I am an amateur radio operator and subscribe to several mailing lists that discuss building and testing amateur radio equipment, including the Elecraft mailing list and Flying Pigs QRP Club mailing list. I love these lists because they’re chock full of practical information from amateurs who are actively building stuff.
One item that is frequently discussed on these lists is the AADE L/C Meter IIB Kit. Many hams like it because it’s inexpensive ($100), easy to build, and apparently, accurate and useful.
The other day, I got a press release for a similar instrument–the Agilent E4980A Precision LCR Meter. Being an Agilent product, I would guess that it’s also accurate and useful. At $13,000, the Agilent E4980A certainly costs a lot more, though.
Of course, there are other differences. For example, AADE specifies an accuracy of “1% typical,” while the “basic accuracy” of the E4980A is 0.05%. The AADE meter uses a fixed test signal, while the Agilent meter can make measurements with a test frequency betweeen 20 Hz and 2 MHz. The AADE meter measures inductance from .001 mHy (1 nHy) to 100 mHy and capacitance from .010 pF to 1 mFd. The Agilent instrument measures these parameters over a much wider range in addition to resistance, complex impedance, Q, and other related parameters.
The Agilent is, of course, a much more capable instrument, but is it worth $12,900 more than the AADE meter? For some applications, of course, but for many applications, and certainly most amateur radio applications, the AADE meter more than meets the need.