Test and Measurement Needs for the Shop

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Test equipment needs of the typical broadcast engineer have changed substantially over the last 30 years. Back then your typical engineering shop would have a Simpson 260 and probably some sort of oscilloscope. A good shop would have some sort of audio analyzer (usually Hewlett Packard or Sound Technology). The best shops would have an RF spectrum analyzer as well.

Since all the audio was analog, you were simply able to use your ears (and a set of headphones) to troubleshoot a lot of studio problems. As time went on, and more and more digital audio systems came in to use, the ears simply weren't as useful; having some type of AES generator/decoder became important. Now, though, that's not even enough; with so much streaming media around the station, new tools have become necessary. If you were to build an engineering shop today, what test equipment is necessary, and what's available?

Digital multi-meters

If you were stranded on a desert island with only one piece of test equipment, of course you would take a digital multi-meter (DMM). Unlike its ancestors (like the Simpson 260) these don't just measure ac and dc voltage and resistance -- optionally many other types of measurements are available.

Fluke 287

Fluke 287

Perhaps I'm biased, but to me the gold standard of multi-meters has always been Fluke. The company has a page to match desired features with available models. As an example I picked the Fluke 287, which has true RMS measurements for ac and dc and 100kHz bandwidth making it useful for audio measurements. It has a frequency counter built-in (up to 1MHz) along with a capacitance meter. When you're trying to get the most bang for the buck, clearly feature such as this make this device more attractive.

Agilent U1252B

Agilent U1252B

One of the oldest (if not the oldest) test equipment companies has to be Agilent -- not in name of course -- since it's ancestor is the venerable Hewlett-Packard. (After all, those partners started making test equipment in a garage in the 1930s.) Agilent also makes a series of handheld DMMs. The company has a product guide as well.

As an example I've chosen the U1252B. Like the Fluke 287, it has ac and dc true RMS voltage measurements, and 100kHz bandwidth. Voltage scale is 50mV to 1kV; current range is from 500μA to 10A. Perhaps its most interesting feature is its ability to log data internally or to a PC. For long, continuous measurements, you would use the DMM with an available GUI and data-logging software to automate data recordings to a PC.

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