Good multimeter/oscilloscope?

Hey everyone, im looking for suggestions for an affordable but reliable multimeter/oscilloscope combo, if there are any on the market. I've seen them range anywhere from $50 into the hundreds, but I only have so much money to work with so im looking for the best bang for the buck. I'm not opposed to buying each separately if a combo tester is less reliable in one way than the other or if it can only measure so high a range, either. As for my uses, I need to test voltage as high as 24v (so the multimeter needs to read slightly higher) and frequencies as high as 400 khz (so preferably slightly more there as well). As for my price range, I'm essentially just looking for the cheapest but most reliable, but I'm not opposed to paying as much as I have to (even if I just have to save up). Thanks!

Many Digital Multimeters (DMM) nowadays have a frequency measuring function built in. They can be pretty cheap. If you don't need to see the actual waveform, a scope is overkill. For Arduino a DMM and a cheap logic analyzer are about all I need. I have one of these logic analyzers and use the free Pulseview software. Haven't needed a scope for quite a while.

Oh alright, thanks! Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what else my needs are yet, but I'm trying to get as much into microcontrollers/electronics as I can, so waveform would be useful to see certain things. I also hadnt heard of logic analysers though, but from a brief glance that seems like it'd be well worth looking into, too. Thanks!

As you get into the hobby you will know more about what you need. It would be a shame to spend $300 on a piece of gear that won't do what you want when $15 will buy a more useful piece of equipment. A decent DMM (or 2) is just about mandatory, other stuff depends on your needs.

Yeah, that's why I figured it'd be better to ask than spend an excessive amount of money outright. But I'll just look into getting a decent DMM before anything. Thanks!

These two instruments seem logical to combine into one. But somehow that's not useful. You have to switch modes to go from one type of instrument to the other and if you're spending that kind of cash, then a slightly-cheaper scope and a significantly-cheaper multimeter give you two instruments that you can use simultaneously where the only mode switching is which one you're looking at.

The handheld style of scope looks attractive. I bought one a few years ago and never got much use out of it. The screen was poor. A newer one with a high-resolution screen might be better but the desk-bound scope is still the dominant form-factor that people actually use. Handheld would only be useful if you have a particular job up on top of a pole that can't be brought down to the desk.

Start with a basic multimeter. Maybe buy a few, of the absolute cheapest type. Then maybe spend $80USD on a "good" one that has more functions or a "CAT" rating for working on higher voltages. (Hey, every multimeter owner is sometimes tempted to stick the probes into a wall socket. DO NOT do this with the cheap ones, no matter how many thousand volts they have on their AC voltage range.)

Next on the shopping list is a power supply with an adjustable current limit. A 1A supply is great but even 250mA at 0-24V is surprisingly useful. About this time you're probably also buying other tools like a temperature-controlled soldering iron.

Then buy a bench oscilloscope. It is amazing how good the cheap ones are now. Features that used to come with house-priced instruments are now selling for lunch money.

Then you start looking at buying more toys and you're thinking again "Why doesn't my bench multimeter have an oscilloscope display?" But it's still a stupid idea.

Start with a basic multimeter. Maybe buy a few, of the absolute cheapest type.

You can buy a 10 euro multimeter if you are just starting electronics as a hobby and not sure how long your interest will last and you only plan to use it on low voltages and accuracy is not an issue.

Otherwise, my approach especially regarding multimeter is totally different.

If you are planning to measure mains level voltages, or if you take electronics seriously as a hobby, then I d say a good multimeter is an investment and at the end of the day it will cost less if you consider all those cheap ones that you will have to buy and replace in the process.
I must have bought around 10 multimeters in the last 20 years ranging from 10 euro to 500 euro each.
All the cheap ones at some point somehow failed or I came across some job that they couldn't do either because of not having the required accuracy or the required safety standard.

I ended up with a fluke 177 for my everyday use. The abuse that instrument had over the years is amazing including drops on concrete floor, left in the car under 40 deg C, got splash with water etc...
For me its still a reference when a measurement with another multimeter raises doubts.

Its certainly not cheap if bought brand new but it can be bought around 100 euro second hand on ebay and it can be just as good as new.
I think its vital to be confident with your multimeter both in terms of safety, accuracy and reliability.

You just buy it once and its there for ever...

PS. No, I have no relation with the Fluke company whatsoever... :slight_smile:

For hand-held scope, I'm very happy with my DSO Quad from Seeed Studio. Don't use it often (once a month maybe) but those few times it's been extremely helpful. None of those cases were beginner level projects, so for that reason it's not something you should buy if you're just starting this.

I do use my multimeter all the time. That's something your really need to look into. A standard multimeter will do up to 1000V or so, 24V is no problem for any multimeter.

My recommendation would be to purchase a really cheap multimeter for now and hold off on the oscilloscope.

My reasoning:

I have some pretty high end equipment I’ve collected over the years (long before I started working with Arduino’s). I use none of the high tech specifications when working on my Arduino. There is nothing that precise to require any enhanced capability. Usually you are checking the voltage level for a signal or power line. A reading +/- 1/4 volt is usually fine. Or if you need to know if the voltage is 3.3V or 5V.

So for starting out, a cheap multimeter maybe from ebay for $10 to $25 is all I think a new user will need. Use it for a while and find what additional function(s) are needed if any. The 2nd benefit of a cheap multimeter vs a scope meter combo is the portability and minimal loss if it gets damaged.

As you gain experience you can opt for a Logic analyzer and/or scope. They are both extremely helpful for certain types of problems but not needed all that often.

Yes, I forgot about the logic analyzer. That may be the next most useful thing between cheap multimeter and oscilloscope.

This is a function which does make sense to combine with a scope. An MSO Mixed Signals Oscilloscope can do both. Often it is useful to see one or two analog voltages and 8-10 digital signals at the same time.

JohnRob:
My recommendation would be to purchase a really cheap multimeter for now and hold off on the oscilloscope.

I would certainly go for that, except - buy two or three. I have more of the dirt cheap ones because at least one at work, two at home, one in each car and so on.

JohnRob:
So for starting out, a cheap multimeter maybe from eBay for $10 to $25 is all I think a new user will need. Use it for a while and find what additional function(s) are needed if any.

Wow! That is not a cheap multimeter. Cheap is $5. But get two or three to start with - so you can measure two or three things at once without swapping. And some of those miniature clips.

We are talking digital stuff here. Voltages are either pretty right or pretty wrong. My interest is in making Arduino-related stuff and equipment repair ( - we no longer have TVs with (valves or) HT circuits but SMPSs have high voltages). A basic multimeter is appropriate for most of this. I do have a scope, and one of those basic mini-DSOs which is good for mobile use. Used very occasionally. You may well graduate to more sophisticated stuff if you get into serious engineering - whatever that is.

And the cheap ones should survive sticking into a mains socket - but not touching the cables and only the probe sleeve, there is a danger that the pin will not pull out of the socket again and pull out of the probe sleeve instead. :astonished: (So buy better leads.)

Paul__B:
Wow! That is not a cheap multimeter. Cheap is $5.

Actually I didn't include in my post but I think a starting multimeter should have a frequency measuring range. Would be good for measuring PWM frequency etc.

I realize its a personal choice but a $5 meter is likely below my threshold of consideration (kind of like a $0.25 screwdriver). I assume we are talking retail not tag sale items.