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  • OT-somewhat- digital VOM

    I have an el cheapo, very small analog unit that I use mainly to verify if there is power in a receptacle/switch/motor terminals/etc - or not.
    While it works - afaik - no shocks yet - it is very old & I am considering something better. Mine is ill-suited to electronics; not that I am heavily involved but the current one is pretty much useless in this environment.

    I found out about the category system - I thru IV - tho mine is unrated. As best I can determine a II or III would be quite adequate. I am more interested in the implied (?) protection that the ratings confer than the unknown of no rating at all? Or, is this confidence misplaced?

    Are RMS readings essential? I know that a non-RMS meter is good only for sine waves. What would lacking this capability in an electronics environment - with square & sawtooth (among others) cause? Would readings be "slightly off" or too badly off-base to be relevant?

    @ webmaster: Are brand names Ok? If not, please edit. I am aware of Fluke or Klein; are there other "knowns"? Other, "house brands" ( Cdn Tire, for eg) lack - afaik - any category ratings.

    Otherwise, most seem to have a similar feature list; rms capability needs a higher-end device that would seriously raise the price - hence, my query about it as an essential or nice-to-have.
    Price is a consideration: I would like to keep it under $100 (Cdn) but am prepared to go a bit higher for a more suitable unit (the rms thing again).

  • #2
    Dunno about 'ratings', but I've used a Fluke 87 for many years. Still good as new, and very rugged with case. Also, it has large digits plus a bar-graph and the battery lasts years, even with fairly heavy use. Mine is at least 20 years old, the new models are probably even better.
    Last edited by chipmaker4130; 10-02-2018, 07:51 PM.

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    • #3
      You can't go wrong with a Fluke, but they are a bit costly. I use a "free" Harbor Freight DMM for my everyday measurements, and it is surprisingly good for most things. The AC is definitely only for rough readings of sine waves of 10 VAC or more, and I'd be wary of using it on mains voltage. I have several other DMMs of various grades of quality, and a Fluke 45 for precision measurements. I would suggest investing in a scope meter so you can observe waveforms. You can get a reasonably good one for under $100.
      http://pauleschoen.com/pix/PM08_P76_P54.png

      Paul: www.peschoen.com
      P S Technology, Inc. www.pstech-inc.com
      and Muttley www.muttleydog.com

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      • #4
        Another vote for fluke. I have loved my 87V since it fell into my lap. They do have options under $100. You could always just look at their prices and either go up the line until you don't want to pay anymore or the specs are in another language if you know what I mean. If i remember correctly, there is/was a well known you-tuber, AVE, that did a video on a fluke or two. The reason why I mention it is that he claimed that fluke built in some of the functions of their more expensive units into their cheaper ones. The only difference is that functions were disabled via a software setting or the face plate was molded to be missing that function or something like that. If that's true, some homework and a bit of work may get you some features for less $$ if you pick the right meter and know what you need to do.
        My recommendation?

        No matter what I tell you, get a second opinion.

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        • #5
          Because the Flukes are so good, getting one used is a great way to go. They also hold their value.

          A friend found one in the street many years ago. It had apparently fallen off a truck. A bit scuffed, of course it is fine. I think he just needed new probes.

          You haven't said much about how you will use it, which could guide your model choice. I bought a clamp on fluke back in the 90's for measuring amperage when tuning my rotary phase converter. I also got a great deal on an 87V for certain electronics I do.

          Also, it is said that the cheap DVM's aren't very safe for measuring a/c. I think the fuses in my flukes cost more than the HF dvm's (I know that isn't saying much).

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          • #6
            I think the fuses in my flukes cost more than the HF dvm's
            Ahhh yep....lol. Don't ask me how I know.
            My recommendation?

            No matter what I tell you, get a second opinion.

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            • #7
              I have a wavetek that I use. Works well. Many other meters also but that is my go to. JR
              My old yahoo group. Bridgeport Mill Group

              https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/...port_mill/info

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              • #8
                You can pick up Fluke 27's used on E-bay for a reasonable price. They are decent meters.

