Mammut Barryvox S Review
Cons: Expensive, more complicated than other models, okay but not the best for newer or less practiced users
Bottom line: The new Barryvox S is one of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market.
Number of Antennae: 3
Manufacturer's Range: 70 - 95 meters
The new 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 and specifically in the fine search while bracketing. With the old version, you had to move slightly slower than other high-end models, but there is no such speed limit now. This is one of the most capable beacons on the market, and it surpassed all other models we tested for multiple burials situations. As such, this beacon is a little overkill for beginners, but it's hardly bad and is better for novices than the older Mammut Pulse. We've given the Barryvox S our Editors' Choice 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.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Avalanche Beacons
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The new Mammut Barryvox S is one of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market. It works fine 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 use. However, for more practiced users and industry professionals, this beacon is pretty 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 and the beacon we'd choose to use for an AMGA and ACMG Ski Guide's Exam or other Avalanche Professional level Rescue Exam.
Range certainly isn't everything in a beacon, but this model blows the competition out of the water.
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 take into account the range when the beacon is switched to analog mode this beacon has by far the best range in our review.
The first thing you'll notice about the new Barryvox S is it is far quicker than the old 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.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
When you turn it to search mode, it shows you 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 5.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
This beacon is quite fast in the fine search, and in our direct comparisons, we found it to be one of the faster beacons on the market during the bracketing stage.
This is one of the Barryvox S's most significant improvements over the old Pulse. We liked the older Mammut Pulse, but the only disadvantage of it was that it needed to be moved a little more slowly during the fine search and would display a stop sign if you moved to fast.
After extensive testing, we are thoroughly impressed with the speed of this beacon. We found it quicker than the Pieps DSP Pro, Arva Axio, or Ortovox S1+, and in line with the BCA Tracker2 and Tracker3, which are the absolute fastest models the fine search with a single burial.
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 like the Pieps DSP Pro and Pro Ice. It "blinds" one beacons signal from the search (also commonly called flagging or marking). We found 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.
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, and the Ortovox S1+. The Pieps DSP Pro has a "undo" type button where you can "de-flag" the most recently flagged beacon, but we didn't find it to work nearly as well.
The Barryvox has an excellent signal lock which means it doesn't want to 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.
The features category is where the Barryvox S is easily the most stacked option on the market. The Ortovox S1+ also has 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 notable while micro-strip searching during close proximity burials.
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. This is one of the key external differences between this model and the more basic Mammut Barryvox.
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.
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.
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 3-5 second per person longer for the Barryvox to re-lock onto the new beacon if you aren't using the group check mode.
We recommend using the Group Check mode during the function check if you're the one leading the group through it. 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 1 meter away (Group Check mode can also be set to 5 meters). When the person you are checking is within 1 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.
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 and around 20% smaller than an Ortovox S1+. 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.
Barryvox S vs the Barryvox vs. the old 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 Barryvox S is essentially a fully-loaded upgrade from the more straightforward Barryvox, but not necessarily everyone will benefit from this upgrade and while the Barryvox is "simpler" that's not necessarily a bad thing. The more standard Barryvox has search, send, flagging and group check functions but nothing more. The Barryvox has no extensive menu to choose from nor up-down buttons on the side to scroll through menus and options. 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.
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. However, other models work just as well, are a lot less expensive, and are simpler to operate, like the more basic Mammut Barryvox, BCA Tracker3, or BCA Tracker2.
At $490, this is one of the most expensive beacons in our review with only the Ortovox S1+ ($500) being costlier. With that said, you do get a lot of bang for your buck. It is in line with the other high-end models, like the Ortovox S1+, Pieps DSP Pro Ice, or Arva Axio, and if you are a high-end user there are a lot of reasons to buy a Barryvox S. If you are more novice or only occasional user the Barryvox S is sweet, but overkill and overpriced as it contains a bunch of features you will never use.
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, the S is 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
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