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PostPosted: Fri, Sep 07, 2018 11:55am 
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Like most DIYers, I started out with a cheap pencil iron from Radio Shack. I thought an iron is an iron. As long as it heats up to temp, what's the difference. I was wrong. And if you're ready to step up your game here are two units that really shine: Hakko FX-888D and FX-100.

To be blunt, pencil irons that plug into power outlets are crap. They take a long time to heat up. The tips don't last very long because the irons stay on as long as they're plugged in. And they have no temperature regulation at the tip, so you really don't know how hot they are. Nor do they maintain a constant temperature. And when it comes to making good solder joints, you want to make sure the tip's temperature is consistent. Consistent temp = consistent joints = a consistent build with no cold joints. So if you have to troubleshoot a build for some reason, you can rule out your solder joints.


HAKKO FX-888D
This thing is a fantastic value. I think prices right now are under $100. And it will last a lifetime. It has a ceramic heating element with temperature regulation. It heats up from 0 degrees to over 800 degrees in about 30 seconds. And itss temperature is adjustable in precise 1-degree increments via digital interface. The tips are changeable and Hakko has plenty of different sizes and shapes from which to choose. The iron's cord is burn-resistant and the iron stylus is small and comfortable in the hand. Hakko's tips are also plated and last a really long time if you take care of them. The tip maintains a constant, regulated temperature even while you're soldering. The unit will detect when you are making a joint and keep the tip up to temp. Even when soldering large components that suck heat.

Use this thing and your joints will look like works of art instead of rust buckets.

Two downsides:
1. The digital interface could use some reworking. If you press the wrong button to change the temperature of the unit, you will actually change the calibration by accident. If you're at 650 degrees and you want to go up to 800, and you change the calibration by accident, you will tell the iron that what WAS 650 is NOW 800. And your temp settings will be 150 degrees off. To fix this, you have to do a factory reset of the unit, which is easy. But still... I think you need to do a temp calibration if you do that. This could use some love by Hakko. You can also purchase a tip thermometer to calibrate the iron. But it costs $200. So it's actually cheaper to just buy a brand new unit if your iron loses calibration.

2. 30 seconds is fast to heat up. But when you're not using the iron and it's just sitting there, you don't want it on. It will add undue wear and tear on the iron and tip. And 30 seconds is still pretty slow when you're in the zone.

But, all in all, this is a fantastic iron for any hobbyist. Or even actual builders running a business. Light years beyond any comparable iron from the other companies. And it will help improve your soldering.

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Last edited by FourT6and2 on Fri, Sep 07, 2018 12:30pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri, Sep 07, 2018 12:00pm 
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HAKKO FX-100
Just got this one. It functions quite differently by using induction heating. The heating element and the temperature regulation are actually contained within the soldering tips themselves. They use RF and curie point to heat and regulate temperature. Basically, a high-frequency signal is sent into the tip. And the tip contains a metal that loses its magnetic field at a certain temperature. So the tip will continue to heat INSTANTLY until the magnetic field goes away, at which point it begins to cool. But then the field returns and it heats. Rinse/repeat a thousand times per second and you get a tip that stays at one temperature no matter what, without any fancy parts or sensors or heating elements to replace. Just a metal tip with a magnetic core that costs $17.

The best part? Place the iron into the holder (which contains a magnet) and it puts the iron into a sleep mode, reducing heat and increasing the life of the iron and tip. Pick it up out of the holder, and it heats back up INSTANTLY. I mean it. Like there is no waiting or delay. The iron goes from relatively cool (still, don't touch it), to 750 degrees in a split second.

The downside?

No adjustable temperature. Well, sort of.
The tips you use dictate the temperature. Hakko offers different size/shapes of tips in four different temperature ranges. So if you want to change the temp, you have to change the tip. BUT... this isn't an issue for guitars and amps and speakers because you can get the majority of the work done at 750 degrees. So I simply bought two tips in the sizes I usually use. $17 each, both are 750-degree tips and I'm good to go for building guitar amps. The unit also has a boost mode to increase temperature for whatever tip you're using in case you need more heat.

The stylus is a bit smaller and more precise than the FX-888D. And if you want a really nice, professional unit, this thing is bomber. This thing is more expensive, though: $500 range. Totally worth it for me. I wouldn't recommend this thing for someone just starting out, as it's overkill. The 888D is the better buy for sure. The FX-100 is the Ferrari of soldering irons that competes with the likes of Pace, JBC, and Metcal (which are industrial-level, high-production soldering stations). Weller makes some newer stations that seems pretty good too. But curie point induction irons are a bit different.

The FX-100 has a bunch of other features like tip-life monitoring (hours/cycles), lockouts, and so on. Those features don't really matter to me since I'm not running an assembly line. Ignore those things and this unit is plug-and-play simple. The difference in performance probably won't be noticeable from the 888D though, unless you've got some experience under your belt. But hey, it's a cool unit and I love the "Apple" simplicity of its form and function. And there's no calibrating needed. Ever.

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PostPosted: Wed, Sep 12, 2018 7:23pm 
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I have the 888 and agree it’s awesome.


