A digital multimeter, also known as a voltmeter, is a device that’s commonly used by service technicians and electricians. This tool is very useful for a wide range of industries, including HVAC, appliance repair, handiwork, IT, and predictive maintenance. So if you have worked in any of the industries mentioned, then you probably understand what a multimeter is. But do you know how to find the best multimeters given the wide range of options available in the market?
The multimeter has definitely come a long way ever since it was first used several years ago. It has greatly evolved in terms of reliability and portability. This device is mainly used in testing electrical systems, power sources, circuits, batteries, motors, as well as any kind of electrical components.
So how do you find the best multimeters in the market?
What is a Digital Multimeter?
Let’s first dig deeper into what a digital multimeter is. It’s a type of tool used by certain professionals to obtain information about electrical measurements. A lot of times, these measurements are then used to find out what causes problems on a particular product or electrical line.
The values obtained from digital multimeter have to do with amperage (current), voltage, resistance, etc. Indeed, it’s a very useful device for electricians and other persons as it allows them to be able to work safely around electricity.
As a matter of fact, a digital multimeter is a very important tool found in the workbenches and toolboxes of electricians and even non-professional people who are fond of tinkering issues concerning electricity at home.
Before you start looking for the best digital multimeter to buy, it’s important to understand how a digital multimeter works. As mentioned, this device works by displaying an electrical reading, which is a result of the measurement of the different electrical values. It will continue to display readings if several other things on the meter are put into place.
The digital multimeter usually comes with testing prongs, which is what you’ll plug on the device in order to obtain the electricity feed that it needs before giving a reading. It comes with a dial at the meter that must be turned into a certain position, depending on the type of electrical reading that’s being obtained.
The pair of tongs will be in contact against a current or electrical line and when the current comes back to the multimeter, it’s going to provide the value of the electricity depending on what the multimeter was set for. Such value will appear at the built-in digital readout.
Types of Multimeters
Digital multimeter is the most common multimeter used by various technicians today. It’s usually very useful for the electrical industry as it measures different types of electrical values like the voltage, resistance, and current. Before the arrival of the digital multimeter, a needle-based analog meter was used. The digital multimeter has certainly brought a whole new level of precision and accuracy to the multimeter. It’s also been found to have more impedance and is definitely more reliable.
Digital multimeters have combined various multiple features in a single device. Although you need to have several single-task meters, if you need to, for instance, test the resistance and voltage at the same time, it’s possible to use the single digital meter in obtaining these measurements.
Some models of digital multimeters include advanced features that are very useful for certain professionals. For instance, technicians who have to use specialized instruments may need a digital multimeter that has more advanced features.
When looking at the digital multimeter, you’ll find four different components. Aside from the display, there are buttons for choosing the different functions dial, buttons for determining different measurement values including volts, ohms, and amps.
You’ll also find input jacks that are used for testing leads. These leads consist of two insulated wires that can be plugged right into the unit and can be used as a conductor from the particular object that’s being read. Red means positive while the black wire is negative.
Modern digital multimeters have now greatly evolved in terms of precision and sensitivity ever since they were first launched in the market decades ago. As more and more professionals demand reading accuracy, it has become pretty clear why many opt for the digital versions instead of relying on the analog multimeters.
Most of the modern digital multimeters offer versatility and functionality. For instance, it’s possible for you to set the range automatically or manually. The auto-ranging feature of the digital multimeter will save you a lot of time since there’s no longer a need to determine the actual range yourself. The device will do it for you.
Even though digital multimeters are now becoming the most sought after multimeters in the market, a lot of people still prefer to use analog multimeters for certain reasons. First is the way in which it delivers readings. Analog versions come with a needle that would swing across a calibrated scale while the digital ones provide readings through an LED display.
The biggest advantage of the analog version over the digital ones is that it offers much faster results. This lack of delay is very useful for electricians who may need to check the continuity of various wires all at once. Those who need to measure the transitory voltage might also prefer a device that provides instantaneous readings.
In addition, the analog multimeters don’t break down so easily, unlike the digital versions. This is because the analog ones don’t have too many sensitive components in them, mainly the LED display components.
Aside from durability, analog multimeters are also better in terms of precision and consistency. Whether you’re buying the most expensive model or the cheapest ones, analog multimeters are known for offering the most accurate and precise data. Yet, they are way cheaper compared to digital multimeters.
But the analog multimeter also comes with its own drawbacks. Since the analog meter is equipped with a coil and a needle, which represent the readings, the device is very sensitive to vibrational shocks. Although the digital meters can still function even with a few hits and bumps, the analog models may not be able to provide accurate readings when there’s constant vibration.
