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Mammut Barryvox S Review

One of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market
Mammut Barryvox S
Photo: Mammut
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $500 List | $499.90 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Super fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in this review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinations
Cons:  Expensive, more complicated than other models, okay but not the best for newer or less practiced users
Manufacturer:   Mammut
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 27, 2020
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95
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • Range - 15% 10
  • Speed - 20% 9
  • Single victim search - 20% 9
  • Fine search - 15% 9
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 10
  • Features - 15% 10

Our Verdict

The Mammut Barryvox S is the latest iteration of the tried and true Mammut Barryvox Pulse. It shares many of the Pulse's best features while improving on the previous model's slight drawbacks. The most notably improved function is the speed while moving closer than 10 meters, specifically in the fine search while bracketing. This is one of the most capable beacons on the market, and it surpassed all other models we tested for multiple burials situations. We'd compare the Barryvox S to a manual camera; it isn't as easy to use, but with a little bit of practice, it can do far more than your average point-and-shoot. We've given the Barryvox S our top award, as it is our absolute favorite overall beacon for professionals and advanced users who can take advantage of the numerous special features and functions.

Firmware Update
A firmware update is available for the Barryvox S and Barryvox transceivers. You can find info on the performance-boosting features of the 3.0 firmware update here.

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $499.90 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Super fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in this review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinationsEasy to use, many features, Bluetooth and smartphone based app, good range, fast processor, best battery life in our review, excellent multiple burial and flagging featuresVery fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low stress soundsTons of features, excellent multiple burial features and performance, differentiates close proximity burials very well, long-ish range, analog mode to help with micro-strip searchingVery fast processor, excellent range, easy-to-use, comfortable to carry, top-notch multiple burial capabilities with excellent signal lock and marking/flagging functions
Cons Expensive, more complicated than other models, okay but not the best for newer or less practiced usersBattery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage, some force required to toggle switches, can be chunky feeling if carrying in a pant's pocketDisplay screen is just okay, multiple burial function un-suppresses the last marked beacon in only 1 min, leading to confusion and wasting time, can only mark one signalA little chunky and slightly slightly bulkier for pocket carriers, one of the more complex interfaces, slightly slower than top beacons in the fine searchNot as user friendly in the bracketing stage as other models, sometimes tells user to keep the orientation earlier than we would like during the fine search
Bottom Line Perfect for pros or advanced users, this model is one of the best performing products in every categoryA high-end beacon that is packed full of features, with an interface that is easy to use for the less experiencedA fantastic all-around model that combines ease of use in a smaller than average packageDesigned for advanced users or pros, it's one of the best for multiple burials with its long third antenna, analog function and ability to toggle through signalsHas better range and superior multiple burial capabilities while still being fairly quick in the fine search
Rating Categories Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond Guide BT Backcountry Access Tracker3 Arva Axio Mammut Barryvox
Range (15%)
10
9
8
9
10
Speed (20%)
9
9
10
9
9
Single Victim Search (20%)
9
9
10
8
9
Fine Search (15%)
9
9
10
8
8
Multiple Burials (15%)
10
9
8
10
9
Features (15%)
10
10
8
10
7
Specs Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond... Backcountry Access... Arva Axio Mammut Barryvox
Weight 210g / 7.4 oz 210 g / 7.4 oz 215g/ 7.6 oz 229g / 8.1 oz 210g / 7.4 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 70 - 95 meters 60 meters 50 meters 60 meters 70 meters
Flagging Feature? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life (send) 300 hours 400 hours 250 hours 250 hours 300 hours
Digital/Analogue Both Both Digital Both Digital

Our Analysis and Test Results

The new Mammut Barryvox S is one of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market. It works well in the hands of a beginner, but a novice user will be spending more money than they have to for many features they are unlikely to ever use. It also isn't quite as easy to bracket with as models like the Tracker3, Tracker S, or Black Diamond Reacon; however, with practice, it can easily equal these in performance. For more experienced users and industry professionals, this beacon is hard to beat in any category. It's fast at finding a single beacon, comfortable to carry, and the best model for complex, multiple burials. It's the beacon we'd choose to use for an AMGA and ACMG Ski Guide's Exam or other Avalanche Professional level rescue examinations.