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PostPosted: Wed, Sep 12, 2018 7:32pm 
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Thanks for these reviews!! I've been using a Weller for several years and am thinking about moving up a step. I'll have to take a look at these. Great info!

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PostPosted: Wed, Sep 12, 2018 10:06pm 
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Just a quick note, a few other stations to look at are the Hakko 951, and JBC CD-1BE. Both of these are temperature adjustable but have the heating element contained within the tip cartridge. Performance is similar to the curie point induction, but you don't have to swap tips to change temp. However, I still prefer the FX-100.

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PostPosted: Thu, Sep 13, 2018 9:11am 
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I like Weller solder stations. A Weller WS/PU 81. It keeps on working. Simple but effective. I made thousands of solder joints with it over the years, mainly cabling/studio patchbays etc.

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PostPosted: Thu, Sep 13, 2018 10:35am 
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I guess it depends on your application. The right tool for the job and all that... If that iron works for you, cool. I started out with one even more simple than that and found it didn't work for me.
Once I upgraded to a better iron, it made the process of building amps smoother and my joint quality improved. Whatever works for ya!

When you have to make 200 joints in a row, having a better iron is a godsend.

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PostPosted: Fri, Sep 14, 2018 3:53pm 
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+1 on the 888. I love mine.

I’d like to check out the fx100... looks cool.

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PostPosted: Thu, Sep 20, 2018 11:15am 
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LP Freak wrote:
I have the 888 and agree it’s awesome.

Same here as well.
Bought a shit load of tips for it

Only use two or 3 different ones but have em if needed


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PostPosted: Thu, Sep 20, 2018 6:42pm 
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John4021 wrote:
LP Freak wrote:
I have the 888 and agree it’s awesome.

Same here as well.
Bought a shit load of tips for it

Only use two or 3 different ones but have em if needed


Same here. Mine came with a bunch of tips. I've found the one I use the most is the 2.4mm chisel like 90% of the time. And then go down to a slightly smaller one sometimes (like for pickups and guitar cavity stuff).

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PostPosted: Thu, Oct 04, 2018 11:50am 
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Nice review. I bought an industrial Weller station years ago (like in the 90s) second hand. So long as you can provide steady power to the tip, enough power to the tip, and have the ability to change tips, it should be good. Those are all key. The cheaper units have issues holding power, or simply burn out.

FourT6and2 wrote:
Like most DIYers, I started out with a cheap pencil iron from Radio Shack. I thought an iron is an iron. As long as it heats up to temp, what's the difference. I was wrong.


Those irons have exactly one really good use for guitar players. I still have the one I bought in the early 80s at Radio Shack in my gig bag. It's been used numerous times to fix a cable, connect a speaker, or similar, backstage. It has no other good purpose in life. The last time I would have used it was probably 20 years ago now so no idea if it still works now, but at the time it'd be hauled all over the place for 20 years and always worked. I'll give it that.


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PostPosted: Thu, Oct 04, 2018 10:04pm 
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rstites wrote:
Nice review. I bought an industrial Weller station years ago (like in the 90s) second hand. So long as you can provide steady power to the tip, enough power to the tip, and have the ability to change tips, it should be good. Those are all key. The cheaper units have issues holding power, or simply burn out.

FourT6and2 wrote:
Like most DIYers, I started out with a cheap pencil iron from Radio Shack. I thought an iron is an iron. As long as it heats up to temp, what's the difference. I was wrong.


Those irons have exactly one really good use for guitar players. I still have the one I bought in the early 80s at Radio Shack in my gig bag. It's been used numerous times to fix a cable, connect a speaker, or similar, backstage. It has no other good purpose in life. The last time I would have used it was probably 20 years ago now so no idea if it still works now, but at the time it'd be hauled all over the place for 20 years and always worked. I'll give it that.


There's a company making cordless/wireless irons now. They are tiny and really pack a punch. They're also open source so you can program them however you want. It's called the TS100. Fits right in your guitar case.

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PostPosted: Sun, Oct 28, 2018 3:28pm 
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I should have bought one of the Hakko 888 instead of this X-TRONIC 4000 series..I don't know why I don't like this thing but it has the fast heat up to 850+ degrees and the fast temp down but it just doesn't get the job done..I payed I think $39.99 on Ebay and it arrived fast but it isn't getting the job done..I don't build amps but I do solder whatever needs it here at the house and lots of pickup jobs but it still sucks !! Going to get one or the other Hakkos you reviewed here..My main iron has been a Hakko 60 watt for 10+ years and I have learned how to use it good for even pickup jobs,,but its definitely a cooker.
Thanks for the reviews.


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PostPosted: Sun, Oct 28, 2018 4:25pm 
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FourT6and2 wrote:
I guess it depends on your application. The right tool for the job and all that... If that iron works for you, cool. I started out with one even more simple than that and found it didn't work for me.
Once I upgraded to a better iron, it made the process of building amps smoother and my joint quality improved. Whatever works for ya!

When you have to make 200 joints in a row, having a better iron is a godsend.

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Thats awesome !


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