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My electronics gear over the years

November 8, 2019 article

Over the last 15 years I have used many pieces of electric/electronic/mechanical tools and equipment (“gear”), and some of them are great and I still use them, and others turned out to be a bit of a downer. In this article I list those that come to mind right now, and add their advantages and disadvantages. Keep checking back, as I will continuously update this page!

Power supplies

Korad KA3305P (manual, datasheet): 0-30V 5A × 2, 5V 3A × 1

This is a great power supply for serious hobbyists. I have used it for a few months now and it offers a great range of functions for an affordable price (around $250). My only problem with this unit is the noisy fan it comes with, and I ended up replacing it with a silent Noctua 80mm PC fan, and added a 100μF capacitor parallel to the fan power supply because the fan power itself was very noisy, too.

  • good build quality
  • switchable line input 110V/220V
  • bright display with fast update rate
  • accurate current resolution up to 1mA
  • five memory slots for presets
  • outputs not switchable separately
  • cannot deliver maximum current at all channels concurrently
  • rather big and heavy
  • noisy fan, so I had to replace it

Voltcraft PS 303 Pro (manual, schematic): 0-30V 3A × 1, 3-6V 2A × 1

This was my first real power supply I ever bought. It is directed to beginners, and offers basic functionality. The second channel (3-6V) is a nice touch. My only complaint with this unit is the poor display resolution and update speed.

  • good build quality
  • very quiet
  • only 230V line input, but can probably be modified
  • LCD has poor resolution and update rate
  • can only see voltage of second channel when pressing auxiliary button

ULT450 power converter (manual): 120V ↔ 230V transformer, 450W

This is a very useful piece of equipment if you, like me, want to use 230V components in North America (or vive versa). Solid device.

  • uses a nice toroidal transformer
  • versatile, can be used in either direction
  • a bit on the heavy side, but that is to be expected at 450W

Homemade high voltage power supply: 0-300V 10mA × 1, 2kV × 1

I built this myself, but I decided to include this power supply here because I actually do use it a lot. I like this supply very much because it has a built-in current and voltage display, and it has a rather low maximum current of 10mA, which makes this high voltage less dangerous (it is still dangerous, so be careful with that sort of thing).

  • perfect for working with Nixie tubes (that is how I designed it)
  • displays voltage, current, and resistor value
  • current limited to 10mA
  • battery operation possible
  • uses special high voltage DC/DC converter (Traco MHV12-300S10P) which is expensive to buy

Bench multimeters

GDM-8245 multimeter (manual)

I only bought this unit recently, before that I always used my PeakTech 3725 handheld multimeter. I cannot recommend a benchtop multimeter enough. It is very convenient, because you can place it out of the way, and the resolution is quite good (5 digits in this case). If you get an older used version, like this one here, they are quite affordable (around $200), just make sure they are calibrated well. The only nuisance is the very slow continuity tester, but I can live with that.

  • bright display
  • affordable because it is an older unit
  • continuity test is very slow

Handheld multimeters

PeakTech 3725 multimeter (manual)

This is a very solid handheld multimeter, although a bit on the bulky side. You can remove the blue plastic protective cover, but then you lose the extractable flap mechanism that lets you sit it up on your desk. PeakTech is a German budget brand, but almost ten years after I bought this model it is still for sale, I think people like it.

  • very versatile (voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, inductance, temperature)
  • background illumination
  • no auto-range
  • limited precision
  • a bit on the bulky side

Digital multimeter

These generic yellow multimeters are great for beginners. Get one and use it, they are hard to break.

  • cheap and reasonably reliable
  • limited accuracy

Pocket multimeter

I would never get one of those again. They are small, yes, but at the price of usability. The resolution is usually not that good, and the rotary knob that is used the measured quantity is very hard to turn because it is so flat. Unless you have a very specific reason to get on of these, my advice is to just let it go.

  • very small form factor, fits in your pocket
  • the rotary knob is very hard to turn because it is so flat
  • poor resolution

Analog multifunction meter

I think these are nice for beginners. They are very cheap and very versatile. The only difficulty lies in reading off the scale, but that is a great skill to acquire for beginners, so I would definitely recommend to get one of these analog meters as early as possible.

  • a lot of functionality for an affordable price
  • is great for beginners
  • limited resolution
  • sensitive to fall damage (panel meter can break if you drop it off your bench)


DS1022CD (manual, catalog): 25MHz, 2 channels, 16-channel logic analyzer

This was my first and only oscilloscope, and nowadays it is very outdated. It was one of the first flatscreen TFT-type scopes, and I bought the used beginner version. 25MHz bandwidth is very low, I would recommend at least 100MHz for anybody interested in microcontrollers. On the plus side, this unit has an attachable 16-channel logic analyzer, which works great. The internal functions of this scope are very basic, but that makes this scope nice for beginners. It has a very noisy fan, maybe I will replace it at some point. The memory depth is quite low because this is a rather old model and has long been discontinued.

