Last updated: 22 June 2005

Subject:	New ETX-125PE, one bad LNT, but amazing views!
Sent:	Monday, June 20, 2005 11:31:20
From:	Peter Chenoweth (
Long time viewer (since I bought my ETX-70 4 years ago), but first time

I purchased an ETX-125PE this weekend and I just had to share my story. 
With all the tales of bad LNT's and funky slewing problems, I thought
maybe I could help others like me who were hungry for information on
this scope.  I hope this isn't too long....

I have been seriously considering purchasing an Orion 127mm Mak or am 8"
Dob for several weeks, spending hours on the 'net trying to find reviews
or comparisons of these vs. the ETX 90/105/125.  I really wanted a scope
that could do double duty as a very good terrestrial scope, so the Dob
was pretty much out.  I had been pretty happy with my ETX-70, so I
wasn't really itching to leave the Meade line.  I just didn't know if
the ETX-90 would be that much of an upgrade to what I had, and didn't
know if the 125 would pass the WAF/B (Wife Acceptance Factor/Budget)
test.  So I recently sold my ETX-70, and armed with a little extra
budget money I found myself standing at a local shop that sells Meade
telescopes.  I was the only one in the shop, so we talked at length
about the ETX-90 vs. the ETX-105 vs. the ETX-125 scopes, as well as some
of the other Meade offerings.  He made me an offer I could refuse on an
ETX-125PE, which brought the price down close enough to the budget range
to make it happen.  So, the rest is history.

Carefully unpacked everything when I got home and then immediately hit
the web to read any stories, helpful hints, or warnings on putting this
thing together.  I was extremely careful of the LNT and the SmartScope
installation, as I know that can be a source of problems.  Assembled
everything and it seemed to work ,except as so many reported, no red dot
in the SmartScope.  After over an hour of fiddling, adjusting, and
taking part of the LNT apart to check things I determined that there was
something wrong with the tiny fiber-optic cable that emits the red
light.  Mine turned on, but even on intensity 14 it was barely visible
in a pitch-black room, and I mean barely visible when looking right down
the cable, not at the SmartScope.  The little fiber optic cable was
actually protruding from the LNT by about 1/8 inch, and that didn't seem
right.  One accidental brush and it would be snapped off.  Perhaps
that's what has happened anyway.  Since that Smartscope isn't really
required for the thing to work, and there's nothing I could do about it
anyway, I took it outside for a surprisingly (for a telescope-purchase
night) clear night sky.  I trained the drives in the dark by pointing at
a neighbors potted plant on their front porch that was illuminated by a
street light.  As I adjusted the controls, I could tell that this scope
was going to be amazing.  I could see details in the petals, even at
night, that were quite amazing.

So with a freshly trained scope, I set out to do some stargazing from my
overly-lit (gotta talk to that neighbor about their backyard lights...)
back yard in a town of 20,000.  I'm familiar with the AutoStar alignment
procedure, so that worked just fine for me.  I did somehow miss the part
in the manual about parking the scope all the way counter-clockwise in
the mount before you start.  That's important!! The first time it hit
the stops trying to slew to Arcturus, I knew something was wrong and
quickly discovered my error.  My first surprise was when I punched in my
zip code it just sat and beeped "NOT FOUND", until I powered off and
back on again.  Punched in the zip code for the city of 100,000, 30
miles away and it worked just fine.  The slewing picked Arcturus again,
which was (of course) directly behind a giant oak tree.  I just hit ok
on the alignment, throwing caution to the wind.  The second star was
Vega, easily found by me but not by the scope.  It was several degrees
off, but in the general area.  Manually slew to Vega and got a
successful alignment.  Jupiter beckoned from high in the west, so I
thought that a good a target as any.  I knew from the first glimpse of
Jupiter that this scope (or it's replacement for the bad LNT) was a
keeper.  Cloud bands really popped, and the moons were simply stunning.
I could definitely make out the differences in color and albedo between
the moons.  Something I was not readily able to do with the 70.  After
about 5 minutes I did notice that the scope wasn't keeping up with
Jupiter, requiring small burst of correction every now and then.  I
chocked it up to not finding Arcturus correctly.  After 10-15 minutes of
Jovian enjoyment, I headed over to the most beckoning target, the moon. 
Wow.  Not since looking through the big 10-12 inch scopes back in
college have I seen the moon look that great.  Lots of depth to the
image, with some beautiful shadows falling into craters along the
terminator.  Decided it was time for one last test for the night, the
easy double, Alberio.  Slewing was a little bit off, and it took some
time to locate it after slewing, but I did find it eventually.  Very
nice.  I've never seen this much of a color difference before.  Nice
orange and steel blue.  Absolutely no abberations when focusing, and
out-of-focus stars are a nice perfect donut - I think that means
everything is aligned well.  I'm not an expert, but this scope is

