Review: Pieps DSP Sport Beacon
I still carry the Pieps DSP, but wanted a second beacon for practice sessions and as a backup for partners that either forget to put their in the bag (hey, it happens). I thought this would be a great time to post a review on the Pieps DSP Sport.
The Pieps DSP Sport is a more basic version of the original Pieps DSP and the newer Pieps DSP Pro, and replaces the Pieps DSP Tour. Black Diamond took over Pieps in 2012 and made some significant upgrades.
The processor speed of the Pieps DSP Sport is much faster, and the ease of flagging are two noticeable things. Simplicity is a hallmark of this beacon. Out of the box included is the beacon with three AAA alkaline batteries included, neoprene harness, wrist strap, manual, and extended 5-year warranty papers.
The Pieps DSP Sport is the more basic version of the Pieps DSP Pro and it replaces the Pieps DSP Tour with a number of upgrades and improvements. The Sport is roughly $200 less than the former classic DSP, and the Pro is roughly $75 less than it’s predecessor. Some of the upgrades the DSP Sport has from the previous model are an improved processor speed, better flagging function, and larger display. If you liked the classic Pieps will be stoked by all the new features in the new one!
The new features include; new housing with a slightly smoother shape which make them easier to stow in the harness or pocket. Upgraded slider switch which is easier to operate. The new display is larger and now made of glass instead of plastic. The battery life of the sport was improved to 200 hours, and the Pro 400 hours. The new harness which is amazingly intuitive and comfortable. When unlatched the beacon is more less ejected from the harness with a shock cord leash attached. Audible pitch increases from signal search as you draw closer in to fine search. A faster processing for multiple burials, and you can quickly unflag the same signal by holding the flagging button a few seconds. Antenna selection is also a new feature which I described in more detail below. Firmware can be upgraded via the USB port on both the Sport and the Pro.
Pieps DSP Sport vs Pro?
Avalanche Beacon Basics:
PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon
PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon
Simplified and streamlined yet outfitted with all the features needed for fast, accurate searches in the event of a slide, the PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon is as easy to use as it is powerful. With a 50-meter circular range, three antennas for pinpoint search accuracy, and a smart transmitter to aid in fast recovery, the DSP Sport is the go-to beacon for anyone venturing into the backcountry. The included harness-style carrying pouch provides comfortable, streamlined storage and fast removal for beacon practice and emergency response.
- Three antennas plus self-checking reference antenna
- Direction and distance from initial detection
- Smart transmitter adjusts signal to allow for the easiest solution in a multiple burial scenario
- Circular range for extended, symmetrical search area
- Continuous carrier mode for use with older, analog beacons
- Mark function for multiple burial scenarios
- Beacon drift adjustment to pick up beacons transmitting drifted signals
- Compatible with iProbe for added search capabilities
- Updateable software via USB (sold separately)
The PIEPS DSP SPORT is the dynamic 3 antenna beacon with a big range, ONE single button and the intelligent transmitting system for best support in every situation.
- Maximum circular range of 50m
- Optimized MARK-function supports in case of multiple burial
- Perfect readable display under all lighting conditions
- Unique self-check during power-on: transmitting frequency, all antennas, amplifiers, processors and batteries
- Direction and distance indication from the initial detection
- 3 antennas allow exact fine search
- Search strip width: 50 meters (without turning and rotating)
- Intelligent transmitter: Auto-Antenna-Switch, iPROBE Support
- Check and update possibility to the latest firmware
- Antennas : 3
- Frequency : 457 kHz (EN 300718)
- Power Supply : 3 Alkaline AAA batteries, IEC-LR03, 1.5V
- Battery Life : 200+ h in send-mode
- Maximum Range : 50 m (164 ft)
- Search Strip Width : 50 m (164 ft)
- Weight : 200 g (7.1 oz ) including batteries
- Dimensions : 115 x 74 x 27 mm (4.5 x 2.9 x 1.1 in)
The battery indicator will show 3/3, 2/3, 1/3, empty, and empty flashing, instead of a percentage, which personally I do not care for.
