There are dozens of multimeter brands, though only a few really standout. It partly depends on what you plan to do and if you’re a novice or a professional as to which brand to go with, or indeed whether to pick a meter based on features alone.
Most of the pros stick with Fluke. They are the top manufacturer of handheld electrical test meters by a country mile, offering unbeatable reliability and quality almost every time.
Summing them up:
Part of Fortive, Fluke Corporation is the best multimeter brand. They have been putting out solid measurement devices for generations and continue to innovate and push the envelope.
They are the de facto, industry-standard and have been for many years. People will often rave about a tester they bought 25 or 30 years ago, and chances are the thing still works as new, being mechanically sound and retaining accuracy.
Not only are they hard-wearing, they are also very safe, where attention to detail is focused as much on the inside as it is out. Safety is paramount with Fluke. Their devices are well tested and feature very good input protection to shield the meter and user from surges and spikes.
They make handheld multimeters for most tasks, from the relatively cheap 101 ‘pocket’ meter and the flagship 87V all-rounder, up to wireless thermal imagers and highly accurate data logging devices. Their current clamp meters are also highly rated; their bench meters perhaps less so.
If in doubt and you have the budget, save yourself the hassle and time of trying to decipher who the best manufacturer is and just buy one. Take it from us, you can’t go wrong. The only thing to concern yourself with is in picking the right one with the specs to suit the task.
Some are better than others, with the cheaper ones – the 110 Series (like the Fluke 117) for example – being built in China. These have a slightly less refined edge compared with the US-made ones, but, nevertheless, they are still Fluke products and work almost as well.
Prices are from around $50 to $1,000 or more. A very good all-rounder, such as the Fluke 177, is in the $400 range. Pricey, yes, but divide that by 20 years and it brings it into perspective. Some of the cheapos that are said to ‘work just as well’ might be prone to giving up the ghost inside a year.
Brymen is one of the best alternatives to Fluke for those with lower budgets. This is a proud Taiwanese firm, though stateside electricians will know their products as Greenlee, who slap their badge on Brymen meters. They are somewhat in the mid-range, but offer excellent functionality and accuracy.
Much focus, like Fluke, is placed on safety and input protection. Category ratings may appear lower on a typical Brymen, but they don’t ‘big-up’ ratings like some of the cheaper manufacturers tend to do. You’ll pay more for a Brymen (Greenlee especially) than for a comparable brand, but will typically get a solid meter with a good display and specs. The compact BM257 and the ballyhooed EEVBlog BM235 are among their best.
Prices are in the $150 range.
The top end Extech multimeters are almost on par with the Brymens. Extech is a US firm, based out of New Hampshire. They have quite a large range of measuring equipment, from good value, budget range DMMs to wireless multimeters, along with oscilloscopes, inspection cameras and printers.
They may include more features than your typical meter, too, such as voltage detection and temperature inputs. The EX330 is one of their best selling, lower priced multimeters.
Mid-range Extechs are $50 or $60.
Amprobe was one of the original manufacturers of multimeters. Making their name from current clamp meters, this US firm is huge today and produces a large range of DMMs across many series’. They have a penchant for HVAC multimeters and specialist environmental sensors.
Amprobe also has a large range of amp clamp multimeters – a current clamp with the functionality of a multimeter. At the other end of the scale is the PM55A; one of the top rated pocket multimeters on the market. One of their best selling, full range, general purpose DMMs is the AM570.
Expect to pay $80-$100 for a run of the mill Amprobe DMM, such as the AM560 HVAC meter.
Klein is on par with Amprobe for longevity and range of products and is one of the best multimeter brands. They have been operating as a privately owned US company for decades and are equally well known in the world of multimeters. It is tough to split Klein Tools and Amprobe as they both make solid, mid-range products for the hobbyist and professional. The Klein MM1000 would appeal to both.
The MM1000 is around $75.
Agilent / Keysight
Regards its top end equipment, Agilent is somewhat of the Rolls Royce. This is especially so in regards to their bench meters and laboratory-standard tools. Originally created by Hewlett Packard, the company has diversified greatly today and the arm that produces the multimeters is known as Keysight.
Their top end handheld meters, such as the U1253B, are right up there with higher end Flukes like the Fluke 289. They are very precise and typically have hi-res, high count screens, with the U1253B boasting 50,000 counts on its OLED display.
Keysight’s DMMs are upwards of $500.
This Californian automotive firm is owned by Equus and tends more towards the amateur, with popular devices like the INNOVA 3320. The INNOVAs have decent features, albeit without the protection of your average Fluke or Agilent, but then they are not made for high energy mains circuitry as a rule.
As far as automotive diagnostic test tools go, they are good. The INNOVA 3340 is a popular standby meter in many car yards, having a slew of measuring features, like RPM, dwell angle and a temperature input.
Prices are $20-$80.
Mastech is a Chinese brand, albeit one of the better ones, and they are sold all over the world. They often come with surprising features, such as light, sound and humidity sensors on the MS8229, and are also quite tough. Displays are usually sharp, but the compromise is the auto ranging and continuity response times. Mastech meters also lack high quality input protection.
The MS8229 is $40-$50.
Similar to Mastech on price, quality and status is this Chinese-based manufacturer. People often go with Tekpower due to the attractive prices. They do receive good press, though are more for the amateur and those not measuring high energy circuits, such as three phase power.
They produce some half decent data logging multimeters, such as the TP9605BT, which comes with Bluetooth capability and is a fraction of the price of Fluke and Agilent loggers.
You can pick up a Tekpower for under $50.
While Etekcity is never going to win any awards as best multimeter brand, they do tend to attach their badge to fast selling devices. Etekcity operates online and they source average DMMs that appeal to both beginners and to professionals looking for a beater meter to throw in the tool bag. They also sell battery testers and laser thermometers.
Most Etekcity meters are under $50 – the best selling MSR-R500 usually coming in at less than $20.
Another popular Asian firm, Uni-Trend (or Uni-T) has a large range of digital multimeters. Quality is hit-and-miss, with some cheapo devices at the lower end to decent full range multimeters at the higher end.
Some electricians swear by Uni-T and have been buying their equipment for years. The UNI-T UT61E is a very capable meter, for example. Basic level of input protection tends to suffer from one to the next, however, so it is probably best to avoid them if you intend on doing heavy duty work.
Expect to pay around $100 for the better Uni-Ts.
Wrapping it up
This is a cross section of multimeter brands. There are many others; some good like Gossen or Megger, others are no-name brands that should be avoided. While it is tempting to save a bundle and go with one that matches the features and voltage range you have in mind, spare a thought for what’s under the hood.
Having good input protection is the single most important criteria when testing mains current. Cheap meters can, and do, explode when hit by a voltage surge, though if you’re only doing basic electrical work in your shed, this would be less of an issue.
As to the best multimeter brands, Fluke is the market leader and we have always gone with them, but some of the mid-level multimeter brands like Brymen and Amprobe also make solid devices.