is the Fluke 110. I hae used several
    differant modles and the higher dollar one is almost right on the money
    traceable to the government standards.
     
  3. Melodolic

    Melodolic Guest

    Maker's catalogue page...

    http://www.esitest.com/cart/480.html

    No accuracy figures, but looks like all of the features are listed
    (including manual ranging). Seems like a decent enough meter if it has the
    features you want. How accurate do you need your readings to be, and was
    there anything special about the old meter in this regard?
     
  4. That meter is a heap of crap, I've opened one before and the quality of
    construction is poor. Don't buy it unless you are happy to throw it out
    when it dies, which will be the worst possible time so says Murphys
    Law.
    Autoranging has nothing to do with accuracy. An autoranging meter will
    simply take a bit longer to get a reading, unless you use the manual
    range override which mode decent autoranging meters have.
    Don't buy a manual range only meter, they are a real pain.
    You can get a used Fluke 70 or even an 80 series on eBay for around the
    $50 mark. I even got an 80seriesIII on eBay for around US$50, so
    bargains can be had.

    Much better value IMHO to get a used Fluke than get a new cheapie. You
    might take your chances a bit, but it's easy to check if it's in cal
    when you get it, and then you'll have a top quality professional meter
    you can use with confidence.

    Dave :)
     
  5. Bob

    Bob Guest

    I agree about the Fluke meters. They've never let me down.

    If you're set on getting a brand new one then look at Extech. They make
    decent stuff. Here's one that's one penny shy of costing you $50.00 --

    http://www.globaltestsupply.com/product.cfm?te_id=5529165

    Bob
     
  6. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    This is a response you're likely to hear a lot ! I like my 77 series II as well.
    They just keep going and feel so well made too.

    Graham
     
  7. Ben Jackson

    Ben Jackson Guest

    I agree. If you want a basic one, the Fluke 10 is great. You never
    think about what goes into making a good meter until you use a bad
    one, and it takes twice as long to settle on a value, is slow to
    autorange (or doesn't autorange at all), breaks when you drop it,
    burns up the batteries in no time, etc.
    I strongly disagree about Extech, though. We have one at work (450?)
    that someone got for the IR thermometer. The thermometer is fun, but
    as a multimeter it's crap. It migrates around the lab with the other
    handhelds (all Fluke except for a BK Precision LC meter) and whenever I
    mistakenly use it I find it disagrees with every other meter in the room.
    I think someone once threw away a set of test leads, thinking they were
    bad, when it was actually this meter.

    It's too bad, really, since I've seen that version with IR thermometer
    for sale for about $115. If it didn't suck, it'd be a great deal!
     
  8. Melodolic

    Melodolic Guest

    What are the chances of it dying? I've got a DMM that's had regular use for
    15 years and has never failed. In fact, none of my meters have ever failed.

    Got my first autoranging meter a few weeks ago - I can't say that I found
    manual ranging to be a pain. (I bought the autoranger because it was reduced
    to a thord of the price and has an RS232 output.)
     
  9. Guest

    Ken, if you got 20 years of use out of a Radio Shack DMM, consider the
    original purchase price money well spent. The only multimeter that I've
    ever gotten longer useful life out of was my trusty old Triplett 630
    analog, which is now close to its 50th year in service.

    For an inexpensive DMM, the Wavetexk 5XL is both rugged, accurate, and
    hard to beat for it's price. Mine is now going on 10 years old.

    For extreme precision and accuracy, although it's probably not needed
    for most routine electronics and computer applications, buy a Fluke. I
    use a Fluke Differential Voltmeter for my primary calibration
    reference. I don't even own a Fluke DMM, because they provide far too
    much pecision for my day to day needs, and I would be heartbroken if I
    happened to drop one of these $200+ boxes that I owned onto the floor.
    They don't bounce well, well the Wavetek generally does, although if it
    doesn't, a new one can be had for under $50. Something to think about.