  • entry-level scope
  • not too many functions, good for beginners
  • 16-channel logic analyzer
  • one of the first models from 2006, rather outdated in 2019
  • memory depth is quite poor
  • noisy fan

Microcontroller programmers

MicroChip PICkit3 (manual)

This is the officially supported programmer, and it is quite affordable ($45). As of July 2019 it has been discontinued and replaced my the PICkit4, which costs about the same. I am not sure if I need to upgrade, but it is a very reasonable investment because it integrates seamlessly with MicroChip's freely available compiler and IDE, and it just saves you a lot of hassle down the road.

  • officially supported by MicroChip
  • affordable
  • discontinued as of July 2019

PIC experimentation board K8048 (manual, software)

I bought this to get started with PIC microcontrollers, and it was a great experience. But I quickly realized its limitations, most notably the proprietary software it came with. I don't really recommend buying this, even as a beginner. It is probably a better idea to get the PICkit3 or PICkit4 from the get go, since they are surprisingly easy to use.

  • good for beginners
  • includes buttons and LEDs for simple tests
  • uses proprietary software, needs RS232 serial port
  • rather expensive for what has to offer


Weller WE1010NA (manual)

This is a great soldering station for hobbyists. Being made by Weller you can be sure you will be able to get replacement tips/replacement soldering irons for a long time. I bought this after moving to North America (this unit only works with 120V), since my previous Weller station did not like the local 120V and 60Hz.

  • great build quality
  • detachable soldering iron
  • separate and heavy soldering iron holder
  • only available in the 110V version (North America)
  • expensive

Weller WHS40D (manual)

I have used this unit in Europe for many years, and it works great. It has a very small form factor, and I just love the design. It has a fixed 230V input, but after using it with a 230V → 120V converter in North America, this unit still did not work and its display flickered. Maybe because of the 60Hz as compared to the European 50Hz? Other than that this is a great soldering station.

  • great build quality
  • small form factor
  • detachable soldering iron
  • small iron holder integrated in housing
  • I love the design
  • only available in the 230V version (Europe, Asia)
  • does not seem to work with 230V 60Hz
  • expensive

Conrad Voltcraft LS-DIGI 60 (manual)

I had this entry-level soldering station for about a year or two before the display gave up. It was also a headache to find replacement soldering tips (or a replacement soldering iron, for that matter). If you only solder once every few months, this is a perfect kind of soldering station for you. But if you solder more often, get a better quality product. You will be able to sell it for parts when you no longer need it (because many others have that product, too) and it will be easier to find replacement parts for the same reason.

  • affordable entry-level soldering station
  • display stopped working altogether after two years of use
  • off-brand soldering station makes it hard to find tip replacements
  • discontinued

Heavy-duty soldering iron

I soldered my first electronics kit with my dad's heavy-duty soldering iron, which looked a bit like the above. It kind of worked, but in the end it was just too bulky. You can also get stand-alone soldering irons which are less bulky, of course, but I recommend getting a soldering station instead. You will have temperature control and a thinner cable leading to the soldering iron, maling your soldering experience a lot more comfortable.

  • affordable
  • can usually install smaller tips for electronics soldering
  • not very practical for electronics, quite bulky

Solder fume extractor

This is good for your health, but bad for the space on your bench. I found these units to be terribly inefficient and usually just open my windows wide after soldering instead. This is not a good idea, everybody should be using these extractors, but I have not found a design yet that actually works well.

  • affordable
  • good for your health
  • very clunky
  • probably more ceonvenient to use a different extraction method

Desoldering pump, desoldering braid

I never bought an electric desoldering station because I find that desoldering pumps and braids work very well. The only downside is that cheap plastic desoldering pumps melt over time, so I am currently trying out a metal version instead.

  • mechanical desoldering works well for through-hole components
  • need to clean the pump and replace pump tip periodically
  • plastic pumps melt over time, better get a metal one

Miscellaneous hand tools

Not much to say here, these are just some random hand tools that I find useful: a screwdriver kit (that my mom gave me when I was 13, and I still use it), a cutting board, a square, some files, a helping hand, and hot glue are all super useful. There are many many other tools as well, but I will spare you the details :)

Final thoughts

I hope this list of equipment and tools is useful to you, if you are thinking what to buy and what not to buy when getting into electronics.

What are your favorite tools? What kind of experiences have you made? Let me know and get in touch! I will keep updating this page as I get new equipment, or in case I substantially change my mind about any of the equipment listed here. Thanks for reading!

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Tag Cloud

  • power supply
  • bench multimeter
  • analog multimeter
  • digital multimeter
  • oscilloscope
  • digital storage oscilloscope
  • logic analyzer
  • microcontroller programmer
  • soldering station
  • solder fume extractor
  • desoldering pump
  • desoldering braid
  • tools