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Multimeter recommendation

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner: Guitar & Bass Technical Discussi' started by donnyb, May 7, 2012.

  1. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

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    Somebody correct me if I've got this wrong.

    Guy walks into guitar technical forum, obviously babe in the woods, asks which meter is best for guitar, and everyone recommends all these Fluke models for electricians that measure AC voltage and motor frequency but not inductance? I reread the whole thread again and looked up some of the model numbers but I still think I may be missing something.

    Donny a typical guitar like a strat or les paul - basically any guitar that uses magnets and coils - has three relevant electronic properties that you need to work with to have any idea what's going on:
    • Inductance (L). This is the most relevant number to put on a pickup if you choose only one. Units are Henries (H)
    • Capacitance (C). You mentioned this in your post so you are aware of that.
    • Resistance (R).

    These are the numbers you work with when you work with guitar. Turns out this is a common need for people who work with all kinds of resonant circuits, so there is a special type of meter for it, called an LCR meter. The one that I thought everyone used for guitar is the Extech 380193. It's $200, accurate, and reliable. AFAIK it is the only cheap, unqualified-good LCR meter. Comes with a warranty though it's a budget Asian meter, so who knows whether you'd get much response from them. A big part of what you pay for with more upmarket meters is that if you ever do have a problem, you can get actual people to help you and get it fixed.

    Generally you don't measure the AC voltage that the pickup produces. When you measure the effects of that directly, it's to check relative phase of pickups and you do it with an analog (physical needle) ohmmeter. You need an electrician type meter for working with the rest of your rig but not with the guitar itself, except maybe beep test (continuity).

    I'm no EE, but I believe meters can fall short of accuracy in two ways: consistency with self over time, and consistency with external reference (absolute). I.e. if you don't need to communicate data with the outside world - if a satellite isn't going to crash into the earth because you gave another engineer the wrong voltage for a part you made - it might be enough to compare values.

    I actually do think that's true of guitar. For one, generally cheap meters are close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. Also a meter that can be zeroed/calibrated allows you to compare items. But the main thing I'm looking at is that you have to tune a guitar circuit by ear, anyway. A guitar is not purely electronic - it may not even be primarily electronic...

    The problems come when you do math/sims that are not linear. As your measurement drifts further afield, the results of equations become less useful. So you do want as much accuracy as you can afford.

    If you can scratch up $300, your best bet would be an Extech 380193 and a Fluke 115. Also you can find more upscale Flukes all day on Craigslist real cheap (compared to new price). That's a real budget setup and plenty good enough.

    If you want to go BUDGET BUDGET I have a few recommendations. I have a few "nice" meters but I am fascinated with cheap meters and can't seem to stop picking them up. I used to be like this with real cheap guitars after the first wave of perfectly manufactured $99 guitars...

    Vichy DM4070 (eBay). It is an LCR meter for (I think) $40. It only has one test frequency, doesn't run tests - just simple circuits to measure - manual range selection, doesn't measure as many things as the Extech, a real old school knob for calibration. In short it's primitive. BUT the numbers it gives are very close to what I measure on the Extech. I could imagine living with this as my only LCR meter.

    For voltage, cotinuity, etc - electrician meter stuff - I have an Extech MiniTec 26 in my emergency toolbox in my car, and it is not bad. I would look for a used Fluke or just get a 115 cheap first, but for cheap cheap it's usable - honestly probably the same as literally any bottom-end meter nowadays. I want to say I got it free or deeply discounted from Circuit Specialists for placing some minimum order.
     
  2. dazco

    dazco Supporting Member

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    Whatever. Tell a guy who needs a meter for his guitar to spend $120 then. Geez...
    By the way, doesn't look from his last post like i lost credibility with him does it? Because he recognises the truth, and the truth is that extech does more than the fluke and does what they both do as good or better and is solid. I have both, i know, and if you wish to believe i'm an idiot thats your prerogativ and i honestly don't care. But the facts are on my side. Fact:it does more. Fact: it does what the fluke does as good or better. Fact: It's 1/3 the price of the cheapest fluke. You know, i don't care if my credibility is lost with you. You keep on dreaming and i'll go with the facts, and the facts are that unless you buy one of the much more expensive flukes they are not the legendary gold you think they are. Thier cheap meters are no better than anyone and in the case of my extech the facts bear that out as clear as day.Either you believe i'm lying or to you a meter that does less and does nothing better is woth 3x the cost. I don't know which of those you believe but i'll let you worry about it.
     
