What’s your favorite test instrument?

Simpson Model 60 VOM

The venerable Simpson Model 60 VOM has been in production for more than 60 years.

In the Test&Measurement World group on LinkedIn, editor Martin Rowe asks, “What’s your favorite test instrument”? He gets some interesting answers, but the two top vote-getters are the Bird Model 43 Wattmeter and the Simpson Electric Model 60 VOM (see right).

About the Bird wattmeter, one engineer said, “That’s easy – The Bird Model 43 Wattmeter. No other instrument has been in production, in its original design, for so long. Since 1952, which makes next year 2012 its 60th anniversary. Also, it must be the simplest, most rugged instrument ever produced. We regularly see Model 43 Wattmeters returned to us for calibration that are 30-40 years old, still working and, when they leave our facility, as accurate as the day they first came of the production line in Solon, Ohio.”

About the Simpson VOM, another replied, “My favorite test instrument of all time is the Simpson 260. I used it back in the 1970s while serving in the US Navy. It is rugged, easy to use, and does the job!”

Those are really two classics, and either is a great choice. But, what do  you think? What’s your favorite test instrument?


  1. Alan Wolke W2AEW says:

    A agree regarding the Bird 43 and the Simpson 260 (not the 60 as you pictured) – but I also have to add my Tek 2467 scope – incredible MCP CRT and very flexible triggering with dual delaying timebases – still can do things that many modern scopes can’t.

  2. UHF and VHF dipoles with a #47 pilot lamp in the center. I saw this on one of Diana Eng’s YouTube videos on Yagis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lslHtCUSfN4
    I use a UHF version of her ‘receiver’ to check out my mobile and portable stations all the time – this one piece of test equipment is cheap, ‘connects’ without disconnecting anything, and gives me an immediate indication of whether or not my antenna system is working. It makes a great demonstration for new hams and old ones too!

  3. Ned WB4BKO says:

    I do believe you mean Simpson 260, not 60. Along with its chief competitor from Triplett, probably the most prolific and popular VOM in use.

    Never could afford one. So now that digital meters are popular and reasonably priced, I don’t think I have use for an analog VOM. I still have and occasionally use my Heathkit VTVM. It’s not very portable, but still fun to use.

  4. My “favorite” is the Fluke Multimeter, LOL
    If it works, it’s a Fluke :)

  5. Sam Barrett-W5KF says:

    I can’t disagree with either of the frontrunners. The Simpson VOM is still amazing, and the Bird WM is so ubiquitous that it almost slipped my mind. I just wanted mention another. While it is not nearly as rugged or precise as the other two, I sure do find myself grabbing my MFJ 259 (non B) Antenna Analyzer on a regular basis.

  6. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing but sometimes it clouds our thinking. If the question is “what old piece of gear still works today and gets the job done?” then I can see where a Simpson VOM or similar instrument is named. To me, a modern DMM from any of the reputable instrument manufacturers is far superior to the old VOMs. So I nominate the 21st Century DMM as my favorite piece of test gear — amazing capability, compact size, reasonable cost and easy to use.

    To each his own, I guess.

  7. Elwood Downey, WB0OEW says:

    Tek TDS 210 oscilloscope and RiGExpert AA-230PRO Z meter probably get the most use around my shack, plus a little no-name digital VOM.

  8. Fred W8ZLK says:

    Tektronix scopes.. eg 475 (200 MHz dual channel)

  9. Bart W0IIT says:

    MY favorite test instrument?? If that boils down to what I reach for most often, there isn’t any question. Several years ago I saw one of Joe’s(N2CX) Quickies in a QRP Quarterly, it was a simple circuit for a continuity tester. I put one together in a little blue plastic enclosure, attached a pair of test leads from the junk box. Found out after I closed it up that I couldn’t hear the piezo buzzer unless I but the enclosure right up to my ear, the soldering pencil was still hot so I used it to make a bunch of holes in the enclosure and voila I had a neat tester for continuity. I got tired of digging it out of a pile of stuff on the bench every time I needed it so I glued a strip of velcro to its bottom glued the matching strip to the edge of my workbench, let the leads hang down to the floor and it sits there today. I rarely, if ever, sit down to the bench that I don’t use the tester!!! I cannot remember ever changing the battery but surely I have? I can’t find the QQ that Joe wrote it up in or I would include the schematic. I know it used a Radio Shack piezo and the bubble wrap might of had the simple circuit shown on the back?

  10. I will agree with Chris and that is my Fluke multimeter.

  11. My Fluke DMM. I had one since the early 80′s until the LCD went bad, so I found another more recent one at a local hamfest. It is still the first and most often item I pull out on the workbench. When peaking circuits, though, I pull out an old VOM, so I can easily see when I twiddle through the peak.
    My next nost-used intsrumenta are my various wattmeters/SWR bridges, headed up by my Bird 43, although I supplant it with a Daiwa cross-needle meter, since I don’t have HF slugs for the Bird. I also have an MFJ 259 HF/VHF and a MiniVNA Pro bluetooth remote antenna analyzer (covers up to 200 MHz, but they have promised a 2 GHz extender/decimator for it).
    Round that out with a TMAtlantic 100 MHz dual-channel digital storage scope (gave away my 100 MHz Tek scope that needed repair along with the cart and repair manual) and an HP army surplus 1.4 GHz analog spectrum analyzer and HP crystal-oven time base (for frequency measurement and calibration). I can add a 16-channel digital logic analyzer plug in to the TMAtlantic scope, when the mood hits me.
    Add to that the Elecraft XG2 and XG3 calibrated RF signal generators, and a 1db-step 40db pad, I’d say that I’m just about ready to take on various benchtop projects, digital or analog. Recently, I’ve been busy building Elecraft K-line stuff, along with their 144 MHz and 432 MHz transverters.
    Now all I need is more time to spend on the bench, melting solder. Unforunately, my old XP laptop from 2005, which I had relegated to ham radio use, died from hard disk disease (a really ugly death). Fortunately, I had all my data backed up on the household server, so with a replacement (larger) hard drive, and LOTS of time, I’m slowly getting everything reloaded on the beast. This is the laptop I used at the last few ARROW field days, and in some personal contests, so it had my LOTW certificates on it, and plenty of N1MM contest logs, and personal contacts in the HRD log.

Speak Your Mind