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Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by pj88, Apr 25, 2013.

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  1. pj88


    Apr 25, 2013
    I am looking into learning some electronics. I know I am going to need a multi-meter for projects. I don't think I need a professional grade multimeter, but can someone recommend a good multimeter for a hobbyist? Ebay's got a ton ranging from $3 to $4000 (obviously don't need the latter). What should I look for in a multimeter? Are those $10 multimeters worth it, or will I be buying another one in a year?

  2. Brian Ski

    Brian Ski

    Apr 19, 2013
    Personally I would go for an analog meter to start with. ( the one with a needle not digital) To me they seem easier to learn on. Then later if you want to get fancier, after you learn the terms and how to read a meter, then you can upgrade to a decent digital one.
    I think the really cheap ones have poor leads and won't hold up to a lot of abuse.

    This one looks good from Sears...
    I don't have one of those, it just looked pretty decent. Hold on to receipt if you have any problems. I have bought a lot from Sears over the years and they usually have pretty good stuff.

    I looked up a similar analog from Radio Shack, but it seems their quality has gone down hill.

    Good luck!
  3. Brian Ski

    Brian Ski

    Apr 19, 2013
  4. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010
    For infrequent use and low voltages, a $10 multimeter is fine.

    I have a couple of them.

    If you make a beginner mistake and kill one, they're probably less expensive than the fuse in a more expensive meter!

    The only issue I have with my very cheap meters is that they start to get quite inaccurate when the battery gets flat. Mine don't have a low battery indicator either...
  5. GreenGiant


    Feb 9, 2012
    Even for infrequent use when looking at digital multimeters having an autoranging one is a GODSEND, analog multimeters are great, and I would love to get one at some point, even though you have to range it, but digital? autoranging all day long, thats one of the big things for me, using one with a dial you have to set the range yourself is just a pain, especially if you dont know where the reading will be and its in a tricky spot to reach (happens more than you think)
  6. pj88


    Apr 25, 2013

    Thanks for the input. Certainly helps in determining which one to get.
  7. Yoa01


    Jun 18, 2012
    I usually use analogue and digital side-by-side. I use the analogue for watching voltage transients that my oscilloscope can't accurately show, and also for testing certain circuits and measuring. The digital I use ONLY for measuring as digital takes time to stabilise and therefore can't really read transients.

    If I had to choose one, I would say analogue simply because it is more capable. I do recommend keeping a few spare fuses around just in case you're stupid like me and check amps in the wrong setting.

    However, if money were no object, I would have to go with something like the Fluke 27. It is very accurate, and has a high-res needle display along with the normal digital display, so you can pretty much do everything. But, it's also like $500.
  8. Brian Ski

    Brian Ski

    Apr 19, 2013
    Very good idea. Especially when you are in a project and you test a voltage on a resistance scale. Since they are usually hard to find fuses.
  9. CocaCola


    Apr 7, 2012
    You can get A LOT of meter for under $50 from China!

    An example

    Note that there are 1001 China multimeters, most use the same chip set they are just renamed and rebundled by a bunch of manufactures... So don't focus on the 'name' on the front when dealing with Chinese imports, look at reviews or features...

    For the newbie $5 digital meters from China will work, and you will still use them later on for simple things, I know I do...

  10. mike_980


    Mar 24, 2013
  11. Merlin3189


    Aug 4, 2011
    Can I just chip in my own sore point about multimeters? That is resistance or current drain. When I was young, this was the main specification for a meter, but these days it doesn't get a mention in most meter specs. Even Fluke don't quote it in their sales literature and you have to look in the small print of an appendix of the user manual to find it. There is some excuse for them, as (I think) all their products are specified at the standard of " >10MOhm ", but some cheap meters (& even a few not so cheap) have much lower input resistance. I have an electronic meter with a 10kOhm input resistance. That can make a BIG difference when measuring in circuits with resistance of more than a few kOhm. And the quoted accuracies, like 1% + 2 counts, are nonsense if the meter doesn't have at least 100x the resistance of the circuit being measured.
    You can of course get accurate results with a relatively low resistance meter, *provided* you know its resistance accurately and take it into account properly.

