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Multimeter vs. Oscilloscope: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 30, 2023
Multimeter measures electrical properties like voltage, current, resistance. Oscilloscope visualizes electrical signal waveforms over time.

Key Differences

Multimeters measure static values of electrical parameters. While oscilloscopes display dynamic signal changes graphically.
Multimeters provide numerical readings. Whereas, oscilloscopes offer visual insight into signal behavior.
Multimeters are essential for basic troubleshooting. However, oscilloscopes are crucial for analyzing signal integrity and timing.
Multimeters are simpler and more portable. On the other hand, oscilloscopes are more complex and provide detailed signal analysis.
Oscilloscopes can capture transient events, unlike multimeters which measure steady-state values.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Measures electrical values
Visualizes signal waveforms

Data Representation

Numeric readings
Graphical display


Generally more portable
Less portable, larger

Usage Complexity

Simpler to use
More complex, requires training


Basic troubleshooting, testing
Detailed signal analysis, research

Multimeter and Oscilloscope Definitions


Electrical Measurement Tool.
He used a multimeter to check the battery voltage.


Signal Visualization Tool.
The oscilloscope showed an irregular waveform in the circuit.


Diagnostic Instrument.
They diagnosed the issue using a digital multimeter.


Electronic Testing Device.
An oscilloscope was crucial for their complex circuit analysis.


Multi-Function Meter.
The multimeter was essential for their electrical repair work.


Electrical Waveform Display.
They used an oscilloscope to observe signal oscillations.


Portable Tester.
He carried a multimeter for quick electrical checks.


Diagnostic Scope.
The oscilloscope revealed a voltage spike in the system.


Versatile Testing Device.
The multimeter indicated a problem with the circuit's resistance.


Waveform Analyzer.
The oscilloscope helped in tuning the signal frequency.


An instrument that combines an ammeter, an ohmmeter, a voltmeter, and occasionally other measurement or testing devices into one unit.


An electronic instrument that produces an instantaneous trace, displayed on a screen, that corresponds to oscillations of voltage and current.


An electronic measuring instrument that combines multiple functions; a combined voltmeter, ammeter and ohmmeter.


An electronic measuring instrument that creates a visible two-dimensional graph, on a screen, of one or more continuously varying voltages or currents.


An electronic measuring instrument which provides a visual representation of the time variation of electrical quantities, such as voltage or current. It may be used to measure the shape of a voltage pulse or the frequency of an oscillating voltage. It can also be used to measure properties of other physical variables, such as sound or light intensity, if they can be translated into electrical voltage or current.


Electronic equipment that provides visual images of varying electrical quantities


How is continuity testing done with a multimeter?

A multimeter can check continuity by sending a small current through a circuit and measuring its resistance.

Are multimeters safe for household use?

Yes, if used correctly and for appropriate measurements. Always read the manual before use.

Can a multimeter be used on live circuits?

Yes, but precautions must be taken to ensure safety.

Can a multimeter measure capacitance?

Some advanced digital multimeters can measure capacitance, but not all.

What is a multimeter?

A multimeter is an electronic tool used to measure voltage, current, and resistance.

What is the difference between them?

Analog multimeters use a moving needle, while digital multimeters display readings on an LCD or LED screen.

What does the symbol 'Ω' on a multimeter mean?

It represents resistance and is used to measure ohms.

How is a multimeter powered?

Most are battery-powered, though some models can be powered externally.

What is an oscilloscope?

An oscilloscope is a test instrument that displays and analyzes the waveform of electronic signals.

Can an oscilloscope measure DC voltage?

Yes, oscilloscopes can measure both AC and DC voltages.

Why is triggering important in oscilloscopes?

Triggering stabilizes repetitive waveforms and ensures a consistent view of the signal.

Are there different types of oscilloscopes?

Yes, common types include digital storage oscilloscopes (DSOs), analog oscilloscopes, and digital phosphor oscilloscopes (DPOs).

What are the main parts of an oscilloscope?

The main parts are the screen, input channels, time and voltage controls, and trigger settings.

Can oscilloscopes measure current?

Not directly. A current-to-voltage converting probe or a current clamp is used to measure current.

How is the bandwidth of an oscilloscope defined?

Bandwidth represents the maximum frequency at which the oscilloscope can accurately display a signal.

Are there different types of multimeters?

analog and digital multimeters.

Can a multimeter measure frequency?

Some advanced digital multimeters can measure frequency, but not all.

How does an oscilloscope differ from a multimeter?

While both measure electrical signals, oscilloscopes visualize signal waveforms and can capture fast changes, whereas multimeters provide numerical readings.

Are oscilloscopes portable?

While some oscilloscopes are benchtop models, there are handheld and portable versions available.

How do you connect a signal to an oscilloscope?

Signals are typically connected using probes that are attached to the input channels.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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