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Where do you purchace your test equiptment these days?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Hawker, Mar 2, 2007.

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  1. Hawker

    Hawker Guest

    I'm an independent consultant and am trying to upgrade my aging lab a
    bit. My lab is mostly items I bought 15 years ago when I started out and
    various pieces I got at random HAM Fests and Ebay or closing companies.

    I could use a new high end VOM (the ones I am looking at are in the
    $300-$500 range) and a better 'Oscope to replace my aging TDS 500 series
    scope (and even older 2430A) as well as a few other pieces.

    Contact East and Techi-Tools prices never used to be inline with others
    and Future-Active is not in that business any more. E-bay has eliminated
    any good used or new equipment from even showing at Ham Fests anymore.

    Where do folks get higher end scopes, VOMS, LCR Meteres, Freq Counters,
    Electronic Loads, Variacs etc at these days with good selection and price?

    Also would love to hear a suggestion on a good VOM. Seems the $200 ones
    can ALMOST do what I want and the $400 ones can 'almost' eliminate my
    need for a new LCR Meeter but the devil is in the details.

    I would like a 4 1/2 digit meeter with good precision (0.1%?).
    It should be responsive, esp for continuity, have the normal complement
    of sample and hold, bar graph, high low holding, auto calibration and
    zeroing and other modern features.
    It would be great if it has a usable LCR and Frequency counter as well
    as HFE reading. I also wish it had a reset button rather than a fuse for
    the current meeter.
    The issue with the LCR meters in most I looked at is the range is not
    adequate to not need a separate meeter so it seems that perhaps these
    should be two different tools.

  2. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    I generally buy from Tucker. They have a good selection, their prices
    aren't too bad, their sales staff is knowledgeable, their customer
    service has always been just right for me, and I can at least pretend
    that I'm going to buy used and save $$ (I always drool over the top-end
    used stuff then buy mid-range new, but that's me).


    Tim Wescott
    Wescott Design Services

    Posting from Google? See

    "Applied Control Theory for Embedded Systems" came out in April.
    See details at
  3. Hawker

    Hawker Guest

    Has something changed over at Tucker?
    We used to laugh out loud at how over priced all there items used to be.
    I often found used items there costing more than the same item cost new
    from Contact east or some such. They have quite a reputation for being
    over priced - or have had for years anyway. In general there used items
    were 4-5x the going rate from other companies.
  4. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    Maybe I've been buying from the wrong place! I generally don't buy
    much, and I've certainly saved time going with Tucker. I'll have to
    watch the other responses you get, and remember the answers for the next
    time I buy.

    It certainly seems these days that the way to go is to buy from eBay, at
    least for used stuff.


    Tim Wescott
    Wescott Design Services

    Posting from Google? See

    "Applied Control Theory for Embedded Systems" came out in April.
    See details at
  5. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Maybe you gave yourself the answer already :)

    Then there are the liquidators (whose names you can find from EBay
    auctions. Also company sales etc. That's where I bought a lot of mine.
    Remember, older equipment is sometimes better than the new stuff. See
    the recent digital scope threads.
  6. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    You exaggerate. We always assumed that Tucker wanted 3x what something
    was worth.

  7. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    I'd go for a new Fluke dvm and a Tek color digital scope. But lots of
    other stuff like power supplies and signal generators can be got cheap
    on ebay. Look for a seller with a few years of history and high
    feedback, and buy stuff declared to be working.

    The Extech stuff looks fine too, so far.

    Hfe meters are not necessary; I've never used one.

    AADE's little LC meter is great, an amazing bargain. Be sure to get
    the surface-mount adapter with the tiny plastic clothespin.

  8. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Which brings up another question: A client of mine is looking for a
    spectrum analyzer. Anything new out there? Nothing fancy, just to be
    able to measure noise and stuff up to 100MHz or so. Hameg makes a nice
    and simple EMI analyzer for around $2k but even that would be overkill
    here. The TenTec VNA is, unfortunately, more of an impedance analyzer.
    Other than that it's truly amazing:
  9. I just got a quote from them on a meter and scope. It was decent. It
    wasn't the absolute cheapest price I could obtain, but it was ok.

    I liked the Extech MM560 for a DMM, but the Meterman 38XR is pretty decent
    too. I understand your pain when it comes to finding one that does exactly
    what you want. It ain't happenin' ;-)
  10. Hawker

    Hawker Guest

    Thanx for the advice. I'll look into that.
    As for E-bay. I am with you. Power Supplies, VARIACs, Signal Generators
    I try ham-fests first (because I like to touch, see and try first) and
    E-bay second. A 20 y/o HP Power Supply at a ham fest for $100 is usually
    a better quality supply than a new $1000 one one I can get anyway.

    VOMS, LCRs and other things that I want accuracy on and are relatively
    inexpensive I usually purchase new.