  3. PhilF

    PhilF Member

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    Fluke's are extremely nice, but are generally overkill and you don't in any way need to pay for their ruggedness unless it helps you do your job or something similar.
     
  4. 83stratman

    83stratman Member

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    Maybe if your are designing/recreating pickups a LCR is useful, but in over 25 years of working on and playing around with guitars the only settings I have ever used on a meter (for working on a guitar) are continuity and resistance.
     
  5. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-_dUB8vy8U
    (it lists all the models, in case you're interested)

    Watch this video and scroll to 8:30. You will clearly see some of the differences between meters (Fluke not represented here). The continuity test is one of the most important things a meter does, and having one that responds quickly and latches is critical when you're looking for intermittent shorts and things like that. Most of the meters in this particular group, including the Extech, have horrible performance in this test. This is for the classic slam your hands on the table test. You attach the leads and then you knock on the guitar a bit to see if you get a short or an open. Often you can only reproduce it for a tiny fraction of a second, and most of these meters will miss that. Just to give you an idea, the BK Precision is spec'd for 100ms reaction time, though it's clearly faster. My Fluke 85 is spec'd at 1ms.

    Also scroll to 20:00 and notice how the Extech meter CRASHES. As I said before, I might recommend it because of cost and because their cheap meters are better than a lot of other cheap meters, but judge for yourself what you're getting. In fact, if you watch the entire video the Extech has numerous accuracy problems, and one of them is so bad that he had to whip out a backup Extech the company sent him. So let's just stop this nonsense. While it may be a good enough meter for guitar work, the price is right, and I much prefer it over even worse meters that are out there, it is not the bees knees of meters. Period.

    I'd forgotten all about BK Precision, actually. I didn't even know they made a lower cost meter. If it's really in the $100 range, that's a pretty good price. That would probably be my mid-range choice. Wish I had remembered about them before but I haven't had to shop for a meter in a long time.

    Too bad people want to turn this into a pissing contest instead of a good, rational discussion of what's important in a meter and which models might be appropriate.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  6. RussB

    RussB low rent hobbyist Silver Supporting Member

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    Now that's a rant! rock on dazco :bong
     
  7. SlideGeetar

    SlideGeetar Member

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    @Dazco, I'm with you. Fluke is a waste of money for a casual/hobby user. I build effects pedals and am constantly fooling with rewiring guitars and gutting their electronics and replacing, etc. I've built 40+ effects pedals. I use a $30 Craftsman meter.
    If a guy says "hey I just need a meter for this one project" , I would never suggest he spend $100-$200. Unless money is no object. Is the OP a wealthy man? If money doesn't matter then sure go ahead with buying the top of the line DMM. But as Dazco stated, the extra precision you get from a Fluke meter means jack sh1t for an occasional hobby user.
    The question was not "who makes the best DMM?" - because if it were, I'd agree that Fluke is probably the answer. But it's much easier to answer "Fluke" to a guy when yours is not the wallet being emptied.
    Instead of a $150 meter, buy a $30 meter and have $120 to spend on a new pickup, or pedal, or put towards a new guitar or amp...

    What did I do with the extra $80+ that I DIDN'T waste on a fancy DMM? I bought this...
    http://www.peakelec.co.uk/acatalog/jz_dca55.html
    It's worth it's weight in gold if you build pedals.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  8. SlideGeetar

    SlideGeetar Member

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  9. SatelliteAmps

    SatelliteAmps Member

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    OP - The Extech is a decent but cheap meter. If you look up the specs of how accurate they are, you will find them to be a lot less accurate than a comparable Fluke for the same money. It is good that is can do inductance, but to be honest, you will probably never use that function. You can go online to both Fluke and Extech's websites and look at the manuals and spec's of each meter, and they both will give you an accurate account of what the actual tolerance's are for each individual meter (including some that are no longer being made, in case you go used.) I compared the recommended Extech 380193 to a Fluke 83 (a decent medium high level Fluke) The Extech goes up to 2,000uf, while the Fluke can do 10,000uf. The Extech tolerance is up to 10%, while the Fluke is 1% (so the Fluke is more accurate, and can go higher) Extech goes to 10MΩ at 2% tolerence, the Fluke goes to 50MΩ at .4%. The Extech does not do voltage. Fluke does AC and DC up to 1000v. Fluke does AC and DC current (almost every Fluke does. Not sure why anyone thought they didn't.) There are more accurate models from each maker, but when comparing actual like models (which these two really aren't even close) to each other, the Fluke is more accurate on every count. Extech makes a model 430 that is closer to a Fluke. It's a true RMS meter, which would compare to a Fluke 87, if you want to do your own comparison.

