ESR Meter Recommendations

Tothwolf tothwolf at
Wed Sep 30 22:55:15 CDT 2015

On Wed, 30 Sep 2015, John Robertson wrote:
> On 09/30/2015 5:22 PM, Tothwolf wrote:
>> I bought a kit from last year to replace my Dick Smith 
>> version that spouted legs and was rather disappointed with how it had 
>> been kitted up. A lot of the components were very low quality or did 
>> not fit the board properly, so I substituted my own. Even the 9V 
>> battery snap was made wrong (bad quality wire and the snap was made 
>> backwards). Another oddity was the kit included two 18 pin dip sockets 
>> instead of an 18 pin and a 16 pin (I used some 3M dual wipe sockets 
>> that I had anyway).
>> One thing that really bothered me about the 'Blue ESR' variation 
>> compared to the original Dick Smith version was the lack of banana 
>> jacks, however I found some shrouded jacks which fit the blue Hammond 
>> enclosure.
>> If there is any interest in the changes I made to my meter, I'll see 
>> about digging up my notes/parts list and the photos I took during 
>> assembly.
> The new kit makers seem to be doing a good job on fitting the kits out 
> properly, had a little trouble with the first batch and they quickly 
> sent me missing parts. Heck, I remember problems I had with Dick Smith 
> kits back in the early 00s - missing circuit boards, wrong parts, etc. 
> However DS (and Anatek) ALWAYS made good on shortages.

It wasn't really a case of missing parts, just really poor quality parts 
apparently purchased in bulk based on price and little else (which may 
also be the reason why my kit had two 18 pin sockets in it). Some of the 
parts also looked suspiciously like the really junk stuff you find from 
the far-east eBay resellers. The capacitors they included did not match 
the lead spacing on the board (cheaper off-brand 5mm dia, 2mm ls parts 
instead of low profile 6.3mm dia 2.5mm ls), although I had no trouble at 
all finding the correct low-profile parts from Mouser that the board 
seemed to be designed for (IIRC, Nichicon SA and SR series electrolytics). 
Even the trimmer resistors were the wrong format for the board, which I 
replaced with some high quality Bourns parts that fit perfectly. Heck, 
even the Omron button cap was selected based on price...a tiny square cap 
intended to poke through a round hole? I used a larger round button cap 
from Omron.

> Plus Bob Parker is still helping folks with his kit, he has a great 
> support site in AU for these kits.
> (note the lack of 
> twitter or facebook links - "This web page is for grownups"!)
> FYI the kit leads have banana sockets on you can quick connect 
> the optional probes or use your own.

...yeah. About that...those leads and banana plugs are *terrible*. 
Absolutely junk. [Not to mention if you plug the "banana plugs" they 
include into the test probes they offer, there is no safety shroud at the 
plug to probe connection.] The little short wires they included were 
kinked, sticky, and were /never/ going to work out well. Maybe they would 
be find for a hobbyist who uses the tool every once in awhile, but for 
daily use? No way.

I also wanted to be able to use my Probe Master and Parrot Clip test leads 
with it. The original Dick Smith version had banana jacks, although they 
weren't shrouded and weren't standard 0.75" spacing, however the shrouded 
jacks I added to my Blue ESR meter are standard 0.75" spacing, so I can 
use double-banana plugs with them if I want to.

I took lots of photos and notes with the intent to write up a full 
critical review of it, but I've just been too busy with other projects. My 
personal opinion is the fit and finish of the Blue ESR meter out of the 
box isn't up to par and they charge way too much for the kit to be 
substituting in low quality components.

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