LCR meter and multimeter are one of the most if not the most important measuring instruments for an electrical engineer. A Multimeter is often the first choice for a hobbyist or a student getting into the industry. Further, with an advanced understanding of the fundamental concepts, instruments such as an LCR meter might come in handy.
In this post, we are going to briefly break down the differences between the LCR meter and multimeter so that you know what to use in case of facing a certain measuring challenge. Besides, you can identify what thing they are overlapping in terms of function and which one is better.
If you have a question which one should you buy? Perhaps, this post can help a little. We also include the table chart so that you can see their differences quickly.
So, What Are the Differences Between LCR Meter and Multimeter?
A multimeter is an electrical device used to measure voltage, current, and resistance in circuits. Engineers can use multimeters to detect voltage, resistance levels, and electrical current variations by connecting two wires to different parts of an electrical system. It can also be used to check the continuity of an electrical path to ensure it connects two terminals or points in a circuit.
On the other hand, things such as impedance and the complex resistance caused by alternating currents can be measured with an LCR meter. The LCR meter measures current, voltage, and phase angle and then calculates the associated LCR values, which can be displayed in different ways. The frequency range of this instrument can reach the megahertz range.
That being said, it can be concluded that digital multimeters measure the characteristics of components and circuits while an LCR meter only measures the characteristics of certain components.
The reason why an LCR is such a special tool when measuring capacitance and inductance is because these components are reactive in nature. In simple terms, their values change with frequency and this is something that only an LCR meter can measure and a multimeter can’t.
When measuring the value of a component, although both of them are able to do that, an LCR meter is said to be more accurate than a multimeter with an accuracy of +/- 0.01 %.
|Voltage, current measurement||Yes||No|
|Component value measurements||Yes||Yes|
|Component value measurement with frequency change||No||Yes|
Example Comparison (Fluke 101 Vs. Proster BM4070)
For the sake of this argument, we are going to do an apple-to-apple comparison so that we can get a clear idea of the differences between these electrical measuring instruments. Let’s compare an entry-level digital multimeter with an entry-level LCR meter.
The FLUKE-101 Digital Multimeter is an entry-level multimeter specifically made for hobbyists and engineering students. This device allows users to measure AC & DC voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, frequency and duty cycle, diodes, and test for continuity. This device has a capacitance measurement accuracy of 2% and a DC voltage measurement accuracy of 0.5%, of course as the device gets more expensive and high-end the accuracy will also increase.
On the other side, we have the Proster BM4070, it’s an entry-level LCR meter aimed at beginners and hobbyists. The device can measure the values of inductors, capacitors, and resistors. When it comes to accuracy, LCR meters are generally more accurate compared to multimeter. This meter has an accuracy of +/- 2% for inductance and capacitance values.
In the end, one might argue the need for an LCR meter as it only offers limited features compared to a digital multimeter. However, if a user needs to measure the values of the electronic components with more accuracy and at a specific frequency, then, an LCR meter is a great piece of equipment.
As said before, a digital multimeter offers way more features than a standard LCR meter. So, for hobby projects and for beginners, we will always recommend buying a multimeter such as the Fluke 101, as its one of the key instruments to get you started in the world of electronics.
Nevertheless, it’s all up to you. You know what you need and what instrument to bring to your project.