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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Mar Wed 28, 2012 10:55 pm 
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Joined: Jun Sat 09, 2007 8:14 am
Posts: 3585
Location: Florida
I have three HF el cheapos that have been in my car, garage, and utility room for the last two or three years. They all still read within a half percent or so of my "real" DVM. Not bad for something that is almost (or really) free. How long they will stay that way I have no idea.

Most of the old radios we all love so much are full of 20% parts, with voltage tolerances to match so it doesn't really matter a lot if the meter is accurate to 0.1% or the +/- 3% of full scale that was common for even the best VTVM's like the HP 410B. In other words these el cheapos are adequate for what most of us commonly use our meters for. A couple of their greatest shortcommings are the 1 meg input resistance and the lack of overload protection. Anytime you get readings that seem goofy you need to cross check them, no matter what grade of equipment you are using.

Some of us work on high end gear, experiment, and do real analysis. These guys need gear that is accurate and will stay that way. That's where the lab grade stuff comes in. It tends to stay accurate year after year, generally doesn't blow up unless you try, and is often easier to use than lower grade stuff. Everything has its place.

RRM


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Jun Fri 01, 2012 10:21 pm 
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Posts: 3813
Location: Georgia, 30236
Fluke makes a good meter. My home meter is a 77 that I bought in 1988. It measures accurately against my company issued 77III meter that has annual calibration. The old 8060A's are good meters also. We used them in a power supply test lab for equipment burn-in's. They performed just great for the 8 years I worked there.


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Jun Sun 03, 2012 5:26 am 
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Joined: May Fri 01, 2009 3:53 am
Posts: 1515
Location: Glendale, California
Chuck Schwark wrote:
I use it to check the calibration on my Simpson Series 7A VOM to keep it honest.
Chuck


What's a Series 7A? I have not heard of that one before. How was it different than the standard 7?

I've seen many Simpson 260 Series variations, including a 4A that I once had in for repair, but not a 7A.

My Simpson collection so far:

(1) Simpson 255 Multimeter (under major restoration)
(2) Simpson 260 Series 1 (under restoration)
(1) Simpson 260 Series 3A (under restoration)
(1) Simpson 260 Series 5A (under major restoration)
(2) Simpson 260 Series 6P
(1) Simpson 260 Series 7
(1) Bach-Simpson 265 Multimeter (could use better printed dial plate)
(1) Simpson 269-AF
(4) Simpson 379 Battery Tester
(2) Simpson 229 Series 2 AC Leakage Tester
(1) Bach-Simpson TS-111 Series 2 Railroad Test Set
(1) Bach-Simpson Bell System KS-14510-L1 Multimeter
(1) Simpson Dupont 101 Blaster's Multimeter (under restoration)
(1) Simpson ETI 101A Blaster's Multimeter (under restoration)

I'm not crazy, I'm eccentric :twisted:

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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Jun Sun 03, 2012 11:46 pm 
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Joined: Mar Fri 26, 2010 8:53 pm
Posts: 101
Location: San Diego
One of the main things that I look for in a DMM that no one else seems to mention, is the response time. Basically, how long does it take the meter to display a change in whatever you're trying to measure, and how stable the reading is. I don't like waiting around for my dvm to settle on a number while my meter gives me false readings, and I don't like the random flashing numbers you occasionally get with most dmms. I tested/compared about 10 different multimeters by hooking them up to a power supply and changing the voltage/current and looking at which meters responded first. The auto-ranging meters took the longest and had the tendency to jump around a lot. Something strange I noticed was that they had the tendency to overshoot before settling on the correct reading. The cheap hardware store meters and the harbour freight were the worst, the brand new radioshack autoranging meters and a few other brands I don't recall were next, and the winner was the Fluke 8024B that I bought at a swap meet for $20. I see them go for less than $20 total on Ebay quite often. It is my most stable and accurate meter, even though it has not been calibrated in 25 years. I have not compared it to a newer auto-ranging fluke yet, but it sure beats out everything else I've compared it to. If you don't mind a bench meter, another good value is the Fluke 8000A. They are so common that you're guaranteed to find them at swap meets for less than 15 bucks, and they have a nice bright led display.


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Sun 08, 2015 7:11 am 
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Joined: Feb Sun 02, 2014 1:58 pm
Posts: 1089
Location: Tennessee 38058
The original post is about 3 & 1/2 years old. I'm currently looking for a good (probably bench) DMM and would appreciate any "new" thoughts. Thanks, Mike


Last edited by WPE9IJF on Nov Mon 09, 2015 1:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Sun 08, 2015 4:47 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 6373
Location: Wilmington, NC 28412 USA
Quote:
FLUKE

You can get them on E-Pay and save some $$$$$$$$$


Bob T


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Sun 08, 2015 6:53 pm 
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Ford/GM/Chrysler/gas/diesel/electric!!! take your pic.

I've had a few DVMs over the years, they're handy at times, but that amount of precision isn't needed much, and usually outstrips the instrument's accuracy anyway. I get really tired of the dancing displays, which simply emphasize the meter's shortcoming. A 3% needle is fine for 99% of whats done with old radios.