    The big exception is Scopes. For lab scops (like Tex 2465/2445A analog
    or 2440/2430A Digital or cheaper stuff even) I get them from a retired
    Tektronix person I know who refirbs them and sells them for an amazing
    price. They come calibrated and he gives me a 1 year warranty. 2465 for
    example tend to be $500 or so. Perhaps 1/2 my lab is furnished from tis
    person, when he truly retires half the engineers in North Carolina and
    Georgia will be at a big loss (he is in his 70s now) Unfortunately he
    does not get in to TDS and other nicer stuff.

    My problem is I can't afford $30k for what I need. Right now I need
    about a 2-4 mega sample 500Mhz 4 channel with active FET probes. I can
    find something decent used on E-bay for $5k that meets my needs but new
    is way out of my price range.
    The problem is my TDS 500 series (forget the name) which is all that but
    only 1 MS almost meets my needs, but on some things I just can't get
    enough resolution - esp when I am looking at the output of a 54Mhz CCD
    pixel. I'm not sure if I should get what I need now (2ms) or try to
    spring for what I might need in a few years (4ms)

    Oh well Charlotte ham fest is next week ;)

  11. JeffM

    JeffM Guest

    Depending on your comfortable travel radius
    and the span till the next fest, this might prove useful:
    "Yes sir. This baby stayed in the R&D Lab
    and never moved more than 6"
    --just enough to clean around it." ;-)
    We take these old farts for granted,
    then one day they aren't around any more. 8-(
  12. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    The Foothill College Electronic Flea Market used to be legendary
    around here, but it seems like ebay has almost killed it off. It moved
    to a smaller site, but it had already degraded to junky stuff.

  13. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    I want a spectrum analyzer, but something we can do rough emi tests
    on, so I was thinking one of those Anritsu or equivalent portable LCD
    tablet things, most of which go to about 3 GHz. We have an old
    bathroom we could hack into a small screen room, and there are some
    nice emc-like log-periodic antennas around for $300 or so, enough to
    arguably put together a CE emi file.

    It sure seems like somebody could do a little LCD spectrum analyzer
    for under $1k, or a usb laptop adapter for a lot less.

    Hmmm, "usb spectrum analyzer" gets half a million hits.

  14. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Probably not just EBay that killed it but also the utter lack of
    hobbyist activity among the next generation(s). They fist-fight each
    other over some Wii game console and then after graduating from college
    they still don't have a clue how a transistor amplifier is built.

  15. Guest

    We buy (rent more). I just google on a model, get like Continental,
    Electro-rent, for uWave stuff:SMElectronics.
    Google hits alot and the price differences can vary alot.
    look out for ebay, you buy it, you own, might have to fix it.
  16. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    These guys do:

    The web site is a bit, ahem, sub-optimal. Doesn't allow direct page
    links but they do have an English option somewhere. One of the posters
    in the German NG is on the design team and he is really smart.

    BTW, I've had some real issues with a top notch Agilent unit once. The
    source of the noise was its own LCD (!).

    Only 51 hits here and it's scopes with FFT function. That doesn't cut it.
  17. (known to some as John
    Larkin) scribed...

    I beg to differ. I've had excellent results, both buying and
    selling, with the former Foothill swap (now dubbed DeAnza). My trip in
    2006 netted a nice fluke 187 handheld meter, and some much-needed
    crimping heads for one of my AMP IDC tools. 2005 got me some 7000 series
    plug-ins and a decent TM5006 instrument frame, just to name a couple of

    Any swap meet is going to be highly variable, year-to-year, month-
    to-month, or however often they're held. You never know when someone's
    going to show up that's going to have a great deal more than just "junky

    I would also point out that one person's "junky stuff" is often
    another's gold. Besides the Fluke meter on last year's trip, I also got
    hold of a Cisco Catalyst 5000 network switch. Doesn't have a lot to do
    with ham radio or electronics tinkering, true, but it certainly solved a
    big problem for me in terms of replacing a pair of ailing-and-ancient
    Bay Networks switches in my LAN.

    The only thing that I think would cause such events to truly die is
    if some overzealous government regulators decide that such events don't
    constitute "proper recycling," and subsequently try to legislate them
    out of business. If they're going to do that, then they may as well
    outlaw garage and yard sales as well.

    Keep the peace(es).
  18. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Seems that EE is done in similar fashion. Many of the fresh grads I have
    met over the last year were in essence SPICE jockeys. They could not
    wield a solder iron, didn't know how to increase the bandwidth of a
    one-transistor stage (one of my classic questions early in an interview)
    and typically don't grok my module specs while older non-EEs understand
    them perfectly well.
  19. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    I haven't been there since it moved, but it was already dumpy compared
    to the good old days. The decent test gear had almost disappeared, and
    there were tables covered with PC junk, CDs, rusty mechanical stuff,
    and even homewares and laundry detergent. Gone are the days when some
    old HP guy would die and his kids would show up with a pickup truck
    full of his stuff.

    Is it any better now?

    We used to show up at 5:30, in the rain, with flashlights, to get a
    good parking spot and nab the best gear. Ebay is better.

    Of course, you don't meet Bob Pease or Jim Williams or Peter Alfke on

  20. Phil Hobbs

    Phil Hobbs Guest

    I've bought things from Metric Test for work, but I usually stick with
    eBay for home.


    Phil Hobbs
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