Performance Comparison


The new Barryvox S won our Editors' Choice award for its outstanding...
The new Barryvox S won our Editors' Choice award for its outstanding performance in almost every category.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Range


Range certainly isn't everything in a beacon, but this model blows the competition out of the water, and that is never a bad thing.


It had a 70-meter maximum range (and thus a 70-meter wide search strip width) in digital mode and up to a 95-meter range in analog mode. Even when you don't consider the range when the beacon is switched to analog mode, this beacon has by far the best range in our review.

While maximum range certainly isn't everything, we were still...
While maximum range certainly isn't everything, we were still impressed by how far away we could pick up another beacon. This beacon has the longest range in our review.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Speed


The first thing you'll notice about the new Barryvox S is it is far quicker than the older Mammut Pulse during each phase of the search.


It has an overall faster processor speed, and all of our testers (all professionals in the avalanche industry) noticed how quick this beacon was, particularly under 10 meters, and during the bracketing stage of the fine search where the older Pulse use to be slightly slower-than-average.

The Barryvox S uses the most intuitive and easy-to-follow...
The Barryvox S uses the most intuitive and easy-to-follow directional arrows of any model in our review.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Finding a Single Victim


When you turn it to search mode, it shows you a very clear graphic in which to start looking for the signal displaying the pattern a rescuer should take during the single search (while searching for the signal). Once this beacon obtains the signal, it gives you very precise directional arrows on a screen that are among the easiest to understand and follow.


The arrows can be straight, show varying degrees of bending, and even show you a "U" if you've gone too far. These arrows are more similar to a modern car-mounted GPS rather than most beacons, which illuminate 1-2 arrows at a time out of five.

The Barryvox S is one of only a few models that tells its user to...
The Barryvox S is one of only a few models that tells its user to turn around if they have gone too far. It displays the "U" shaped arrow shown here when you have overshot your mark.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Fine Search


This beacon is quite fast in the fine search, and in our direct comparisons, it was one of the faster beacons on the market during the bracketing stage, though not necessarily the easiest at first. This is due to a few reasons, most notably is the directional arrows, which disappear at three meters instead of two meters. The Barryvox S was precise, with its numbers and consistently built tight brackets with the buried beacon consistently in the low point at the center of the box. However, less experienced users could build their brackets faster with a BCA Tracker3, Tracker S, Black Diamond Recon BT, or Guide BT. With professional-level users, we saw no difference with these beacons.


The new Barryvox S is far quicker than the older version and is one of the newer models most significant improvements over the older Pulse. We really liked the older Mammut Pulse and found its only disadvantage is that it had to move more slowly during the fine search than roughly half the models on the market and would display a stop sign if you moved to fast.

Below 2-3 meters (during the fine or bracketing stage of the search)...
Below 2-3 meters (during the fine or bracketing stage of the search) the Barryvox S's directional arrows go away (this is true with almost all beacons). Once the arrows disappear this beacon displays a straight dotted line to help remind the user to keep the beacon in the same orientation while bracketing (as seen in this photo). It also adds a little pivoting arrow to help you keep track in the event you've gone too fast and ended up on one side of your victim during the bracketing stage.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

After extensive testing, we are thoroughly impressed with the speed of this beacon.

Ease of Use in Multiple Burial Situations


For complex burials and professional level training and examinations, this beacon is pretty tough to beat.


The Barryvox S flags beacons in multiple burial situations, similar to other top models. It "blinds" one beacon's signal from the search (also commonly called flagging or marking). The Barryvox S got confused or miss-flagged burials the least of any model we tested and scored the best while using this beacon in simulated AMGA, ACMG or Professional level avalanche rescue scenarios, which all involved three or more burials in a 100m x 100m area with at least two proximity burials where a beacon will have to deal with extensive signal overlap.

For complex burials this beacon is pretty tough to beat. It...
For complex burials this beacon is pretty tough to beat. It flags/marks beacons in multiple burial situations so if you have enough people power your friends can keep digging and you can go on to the next person. This beacon also miss-flagged burials the least of any model we tested.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

A useful feature rarely found in other beacons is the ability to go "back" and select a beacon the searcher might want to resume looking for in the event of a false strike or some other mistake. This seemingly obvious feature is only found on the Barryvox S, Arva Axio, Black Diamond Guide BT, and the Ortovox S1+.