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Last edited by Mikeinkcmo on Nov Sun 08, 2015 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Sun 08, 2015 7:07 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 6373
Location: Wilmington, NC 28412 USA
FLUKE 12B Had it for years. My daily user

Bob T


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Sun 08, 2015 7:32 pm 
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Joined: Nov Sun 07, 2010 7:16 pm
Posts: 694
Location: Manchester, MI
For bench meters, I like HP. For handhelds I like Fluke. I did have an old Beckman which was pretty good and I picked up a Triplett when I needed serial output for a measuring project. One of the first real pieces of test equipment I bought was a Fluke 802 meter. I still have that (although I had to replace the LCD) and it still works. I have a 27fm now and that's my favorite meter.

Capacitance and frequency are, I think, overrated features in a dmm. You're probably better off getting a separate LCR meter, but that's just my opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Sun 08, 2015 10:57 pm 
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Joined: Feb Sun 24, 2008 4:21 am
Posts: 4647
Location: Sedona, AZ/ Placentia CA
I have had an 8060A for at least 20 years. Nice meter but very seldom use it. For routine work it is my Triplett 630. I'm an analog guy. So much easier for peaking voltages as in IF adjustment. Digital drives my eyes crazy. The only problem with the Fluke I have had is if it gets really cold in the garage (around freezing) the display starts dropping off digit parts. Setting it front of a little electric heater brings them back to life.
I often use my Scope for monitoring peaking as well, it's fun. In fact the scope works very well for voltage and frequency measurements as well, providing a digital display. I use it to set my sig. gen. to the proper frequency.
Jerry

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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Mon 09, 2015 1:07 am 
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Joined: Jun Wed 08, 2011 2:33 am
Posts: 8128
Location: Ohio 45177
If you hate LCD displays and fluorescent blue, try a Keithley. A friend acquired a 179 for only 15$ at a hamfest. Nice looking meter, but not auto range. I calibrated it for him. Easy cal. All the cal adjustments are clearly labeled and also with what they are for. Has large bright red LEDs. I liked his so he recently found another for about the same price and I have it for myself. My bench Fluke 45 has small icky greenish display. It has a basic DC accuracy of .02% while the much older Keithley is .04%. For my bench work both are equivalent in that sense. But I do love that big easy to see red display and the easy-peesy calibration. No crossing R numbers to a chart or anything. It is like, R such and such, 1.900VDC, marked right next to the adjustments. Fast and easy. And the quality seems to be right up there with some of the best. And since they are an overlooked brand they often sell dirt cheap. USA made.


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Mon 09, 2015 2:07 am 
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Location: Wilmington, NC 28412 USA
http://www.lewiscontractorsales.com/Mer ... a_7cT21114


Bob T


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Mon 09, 2015 4:09 pm 
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Posts: 4478
Location: Charleston, W.Va.
PaulAm wrote:
Capacitance and frequency are, I think, overrated features in a dmm. You're probably better off getting a separate LCR meter, but that's just my opinion.

I could not agree more! If the DMM you are looking at has these features that's OK, but don't seek one out just for these features. Even many moderately-priced digital cap testers will give better accuracy on capacitance than that feature in a DMM.

EDIT: Good example here, from another current ARF thread:
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=287549

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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Mon 09, 2015 7:25 pm 
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Joined: Aug Fri 29, 2014 6:17 pm
Posts: 2575
Location: Vincennes Indiana
One of these, surplus from the faa with fancy options, is my goto for accuracy and high rf environments. I don't think I can blow it up.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ballantine-3028 ... 0958793563


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Tue 10, 2015 12:26 am 
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Posts: 1089
Location: Tennessee 38058
Poston Drake wrote:
PaulAm wrote:
Capacitance and frequency are, I think, overrated features in a dmm. You're probably better off getting a separate LCR meter, but that's just my opinion.

I could not agree more! If the DMM you are looking at has these features that's OK, but don't seek one out just for these features. Even many moderately-priced digital cap testers will give better accuracy on capacitance than that feature in a DMM.

EDIT: Good example here, from another current ARF thread:
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=287549

Yep, I agree...

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“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.”
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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Tue 10, 2015 5:18 pm 
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Posts: 1098
Once when I was looking for something to do I made some various measurements on my two Fluke DMM's (an 87 and a 27/FM, both bought on EBay), an 25 year old Craftsman DMM, a cheapo HF meter, and an RCA VTVM. I'll note at the start that my measurement technique was hardly rigorous, as I don't have a calibration standard or anything fancy like that. Instead, I just used a DC supply (for the DC measurements) and a variac for the AC measurements.

DC voltage: All instruments were within 0.5% of each other over the voltage range I used.

AC voltages: 0.6% difference (DMM's only; I don't use the VTVM for AC measurements anyway)

DC amps: ~1% (DMM's only).

AC amps: 0.1% (Fluke DMM's only)

Ohms: 0.3% (DMM's only; I don't keep a battery in my VTVM; also the ohms does not work on my Fluke 27/FM).

