Last updated: August 5, 2021

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Soldering stations are the perfect tool for all hobby DIY enthusiasts who do not want to do without a high level of convenience. Soldering stations are often used in electronics, for SMD soldering of circuit boards, or for soldering for model making. Are you thinking about getting a soldering station?

Our soldering station test 2021 will help you to get an overview of the different types of soldering stations and the most important product features. To make your purchase decision easier and to find the right soldering station as well as the necessary accessories for you, we will show you the different types of soldering stations and discuss the respective advantages and disadvantages.




Summary

  • Soldering stations are high-quality soldering devices that can be controlled either analogue or digitally and can be used to solder cables or electronic components. Soldering stations are mostly used for soft soldering, i.e. in a temperature range of up to 450°C.
  • There are many different types of soldering stations, which can vary greatly in price depending on performance and quality.
  • The most common areas of application for soft soldering are electrical engineering, electronics, SMD soldering, in the plumbing sector, in heating and toolmaking and the soldering of copper pipes.

The Best Soldering Station: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for soldering stations

Here we show you which points you should definitely consider when buying a soldering station, based on the most important features that distinguish soldering stations from one another.

The following criteria will help you compare different soldering stations:

In the following paragraphs we will go into more detail about the individual features of soldering stations.

Controller type

First you should decide which type of controller is right for your soldering station. There are analogue and digital soldering stations.

Analogue soldering stations have a knob to set the temperature, digital soldering stations have a display that shows the temperature digitally.

Analogue soldering stations are the less modern option, but they also offer some advantages. For example, digital soldering stations occasionally have problems with the display due to the higher susceptibility of digital technology to interference. This does not occur with analogue soldering stations due to the simpler processing. In addition, analogue soldering stations are usually somewhat cheaper.

If the soldering station is used very often, a digital soldering station can be much more convenient. Thanks to the LCD display, the actual temperature can be determined exactly and thus enables more precise work.

Many digital soldering stations offer additional functions, such as the storage of fixed temperatures through adjustable pre-sets.

Since digital and analogue soldering stations do not differ too much in price and functionality, you should decide according to your personal preference.

Power

Soldering stations usually have between 60 and 150 watts. The power determines how fast the heating element can deliver heat. Depending on the size of the soldering tip used and the area of application, you can decide how many watts your soldering station needs.

Soldering stations with 60 watts heat up to 300 °C in about 15 seconds and are usually sufficient for private use. For professional work, more than 100 watts may be needed, and such soldering stations are considerably more expensive and consume more power.

Temperature range

Adjustable soldering stations usually have a temperature range between approx. 90-480°C and thus a relatively wide range that is sufficient for most applications in soft soldering. The achievable temperature range is important because the temperature is crucial for your soldering work.

The optimum soldering temperature depends on the melting temperature of the solder and the parts you want to solder together.

Application temperature range
SMD soldering 260-300°C
Electronic components 300-320°C
Thicker wires up to 350°C
Thick strands and wires up to 400°C

We speak of brazing at temperatures of 450°C and above. Here, metallic materials, such as brass parts, are joined together in a non-detachable manner.

Heating time

Another criterion for buying a soldering station is the heating time. The heating time indicates how quickly the operating temperature is reached.

With most soldering stations, the desired temperature is reached in less than a minute, even at low wattage.

Average soldering tip

Another consideration for soldering stations are the soldering tips. These vary in size from about 0.4 to 3.2 millimetres depending on the application.

Most soldering station sets already come with several different soldering tips in different sizes.

Such spare soldering tips are very useful, as soldering tips wear out after a while and then need to be replaced.

Weight

The weight of the soldering stations varies from approx. 0.9 to 2.6 kilograms.

The lighter the soldering station, the easier and more comfortable it is to work with. With powerful soldering tips with a large heat capacity, the weight also increases and makes accurate soldering more difficult.

Accessories

Soldering stations are often offered as a set together with various accessories. A soldering station set can be very useful, as it saves additional purchases and allows you to start soldering directly with full comfort.