The Barryvox has an excellent signal lock, which means it doesn't jump from one beacon to another in close proximity burials (which is a good thing), and its marking function proved the most reliable of any model we tested.

Features


The features category is where the Barryvox S is easily the most stacked option on the market. The Black Diamond Guide BT both have stacks of features but not nearly as many as the Barryvox S.


The Barryvox is "Lithium-enabled". meaning it is okay to use with lithium batteries (most beacons will give you inaccurate battery life with lithium batteries, and the manufacturers don't recommend it). The advantage of lithium batteries is less risk of leakage; they're more stable in low temperatures and have an extended battery life — 350 hours in send mode compared to 300 hours with standard alkaline batteries.

The Barryvox S is similar to the Arva Axio and uses a second "W-Link" frequency, which creates an additional communication channel for other information and options for managing the Barryvox S in fleets. This beacon has an Analog mode, which can be extremely helpful in more complex scenarios, most notably while micro-strip searching during close proximity burials.

This beacon includes more features and various options within each...
This beacon includes more features and various options within each feature than any other model in our review. Some of these options include language, user ID, Search settings, audio guidance, visual guidance, and Revert to Send mode options.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Controls
The Barryvox S requires two hands to turn it on. To turn the beacon on, you simply depress the orange button with a Lock symbol at the top of the beacon, which in turn allows you to slide the other switch between Off, Send, and Search. This model also has two up buttons on the right side of the body that work as up and down controls for the menu, as well as an orange "flag" button used for selecting items on the menu or marking a buried beacon.
The Barryvox S requires two hands to power-on the beacon and to turn...
The Barryvox S requires two hands to power-on the beacon and to turn it to search mode. To power-on and to change to search mode you have to press the orange lock button with one hand and slide the toggle between search, send, and off. Mammut intentionally designed this beacon this way to prevent accidentally changing it. The beacon does not require two hands to go back from Search to Send modes.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

We liked the fact that it required two hands to turn it into Search mode (so you don't do it by mistake and then can't be found if you are buried), but only one hand to turn it back to Send mode.

The Barryvox S features two buttons on the right side of the body...
The Barryvox S features two buttons on the right side of the body that allows the user to navigate the various menus. This is one of the most obvious features that the Barryvox S has that the more basic Barryvox doesn't have.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Interface

When you turn it on, it will ask you to do a group check. During this screen is the only time you have access to the settings. The icon to access the settings is located in the upper right-hand side of the screen. From here, you can select options regarding language, user ID, search settings (basic or pro), audio guidance (with Analog option), visual guidance, and Revert to Send mode options. These are all easy to navigate using the up-down buttons and using the flag button as a select, and the menu is pretty intuitive and easy to operate overall.

When you turn this beacon on you briefly have access to this model's...
When you turn this beacon on you briefly have access to this model's settings, which are numerous. It was pretty easy to navigate through them using the up-down buttons.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Group Check Mode during the Function Check

The Barryvox S features a group check mode, which makes it easier to perform a function check before leaving the trailhead. Similar to other high-end models, this beacon has a very good signal lock, meaning it won't quickly jump to another beacon if its signal becomes marginally closer. This helps you focus on one beacon during close proximity burials. It will eventually jump to the close beacon if the new beacon comes progressively closer and the prior buried beacon moves further away for long enough. In a function check, this means waiting three to five second per person longer for the Barryvox to re-lock onto the new beacon if you aren't using the group check mode.

The Barryvox S has a very good signal lock (a good thing) so for...
The Barryvox S has a very good signal lock (a good thing) so for your daily function check, the group check mode is very helpful, particularly if you are going touring with more than one other person. Group check mode can be set to only pick up another signal at 1m or 5m. It will give you audible tones and darken the figure in the screen as seen in the photo to let you know that your beacon is effectively picking them up.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

We recommend using the Group Check mode during the function check if you're the one leading the group. It is easy to use; simply select Group Check when you turn on your beacon, using the orange Flag button. This displays a series of skier icons in a line across the screen. It won't pick up a person until they are one meter away (Group Check mode can also be set to five meters). When the person you are checking is within one meter, the Barryvox makes progressively louder tones, and the skier icon in the screen becomes filled in. Once they move away, the skier icon is no longer darkened, and the audible sounds go away. We liked the Group Check function on this beacon, but its worth noting that it doesn't like it if you get closer than around 15cm (it displays texts saying "Too Close").

