Mouser (http://www.mouser.com): this is one of the big dogs... their catalog weighs about 5 pounds, and they carry just about everything. Sometimes can be a little overwhelming number of options--3,255 choices for .01uf capacitors, for instance. But you can find almost everything in one place, quick shipping, very pro. Similar to Allied, Newark, DigiKey, but maybe a little more geared up for small orders.
Jameco (http://www.jameco.com): more oriented to hobbyists rather than engineers, not quite the selection of Mouser but they're a good place for basics. If you want to build up your parts stockpile, they have a couple of assortment packages that are a pretty good value (they're mostly what I pull from when i'm passing out parts in class):
- Resistor assortment: 100@ x 27 values/$24.95. Part #10664 -
- Disc cap assortment: 520 pieces, 10 values/$23.45. Part #130232
- Photocell assortment: 100 pieces/$19.95. Part #169578
Futurlec (http://www.futurlec.com): Good things: they carry some chips (CA3080) which are out of production and hard to find/expensive elsewhere... plus some insanely great prices on a few specific items, like pots for $0.55@. Bad things: they ship from someplace in SE Asia, can take a few weeks or longer depending on how the boat traffic is... and some folks have had issues w/ quality or missing orders that got bolloxed up. I never had any problems with them.
Small Bear (http://www.smallbearelec.com/StoreFront.bok): specializes in parts for building guitar pedals, including some hard-to-find "vintage" parts for folks looking to recreate specific collectible distortion pedals and the like. But also good for non-purists, things like stomp-box enclosures and switches.
Soldering Irons. I think some folks got off on a bad foot w/ soldering, and it's partly due to cheap tools. A decent iron will really reduce frustration and help you do a good job. Weller is a respectable brand name; I have used a WLC100 (shown above) for a bunch of years and it's been flawless; there's also a model WP35 at about the same price (around $40) which comes recommended. I also use a ST7 tip, which is smaller than the stock tip that comes with the iron and really helps doing ICs and smaller components. If you want to transfer your gizmos from the solderless breadboards to something sturdy enough to gig with, I'd really recommend getting a good soldering iron.