NorthStar DX880HL Review

NorthStar DX880HL Review

The new NorthStar line of radios are copies of the Galaxy line. These radios are said to perform as well or better than the Galaxy units. The one reviewed was made in China. In the past, I’ve seen good and bad quality from China.

Uniden has a factory in China, and their products are well-made. Some other manufacturers have plants in China, and the quality leaves much to be desired. We’ll have to put it through its paces and lift the covers for a peek inside.

Thumbing through the Users Manual, I noticed that the frequency stability is claimed to be .001%. If this is true, this radio is far better than the Galaxy counterpart.


The Galaxy SSB chassis drifts more than any other that I’m aware of. A claim of 361 channels also surprised me; the radio only covers 28.315 MHz to 28.755 MHz out of the box, and this is only 45 channels with 1OKhz spacing, a bold claim under the circumstances.

‘Me manual does have information covering all the features of the unit. It also has sections on mounting, antenna & tuning, tips for antenna adjustment, receiving SSB signals, microphone schematic & wiring, one-year warranty information, and an 800 number for help & service.

The manual is better than most. The tips for antenna adjustment had useful information that could be used as a checklist for debugging a problem installation.

The section on receiving SSB signals is quite good and would be useful for first-time sidebanders or operators who have had problems tuning in on sidebands. My microphone instructions are filled- with complete details geared for someone who has never wired a mic before.

Removing the radio from the bag I was impressed with the deep black finish on the face. It was reminiscent of the AR-3500 by Clear Channel Corp. The six little push-button switches have a more solid foot to them than the Galaxy. Also, the switches and controls have a quality feel to them.

I decided to apply power to the unit before opening it because the frequency stability specification intrigued me. Could they make this radio that stable? In the worst case, this would mean that the radio would only drift +/- 288 Hz. Well, I turned it on and immediately checked the frequency.

A half-hour later, I rechecked the frequency and found that the radio drifted approximately 870 Hz. This is about .003% or three times the specification. I believe this is a little less than the Galaxy. They seem to drift from I KHz to 1.3 KHz from cold to warm.

Keep in mind the winter mobile operation will be worse. The tests were done at room temperature. It would be desirable to see the radio improved in this area to match the specification claim.

Below is a diagram indicating the location of the controls.

  • Power On/Off Volume
  • Squelch
  • Echo
  • Tone
  • Mic Gain
  • RF Gain
  • Band Selector
  • Coarse Clarifier
  • Fine Clarifier
  • Channel Selector
  • Meter
  • .+10KHz Shift Switch
  • Roger Beep SwitchHi/Lo Power Switch
  • List Element
  • NB/ANL Off Switch
  • Counter Display Switch
  • Band Switch
  • Frequency Counter
  • Rx/Tx Indicator
  • Channel Display
  • Rx/Tx Indicator
  • Channel Display

If you’re familiar with the Galaxy DX88, you can see that the two units’ control function and placement are identical. Before removing the screws, I noticed there were no Warranty Void labels! On the inside, the story is the same. Component and board placement are the same in both radios.

The conversion is the same for the two. Quality of workmanship is better in the NorthStar. They even replaced the nylon screw holding the frequency counter module.

These screws are usually stripped from the factory and eventually snap off within a year of operation, leaving the frequency counter floating around in the chassis. Tune-up is the same as the Galaxy with the same results.

Sideband output was 35 watts PEP while AM was 10-watt dead key swinging to 30 watts fully modulated and I watt dead key swinging up to 15 watts with the power in the low position. Low power is great for driving and amplifiers, but the sideband power would have to be reduced internally as the low power switch doesn’t affect the sideband in these units.

The audio was clear in all modes, and the receiver is as sensitive as the other unit. ‘I receive audio was crisp, clear, and without that annoying high-pitch static found in the newer DX radios.

On-the-air tests went well, and the adjacent channel rejection is comparable to the DX88. The echo is also unchanged, with the same amount of control and clarity.

My wish list for this radio is as follows:

  • Better frequency stability.
  • A 6-digit frequency counter.
  • A 5 KHz switch.
  • Power switch controlling AM & SSB.
  • A 2.8 KHz sideband IF Filter.

If this radio had these additional features, I think it would be the perfect all-mode mobile radio. What I like about the NorthStar DX88OHL:

  • A 1-year limited warranty.
  • Better quality workmanship.
  • Better switches & controls.
  • An 800 number to call for help.

If this is the type of radio you’re looking for, I would recommend this version over the Galaxy. The warranty is worth the difference in price, and it’s a good feeling to be able to contact someone if you have a problem.

With other radios, you may go through an owner’s manual from cover to cover and not find so much as an address for the company that supplied the product. This doesn’t exactly give you a warm, comfortable feeling.

This, to me,t is the best reason to consider North Star. North Star is a product of Wireless Marketing Corporation, 3701 N. Algonquin Rd. #750, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008.

If wireless marketing sounds familiar, that’s because they’re the people who bring us the Cherokee radio line.