The Elenco M-1700 DVM



I've owned quite a few multimeters in my day. After all, I've been a ham for over 20 years and working with electronics for way longer than that. I started out with old analog meters from Radio Shack (gasp). I've had B&K solid state VTVMs and my first digital meter was the old Sinclair LED meter.

Some years back at a hamfest, I found a digital meter for sale for about $20 (the going rate was $200). The guy said it worked fine, he had built it from a kit, but it needed a battery. Being the sucker that I was, I paid the $20 and thought I had gotten a deal. When I got home and popped a battery in, nothing worked. I did get the last laugh, though. When I opened it up and started examining the meter, I found two PC board pads that had never seen a drop of solder. Since one of them went to the battery I knew I was on the right track. The meter worked great for years, until I managed to crack the LCD display.

Well, you can get a brand new DVM now for not much more than $20. However, for just a little more you can get more than the basic model. When we needed a present for my son-in-law, I thought he might like a DVM (he was studying at ITT at the time). After a little research, I found the Elenco M-1700 for $39.95. I liked it so much, I bought another one for myself.


The meter is a little bigger than some of the cheap DVMs you see -- actually a good size. Small enough to carry around, but not too large. The meter measures all the usual things (AC/DC volts, ohms, and amps). It also has a continuity buzzer, a transistor beta measuring function, a diode test, and frequency measurement up to 20MHz. Oh yeah, it also measures capacitance to 20uF.

The meter comes with those safety probes that have the covers over the banana plugs. The probes are adequate, but nothing special. Just the usual prod-style probes.

Good Points

bulletNice size
bulletMeasures most everything except inductance

Bad Points

bulletHard to push capacitors into the little slots they provide for measurements (the slots are to reduce stray lead capacitance)
bulletThe little holes for transistor measurements are not very helpful either; short lead transistors are untestable
bulletThe frequency measurement is not very precise, and the manual is not very clear about frequency measurements

The bad points aren't that bad. I'm not sure there is a better way to handle the capacitors anyway. The transistor holes are a little annoying, but you can always fake it with some old resistor leads. At 10 MHz, the frequency display would read 10.00 which is only down to 10 kHz, so don't throw out your frequency counter. On the other hand, it is very useful to have your DVM measure frequency. I've used it to measure output from QRP transmitters and to help debug my Stamp-based frequency counter project.

As far as accuracy and readability, I have no complaints whatsoever. The buzzer feature is really handy. The diode test lets you read off the forward voltage drop of the diodes, and all the other scales work as you would expect. Is any of this rocket science? No way. But for $40 it is a bargain.


This is a great general purpose meter for a great price. Circuit Specialists has a similar meter for $19, but it doesn't measure high frequency or capacitance. I haven't owned that meter, so I can't comment on it, but the extra $20 is well worth it to get the extra features.

You can find the Elenco meter at CS Sales or visit Elenco and view their list of distributors.

You can find the $19 meter I mentioned at Circuit Specialists

I noticed that Circuit Specialists now has a 3 3/4 digit meter with a bar graph and frequency to 200 kMz (that's what it says; I'm guessing kHz) for $38. Haven't tried it, but it sure is nice being able to read 20MHz frequency with the Elenco. If you have either of these other meters and want to comment on them, let me know and I'll pass it along here.