Regarding the resistance measurement, there is definitely a difference in the valid range and the response time. The cheapo DMM cannot measure anything over 1 mega-ohm. The Fluke 87 and the Craftsman can go up to 20M, but the Fluke shows the measurement almost right away, while the Craftsman takes several seconds.

On the low end (10 ohms or less), the Fluke 87 really shines. It reads 0.2 ohms with the leads shorted, and even a 1 ohm resistor measures 1.2 ohms. The Craftsman reads 0.7 ohms with the leads shorted, while the cheapo meter reads 1.2 shorted, and is way off the others on the low value resistors.

Finally, I have an Ebay purchased Vichy DM4070 LC meter that came with instructions written in some indecipherable language that appears to be a mix of Chinese and English.

For the most part, its resistance readings were within 0.5% of the Fluke. It drifted a bit on anything over 1 Mohm, and could not measure the 20Mohm value. On the low end, however, it reads 0 ohms with the leads shorted, and it's low end measurements were identical to the Fluke 87 once I subtract off the 0.2 shorted lead resistance from the Fluke readings.

Capacitance: I found a greater variation. On average, the Fluke and Craftsman were within 2% of each other, and within 5% of the Vichy. Not sure which of the 3 is most accurate, but the Vichy consistently read closest to the nominal capacitor value. Also, the Vichy could read down to 100pf and up to 100uF, which none of my DMM's can do. I doubt any of this variation in measurement actually matters in real life except perhaps in the most sensitive of high frequency applications.

My conclusions based on this very unscientific experiment:

a.) Any DMM will work fine for measuring AC and DC voltages and current. But the nicer ones are autoranging and have much better protection of the input circuitry, and feel more sturdy. I like the Craftsman's form factor the best, as bench space is a premium for me. But that's a matter of opinion. The Flukes are definitely the most sturdy by far. The insulation on my leads that came with the cheapo HF meter cracked after about 10 uses.

b.) The Fluke is my goto for resistance measurements, as the cheaper meters fall down on the higher and lower extremes. But the cheapo Vichy RLC meter works nearly as well.

c.) A VTVM will work as well for DC voltage measurements. The loss of precision by looking at a scale hardly matters for most hobbyists. I hate using the VTVM for AC, however, and I personally find it a bother to plug something in to read a resistance value. OTOH, there are some good books on VTVM's that present a number of measurement techniques applicable to the hobby, so its versatility is definitely greater than this experiment implies.

d.) If you truly want to measure capacitance, RLC meters can be found cheaply on Ebay, and appear to work as well as my poorly calibrated Eico bridge. And they measure inductance to boot.

e.) I have not once measured frequency or temperature using my DMM. But hey, one can never have too many features. :)

f.) I personally like having multiple meters to measure multiple DC voltages at once. It's safer, as I'm plugging in and unplugging the device under test less often. Which is why I use the cheapo meters to augment my better ones.

g.) Not even the best DMM will adjust for improper measurement technique. The number one cause of initially unexplained results in science is measurement error.


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Tue 10, 2015 9:18 pm 
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Posts: 189
Location: College Station, Texas
N4EV is correct, the Beckman portables these last 20 years or so are great meters. I have one of their capacitance meters. And I am a Fluke man. Just stay away from the auto ranging models that "Hide" the mA or K or M deep in the obstructed corners. A good meter should be able to withstand 750Vac or 1000 Vdc, & gate (display correctly) quickly. Someone here at work bought one of those Radio Shack meters and it is a real pain to use because it takes 4 seconds to display anything stable in the Ohms range.

I never did shop at pawn shops, but out here in the sticks (College Station, TX) I can buy a good Fluke for 30-50 dollars today.

Good luck, Doug

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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Thu 12, 2015 12:51 am 
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Joined: Jun Sun 02, 2013 7:36 am
Posts: 61
Location: Canada
lexrageorge wrote:
Ohms: 0.3% (DMM's only; I don't keep a battery in my VTVM; also the ohms does not work on my Fluke 27/FM).

If you want help troubleshooting the above problem with Fluke 27 not working in ohms mode, start a new thread and I can make some suggestions, tests, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Best digital multimeter
PostPosted: Nov Fri 13, 2015 9:35 am 
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Joined: Oct Thu 23, 2014 1:26 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Meriden ct 06450
MaicoDoug wrote:
N4EV is correct, the Beckman portables these last 20 years or so are great meters. I have one of their capacitance meters. And I am a Fluke man. Just stay away from the auto ranging models that "Hide" the mA or K or M deep in the obstructed corners. A good meter should be able to withstand 750Vac or 1000 Vdc, & gate (display correctly) quickly. Someone here at work bought one of those Radio Shack meters and it is a real pain to use because it takes 4 seconds to display anything stable in the Ohms range.

I never did shop at pawn shops, but out here in the sticks (College Station, TX) I can buy a good Fluke for 30-50 dollars today.

Good luck, Doug

One of my handheld meters is a CircuitMate,made by Beckman,and is one of my favorite meters.I have a Fluke 8050A over my right shoulder here and I often grab the CircuitMate instead.The bench meter is fine but it is sometimes difficult to hold the probes and look at the display at the same time so the handheld has its place.Ron G


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