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  • Need a new DMM. Advice?

    Well, my beloved B&K that I bought in the late 80's is starting to act funny. It's the big rotary switch getting sloppy and it doesn't seem to be repairable So before it dies completely I'll be wanting a replacement. It cost me about $70 US new at the time and though I can't speak about how good a meter it is supposed to be, it's been a very good meter to me. Obviously reliable. Accurate enough though not up to the precision of the top end Flukes. I'd like to get something that might serve me as well, though obviously that can't be predicted. I guess I'm looking for a tough and reliable meter that is "accurate enough" with a full complement of component and voltage test features. Peripherals like "true RMS", ammeter, etc. are nice but not priority. The one thing I don't like about my meter is that it doesn't have a "zero calibrate" or "null" feature. Also not a deal breaker but it would be nice. An equivalent price range (with inflation) is my budget. So, about $125 to $150. It's been twenty five years since I shopped for a meter so I thought I might lean on the forums experience.

    TIA
    "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

    "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

    "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

  • #2
    Bench or handheld?

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    • #3
      Ah, yes. Handheld.

      It looks like I could get a Fluke 177 or 179 in good used condition on Ebay in my price range. Good/ bad idea? I'd be looking for one with original packing and paper work. That sort of thing. Nothing that looks TOO used.
      Last edited by Chuck H; 08-28-2013, 04:50 PM.
      "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

      "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

      "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

      Comment


      • #4
        I've got an Elenco LCM-1950 that I bought from Parts Express years ago DMM with LC Meter 390-513 . Nowhere near the quality of my Fluke but it seems decent enough.

        My Fluke is a model 179, got it from Test Equipment Depot I believe. Fluke 175 Fluke 177 Fluke 179 Digital Multimeters DMMs - Test Equipment Depot Fluke 179 Though that's a lot more than your budget. They do have other cheaper ones though.

        edit: I see that Test Equipment Depot has that Elenco LCM-1950 a lot cheaper than PE.

        Comment


        • #5
          I use one of these, loaded with features and within your budget: Amprobe 37XR-A True RMS Digital Multimeter Amprobe 37XRA 37XR-A 37XR A
          Maybe not as high accuracy as some fluke stuff, but more than I'll ever need. The magnet comes in real handy for sticking the meter anywhere. True RMS, Hz, L,C, will record min.,max, or average. I'll gladly sacrifice some extra accuracy I don't use for the extra features.
          The only drawback I've come across is the burden voltage spec. on the lower current ranges. The shunt is 10ohms when measuring mA's. So if I want to bias using shunt method I have to do some extra math or use the 10A range.
          "Everything is better with a tube. I have a customer with an all-tube pacemaker. His heartbeat is steady, reassuring and dependable, not like a modern heartbeat. And if it goes wrong he can fix it himself. You can't do that with SMD." - Mick Bailey

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          • #6
            I recommend FLuke gear, but have nothing against the other fine brands I just never owned.

            True RMS in and of itself is not important to me, but these days, it is a feature on many meters, plus as I recall, it also means the meter will respond to AC at higher freqs than a "plain" AC one. 60Hz is nothing for any meter, but what if you want to measure audio at 2kHz, is your meter going to handle it?

            I like the current scales. For me, when you see a couple of basic models, and the difference is one has a 10 amp scale and the other doesn't, I want that 10A scale. I use it a lot. Monitor mains current mainly. My Flukes are all autoranging, which I like better than switched scales. But i do appreciate the separate 300mv scale for low voltage readings.

            I don't pay extra for accuracy or precision. I mean 1% is common, paying more for 0.05% is pointless. The differences disappear into the noise. And 5 digits?, well, 6.3v I need to know, 6.2987v I don;t need to know. If you find a super accurate meter at a good price, fine, just don;t waste your dough if you have two identical meters and the extra fraction of a percent costs $100 more bucks. Or so it seems to me.

            Meters today often have a bunch of features thrown in, mainly because they can add them for next to nothing and it adds to the marketing. But I have zero use for a freq meter. I already have cap testers elsewhere in the shop, but I almost never need to measure the capacitance. And I don;t often have need to match hfe on transistors. If they don;t add to the cost of the meter, fine, have them, but I would not may extra for them.

            Diode test. Does anyone even make a meter without it today? I would never buy a meter without it.
            Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

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            • #7
              Thanks for all the replies. I'm eyeballing Fluke meters on Ebay now. I'm a little apprehensive about a used meter but I have a feeling a lightly used Fluke meter may end up more reliable than a new meter in my price range. The 87, 87III and 87V seem to be considered good reliable units. I probably can't get into an 87V (5) and the no suffix 87 would be an older unit, likely with a lot more mileage. So I'm targeting the 87III (3). As well as the 177 and 179 models. I should have time to wait out a good deal on one in excellent condition before my old buddy BK Precision 2704 goes kaput. I know whatever I get in the models I'm targeting will be miles better than my old one. It was a mid line model when I bought it and meters were more expensive then for what they were. And it has served me VERY well.
              "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

              "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

              "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

              Comment


              • #8
                I've used a Fluke 179 for about 10 years or so. It's an excellent meter.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The trouble with durability is you only find out when it's too late to buy another identical item. I got my Fluke model 12 when it was just out and it's had an insane amount of use (and abuse). The zebra contacts needed occasional cleaning, but have finally given up so it has a hard-wired switch on the front. I would just love another one of those but they don't make 'em like that. I've resisted buying another meter because that little unit is so good, though I have a handful of cheaper meters that stay in a box.

