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Does anyone know what a high quality digital multimeter brand would be and where I could find it? [Excluding RadioShack] Answered

I've seen some some digital multimeters on RadioShack for around $20 but they kinda make me nervous.   The qualities I'm looking for are: Reliable, very accurate (can measure very small amounts of current, like from small solar cells, small wires, computer fans, etc.), large variety of ranges, as well as very durable. Any help in finding out what the right digital multimeter for me would be, is very much appreciated!


.  You said you don't want to hear about RS, but I've been using a Micronta 22-191 as my "everyday" DMM for years now. It has served me well. As far as I can tell, it's reasonably accurate and, for a cheap DMM, reasonably rugged.
.  I have a Fluke 77 I use when I need a truly rugged meter or think I need the added accuracy.


1 year ago

I've got a digital, but have always preferred the analog VOM, VTVM and FET VOM that has since displaced the old VTVM with vacuum tubes (which I wouldn't recommend now). They have some distinct advantages, but require you know what you're doing with the meter. Unlike the naysayers the foretell bending needles and blowing out the meter coil, a respectable analog will have protection diodes on the meter movement itself. They'll also have fuses. It won't save you from all possible misuses or abuses, but from quite a few, and many things that will destroy an analog meter will also damage a digital. The one error that would likely blow resistor out is measuring resistance on a live circuit (i.e. one that has power running in it, or a charged capacitor that hasn't fully discharged yet). The current best of the analog meters are the Simpson 260-8 (the current version is the "-8") and the "260" has been around for decades. It's portable as the only power it needs are batteries for measuring resistance, but most assuredly won't fit in your pocket as it has a very large meter face. At a little under $300, they're pricey. The best of the smaller, nearly pocket size, is the venerated Triplett 310, and there are several variants, just under half the cost of the Simpson. It's hardy, reliable and quite accurate for its size. As with the Simpson, it needs two batteries for the resistance ranges. Number 3 on my list is one of three Sanwa meters: the EM7000 FET VOM, a solid state version of a VTVM, or the YX-361TR, or the SP21.

Unless you need to measure nA, you will probably be ok with a $20 multimeter, or possibly even less. I've used some multimeters that cost £80, and they gave the same results as mine which I picked up for £5.

Are you planning on making any special measurements other than those listed above?

Not really, mainly experimenting with voltages, amp readings, and resistances with small electronics and electrical devices; like cell phones, mp3 players, etc. The small-scale power demand and power generation/storage devices around 5 volts. I MIGHT also be working with some of the larger electrical devices/parts, like alternators; and magneto systems from things like lawn mowers and tillers...

.  An analog meter has its place, but, for most DIYers, a digital is, IMNSHO, a slightly better choice - if for no other reason than the typically higher impedance when measuring voltage (a big advantage when dealing with some ICs). No needle to bend is a plus in my book.
.  Stick with a decent brand-name and you should be OK. As others have pointed out, dead-on accuracy is usually not needed by most DIYers. Repeatability will be more important (as long as it reads 12.12V instead of 12.00 all the time, you can compensate).
.  Measuring the output of a magneto will require a voltmeter that measures at least a few kV (50kV or more on modern automobiles). For everything else, your pocket DMM (or analog) will probably be up to the task.

Then you can use a cheap analog meter (like the Micronta from RadioShack) just fine.  You don't need any better than mV/mA precision for any of that stuff, and if you're old enough to read a dial clock, then you can read a dial meter just fine.

See also GMoon's discussion in another comment thread about the impedance and ramping performance of analog vs. digital meters.

When you actually get into using your meter every day, for six to eight hours per day, under outdoor conditions, then you should look at a more expensive, rugged meter like a Fluke or AVO.

Fluke is probably the most common in industry.  A Google search for "Fluke meter" will give you thousands of results, and dozens of sources.  Even Fry's keeps them in stock.

...in the USA....Over here the brand of note is still AVO-Megger.

I used to sell a CD instructional disk on ebay on "how to use Digital Multimeters"... so... I know a lot about them.   I have found that it is MORE important to understand how to USE a multimeter than it is to buy an expensive one.  Unless you are working in some industry that REQUIRES special accuracies or meter-functions, you will only need a regular meter with standard functions. Without going into 27 chapters of instructions.... here are a few tips you may find helpfull:

1.  Do NOT buy any kind of ANALOG multimeter.  They are easily damaged by measuring VOLTS (too high) or VOLTS when set to the OHMS range.

2.  The function called "tone" or "beep" is very usefull and recommended when you are testing things.  Most meters do have this function except VERY cheap ones.

3.  Keep your RED probe in the Volts-Ohms jack.... untill you become skilled.  Never plug it into the AMPS jack.  This will keep you from damaging whatever you are testing if you dont understand amps.  When the probe is plugged into the AMPS jack ... the meter is essentially a SHORTING BAR.  So if you touch the probes into a circuit WRONGLY... you will burn up the meter or the item you are testing. 

4. If you really want a QUALITY meter... get a FLUKE brand.  otherwise, any medium priced meter will work fine.

I'm with Gmoon on point 1. especially about input impedance.

I gotta disagree on point 1.

An analog meter works well for viewing a voltage ramp-up (like in a traditional HV power supply), where a digital meter is useless. They do better when measuring a signal average, too (if you don't have a scope.)

They also tend to be MORE tolerant of transient voltage spikes (more tolerant than the cheap digital meters, anyway.) I've fried at least three digital meters, but my old Sears analog VOM is going strong.

I use both types. The high-impedance nature of the digital VOMs is great for a lot of projects.

For most hobbyist purposes, there really isn't all that much difference between multimeter brands. Find one that has the functions you need for a price you like.

I've use Radio Schlock, Fluke, various off-brands... If you don't abuse them, they all do the job. An autoranging meter may be safer for beginners.

ACCURACY is not the same as sensitivity.  Some of the cheaper brands are more sensitive, but less accurate than a Fluke or AVO meter.