So the next day I called the owner and explained the situation.  Rather
than deal with Meade he said to just bring it back and he'll exchange it
for a different scope.  So I did.  He mentioned that he's gotten 3 or 4
of these back for the same problem.  The second scope features the LNT
with the steel metal lock-screw in the front, as well as the three black
adjustment screws.  The other one didn't.  It just the two adjustment
screws.  From looking at the comments here that appears to be the older
style, right?  I was worried with this one too because that little fiber
optic cable was also sticking out of the LNT, by about 1/16 inch.  Seems
to me that these cables should be tucked inside the LNT, and not poking
out to be bent or broken.  Is that the way others' scopes are?  I
noticed that the ETX-90PE at the shop also had about a 1/16th of fiber
optic cable sticking out from the LNT, but the ETX-125PE on display at
the store did not.  Anyway, this new ETX-125PE's SmartFinder works
perfectly.  The light is very bright and immediately fell on the
SmartFinder lens.  To put it into perspective, the first scopes' LED
brightness on 14 was equal to this new scope's brightness on 1.  5
minutes later and I had it perfectly zeroed in.  I didn't know how
useful this would be until I got outside last night.  Holy cow!  What a
difference!!  This thing is a breeze to align, and tonight I set up in a
place where both Arcturus and Vega were visible.  This second scope
seems to align better, as it was remarkably close to finding the
alignment stars completely on its own.  This time I aligned successfully
and for the rest of the evening the scope snapped everything into view. 
Even with the 12.5mm eyepiece, it could slew from one side of the sky to
the other and repeatedly put Jupiter dead-center.  Impressive!!! 
Tracking was almost perfect. 10 minutes on Jupiter with a 12.5 and it
was still in the viewfinder.  Moved slightly, but still in there. 
That's good enough for me, and I had not trained the drives in this one
yet.  Enjoyed about two hours of ooh and ahhs until the haze rolled in
enough to start seriously degrading the views.  Seriously happy with
this scope!

Someone made a comment that they didn't thing the SmartFinder was useful
because as you move your head, the dot moves.  True, but what you're
looking at moves too!  Try it during the evening on some distant object.
As your head moves, the red dot moves too - it works exactly like it
should and stays right on the object.  I can manually move the scope
around the sky and place the SmartFinder on stars without even looking
through the scope and the scope can identify them correctly.  It's that

So all in all, I'm very impressed.  I should be, as these aren't cheap
scopes.  There is still that sense of, "sheesh, I just spent 4 times the
cost of my ETX-70 on this thing", but it seems to be worth it.  I hope
to get out to some darker skies later in the week and really put this
thing through its paces, but for now, I'm quite happy.  Do you have any
advice about accessories?  I had a scopetronix flex-focuser for my
ETX-70, and I'm thinking that I'll need a new one.  But is the
electronic focuser worth it?  I have a pretty strong eyeglasses
prescription, but prefer to view without glasses.  So its always a
constant focusing battle when my wife or friends want to view.  What
about the LNT Time update module?  I'm aligning just about perfectly
now, do these make the initial alignment even better?

Thanks for running such a wonderful site.
Peter Chenoweth
Mike here: I thought the new LNT module had fewer adjustment knobs. The SmartFinder LNT does stick out a little bit (at least on mine). As to focusing, an electric focuser is handy to avoid creating vibrations but a flexible focus cable or even a clothes pin attached to the focus knob can do almost the same thing.


Right, I thought from your site that the fewer knobs meant a newer LNT. 
My second has more knobs but is working better.  I do have another
question that I wonder if you would be willing to help with...

How do other's ETX-125 slewing motors sound?  Mine definitely has a
cyclical whine as slews in either axis. The batteries are brand new

It sounds like the motors are under a different load as the scope moves,
and it's not related to raising or lowering the scope. So I get a very
distinct wheee-(then decreasing pitch)-whoooo-(then increasing pitch
back)-wheee (repeat) noise as I slew. The cycle occurs on a roughly 45
degree cycle. So, for instance, pointing north and rotating clockwise
with the scope level, at 20 degrees the motor is starting to decrease in
pitch, at 25 degrees it's the lowest in pitch and sounding like they're
straining the most, by 30 the pitch is coming back up, and by NE (45)
it's back up to the highest pitch. The cycle then repeats. The scope
doesn't appear to slow down, nor does the display dim, and I'm probably
exaggerating just how large of a pitch change is occurring, but the
motors do sound more strained. I ask this because my old ETX-70 pretty
much sounded the same as it moved, but the 125 is quite a bit heavier. I
also don't remember the first ETX-125PE that I had doing this. At least,
not to this level. The pitch change is roughly the same as the pitch
change between slewing up vs. slewing down.  Is there something wrong
with the scope? Should I return it and exchange it for yet another one?
Do I just need to buy an AC adapter?

What do you think, oh great ETX expert? ;-)

Thanks so much,
Peter Chenoweth
Mike here: The drives in my ETX-105PE do sound different than in my original model ETX-125EC. But in my case I don't assume that's a problem indicator.

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