                  For me auto ranging is an essential, but it has to be fast; I have a Japanese meter that takes about 4 seconds to range and stabilise on resistance. As accurate as my Fluke, but no good for daily use.

                  Aren't the recent Flukes Chinese?

                  I've also seen some suspiciously cheap 'Fluke' meters around. Perhaps they're all made for $4 anyhow.

                  Don't you lust love those meters that pile on every function known to humanity, that cost just a little less than a pizza? Hat-angle meter, disco-ball spin accelerometer and crap. 250-function Pro Quality Gold Plus in deluxe fitted case with batteries and probes. Buy three and get five extra free.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    In the USA, we have a national chain of stores called Harbor Freight. They exist to sell cheap tools and tarps. I guess the tarps cover the tools when it rains, I don;t know. They have pages of coupon deals in the local newspaper, national magazines, elsewhere. Most coupon pages include one free item.

                    They sell a basic hand meter for $10. Switch selected scales, the usual volts/amps/ohms, plus diode test and hfe measure.

                    7 Function Multimeter

                    yes, it is a cheapie, but it seems to work OK. As we see in the linked page, they are on sale for about $5. This meter is also a common inclusion on the coupon page, where the coupon gets it to you for $2. Actually $1.99. And yes, at least once a month it is the free item. Walk into the store with a coupon, walk out with a meter.

                    SO you are not far off, Mick.

                    I pick up another free one whenever I am over that way - the store is on the other side of town for me. I have several sitting next to me. I leave a couple out in the warehouse so I don;t have to go back in the shop for a meter when checking a speaker cab for continuity or a battery for voltage. If some novice comes in for advice and has no meter, I can even give him one.

                    They seems to be accurate enough, certainly good enough for monitoring a mains lead to see if it comes on or not or some other power supply. Handy to have an extra meter now and then, kinda like a dual trace scope.
                    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I agree with Enzo, on the little meters at Harbor Freight. They work great.
                      The problem I have with them is the little dinky test probes, and the wires break in them all the time.
                      Also the test probe leads are very short.
                      Anyone got a cheap Test Probe set replacement alternative, I need several sets.
                      T
                      "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference of the Devil in the House of Commons." Winston Churchill
                      Terry

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Seems silly to buy a $15 set of meter probes for a free meter, but what do you want for nothing? A nice set of probes will work better, will last longer, and may also prevent a few of those yanking your free meter off the table by the leads events.
                        Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Enzo View Post
                          Seems silly to buy a $15 set of meter probes for a free meter, but what do you want for nothing? A nice set of probes will work better, will last longer, and may also prevent a few of those yanking your free meter off the table by the leads events.
                          So you have done the table yank also.
                          That may be why the wires break in mine.
                          T
                          "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference of the Devil in the House of Commons." Winston Churchill
                          Terry

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                          • #14
                            Probably a good idea to get a nicely insulated set of probes with extra flexible leads and a tip that has a sleeve or whatever that conforms to make contact to a single point with minimal slippage.

                            BTW...Chuck, I waste more time gazing at your avatar...reminds me of a girl I once knew...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by fredcapo View Post
                              BTW...Chuck, I waste more time gazing at your avatar...reminds me of a girl I once knew...
                              Me too. But in a more metaphorical sense. I actually plan to change it soon. I like to raise eyebrows but I think I'm tiring of being a dogs a$$.

                              I also have a couple of cheapies around. And one DOES have busted probes. One is in my work truck and the other is on my tool racks in the garage. I've used them in a pinch and they act a little hinky but eventually get most of a job done. I'd rather not use them at all really. And +1 on the crappy, short probes and yanking them off the desk. My old meter may still have the original probes! I may have replaced them once, not sure. Long and strong.

                              The competitively priced Flukes are made overseas. All the models that seem to be in a professional price range are made in my neck of the woods. Literally. Thirty miles and one ferry ride away in Everett.

                              You can still get a very similar B&K meter to the one I have. It's called a 2704C. Looks a lot more cheapie than mine and the accuracy specs are lower. The price is about $90US. I just don't have any confidence in it for some reason. My scope is also a B&K from the same era as my meter and so far so good. I guess B&K made competitive stuff in the 80's. They hardly have a presence anymore and they're priced closer to the "this is pro stuff but you wouldn't want to buy cheaper" mark.
                              "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

                              "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

                              "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

                              Comment

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