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View Full Version : New age or old school Multimeter?



bettablue
February 7th, 2014, 10:41 AM
I know digital desktop multi-meters are infinitely more accurate to old needle movement style meters, bit I love using my Simpson 260 Series 6 analog multi-meter. I also have, and use, a Tandy multi-meter manufactured in 1975, though I don't have the original manuals. Still I find PDF files of the originals to be much better than paper manuals any way. And, if I want/need to have something printed, I can print just the section I'm working with.

Both of my meters are in A-1 perfect condition, although I did have to replace one of the wire wrapped resistors in my Simpson about 2 years ago. Other than that, these meters have served me well ever since I got them new. The Tandy, I bought while working at Radio Shack, and the Simpson about a year later. As far as accuracy is concerned, mine seem to be as accurate as any analog multi-meter can be given their analog meter movements, and I get the same results regardless of which meter I use, or which scale I'm reading.

So why then, am I considering replacing my trusty old meters? It is more about readability than anything. It seems that that the red LED's on some desktop models have a large enough display that I can very easily read the display from across the work bench. There are other concerns as well, but nothing about the reliability, or accuracy of my old analog meters. Indeed, as I've stated, there is nothing wrong with either of my meters.

As far as desktop models are concerned, I've been looking at the possibility of getting something I can plug in and leave on my work bench. However, I'm not too familiar with these desktop digital meters. Models like the Tektronix DMM4040 Desktop Multimeter, Aplab Model 1085 4 Digit Digital Multimeter, or the Fluke 846A just to name a few, all seem to have their merits, and of course, manufacturers will never tell you about the pitfalls of using any of their own products. Likewise, I haven't seen any user feedback that I could trust 100% either, as those seem very biased; especially since user feedback is typically only on the manufacturers sites.

Is there a personal favorite out there, or are all of the bench-top models about equal in performance, and reliability? What about cost? Is there any reason to doubt the reliability, and accuracy of lower cost models? I'm not talking about bottom of the barrel models, but would like to strike a balance between cost and functional accuracy? Of course, I want to get the best for my money.

So which bench-top multi-meter do you recommend, and why?

g4ugm
February 7th, 2014, 12:21 PM
Firstly, I still have a couple of traditional needle meters. Much better than a DVM for tweaking levels. But I also have a few digital meters because for quick checks they are easier to read. I just went to Maplin (our Tandy type shop) and they had a two for one offer at about $10. At that price it doesn't matter if you blow them up. I also have better quality meter with an RS232 interface but to be honest I seldom use it!

Caluser2000
February 7th, 2014, 01:33 PM
The DVMs that come in for calibration at work are mainly Fluke models of various size and age. I just use a cheepy DSE branded one at home. Seems to suit my humble needs. I don't have to use it terribly often though.

Agent Orange
February 7th, 2014, 02:13 PM
Hi Thomas -

I have four meters that I use for various tasks; a Fluke model 77 (1986), a Fluke model 12 (1990), a Fluke model 8060A (1991), and a Simpson 260 from around 1980. All four are in perfect working order although its been quite sometime since the 260 was calibrated. The Fluke's have been dropped, kicked, spat at, left out in the rain, and otherwise abused down through the years. So, I guess that's where my vote goes. The 260, like any meter with a D'arsonval movement, normally has a 20,000 ohms-per-volt sensitivity. That basically says its not very good for accurately reading resistances in a series/parallel configuration. The 260 is good if you're into any kind of RF and need to tweak a tank, pot, or IF coil. The 8060A is a good choice if you need to see Hz & dB in real time along with true RMS (expensive and hard to find). I would opt for a Fluke model 112-118 if your going new, or try to find a model 77 used.

Dwight Elvey
February 7th, 2014, 03:51 PM
If I'm looking for speed, I use either a 260 or 270 ( got both )
If I need to make an accurate measurement I use a 5.5 digit
fluke.
If I have a resistor or a capacitor that needs measuring to better
than 1%, I have an old Marconi bridge that does better than my
fluke.
Dwight

Chuck(G)
February 7th, 2014, 05:31 PM
If I need a needle, I haul out my VTVM. There used to be (and probably still are) DMMs with a meter movement in addition to the digital display, so you could see trends more easily. But mostly I use a meter for simple sanity check. I use a 'scope most of the time at logic levels--I read the voltage and get an accurate picture of the thing as well. I wonder, what with cheap silicon, why the universal tool isn't a portable o'scope.

But Dwight's right--when you need precision measurements of components, you can't beat a bridge.

Agent Orange
February 7th, 2014, 06:43 PM
If I need a needle, I haul out my VTVM.

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The TS-505 was the first one that I used back in the 60's Navy days.

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EverythingIBM
February 9th, 2014, 09:47 PM
I just use a Fluke 87 Mark I (got it for cheap). I replaced the screen with a LED backlit one and the new mark 5 holster.

At the end of the day, if the meter gives you the right reading, then it's fine.

--> I still don't like the idea of using a cheap meter though. Especially on expensive gear.

KC9UDX
February 10th, 2014, 06:26 AM
DMMs are not inherently more accurate than analog multimeters, they're generally more precise.

For most everything I do on my bench at home, I use a VTVM. I never have to worry about loading down the circuit I'm measuring, and I get an instant response, plus an analog gauge for adjusting levels. It has plenty enough precision for anything I work on. I use it enough that I can read it quickly. Even if I can't read it quickly, it's not hard to note where the needle is and decipher the reading later. If I ever need a low impedance meter, or something portable, I have a Simpson 260. I almost never use it though.

KC9UDX
February 10th, 2014, 06:29 AM
I should also mention that the only use I have for cheap meters is emergency use in the car. It's very handy to have a $10 meter stashed away in the car somewhere. Even then, I don't get the super cheap ones, I have a Micronta analog one. A digital one would likely have dead batteries right when I'd need it.

I don't trust the cheap meters. I've used ones that belong to other people and they can sometimes be wildly inaccurate. Their impedance is usually unknown, and sometimes pretty low. If you have one, it may be worth while to measure it's impedance, at least it's resistance.

Maverick1978
February 10th, 2014, 01:14 PM
I have a Fluke 113 True RMS that I use day-to-day. I've a Simpson 260 that needs minor repair (I've got to open it up - probably a blown fuse), and I'm on the look-out for a Fluke 87 or 88.

I've also a bench-top kit from Devry schools in the 70's... basically a Heathkit DMM. Not true RMS, but I do have the build manual for it. Somewhere.