recommend multimeter

Hi, new to electronics and Arduino, but very excited. I just got the starter kit.

I don't have a multimeter, can anyone recommend one to get? I'm in the US.

Thanks.

At a store, or online? Extech makes nice meters, not too expesive. Find one with autoranging, probes, maybe a thermocouple. I got an Extech EX330 for ~$30-40 with all that, works very nice. I also got by for many years with a simpler Radio Shack meter that just did the basics, with no autoranging.

CrossRoads:
At a store, or online?

Either way is fine, I usually get things usually online as it’s cheaper :slight_smile:

Extech makes nice meters, not too expesive.
Find one with autoranging, probes, maybe a thermocouple.
I got an Extech EX330 for ~$30-40 with all that, works very nice.
I also got by for many years with a simpler Radio Shack meter that just did the basics, with no autoranging.

Thanks for the recommendation, I’ve looked on amazon, but the reviews are sometimes very spread out, so I thought I’d ask the folks who are using it for what I primarily intend to use it too.

Here is a decent review of a bunch of $50 class DVMs. http://www.eevblog.com/2010/06/04/eevblog-91-50-multimeter-shootout/

Lefty

levon: I don't have a multimeter, can anyone recommend one to get? I'm in the US.

Where in the US? Do you have a Harbor Freight close by? If so - get their ad, and look at the coupons. Invariably they have a cheapo Cen-Tech on "sale" for $5.00 or so with a coupon. Sometimes if you are really lucky, you can get one free using the "freebie" coupons on the front of the flyer.

http://www.harborfreight.com/7-function-digital-multimeter-69096.html

Are they the greatest multimeter on the planet? Not by a long shot, but when you are learning electronics, having essentially disposable meters can be very useful. Even when your not destroying them, they are handy to just have a bunch around for when you need to stick multiple meters on something for testing, and you don't have a ton of money to invest on the equipment.

That said - I haven't found a Cen-Tech meter to be "crap" either; when testing resistors with them, they read as well as my slightly more expensive Extech meter, which I picked up at Fry's Electronics. Now, I haven't compared a Cen-Tech to a calibrated Fluke or anything like that (can't afford such a meter), but I doubt the difference would be so great for beginner level electronics to justify the extra expense.

So - pick up a Cen-Tech to learn with; go through various tutorials and such, and learn how to use it's features to measure voltage, resistance, and current. Once you understand all of its functions, and how to use them in the proper manner to avoid damaging the meter, then go out an pick up something more expensive. But keep picking up those cheapo meters; they are well worth it (I carry one in my truck, and have one in my garage - just for auto repair issues and roadside problems; I also keep one in my office desk, and a few in my workshop).

I just checked, there's one about 3 miles from here (but closed 15 minutes ago :-)

I might do what you suggest. Getting one for $6 to try out and help solidify my understanding of basic circuits and how things work (and also features of multimeters) - and then consider paying the $50 to get Extech EX330 (I didn't see it cheaper anywhere).

Thanks for suggesting that place, I had never heard of them before.

If anyone else has suggestions, I'd love to hear them. If there was something in the middle price range of about $20 that was a good buy (but perhaps not reasonable to expect) I might just get it instead.

retrolefty: Here is a decent review of a bunch of $50 class DVMs. http://www.eevblog.com/2010/06/04/eevblog-91-50-multimeter-shootout/

Lefty

Thanks .. I watched it (sort of entertaining) .. he liked the Extech EX330 too .. wish it was a bit cheaper, not $50 and I'd grab one for myself :) .. might end up doing that eventually.

Wow, looks like when I picked mine up on sale I got a pretty good deal!

CrossRoads: Wow, looks like when I picked mine up on sale I got a pretty good deal!

Yup, that's what I was thinking too .. if I could get it for $30 or so, I'd snap one up right away.

This one looks good too, but then I wonder if I should just add the $10 and get the EX 330 ..

http://www.amazon.com/Extech-MN26T-Autoranging-Capacitance-Temperature/dp/B0000WU1AM

I think I may get a super-cheap one tomorrow, and then upgrade to a decent one (like yours, hopefully when there's another sale).

Actually, this one looks pretty good too ..

http://www.amazon.com/Extech-MN35-Digital-Mini-MultiMeter/dp/B0012VWR20

but then again, I'm not sure what features that might be important I might miss out. Guess more reading :)

cr0sh beat me to it, but I have this one, which looks about identical to his link. http://www.harborfreight.com/7-function-multimeter-98025.html

I think I may get a super-cheap one tomorrow, and then upgrade to a decent one (like yours, hopefully when there's another sale).