    I would strongly suggest that you keep at least one quality multimeter
    on hand as a "sanity check" on your DMM, since DMMs often come up with
    some off the wall readings (even the Flukes) when their batteries begin
    to go south.

    Just for what it's worth, the inexpensive Wavetek provides reading good
    to three decimatl place, but in all honesty that 3rd place is usually
    +/- 2 when compared with an accurate calibration standard. With the
    exception of critical instrumentation measurments, not much work in
    electronics requires accuracy greater than this.

    Hope this helps.

    Harry C.

    p.s., Some of the Radio Shack equipment produced 20 years ago was
    almost decent, but the stuff that they sell today is total throw-away
    junk.
     
  10. If you leave it sitting on the bench and don't beat it around or change
    the range switch too many times then the chances are reasonably good it
    will last for many years.
    However, start to mistreat it and it will soon fail. Take our
    production facility at work, many times we have tried to outfit the
    production workers will cheap meter like this, and in *every* case the
    meter has failed within the year, most after a few months. No Fluke has
    ever failed in the same environment. Actually I lied, all our Fluke 19s
    died, but it was an experimental model made in China and was quickly
    taken off the market.

    This particular meter you are looking at, we got several (re-branded
    under a different name) as throw around lab meters. Every one of them
    has died within a year or two.

    Take the meter apart and look at the quality of construction and the
    components used, it's crap. Actually, this is a newer model and is a
    lot better than the ones from a few years back. They had blow holes in
    the solder joints, dry joints, crap gold plating on the switch
    contacts, dodgy probe contacts, and the cheapest asian components. This
    new one is a bit better in that it uses surface mount technology, but a
    lot of the components are hand assembled on someone's kitchen table.
    Since outranging models came out in the early 80's people have never
    looked back. So much easier to simply select V or Ohms and let it do
    the work.

    Dave :)
     
  11. Melodolic

    Melodolic Guest

    He uses it once a month. He had the last one for 20 years, which leaves me
    feeling that he is probably not a careless user. I suspect that the
    replacement will get nothing more than light use.

    You said the new one is crap. Now you're saying the old one is crap, and
    that the new one is a lot better, apart from the components, which someone
    is assembling in their millions on their kitchen table. Have I got that
    right?

    I didn't say it wasn't easier, just that I don't think manual ranging is a
    particular hassle.
     
  12. Then it'll probably do just fine. BUt you still don't get the
    "measurement confidence" you get with a higher quality meter like a
    Fluke.
    Yes, the new one is a lot better than the older models which were
    absolute crap. The new model is "less crap" relatively speaking, but
    crap none the less compared to a good quality meter.
    True, it's not, if that's all you've got. We all survived quite nicely
    before autoranging meters came along!

    Dave :)
     
  13. Yes, the Triplett 630 is a damn fine analog meter. Sadly mine is just
    gathering dust, as there is simply no place for it on my bench when
    compared to a DMM, except for nostalgia sake.
    I'll second that. Anyone serious about electronics should have a top
    quality meter in addition to any cheapie. But if anyone is hell bent on
    having a cheapie only, get at least two or three of them so you can do
    a sanity check against each other.

    Dave :)
     
  14. Melodolic

    Melodolic Guest

    I use a Fluke at work. My "measurement confidence" in more-or-less cheapie
    meters is based on 15 years of hassle free use.

    So, "a heap of crap" is less crap than "crap", which is the same as
    "absolute crap"? I'd have thought the order, from less crap to more crap,
    would be "crap", "a heap of crap", and "absolute crap". If I'm right, does
    that mean you're talking crap? :)

    I use my meters interchangeably. Thus far, I have come through forays into
    the bad old days unscathed. I'm plucking up the courage to throw a volt or
    two at my half-price-15-years-ago Maplin own-brand moving needle jobbie.

    Smoke me a kipper...
     