  • Solder: Is needed to permanently join the metal surfaces together. Solder is available in different thicknesses, from 0.25mm up to 1.5mm. Leaded solder has a lower melting point, but may only be used in the private sector and in space travel. The lead-free solder used today is mostly tin-copper solder or tin-silver solder.
  • Flux: Causes a better wetting of the workpiece by the solder.
  • Solder connectors: Facilitate the connection of cables.
  • "Third hand": This is a metal device that has gripping arms with clamps and often a magnifying glass and LED lighting to help attach items. This can be a great help when soldering.
  • Desoldering pump: This is needed to suck out the liquefied solder when loosening solder connections.

As you can see, there is a wide range of accessories for your soldering station. It therefore makes sense to consider in advance what equipment you need for soldering and then buy a set that already contains the equipment.

Decision: What types of soldering stations are there and which is the right one for me?

Basically, there are two different types of soldering stations you should decide between:

There are hot air soldering stations and SMD soldering stations.

Depending on the specific soldering tasks you want to do, you should choose an alternative here. In the next sections, we will briefly introduce both the hot air soldering station and the SMD soldering station to help you decide.

Hot air soldering station

Hot air soldering station

Hot air soldering stations are ideal for desoldering small components. A stream of hot air heats the solder joint and melts the solder. This happens without touching the components and is therefore ideal for sensitive SMD components, which can then be carefully separated with tweezers.

Advantages
  • Contactless desoldering
  • Optimal for fragile SMD components
Disadvantages
  • Directly heats larger area
  • Only conditionally suitable for soldering

If you want to use the soldering station mainly for desoldering different components in the electronics sector, you should buy a hot-air soldering station with a hot-air dryer.

SMD soldering station

SMD soldering station

The second model is the so-called SMD soldering station. These soldering stations are also used, as the name suggests, when working with SMD boards. SMD soldering stations are particularly well suited for delicate work in the field of computer electronics.

Advantages
  • Precise SMD soldering possible due to micro soldering tips
  • accurate temperature measurement
Disadvantages
  • Higher price

Micro soldering tips are used here, enabling precise work on sensitive solder joints. Temperature measurement is also very accurate with SMD soldering stations to avoid damage to the electronics due to excessive heating.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about soldering stations answered in detail

When buying a soldering station, many questions are bound to arise, because there are many different designs and areas of application. Since this should be as long-term an investment as possible, you should think about which questions you want to clarify before buying. In the following guidebook section, we answer the most frequently asked questions to make your purchase decision easier. Our guide should help you find the perfect soldering station for your application.

What is a soldering station?

First of all, it should be clarified what exactly a soldering station is. Traditionally, a simple soldering iron is used for soldering. However, if you want to carry out your hobby in a more professional context or solder in a professional context, you will usually benefit from more comfort and should buy a soldering station.

A soldering station, unlike the soldering iron, has a base station. This is a special power supply unit that supplies the soldering iron with power and thus galvanically isolates the soldering process from the mains. This protects the components from leakage currents and prevents them from being damaged.

Soldering stations are a more luxurious alternative to the soldering iron due to their better feel and greater comfort.

The soldering station has a soldering iron rest with a cleaning sponge that can be used to clean the solder from the soldering tip.

The power is supplied either by a rechargeable battery or via a cable and the soldering station has a fuse.

Soldering stations also have a temperature controller. As explained earlier in this article, this can be either analogue or digital. Digital soldering stations usually offer additional functions that can make work easier.

How does a soldering station work?

The exact functioning of soldering stations is very complex in detail. In the following, we will briefly explain which processes take place when soldering with soldering stations.

Soldering stations conduct the heat generated in the base station to the tip of the soldering iron until the desired temperature is reached. In digital soldering stations, there is usually a sensor at the tip that measures the actual temperature and shows it precisely on the display.

Lötstation-1

In soldering, metallic components are joined together by means of alloys.
(Image source: RAEng _Publications / Pixabay.com)

Bi-soldering stations allow metal parts to be soldered together using an alloy.The tip of the soldering iron is then used to join a metal component to another component by heating a metal alloy called solder. After the alloy has cooled down, the components are firmly connected to each other and can only be separated from each other again by reheating during desoldering.

What temperature and how many watts does my soldering station need?

How many watts and what temperature range your soldering station needs depends largely on your application and budget.