The worse thing that could happen is for the needle and the oil to get damaged due to the constant hits and bumps. But this issue can be minimized if the device is placed in a rubber or plastic casing. However, this is just a mere preventive measure and may not help prevent the device from getting damaged.
When it comes to readability, the digital is way simpler. If you take a look at the analog meter, you’ll find a few different scales having different values. If you don’t know how to properly read these values, you may not appreciate using this meter.
But with the digital ones, reading the results is quite easy since the actual value will be displayed along with the measurement units. The lack of decimals may also be an issue for the analog versions as it can be quite a challenge to determine values that are less than zero.
Things to Keep in Mind When Looking for the Best Multimeter
Accuracy is an important factor to consider when looking for the best multimeter for home use or commercial use. It refers to the maximum allowed error limit in a single reading. This is expressed by the symbol “±” that represents the percentage of the reading and the number of the LSD or least significant digit.
Such a figure represents the errors that come as a result of various tolerances, offset noise, and more. For instance, if you’ve got a 4.5 DDM, an accuracy of ± (0.1%+1)), and you are taking a measurement on a 12V output, the device will display a range of 11880V to 12120V. If you take the LSD into consideration, the last digit of these figures would fluctuate by ±1.
Nevertheless, a device with higher accuracy is capable of offering a more precise reading. But there’s really no need for you to purchase the most accurate multimeter device. Some people who are buying the device for home use find it necessary to purchase the device that has the highest accuracy, which is more expensive, even though they might not actually need it.
There are lots of important factors that you should take into consideration when looking for the best multimeter brands. One of these is the resolution. You should choose a brand that is known to offer the best resolution and can detect even the slightest change in the input signals that could trigger a change in the overall output signal.
For digital multimeters, the resolution is expressed through the number of digits that appear on the display. Most of the models in the market are either 4.5 or 3.5 digit meters and with a range of between 1999 and 19999. Sometimes, the resolution is referred to as “count.”
Whether you need it for professional or personal use, you need to choose a device that offers good resolution and can be relied upon when handling more sensitive projects. Remember that the wider the range of the multimeter, the better its resolution.
When reading multimeter reviews, find out the input impedance of the particular device. This is especially important for sensitive control circuits and electronics since the digital multimeters have almost no impact on the circuit performance if it’s offering good input impedance. Thankfully, most of the digital multimeters are equipped with high input impedance that’s often higher than one megaohm.
The older versions of analog meters tend to have low input of only around 10-kilo ohms that could affect and cause damage to sensitive circuits and electronics. While the older analog meters can still be used, they must only be used in testing circuits where the low impedance will not have any negative impact.
But when it comes to high tech electronic devices, like mobile phones and computers, you definitely don’t want to take the risk. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you use a device that has a high impedance in order to prevent any issues and avoid circuit breakdowns.
Another important factor to think of when looking for the best multimeters is the True RMS. This is responsible for measuring the AC (Alternating Current) or AC voltage. While it might seem like a somewhat complicated formula, it’s actually pretty simple.
The device measures the equivalent DC (Direct Current) value of the AC signal. In its simple terms, this device evaluates the AC wave signal’s effectiveness. A unit that has an average level of response uses mathematical formulas in taking precise measurements on sinusoidal waves. While it may be able to measure non-sinusoidal waves, the device may lack precision.
But the most sophisticated multimeters are capable of delivering accurate measurements in both non-sinusoidal and sinusoidal waves. Any average attempt to measure the waves that were distorted may be 40% low and 10% high during calculations.
There is a need for the True RMS to be able to grow rapidly over the last few years since there are now various electrical devices that rely on short signal pulses. Examples of these devices are computers and HVAC devices.
Best Multimeters in the Marketplace
By now, you should have learned a lot of things about the multimeters, along with the important factors to keep in mind when buying one. To guide you in your search, check out this list of the best multimeters in 2019.
1 – INNOVA 3340 Automotive Digital Multimeter
INNOVA 3340 is a great choice if you’re looking for the best automotive multimeter. This digital automotive multimeter offers similar functionalities as that of a typical digital multimeter but with added features. For instance, it allows you to diagnose issues that are specific to your vehicle’s electronic or electrical system.
Aside from the special automotive features, the INNOVA 3340 is capable of measuring AC DC voltage, diode voltage drop, resistance, frequency, continuity, DC current, and AC current. Furthermore, this tool is also equipped with record and review functionalities, like the measurement hold and min-max average.
Just like its predecessor, the INNOVA 3320, the 3340 is also considered a CAT I multimeter, which is already enough to conduct automotive testing. Overall, the 3340 digital multimeter is a relatively safe tool to use for the specific purpose that it’s designed for.
