LCR meter - is it better than multimeter?
What is an LCR meter?
LCR meter is a device used to measure the inductance (L), capacitance (C), and resistance (R). Therefore, LCR meter, because LCR is the cluster of the three letters which mark these three quantities. There are many models and types of LCR meters. Some are very small, hand-held devices which are very easy to use and can be carried anywhere you go. However, there are also more advanced and professional devices, some are table mounted and the most professional LCR meters are used in laboratories. LCR meter are available in various sizes, and the range of values that can be measured might vary from type to type. The range of measurable values and features of an LCR meter usually affects the price of the equipment. Also, LCR meter often have other useful features and functions, for example the comparator function. In this mode, you can enter the threshold values and the meter will automatically grade the test samples as “pass” and “fail”.
All LCR meters have a digital display to show the measured values and data. There are many other buttons and controls which differ from type to type, the handheld devices are usually simpler and easier to operate and the more advanced and professional table mounted LCR meters usually have more functions, modes, and controls.
LCR meters can sometimes be confused with multimeters because they feature similar functions. Both are used for troubleshooting and service work, but it is important to know which is better for what actions. Let´s take a look at the differences between LCR meter and multimeter.
LCR meter and multimeter – how to tear them apart?
First, let´s sum up briefly the most important features and characteristics of each of these devices.
Multimeter is a device combining the functions of a voltmeter, ohmmeter, and ammeter – it can measure voltage, resistance and current. Each multimeter is composed of four distinct parts: display (with the digital multimeters), button panel (to configure the options), dial (to change between current, voltage and resistance settings, and input Jacks (to connect the probes). Multimeters are used to diagnosing electrical circuits, for example checking the voltage of batteries, examining power outlets, testing a fuse, or locating a bad switch.
LCR meters, on the other hand, consist of the following parts: the on/off switch, the function selector, the display, range selector, and input terminals. LCR meters are used for testing more complex circuits. Some of the basic operations include checking if a power supply is in phase or not or examining an oscillator.
The differences between multimeter and LCR meter include the measuring units that each of the devices can measure or the working component (LCR meter use Wheatstone bridge and RC ratio arm circuit as the main working circuit while multimeters use balanced bridge DC amplifier).
To conclude, some LCR meters can perform all functions of a basic multimeter and more. Thank to this, LCR meters will in most cases be more useful than multimeters. Mostly for measuring inductance and capacitance, LCR meters will usually serve better. However, multimeters can be very helpful and sufficient tools for use at home. LCR meters will be of more help to a professional worker or electrician, but most electricians keep both multimeter and LCR meter always by hand.
So, if you are looking for a tool for basic household operations, you might consider buying a more basic multimeter which might be sufficient for you.
What is an LCR meter used for?
LCR meters are very often used for direct and precise measurements of inductors, capacitors and resistors using different test frequencies and selecting the test area manually or automatically. The LCR meter can be operated fully automatically or handheld. Also, a software can be used to record and keep the results for later usage.
LCR meter are widely used in electrical industries for testing the values of newly manufactures appliances like fridges, TVs etc. Also, they are often used in laboratories.
Types of LCR meters
Handheld LCR meters
The accuracy of handheld LCR meters is usually +/-1%. They are lightweight, portable, and run thanks to a battery, so there are many advantages to using this type of device. You can carry them anywhere. The length of battery life will differ from type to type so before you choose a product, make sure the specifications fulfil your needs. For example, the battery life of this device https://measuritec.com/collections/keysight-technology-brand/products/keysight-technologies-u1732c-lcr-meter is 16 hours.
If you are looking for another quality handheld device, check out this premium tool: https://measuritec.com/collections/peaktech-brand-measuring-devices/products/peaktech-2170-lcr-esr-meter .
Benchtop or table mounted LCR meters
They usually offer more features, modes, and functions. Some of the extra features which handheld devices don´t have are for example programmable frequencies, better measurement accuracy, computer control or data collection for automated applications. Other common features include DC bias voltage, DC bias current or sweem capability. These LCR meters are usually used for AC calibration of inductance, capacitance and resistance standards or production testing of components and sensors.
If you are looking for a basic benchtop LCR meter, this tool might fulfil your needs: https://measuritec.com/products/digital-lcr-measuring-device-high-precision-at817d-50hz-100ka-hz-10-point-four-color-vfds-display-digital-lcr-bridge . More advanced tools from this category for more skilled users can be found here https://measuritec.com/products/at3817d-100-khz-lcr-measuring-device-100-khz-10-frequency-point-0-1-accuracy or here https://measuritec.com/products/10-khz-digital-lcr-measuring-device-240-128-points-8-typical-test-frequency-mch-2817d-laboratory-use-multimeter-digital-tester-size-198-242v . For a very advanced premium quality professional LCR benchtop meter, go here: https://measuritec.com/products/et3510-digital-lcr-measuring-device-desktop-high-precision-digital-lcr-bridge-0-05-accuracy .
Read the specifications of each product precisely to make sure you choose the right device for you. Each tool has different specifications and some of them might not fulfil your requirements.
Advantages of an LCR meter
We have already come across some advantages of an LCR meter but let´s sum them up to make it more comprehensive.
Every LCR meter combines the functions of three device in one since it can measure capacitance inductance and resistance. It is obviously better to carry one device instead of three to perform the same range of measurements.
Also, LCR meters are very accurate and give quite precise data. They can be easily calibrated and are quick and simple to use, all you have to do is connect the probes.