Basically, the power is of secondary importance for do-it-yourselfers, as only in the professional sector do you need to work with soldering stations over 100 watts. For hobby use, even lower wattages are often advantageous, as they consume less power. If you are particularly impatient and place a lot of value on reaching the operating temperature quickly or want to prevent a drop in heat at the soldering tip for accurate work, you can invest in a higher-quality soldering station with 80 to 100 watts. For most do-it-yourselfers, however, 60 to 70 watts should be perfectly adequate.

The temperature range of your soldering station is very important. However, the vast majority of soldering stations have a very wide temperature range of approx. 100 to 450°C anyway, with which all soft soldering work can be carried out.

Which soldering station is best for beginners?

Soldering stations in the lower to middle price range are suitable for beginners. It makes little sense to start with a profile soldering station. Depending on how often and intensively you want to use your soldering station, you should decide whether high quality and a renowned manufacturer are worth a higher price or whether you want to use a cheaper version without many additional functions for the time being.

We recommend that beginners orient themselves towards the middle ground. Starting at around €30, there are analogue soldering stations that have very good ratings and are perfectly adequate for beginners to try out.

For around 50€, there are already digital soldering station sets that even include spare tips and solder and are therefore perfect initial equipment.

Soldering stations from well-known brands and mostly German manufacturers are of very high quality and can be used for years, but they also have their price. Here you have to decide what you value in your soldering station.

Another inexpensive alternative is to buy used soldering stations on the internet. Basically, you should only make sure that there are enough spare parts for your soldering station, because the soldering tips wear out over time and it is annoying to have to buy a new soldering station.

Which soldering station is suitable for soldering SMD components?

For soldering SMD components, either hot air soldering stations or special SMD soldering stations are best suited. In SMD soldering, electronic components that have no wire connections are soldered directly onto the board. This is referred to as "surface mounting".

As the components in the electronics sector are often very sensitive and can easily be damaged with a coarse soldering iron, it is worth investing in a soldering station here.

Lötstation-2

When soldering sensitive components of SMD boards, particularly accurate soldering is important. A special hot-air or SMD soldering station is suitable for this.
(Image source: Johannes Plenio / Unsplash.com)

If you mainly want to desolder components, a hot-air soldering station operated with a hot-air dryer is ideal. Here, the soldering tip does not come into direct contact with the components, but the alloy is heated by the hot air stream. This prevents damage to particularly fragile components.

If you mainly solder on SMD boards, there are also special SMD soldering stations that are equipped with very thin soldering tips and thus enable delicate work.

How much does a soldering station cost?

There is a very wide price range between the different soldering stations. Simple analogue soldering stations can be bought for just 20€, while professional soldering stations from well-known manufacturers can cost up to 500€ and more. So it all depends on what you want to buy.

The quality differences and additional functions of soldering stations vary greatly. Since soldering stations are also used in the professional sector, there are very powerful, high-priced versions that are not necessary for DIY enthusiasts.

Type Price range
Soldering station Hobby use approx. 40-160€
Professional soldering station approx. 100-300€

In principle, the price difference also depends strongly on the manufacturer. The best-known manufacturer and market leader Weller convinces with high quality and the soldering stations are "Made in Germany", but therefore also rather expensive.

In the meantime, however, there are also many low-cost versions from smaller suppliers that are suitable for both hobby use and advanced soldering, such as Preciva or Holife.

What alternatives are there to the soldering station?

There are some alternatives to the soldering station that we would like to briefly introduce to you in the following.

  • Soldering gun: The soldering gun is a variation of the soldering iron that has a pistol-shaped handle. The soldering tip is heated by pulling a trigger. However, soldering guns are not suitable for continuous soldering and are rather bulky; they are only suitable for heating the solder for a short time.
  • Electric soldering iron: An electric soldering iron is also suitable for rough soldering work. This has a direct mains connection and a fixed temperature.
  • Gas soldering iron: Gas soldering irons are often used in mobile applications, as soldering stations, for example, are rather cumbersome to transport. Gas soldering irons are very compact and heavy and are only suitable for rough soldering work. The soldering tip is heated by a burner that is operated with butane gas.

Can I build a soldering station myself?

It is also possible for hobbyists to build a soldering station themselves at low cost. There are several instructions on the internet and also tutorials on YouTube in video format.

However, this is time-consuming and should only be done if the instructions are followed exactly or if you have sufficient specialist knowledge.

Image source: Artush/ 123rf.com

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