    Dazco - which Fluke meter do you have that is so inaccurate with caps? I've got four of them ( Model 83, 85, 87 and a 178) and all of them do excellent at doing caps, big and small. The only ever time I've seen a Fluke not measure accurately was when someone had cheap test leads that was messing with the measuring. Every Fluke is backed by a wonderful warranty. If yours is acting inaccurate, and everyone else's isn't, then you might want to have yours taken in to get checked out.
     
  10. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

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    I know a lot more about audio "engineering" than I do about actual engineering; here's an analogy from the former realm that I think may (?) apply to DMM's. Nowadays there are a billion cheap mic's and headphones - and everything else on the market - and there is a kind of bottom-end-of-usable-IRL market for everything. With mic's and headphones I have noticed that the companies that also make real high end stuff consistently do much better in the low end gear. E.g. AT makes unqualified good cans and mics under $200. I suspect it is because the low end stuff benefits from their high end R&D.

    Which Extech meter is everyone talking about? They make decent meters and they make rock-bottom end meters. I could be mistaken, but I believe they compete as the value choice in all/most of the markets they target. E.g. if I want a good handheld LCR meter and have a budget of < $500 they are standing there all alone AFAIK...

    How is everyone comparing and troubleshooting pickups without an LCR meter? Do you use this method?

    In another post I forgot to mention gaussmeters, which I also need to get the full picture - even for workaday troubleshooting. I vaguely remember a story from Seymour Duncan about some humbuckers Andy Summers had sent him for repair. Turned out he had passed by some monstrous transformer on the subway where he was living/working, and the EMF had demagnetized the bar mags significantly. IMO I need to rule out the magnet in the question of, "Why does my guitar sound dull?" ...or shrill if e.g. I'm cloning a PAF

    Or maybe I should ask what is everyone's assumption about application? Are we talking emergency field repair? Swapping pickups for fun? Or maybe we are assuming that a meter gets used outside the guitar more than inside - like, "I have no sound coming out my speaker, what's wrong?" I'm a tinkerer, plus I'm always trying to fill in my really spotty knowledge of electronics, so I like to fiddle, think, get creative inside the guitar... Also I play for a living so I have an accessible test area where I can crash my experimental circuits into the ground in flames at least 4 days per week LOL

    Does anyone agree that an LCR meter and a DMM are different kinds of meters, and that both are super handy for guitar tech? I'm so surprised that there's no enthusiasm for the meter that seems most relevant to me if we're talking about the stuff inside the guitar. If I had to live with just one meter it wouldn't be an LCR meter, but I would miss it sorely. If I only had to maintain my guitar - no amp, pedals, etc - I would definitely choose an LCR meter as my one meter.

    Of course IRL we don't have to choose. We can use as many meters as we want. I can't be the only person here with a mild clutter of meters?

    I remember from another thread that the OP bought Guitar Electronics for Musicians and wants to learn about guitar electronics. If that's the case inductance is needed to do the math in that book.

    Satellite, I'm so surprised that the Extech 380193 tested so poorly. I have the 380193 and I've never gotten any reading that raised an eyebrow to its published specs. Were both meters tested against a reference/bench/lab type meter? What prompted the comparison between LCR and DMM? What was your methodology? Did you publish your results anywhere?

    DonnyB, maybe it would help if you told us your actual budget for test gear? Also what are your goals, however fuzzy/specific they may be?
     
  11. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I have to be honest that I currently have no use for an LCR in my shop. If I really really wanted to measure the impedance of something, I could use a resistor and a function generator but I've honestly never had to do that for guitar work.
     
  12. ScottB

    ScottB Gold Supporting Member

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    In some respects, you're comparing apples and oranges. The Extech is an LCR meter, The Fluke is a multimeter.

    The Extech measures AC resistance at 100 Hz and 1 kHz. The Fluke does not, it only measures DCR. These specs cannot be compared directly.

    The Extech is an excellent meter for understanding pickup response, although it's probably overkill for a "hobbyist". If you really want to understand pickups, you have to be measuring inductance (at least...).

     
  13. ScottB

    ScottB Gold Supporting Member

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    Yes.

