Often we have been asked to explain the difference between the various Meade handbox controllers to people who wish to replace their old handbox with a new one.
Sometimes the original handbox is not in production anymore and they would like to know which of the newer handboxes is compatible with their telescope.
The sections below list Meade's AutoStar and AudioStar handbox controllers.
AudioStar includes build-in speaker.
This is mostly a legacy handbox. It is badged simply as “AUTOSTAR”. It has been bundled with some Meade entry level telescopes.
It has a small keypad and it was used on older Meade ETX-60, ETX-70, ETX-80, DS-2000 range (e.g. DS-2130) and some other telescopes that have not been in production for a while.
In some cases, the AutoStar #494 is badged as “STARFINDER”. Internally, the Starfinder has the same hardware as the AutoStar #494 but the firmware is slightly different.
AutoStar (#494) has been discontinued.
This handbox has a large keypad. Once again, it is badged simply as “AUTOSTAR”. The difference between AutoStar #494 above and AutoStar #495 is that the latter has a full numeric keypad.
The AutoStar #495 has not been in production for several years. It used to be bundled with LXD-75 and LX90 telescopes as well as some DS-2000 telescopes. The AutoStar #495 is not always backwards compatible with the AutoStar #494.
Some telescopes that use an AutoStar #494 can also be controlled with an AutoStar #495 but not all.
AutoStar (#495) has been discontinued.
This handbox has a full numeric keypad and it is visually indistinguishable from the AutoStar #495 for good reason. Both these handboxes use the exact same hardware.
Once again, the AutoStar #497 is badged as “AUTOSTAR”. The difference is in the firmware. The #497 has a newer version of the firmware, replacing the older AutoStar #495 model.
This handbox is no longer in production. In the past it was bundled with various telescopes including some ETX-90, ETX-105, ETX-125, StarNavigator, DS-2000, LX80 and LX90 telescopes. The AutoStar #497 is backwards compatible with the AutoStar #495 and AutoStar #494.
AutoStar (#497) has been discontinued.
Therefore, telescopes that use the previous AutoStar handboxes can also be controlled with an AutoStar #497.
This is the latest AutoStar-type handbox and has replaced all previous AutoStar handboxes including the AutoStar #494, AutoStar #495 and AutoStar #497. It is badged as “AUDIOSTAR”.
It is currently bundled with the StarNavigator NG, ETX Observer, LX65, LX85 and LX90 series. If you wish to replace a handbox used on an older telescope, upgrading to AudioStar is the best option. It includes the latest firmware and it incorporates new features that are not present in previous AutoStar handboxes.
The AudioStar is compatible with all ETX, DS-2000, StarNavigator, DSM, LT, LXD-75, LX80, LX65, LX85 and LX90 telescopes. A unique feature is the Astronomer Inside digital audio software.
It is combined with the built-in speaker inside the AudioStar handbox to produce over four hours of high quality pre-recorded audio descriptions of the objects you observe.
People around the telescope can listen and learn about more than 500 of the celestial objects contained in the AudioStar database, including planets, nebulae, star clusters and the Moon. The AudioStar has a database of over 30,000 astronomical objects. Approximately twice as many as the AutoStar #497. The AudioStar Meade part number (SKU) is 07640.
The AutoStar II handbox is designed for larger Meade telescopes such as the LX200, LX600 and LX850. It is not compatible with the AudioStar or AutoStar (#494, #495 and #497) handboxes.
Therefore, if you wish to replace the old handbox of your LX200, LX400, LX600 and LX850, the AutoStar II is the only option. The AutoStar II Meade part number (SKU) is 07200.
The AutoStar III handbox is designed exclusively for the Meade LS (LightSwitch) telescopes such as the LS6 and LS8.
It is not compatible with any other AutoStar (#494, #495 and #497), AudioStar or AutoStar II handbox. The AutoStar III Meade part number (SKU) is 04700.
To summarise, if you are looking to replace the handbox controller of your ETX, DS, DS-2000, DSM, StarNavigator, LXD-75, LT, LX80, LX65, LX85 or LX90 telescope you should upgrade to the AudioStar. If you have a LX200, LX400, LX600 or LX850 you need an AutoStar II. And finally if you have an LS you should get an AutoStar III.
how-to guide, article, telescope control