However, using the CAT I multimeter for live electrical systems is not recommended since it’s pretty dangerous. When it comes to this, you might as well go for a CAT III multimeter, which was made for this specific purpose.
Equipped with automotive test functions
Provides accurate results
Considered one of the safest multimeters in the market, the Klein Tools Digital Multimeter is the best multimeter for beginners. Rated CAT III for 1000 Volts and CAT IV for 600 Volts, you’d be able to use this multimeter for diagnosing almost any kind of electrical system.
This multimeter can be used to measure AC and DC voltage, continuity, resistance, diode voltage drop, duty cycle, frequency, temperature, capacitance, mill amps, micro-amps, as well as AC DC current.
Aside from the safety measures that this multimeter already has, this device is also equipped with protective fuses, as well as separate ports that improve the unit’s level of safety. This device comes with manual range selection, relative button, max to min display, backlight, and display hold. Indeed, this device is a complete package.
Thee Klein Tools Digital Multimeter MM1000 is covered with a two-year warranty. Although non-professionals may not be able to use all the functions of this multimeter, it’s still a great choice in terms of accuracy and functionality.
Rated as CAT IV
Fluke is known for producing some of the best multimeters in the market, which is why it’s often on top of the list when it comes to the best multimeter brands. Investing in this multimeter device is definitely recommended.
When it comes to accuracy, safety, durability, reliability, and functionality, the Fluke 115 will never disappoint. Built in accordance to the CAT III standards, the Fluke 115 will keep you protected against electrocution as you troubleshoot electrical devices that are considered dangerous, just like the electrical main circuit breaker in your home.
All of the parts and components of this digital multimeter are well made, from the PCB circuit board to the soldering board and the protective casing. It’s clear that these parts were assembled very securely.
This device also comes with several useful features, like the auto range, manual range, min-max, backlight, hold, latch-on continuity testing, as well as a fused current port. However, this multimeter device doesn’t come with a milli-amp measuring system. If it would come with it, it would be the best value multimeter.
Lasts for a long time
Covered by a three-year warranty
A bit expensive
Doesn’t come with milli-amp measurement
TekPower is said to be the first multimeter device that can be connected to Android and USB. If you feel the need to connect the multimeter to your computer or mobile phone, then this is definitely the best multimeter for the money.
But why would anyone need to connect the multimeter to a PC or mobile phone? There are actually many reasons behind this. For instance, you may want to send information to another person that can help you with troubleshooting a particular device.
With this smart multimeter, it’s possible to send readings in real-time via email. Indeed, TekPower is definitely one of the most interesting multimeters to check out.
While this device is truly innovative, they have unfortunately sacrificed some important features that a regular multimeter should have. For instance, they have omitted the data holding and storage.
Equipped with K-Type thermo probe
First multimeter that can be connected to a PC or smart phone
Wired USB connection
It might have a short lifespan unless handled with utmost care
5 – Amprobe AM-560 Advanced HVAC Digital Multimeter
The Amprobe AM 560 is a handheld multimeter device that’s capable of performing audible and diode continuity tests. It comes with dual thermocouples that allow differential measurement of temperature.
What makes this device so unique is that it’s capable of accurately measuring almost all kinds of important ranges including micro-amps, which are used for gauging flame sensors. Its level of functionality and accuracy are great as well.
The Amprobe AM 560 is equipped with two inputs and comes with two thermocouples. Its screen is depicting two separate sets of measurements, which makes it extremely easy to monitor both low and high temperatures.
What really makes this device special is that it’s capable of freezing the value of a voltage or current surge. Plus, its dual-screen design makes comparing the current and previous values easier.
This multimeter has an impeccable display, which is way better than the other models. Plus, it comes with a bar graph that responds quickly and can pick up noise signals very easily. Overall, this device makes your work even more efficient.
Can store both low and high readings
Display screen offers clear and sharp images
Features dual screen, which allows for the easy comparing of values
Includes two thermocouples
The frequency is not displayed
The NVC feature is a bit poor
Good Video on How to Use a Multimeter for Beginners
Interestingly, this YouTube video gives a detail explanation on how to use the best multimeter for beginners. Newbie’s will find it interesting because it provides insight on how to measure resistance, voltage, continuity, and much more.
6 – Fieldpiece HS36 True RMS Stick Multimeter
The Fieldpiece HS36 is a type of stick multimeter that comes with auto-ranging features and is used mainly by HVAC professionals. It includes a detachable amp clamp head that provides better functionality.
This multimeter is capable of performing all sorts of tests, which include high-temperature analysis as well as reading micro-amps. Featuring a strong backlight on its display, this device can be used even in total darkness, as well as in areas that are poorly lit. Furthermore, this device is equipped with a magnetic hanger that’s built into it and enhances the multimeter’s overall functionality.