Revert to Send

This beacon does have a Revert to Send mode, and like many other features on the Barryvox S, it can be fine-tuned to the user's preferences. It can be turned-on or disabled, and when enabled, it can be set to activate after two or four minutes. It knows to revert to Send mode if it doesn't sense any motion for the pre-set amount of time. If you somehow find yourself not moving but directing traffic during a large scale rescue, before reverting to Send, the Barryvox S gives a loud beep sound to help alert the user to what is happening.

Like many beacons, this one also has a Revert to Send mode, however...
Like many beacons, this one also has a Revert to Send mode, however with this model you can fine tune it to some extent. It can be disabled altogether, and when enabled it can be set to activate after two or four minutes.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Comfort to Carry

The new Barryvox S is marginally lower profile than the older Pulse, though it feels noticeably smaller than it might initially seem because its thinner design is more comfortable to be worn in an inside zippered pants pocket than its predecessor.

The Barryvox S is roughly 25% smaller than a Tracker2. The Barryvox S's harness system is above average for comfort and among the simplest and easiest to use. For users who like to carry their beacon in a zippered pants pocket, this model was above average as well, but not quite as low profile as the BCA Tracker3.

The old Mammut Barryvox Pulse on the left vs the new Barryvox S on...
The old Mammut Barryvox Pulse on the left vs the new Barryvox S on the right.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Barryvox S vs the Barryvox vs. the Pulse


We liked the old Mammut Pulse and used one for over six years. However, we like almost everything better about the new Barryvox S, most noticeably its speed in the fine search and an overall easier-to-use menu. The only thing we liked marginally better about the old Pulse beacon is how quickly it could be changed into analog mode. However, the new version can be switched to Analog mode by holding its flagging buttons during search mode to let the rescuer hear the analog tones. Other than the constant pure Analog mode, we love everything about the new Barryvox S beacon and think its a significant improvement over an already rad model.

The more basic Barryvox on the left (in Grey) and the Barryvox S on...
The more basic Barryvox on the left (in Grey) and the Barryvox S on the right (in black).
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The Barryvox S is essentially a fully-loaded upgrade from the more straightforward Barryvox, but not necessarily everyone will benefit from this upgrade. The more standard Barryvox has search, send, flagging and group check functions but nothing more. The Barryvox does not have a menu, or up-down buttons. The Barryvox is perfect for everyone from more novice or beginner users all the way through advanced users. The Barryvox S works for beginner users but as we mentioned is a little overkill as it has many advanced features that someone fresh off their AIARE Level 1 will not utilize. It is perfect for pros and more advanced users who will use this beacon's many capabilities.

This model is the manual camera of beacons, far more capable but also takes a little more practice to get dialed with and get the most out of (the manual camera does have autofocus). The Barryvox S is best for ski guides, ski patrollers, avalanche industry professionals or advanced users who will benefit from this model's exceptional performance and vast feature set. For folks who want a beacon that finds one beacon at a time exceptionally well, the Barryvox S works great but you can buy a beacon that will be easier to use and cost a lot less money.

This model was one of the best beacons at finding a single victim...
This model was one of the best beacons at finding a single victim. It is quite fast and its processor was inline with the faster models. It also uses very intuitive directional arrows that can bend at a wide range of angles that are more similar to a car-mounted GPS instead of most beacons illuminated LED lights.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Value


This is one of the most expensive beacons in our review. With that said, you do get a lot of bang for your buck. It is in line with the other high-end models, and if you are a high-end user, there are many reasons to buy a Barryvox S. If you are a novice or occasionally get into the backcountry, this model might be overkill, or overpriced, asit contains features you may never utilize.

Conclusion


This is one of the best performing products in every category. It has a ton of features and options that will satisfy even the most demanding user. With that, the S isn't necessarily the best beacon for everyone. For folks just getting into the backcountry or more causal or occasional users, it might be a little overwhelming and offers more features than a novice will use. It's best suited for more experienced users, guides, and trip leaders — who will benefit from paying the extra money for all the added extras.

Ian Nicholson