  15. Then I'd say you've been incredibly lucky, or you've bought slightly
    better than what I'm calling "cheap".
    My experience is based on at least 20 cheap meters (<$50AU) of various
    brands bought both personally and (mostly) for work. Every single one
    of them has failed in some small or large way, be it a dicky switch
    contact, a cracked/intermittent probe connection, being affected by
    noise, drifting out of spec, generally "playing up" or just complete
    death.
    With that sort of number I'd say that's not bad luck, they are simply
    crap quality and do not last. I've looked inside every one of them and
    seen the quality for myself. If you buy one of these now and expect it
    to last 15 years, I think you'll be dissapointed.

    Incidently, my cheap meters at home get very little use at all, yet
    they still die.
    In contrast, not one of the higher quality meters has ever failed.
    I am though talking about the recent flock of asian meters in say the
    last 10 years, the ones that look too good to be true price-wise. In
    particular the one posted by the OP, I've had several of that model
    die.

    I own a supposedly cheap brand Soar autoranging DMM and it is still
    going perfectly after 20+ years. I remember seeing it in an old 80's
    Fluke ad entitled "How to beat the high cost of cheap meters". I guess
    even the "cheap" meters built 15-20 years ago are much better quality
    than todays "cheap" meters.

    Seriously, open up a new cheapie and you'll be shocked at the quality.
    You are getting your crap mixed up! :->
    I've still got and occasionally use my very first 20 range Tandy analog
    meter I bought when I was about 7, took all my pocket money that did!

    Dave :)
     
  16. ehsjr

    ehsjr Guest


    Get item 90899-1VGA from Harbor Freight
    http://www.harborfreight.com/
    On sale now for $2.99 and it includes the battery.

    This is the meter to drop, abuse, throw in the tool
    box, carry up the ladder, give away as a gift, etc.

    Let the guys and gals debate what meter to get here
    to their hearts content, while you use the thing.
    It is fine for most of what you'll do. And it will
    buy you the time to save the money to buy a good
    bench meter that you will coddle and treat with
    kid gloves. My view is that all meters under $50
    are roughly the same in terms of accuracy - far
    more accurate than most people will ever need from
    a DMM - and vary only by features.

    Ed
     
  17. notbob

    notbob Guest

    Spend the money and get a Fluke. Buy a used one if need be. I'm no
    electronics expert, but I can speak with much experience on DMMs. At
    one time it was part of my job to purchase and maintain DMMs for a
    high-tech company where they were much abused on the production floor.
    I've bought 'em, used 'em, and tossed 'em. Every brand you can think
    of. As far as I'm concerned, they're all junk compared to Fluke.

    nb
     
  18. Second the motion. I've got one that is a couple of years old and varies by
    one digit out at the LSD when comparing it to the bench HP.

    Jim
     
  19. I agree, but I'd opt for their 35017-3VGA instead. It's a
    bit more money but a lot more accurate, and shock resistant.
    Even if it does bite the dust after a year or two, buy another.
    Or three or four. You'll still be far ahead compared to
    buying a single obscenely overpriced Fluke.
     
  20. How much money does this thing cost you in lost time when it fails?

    Yes, all meters in this price range have the same accuracy, but the
    point has never been about accuracy, even a 1% tolerance meter is
    plenty for most work.

    More money buys you measurement confidence, and for many applications
    that is *the* essential feature, as one mistake can cost you big $$$$.
    But if you don't need that, like for hobbyist use, then sure, buy a
    cheapie.

    I'll give you one example from a place I worked at. A "calibrated"
    cheap meter failed once giving a false reading that indicated that
    there was a common fault in the product. As it looked like a common
    fault that had been seen before, and no technical person was on hand at
    the time to double check, they "repaired" the product using standard
    procedure. Only QA were on hand, and they said the meter was OK because
    it was "calibrated". Needless to say the product still "failed" after
    being repaired and they realised their mistake.
    The result? - several thousand dollars in repair cost, and over
    US$50000 cost to the customer because the product delivery was delayed
    by a day and they lost a days use on their survey boat.

    Dave :)
     
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