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                • #9
                  Pretty sure I'll catch flack for saying this, but here goes anyway- I would have to say that for most people looking for a meter, anything more than perhaps $40 that you spend on it is wasted. Even at that low price you can get capacitance testing, transistor testing, sometimes frequency, maybe low ohms- in addition to the usual ac and dc voltage, current ranges, and resistance. At the $10 level you can get a meter which will read up to 1000 volts ac or dc, plus a transistor tester, current up to 10 amps, plus all the usual ranges. When it comes to accuracy, you do have to decide how important it is to get that absolute truth- is it 12.35 volts or really 12.31 volts- you already know that you have 12 volts plus, which is probably all you needed to know. If you're an experienced technician or engineer, maybe you need to have that accuracy- but only a few of us are in that category. The first time you blow an expensive meter by being the usual ham-fisted, scatter brainiac like most of us, you'll wonder why you didn't just get a cheaper one. I'm not saying there's no need for a 'good' meter, but in all my years of troubleshooting, testing, and repairing, I've never needed an 'upper crust' meter.

                  Features that are nice to have include large enough digits, uncluttered front panel with a no-brainer range switch, easily replaceable built-in fuse so the first time you send ac volts through the ohms range (which you just might do in the first week that you own it) you can put it right quickly. Flexible test leads of a high enough gauge that you can read low ohms and higher currents without large errors, or having to hold the meter down because the leads are too stiff. It's good to have a fold-out stand so you can tilt it up and can actually read it comfortably. If you've used a meter long enough you'll know what I'm talking about.

                  Frustrating as an analog meter can be, they can also tell a better story about fluctuating levels than a digital can. There are a few ways that they are better than digitals- but most analogs I see these days are pretty much ****. The 'better' ones usually have more ranges, but that also tends to clutter up the markings, making them a chore to use. I have an older analog which I would not be without, and I've often used it to compare the accuracy of my digital meters. My trusty old digital (not a Fluke) has been with me for 30 years or more, and is about equivalent to a $50 digital today. I also use the $5 ones on a regular basis.

                  If you're new to digital meters and are not a budding engineer, just find something that has a decent size to fit your hand well, enough weight to stay put when you are pulling the leads around, and has a front panel look that you can easily make sense of. I actually bought a Maytag digital once- nothing at all wrong with it- and I have an expensive brand (can't find it right now) but I don't use it because it's too cluttered.
                  I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                  • #10
                    Another vote for Fluke. Mine is probably over 30 yrs old. It was what I was issued when the co. I worked for started selling higher end copiers.
                    The version I have has a heat probe for reading temperature on the fixing rollers. I have no idea what this cost them but when I retired they let me keep my tool kit.
                    I use the thing all the time.


                    THANX RICH
                    People say I'm getting crankier as I get older. That's not it. I just find I enjoy annoying people a lot more now. Especially younger people!!!

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                    • #11
                      I'd also like to say that a lot of test leads are too stiff, even with relatively expensive meters. This isn't a deal breaker, since you can simply replace the wire with a more flexible type. Just get a length of HPN heater wire, the stuff that toasters, coffee pots, etc are usually wired with. You strip it in half to make single wire out of it. It has a high strand count and a long flex life, and it doesn't matter that it's black- you are wiring it to color coded tips anyway. Being 16 ga usually, it's a low enough resistance that it provides minimal error on low ohms ranges, and minimal voltage drop on high current ranges.

                      You can also use silicone insulated wires normally used in rc modelling- you get high flexibility and even better performance in low ohms and high current ranges than HPN. Either of these types will give you better resistance to burn-through when they 'accidentally' touch your soldering iron tips.
                      I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                      • #12
                        Fluke... I have a "herd" of them, I can often get them at tag sales for $5 to $15.

                        All the used ones that worked were quite accurate. The ones that did not work I did not buy
                        1601

                        Keep eye on ball.
                        Hashim Khan

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                        • #13
                          The free HF meters work just fine for 120V or 240V ac as long as they are set to the correct range. If set to measure ohms, 120 VAC will cause the lightweight leads to act as fuses.

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                          • #14
                            A somewhat lighter take on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFTQxWlMGeE

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                            • #15
                              Yes, I know people who use a cheap meter and it does ok for them.

                              I gave a friend of mine a Fluke, and now he just uses it. They pretty much just work.

                              If you try to measure volts with it set to ohms, it is not harmed, although it gives odd readings. Only if you measure volts with it set for current do you have an issue, and that is just a blown fuse (but maybe an expensive fuse).

                              My "herd" is mostly "70 series", with a couple 8000 series, an 8060 and another in the same series. Probably paid at most $20 for any of them.
                              1601

                              Keep eye on ball.
                              Hashim Khan

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