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September 8, 2009 AT 9:46 am

The best affordable volt-ohm meter?

Mas830 Lrg
Cool tools asked “What’s the best affordable volt-ohm meter”- here’s what we said... Most people on the internet will reflexively say “FLUKE!@” but really they’re overkill: Anyone who isn’t sure what multimeter to get doesn’t use them often enough to justify spending more than about $50

(Elexp.com I’snt the only place but we’ve had good experiences with them and the prices often cant be beat) see also a free tutorial we wrote on the subject here


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19 Comments

  1. I’ve been really happy with this one from cen-tech, it has a tilt-able screen for sometimes better viewing angles and the all important continuity buzzer!
    http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=37772
    And all for only $25 and sometimes a lot less when HF is having one of their stupid cheap sales.
    BTW – does the Mastech have a continuity buzzer? I couldn’t tell from the link.

  2. I’m pleased with the Elenco M2795 that I probably paid too much for ($60+), but the one feature that I love most is that the continuity buzzer comes on immediately when there’s a connection. Most other hobby grade meters I own take 1/2 second or more to realize the resistance has gone below some threshold before they beep.

  3. I see the Fluke 115 compact meter at Amazon for $127. This looks like a great and cheap replacement for a lost FLuke 23 I’d had for almost 20 years.

    Fluke has always been a very safe bet. It doesn’t explode on a 15 foot drop off a ladder like my Simpson 260 did.

  4. While not supercheap, I’ve been using a Mastech8209 for 4 years without any big problems (it needs a reset sometimes).
    http://www.multimeterwarehouse.com/MS8209.htm

    Pretty cheap, very well featured, and has the most wanted uberfeature of all : auto power off !

    We bought a $300 MM (Prova) a year ago that doesn’t even have this basic feature : after wasting 2 batteries, the MM is parked in it’s box and nobody used it anymore :s

  5. For your average hobby work, Harbor Freight has the even cheaper $4.99 Cen-Tech 7-function model. Not as accurate, but good enough. During those stupid-cheap sales Radfahrer mentioned, I’ve seen it as low as $1.99 (and you get a battery with it). At that price I bought one for my 8 year old daughter to play with testing batteries.

  6. It’s not something you find on a lot of very low end models, but if you plan to do any reflow soldering it’s worth picking up a multimeter that supports measuring temperature if possible. The temp measurements come in handy when you are trying to calibrate your small toaster oven, etc. I was able to get a perfect profile in about 15 minutes with my $25 multimeter thanks to this, and whenever I suggest a meter to people I always try to make sure it has:

    A.) Diode test function — to determine the + and – on SMT LEDs (who wants to look this up every time in a datasheet?)
    B.) Temperature if you’re working with small reflow toaster ovens

  7. Just to follow up on that last comment, the Voltcraft VC-150 is a good all purpose meter (with temp + diode test). You need to pay for the temperature sensing attachment, but for around 25

  8. DaveJ’s suggestion is cheaper than most OEM panel meters, so if you need a panel meter for a project and have room for mounting creativity that’s an option.

    I second Kevin’s suggestion on temperature, with a warning: use a temperature probe that doesn’t require you to put the meter itself in the environment you’re testing. I know that’s a no-brainer for a toaster oven but an engineer at work borrowed my Fluke 77 to measure the outdoor temperature on the roof of our building last winter and got some crazy readings when he took the meter itself outside.

    If you don’t need to measure temperatures above about 300F, Target and other department stores sell a little digital meat thermometer for $10 that’s fast and accurate enough for most applications. I used one to monitor an egg incubator last year. And it has auto shutoff!

  9. You should buy the best tools you can afford. If you can afford a Fluke, get it. You won’t be disappointed.

    (Speaking as tech who’s been in the industry for 22 years and owns a 12-year old Fluke 83.)

  10. I mostly just use a really cheap no-name meter. It’s manual ranging and has a continuity buzzer. I find it’s fine for almost everything, and I do a lot of AVR and some power related stuff.

    Sure, accuracy isn’t brilliant but it’s robust and an ideal every-day meter that you don’t have to worry about because replacing it is so cheap. Mine has lasted nearly 10 years now anyway. I replaced the probes once with some better quality ones.

    I also have a cheap Chinese auto-ranging meter but it’s pretty slow to find the right range, so I rarely use it.

    Really, there seems little point spending more unless you really need better features. Capacitance measurement is handy if, like me, you can’t get the hang of those stupid codes they write on them. Accuracy is somewhat important in audio and other precision applications, but even there you can often get away with a cheaper multimeter because although it might only be, say, +/-2% for resistance it doesn’t matter as long as the inaccuracy is consistent. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you measure an exactly 100ohm resistor as 102ohms, as long as all the exactly 100ohm resistors read 102ohms so you can match left/right channels etc.

    Save some money and get one of these babies: http://jyetech.com/en/default.html

    A very handy ‘oscope and very cheap too. Available in kit form for bonus points. You could also get a reasonable scope second hand, but you are usually looking at analogue ones rather that digital storage scopes. Depends on your needs I guess.

  11. Lots of good advice above! Can I add a couple of things: firstly, I use a very cheap, very small digital multimeter made by SkyTronic, model 600.005 (100mm x 50mm). It’s small enough that one could carry it everywhere, which means that it’s more likely to be available than the big honkin’ meter that you left at home. Secondly, I have an electric vehicle and often make voltage measurements in the dark. So, a backlighted multimeter is a plus!

  12. This is a nice volt-ohm meter that is FREE with an order of $50 or more. SKU: CSIMS8264 using Promo Code “PR-MS8264″
    http://www.circuitspecialists.com/prod.itml/icOid/8883
    It has continuity, capacitance, Hz and temp included.
    I got this for my nephew last year and it has come in very handy. But I think last year the promo was for the auto ranging version so they must change this promo from time to time.

  13. Fluke 117 is nice too!

  14. I really like the Meterman Amprobe 38XR. It was pricey for a handheld, (around $150 IIRC) but it measures most everything accurately. Having a temperature probe (thermocouple) is surprisingly useful.

  15. I have a preference for pocket size multi-meters. The three I have used all work well, but I prefer the Radio Shack model as it is the most compact.

    In order of preference these are three I’ve tried this year.

    1. RadioShack (Model 22-820) – $29.99
    http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2104114

    2. Cen-Tech (Model P34907) – $10
    (sorry no link, used to be at Harbor Freight)

    3. Victor (VC921) – $25
    http://www.leeselectronic.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=7958&osCsid=3b05a29cca360d9b7c56b5eb9fc81cee

  16. If you want to go cheap and buy any meter without auto-power-off you are wasting your money. I am frugal and think auto-ranging is overrated, but auto-power-off I can’t live without. I can’t tell you how many 9V batteries I went through until I upgraded my multimeter.

  17. I just realised I have been clicking the links people posted just to look at multimeter pr0n. I think I need help.

  18. For simple “now and then” use, or even day to day, use the cheapest MM that suits your needs.

    What you don’t want is an expensive meter that can’t be calibrated. A top of the line multimeter that’s never calibrated is usually on par with, or worse than, the cheap one that gets ditched every year.

  19. Saw the image on google search and thought the tester was my trusty Rapitest (£11) think B&Q have robbed me!!!
    http://www.diy.com/diy/jsp/bq/nav.jsp?action=detail&fh_secondid=9288723&ecamp=trf-005&CAWELAID=266893285

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