Duh. I have a $120 DMM I bought over 10 years ago, but the $5 Harbor Freight one is all I use anymore. I seriously doubt you'll get any added value by spending $45 more to get a "decent" one.

I'm a fan of low-cost/cheap too. I think the harborfreight meters would work just fine.

I've got 3 multimeters that I've had for a VERY long time. I haven't bought a multimeter in over 30 years. My favorite is an older version of this one: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2104114#tabsetBasic It's not super low cost like the harborfreight ones, but it has a few things that I really like which is why it is my favorite:

  • It has a continuity tester (it beeps on low resistance for continuity testing) (I use this feature quite a bit)

  • the wires are attached so they never get lost.

  • It has its own case which protects it

  • it is very small and the entire thing in its case fits in your pocket.

It can't test transistors so if that is important, you won't want that one.

Another thing I use alot is a logic probe. Mine is 35 years old but you can get better ones now for a bout $18 at frys. http://www.frys.com/product/6508023 These are used to be able to see what a signal/pin is doing. High/Low or oscillating.

If you have a bigger budget, then a full USB based logic analyzer is fantastic. This can tell you what multiple pins are doing as well as decode the signals. I really like this one: http://www.saleae.com/logic

--- bill

One of the things you should realize is that almost all multimeters are based on the same “Multimeter on a Chip” family from Maxim. So in terms of capabilities, it really comes down to which chip the manufacture chooses and how they design the control scheme.

Which means, build quality is about the only real differentiator. If you pay extra for a Fluke, for example, you should expect it comes with higher quality leads than if you buy something from Extech.

I am not trying to say Extech isn’t a good brand, in fact, I have several tools from them. However. If you aren’t going to use and abuse the thing every day, the $50-100 “off-brand” units have much of the same internals as the much more expensive Flukes…

bperrybap:
I’m a fan of low-cost/cheap too.

My favorite is an older version of this one:
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2104114#tabsetBasic

Another thing I use alot is a logic probe. Mine is 35 years old but
you can get better ones now for a bout $18 at frys.
http://www.frys.com/product/6508023

If you have a bigger budget, then a full USB based logic analyzer is fantastic.
This can tell you what multiple pins are doing as well as decode the signals.
I really like this one:
http://www.saleae.com/logic

— bill

thanks bill, very informative post

[quote author=James C4S link=topic=164426.msg1227741#msg1227741 date=1367641182] One of the things you should realize is that almost all multimeters are based on the same "Multimeter on a Chip" family from Maxim. ... Which means, build quality is about the only real differentiator. .. If you aren't going to use and abuse the thing every day, the $50-100 "off-brand" units have much of the same internals as the much more expensive Flukes... [/quote]

Good point, thanks. Learning a lot here today :)

Radio Shack has the Extech 470 for $99. That's $50 off pretty much anywhere else. It does 20A max current. http://www.extech.com/instruments/product.asp?catid=48&prodid=274 http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=10933262#

..the most important feature is the "automatic power off".. :) BTW, I've had big luck with http://www.tequipment.net/MetexM-3850D.html

I got this guy a couple of years ago and love it. Check out what it can read. - Scotty

pito: ..the most important feature is the "automatic power off".. :)

agreed! Especially since my use of the multimeter will be sporadic, that would be very helpful.

I'm looking at this one, can't tell if it has that feature

http://www.amazon.com/Extech-MN35-Digital-Mini-MultiMeter/dp/B0012VWR20/ http://www.extech.com/instruments/product.asp?catid=49&prodid=297

perhaps not since it's not being mentioned explicitly (or I'm just not seeing it)

These two are about the same price (@ $20), the 2nd one has auto-ranging (and auto shutoff :) They both have audible continuity testers which I like.

http://www.amazon.com/Extech-MN35-Digital-Mini-MultiMeter/dp/B0012VWR20

vs

http://www.amazon.com/Equus-3320-Auto-Ranging-Digital-Multimeter/dp/B000EVYGZA

Other than that, in terms of what they can do/measure, is one preferable to the other? Again, my primary use will be to test Arduino/Rasberry Pi cicuits I put together, and possibly the usual around-the house use (test batteries, perhaps outlets). No cars/boats or fany stuff. (Does the fact that the Equus seems to be geared toward automotive use matter at all?)

Seems like the Equus 3320 might be the better of the two, I'm hoping someone more knowledgable about these can point out anything I'm missing.

Thanks - I've appreciated everyone sharing their input and learned a lot in the last day or so. I'm sure I've spent too much time already pondering this :)