    And I also agree that the Extech 380193 is the best LCR meter in that price range. I was lucky enough to get a great deal on one used on ebay a few years back. I've used it almost every day since.
     
  14. Clorenzo

    Clorenzo Gold Supporting Member

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    Same here. I've actually had a Wavetek Meterman (now Amprobe) LCR55 for years and, though very useful for lots of other audio electronics stuff (like matching pairs of inductors and caps for loudspeaker crossovers), I've never ever used it on a guitar. I do use my trusty old Fluke 73 all the time though... Not saying you need a Fluke btw, just saying a DMM is all I've ever felt the need to use for guitar electronics.

    Edit: by the way, if after Amprobe bought Wavetek they've kept the same level of quality and accuracy as they had before, I can wholeheartedly recomend the brand and IIRC they did have a few affordable models available...

    Check this one out: http://www.amazon.com/Amprobe-35XP-A-Temperature-Frequency-Capacitance/dp/B0012IWVME/ref=pd_cp_hi_3 It does capacitance and has decent specs: http://www.amprobe.com/amprobe/usen/multimeters/general-purpose/35xp-a.htm?PID=73034
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2012
  15. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    I don't quite understand what happened to Wavetek. I don't think they were ever bought by Amprobe. Wavetek became Willtek. Then something happened to Willtek. I think they were bought, and then spun off along with a bunch of other stuff. Willtek/Wavetek went to Aeroflex. A bunch of products went elsewhere, like to Fluke and it looks like Meterman went to Amprobe. I think the communications portion Willtek/Wavetek live with Aeroflex, a bunch of benchtop measurment went to Fluke, and some lower end stuff went elsewhere too...probably some ended up with Amprobe somehow.

    Amprobe is a respected name. They basically invented the clamp on ammeter, I believe.
     
  16. SatelliteAmps

    SatelliteAmps Member

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    Yeah. I did mention that the two models aren't even close to comparable, but the Extech I referenced was the one mentioned by model in a previous post, and I chose a Fluke Model 83 as it is a fairly standard model for the past 20 years.

    All of the specs for the two I pulled directly from the websites from the manufacturers. The Extech one was actually linked to in this thread and has all the benchmark stuff in it. The Fluke info is directly off their website. They both explain on their websites how they create their benchmarks and tolerances.
     
  17. donnyb

    donnyb Member

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    Man, a lot of replies here. There's a TV ad in Australia that's become a classic.

    A young bloke walks into a convenience store (eg 7/11) and wants to buy some milk. The mature aged scary and public worn female shop owner rattles off about 10 different types of milk from no fat to full fat and then cocks her head and gives him the look that says "which one....Stupid?". He replies timidly, "I just want milk that tastes like milk", she gives him the advertised product, and he pays and bolts out the door, fast. Anyway, I guess you have to see it.

    Yes, I just want a simple meter that will do what I need to accurately fault find and fit up electric (duh!) guitars. Caps, Pots and PU's. No amps and pedals - scared of 240volts anyway.

    I'm experienced and competent in the other half of the brain with guitar re-fits and set-ups, and learning now, albeit with brain strain, about the electronics side with the brain's other half (the Air Force here used to put aspiring Techs into two distinct groups - the mechanical, and the electrical.' Truckies' and 'xxxxxxx' for short. (not allowed anymore to write the word these days, but lets just say " somewhat unusual" comes close). I was a jet engine mech tech.......

    This electronics side as reflected in all the replies to my original post shows incredible passion and depth of knowledge - fascinating ! It is all very amazing how far we humans have come, and we have only scratched the surface. But we shouldn't get toooo precious?

    At the risk of upsetting some.... I think I will go for the Extech MN25 - what do you reckon?
     
  18. RussB

    RussB low rent hobbyist Silver Supporting Member

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    Sounds good. Have fun with your new gadget :)
     
  19. LarryOM

    LarryOM Guest

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    People should check the specs before taking someone's word for it. For example the online manual for the Extech 380193 shows its highest range at 9.999mF which is 9,999uF, not the 2,000uF that was claimed earlier. And the 10% tolerance only applies to the 9,999uF range. All the other capacitor ranges are 2% or less, most of the ranges being 0.7%. And I doubt anyone would be using a 10,000uF cap in a guitar so if you're only using the meter on guitars and not on amps, then it should be plenty precise for that application.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2012
  20. Clorenzo

    Clorenzo Gold Supporting Member

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    Didn't you say you wanted to measure capacitors? I think the one you want is the MN26T...
     

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