Remember only to use LR03/AAA alkaline batteries in any beacon. Never use Lithium or rechargeable batteries in an avalanche beacon, and always replace all three batteries together. Do not store batteries long-term (i.e. over the summer) in the beacon. Which makes me question why the unit was shipped with the batteries in the battery compartment. The battery compartment on the backside of the housing has a safety screw which can easily be accessed using a coin, knife or zipper-pull.
The weight with harness and batteries comes in at 10.8 ounces. The Classic Pieps DSP comes in at 12.9 ounces. 7.4 ounces without the harness.
Function and Use
The Pieps DSP Sport has a three position slider switch with three options; power, send, and search. It also has a flagging button center.
On power-up the beacon does a self-check sequence. First a firmware update (i.e. the display will show “1.0” indicating the firmware). Then the self-check will either display “OK” or an error code such “E” followed by a number. If the error code is shown, in an interference free zone, you will need to take it in to an authorized Pieps service center.
All beacons are sensitive to electronic interference. All beacon manufacturers recommend a minimum distance of 15cm in ‘send’ mode, and 50 cm in ‘search’ mode.
In send mode the beacon will transmit a continuous signal at 457kHz. The Pieps DSP Sport/Pro have a built in Intellegent Antenna working in the background. If the transmitting antenna is negatively influenced through external devices (such as a mobile phone) the range of the receiving beacons is influenced by up to 30% or more. The DSP will always transmit on the strongest antenna for the maximum range to the receiving beacons.
The first thing I noticed was the speed of the processor on start-up. From the off position to ready on send, the startup is exactly two seconds, compared to the classic Pieps DSP which is 12 seconds. That is a much faster processor speed.
I ran through a search performing Signal Search, Course Search, and Fine Search. I tried two different beacons for ‘victim’. First a classic Pieps DSP. The Pieps DSP Sport picked up the first signal and direction at 62m. The audible harmonics increase as you draw closer on a course search, and repetitive incrementally higher chirps as you draw in to fine search. I was able to flag the signal by pushing the flagging button, and release the signal by holding the flagging button for a few seconds. I was impressed with the speed of the processor switching from send to search, it locked immediately. I also ran a few scenarios with flux lines at different angles. The results were consistent and I didn’t notice any spikes.
I ran a second test using a BCA Tracker II. The Pieps DSP Sport locked on at 47m. Again I performed flux line scenarios and there were a few noticeable differences. I lost the signal on the fine search with the BCA beacon at a 45 degree angle and a cell phone within two feet which would be a common scenario. I performed the same test with the Classic Pieps beacon and did not get the same result.
Next, I used the DSP Sport as the victim, and the Classic Pieps DSP and the searching beacon. I locked on the beacon at 68m. I could not reproduce any spikes or interference using a cell phone at the same range of two feet. I did notice that the antenna selection of the Pieps DSP Sport was transmitting on the shorter x-axis. This is noted on the display of the Sport. Apparently with the Intelligent Processor, if the beacon senses interference with other electronics such as a cell phone, or if there is damage to the y-axis antenna — the beacon will automatically switch to the shorter x-axis antenna.
Out of curiosity, I used to BCA Tracker II as the searching beacon. The Tracker II does not give a distance readout so I had to measure for congruent tests. The Tracker II locked a signal at 43m. It did not have any interference problems or noticeable spikes.
A quick note about flagging. Be very careful using the flagging feature on any beacon in the unlikely event of a multiple burial situation. You can inadvertently silence another signal with a ‘signal overlap’ phenomenon. This can occur if two beacons are transmitting on the same pulse at the same time. By flagging an intended beacon, you can essentially flag an unintended one.
The Pieps DSP Sport packs a punch for the price! If you do not require the advanced features of the Pro I would save the $100 and go with the Sport. For it’s price point this is by far the best beacon in this range and in some ways has the powerful features packed in to the more advanced and higher price point Ortovox and Mammut beacons.
- Retail price: $274.95 USD
- You can find more information on the Pieps website www.pieps.com