The True RMS of this device helps electricians pick up all sorts of waveforms very accurately. Furthermore, its bar graph is available in analog mode. Indeed, this multimeter device makes your work more efficient while also helping you monitor any minor changes during quick changing currents.
Capable of performing all kinds of tests
Features strong backlight that allows easy reading even in the dark
Doesn’t come with any warranty
No low impedance feature
Another great product that’s made by one of the best multimeter brands is this Fluke 174 True RMS Multimeter. This device is capable of reading AC and DC currents of up to 1,000 V. Thus, it’s a great multimeter device for professionals. It’s capable of testing diodes, capacitance, continuity, resistance, and frequency in both maximum and minimum settings.
The Fluke 174 is a very secure and safe tool to use and was rated category III in the safety rating. What makes this device stand out from the rest is that it’s very durable. This product is made from high-quality materials and has a very hardwearing exterior. If you’re looking for a multimeter that can handle the daily wear and tear, then this is a great product to check out.
Even the display of this multimeter is superb. It has a backlight that allows users to read the display even with minimal light. With this feature, the device can be used in areas that don’t have enough lighting. Furthermore, it’s covered under a lifetime warranty, which means that the durability of the device can really be trusted.
Comes with a carrying case
Covered with a lifetime warranty
Easy to use and very durable
Provides accurate results
This device is specifically designed for DIY electricians and technicians, making it the best multimeter for home use. Featuring a small and compact design, this device is very affordable compared to the other digital multimeters in the market. Unfortunately, you cannot really expect this tool to be as robust as the more expensive ones.
The INNOVA 3320 comes with a side mounted lead holders, foldout stand, and elastic cord hook, making it very convenient to use. In order to ensure proper handling, this device is equipped with a rear strap. It’s sleek and lightweight and has an input dial that’s centrally mounted with selector stations.
What will really catch your attention upon looking at this device is the large display, which also means you get to read large and clear digits. Plus, the color-coding of different ranges is clearer compared to other multimeter devices of the same kind.
Thanks to this device’s circuit board which makes full use of the main electrical components, this multimeter works very fast when it comes to reading resistance and current. Furthermore, the Innova 3320 has a resistance of 20M and the input impedance lies in a high of 10M. For this device, the voltage is recorded at 600V, which offers a truly efficient output.
The INNOVA 3320 also features three separate jock sockets – the main terminal, the common, and the DC 10 A. It also includes an auto power off feature, which shuts down the device after being idle for 15 minutes. The overall circuit board has been put together quite well, plus the components are of extremely great quality. Given the commendable reaction time, this device is truly worth buying.
Provides accurate results for small jobs
Comes with an auto-ranging feature
Includes battery life indicator
Provides clear and large digital display
The Extech EX330 is a total opposite of the Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter. Yet, it’s one of the most affordable multimeters around, costing only around $50. It’s hard to find another multimeter device that’s as efficient as this one on the same price range.
Indeed, this device is among the most affordable in the market now. Furthermore, it has a wide variety of features and is capable of reading frequency, capacitance, test current, continuity, duty cycle, diode, voltage, and resistance.
On top of all the features mentioned, this multimeter also works as a continuity tester and its data readout can be set to maximum hold/relative, hold/data. For only $50, this multimeter is a pretty good deal.
The fact that it’s able to sense temperature makes it really worth the money. Furthermore, this multimeter operates on two AAA batteries. Although the model is being marketed for the professional market, it can also work well for hobbyists who need a reliable and affordable auto-ranging multimeter.
4000-count auto-ranging multimeter
Comes with built-in AC voltage detector
Type K temperature probe
Finally, another multimeter device that’s truly one of the best multimeters out there is the ROTEK 81D Auto Ranging Multimeter. This device is a favorite among professionals because it comes with a built-in CMOS circuit. Furthermore, it also comes with an on and of beeping alarm, which is very rare for multimeter devices.
As for the display, this multimeter features a large and bright display that could read up to 1999, making it ideal for conducting most tests. Given the wide capacitance range, this multimeter certainly delivers the kind of performance that one would expect.
Features a large LCD screen
Highly versatile multimeter
When it comes to the best multimeters, you should go for something that’s both functional and durable, which is why we have chosen the INNOVA 3340 Automotive Digital Multimeter as our top choice from this list.
This multimeter has similar functionalities with any digital multimeters but comes with several special features, such as the ability to diagnose specific issues. So if you’re an electrician or a hobbyist who needs a multimeter device that you can rely on, we would strongly suggest getting this model.
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