    So, my advice: for a good digital meter make sure it's at least 10MOhm.
    and for analogue, <= 50uA movement (equivalent to 20kOhm/Volt or more.) But whatever you get, make sure you know (or test and find out) its input resistance.

    My own armoury is two good analogue meters, one 50uA 2% and one 10uA 5%, and two digital, one a very cheap 10kOhm 5% + 2, and one moderate 10MOhm 2% +2.
    None of these is really accurate enough for serious measurements, but they are good enough for servicing or basic design & construction. I've rarely (if ever?) found need for any more absolute accuracy.
    The cheap digital one is *really* cheap and where I notice the quality most, is in the poor leads provided. But when they fail, it's actually cheaper to buy a new meter than a set of decent leads! I'm actually on my third of these meters and it still hasn't cost as much as the 20 year old "moderate" one.

    Though I warn about these cheap meters, it might be worth having one (digital or analogue, and you get analogues with even 1mA draw) just for the educational value of learning to allow for meter resistance in your measurements.
  12. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010
    Just as a balancing comment...


    OK, not all the time. But if you've got to place your probes somewhere that slipping could be a bad thing, selecting a range and getting a quick answer may be more important than convenience of not having to select a range.

    The time taken to autorange can be important.

    For example, I have one meter (one of the cheap Chinese ones mentioned earlier) that takes 3 seconds to autorange on the resistance scale from megohms down to ohms before telling me that I have zero ohms across the shorted probes.
  13. duke37


    Jan 9, 2011
    I am an advocate of cheap meters so they can be blown up without too much pain.

    I have a couple of cheap meters with top range of 1000V, one of these went fizz at about 600V and will now only work at low voltages. I measured the input resistance which is 1M on all ranges. !000V into 1M = 1W. Not realistic in a small package.

    I have a 6 digit bench meter (via a skip) which is auto ranging, it is most annoying when the input voltage is varying and the range keep changing.
  14. mike_980


    Mar 24, 2013
    I suppose it depends on the use, I use my mulitmeter mainly for automotive use for checking I have 5v coming from the ecu pins when a sensor appears to have gone and a few other simple automotive uses between 5v and 12v. I also have a pocket oscilloscope and between then they seem to get every job done without any problems :) I am an amateur when it comes to electronics so i guess you guys comments are more valid than mine on this kind of thing :)
  15. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010

    When it comes to personal preference, everybody's comment is as valid as everyone else's.

    I wasn't saying that you were wrong with liking autoranging, I was saying that I had a different opinion based on how I work etc.
  16. quantumtangles


    Dec 19, 2012
    You can probably have too many multimeters (if you collect them for example). But I think you need at least 4 multimeters if you are serious and non-delirious.

    Armed with 4 multimeters, you can check voltage and current going into a device and voltage and current out...simultaneously. I iterate that I only have two fairly crummy DMMs at the moment and am in the market for a decent Agilent bench DMM at some point (though they are outrageously expensive) as well as a good quality analogue meter to check out transients.

    Probably the same concept applies with bench power supplies. The more the merrier.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
  17. Widget


    Jul 20, 2013
    Hey guys,

    I'm currently new to electronics (actually haven't started yet) but am currently looking for a multimeter.. but I don't know what to look for in one :\

    My first use for it will be to test a motorcycle battery & possibly the charging system (I think battery is something like 12v 11amps). However, I'd like to get into electronics as a hobby, starting by repairing small electronic devices (mp3 players n such) & bigger stuff like LCD tv/monitors, also installing led lights into models. I think my interests/requirements at this stage are fairly basic, but then again, I know nothing :\.

    Being from Australia, I've come across this for $50
    but am willing to import from U.S if there are better/cheaper meters available.

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