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Pieps DSP Sport Review

We do not recommend our readers buy or use this product due to numerous and deeply concerning reports of switch issues
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Price:  $320 List
Pros:  Fast, good range, good price, awesome flagging feature, very intuitive design, better than average in the fine search
Cons:  Very concerning safety risks have been cited about the switch design
Manufacturer:   Pieps
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 30, 2018
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86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 12
  • Range - 15% 8
  • Speed - 20% 9
  • Single victim search - 20% 9
  • Fine search - 15% 9
  • Multiple burials - 15% 8
  • Features - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Pieps DSP Sport is the most basic Pieps model. It is a product we do not recommend our readers buy or use due to serious issues that have been reported about its switch design. More detail is provided below.

Not Recommended — update 10/2020

The Pieps DSP Sport is a product we do not recommend that our readers buy, and we also recommend our readers who already own it do not use it in the backcountry. Numerous safety concerns have been raised about this product in articles such as this detailed analysis by Lou Dawson of WildSnow, this extensive article in Outside Online, and also in social media posts.

These reports cite issues with the slider lock mechanism on the three models of Pieps beacons including the Pieps DSP Sport, the Pieps DSP Pro Ice and the Pieps DSP Pro. After the complete burial of a top backcountry skier in an avalanche, the skier reported that his beacon had turned off on its own during the avalanche or sometime earlier that day. Once this information was released, other Pieps users reported similar issues where the beacon's harness released the lock on the slider mechanism that controls the beacon's SEND - SEARCH - OFF positions. This YouTube video from 2017 is a good example of someone raising the flag on this issue years ago. Some Pieps users report that their beacon had unintentionally turned off in a similar manner.

While we have not confirmed these reported issues ourselves, we find them deeply concerning and they appear to be quite credible. As a result, we do not recommend a friend buy or use Pieps products incorporating this switch design. We have respect for Pieps as a company, and we hope they will consider a complete recall of all of these products and either replace them with a new design or offer a full refund. It is our opinion that due to these serious and potentially life-threatening concerns about customer safety, that Pieps should not merely try to produce an updated version of the Sport, but rather discontinue the model completely, and issue a new design, incorporating an obviously different look under a new name, that addresses these concerns.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pieps DSP Sport is a beacon that we do not recommend due to numerous and concerning reports that have emerged in 2020 about safety issues related to the switch design cited above.

Pieps has issued this statement:
We know that confidence in your equipment is key. If you have any concerns about your DSP Pro/Sport, please contact us. We will offer you an upgrade to the latest generation of our avalanche transceivers.

If you are in the US or Canada, contact us at: dsp@pieps.com

Below is our review from 2018. At the time, we were not aware of the switch design issues that became widely shared publicly in 2020.

Performance Comparison



Range


The DSP Sport has a maximum range around 45-50 meters, which was a little above average among the avalanche beacons we tested. While according to Pieps/Black Diamond the Sport should have a slightly shorter maximum range and subsequently technically a narrower search strip width than the other Pieps models, we noticed very little difference between them. The Pieps Sport had a slightly longer maximum range than the Backcountry Access Tracker2 and was similar to the BCA Tracker 3, but it wasn't nearly as good of a range as the Mammut Barryvox or Barryvox S, or Arva Neo. Relative to its cost, the Pieps DSP Sport has the longest range of any beacon we tested under $320.

Comparing beacons in the bracketing stage of the fine search  pictured here with the DSP Sport.
Comparing beacons in the bracketing stage of the fine search, pictured here with the DSP Sport.

Ease of Finding a Single Victim and Speed


The user interface of the DSP Sport is nicely labeled and simple to use. The DSP Sport uses five directional arrows to help the rescuer stay on the flux-line. Like many other beacons, the Sport's directional arrows can be combined two at a time to further support the searcher stay on the flux line. The DSP Sport has one of the faster processors of any of the beacons we tested, especially when comparing it to other beacons $320 and under like the Ortovox Zoom+. We also thought it was near as fast or faster than several slightly more expensive models, like the Ortovox 3+ ($350) or the Arva Neo ($350). Compared to the older DSP Tour the Sport, it was noticeably faster during our side-by-side comparisons. Overall, it proved similar to the Mammut Barryvox($350), but wasn't quite as quick as the BCA Tracker2 or BCA Tracker3.

Ease of Use in Fine Search


We appreciated the Pieps DSP Sport's processor speed when used in the fine search. It has a quick processor and was easy to understand. We thought it bracketed very precisely and was among the best overall during our side-by-side tests. The Pieps directional arrows go away at two meters and only display numbers to help remind the rescuer to start bracketing.

Ease of Use in Multiple Burials


Thi was one of our top picks for multiple burial searches. The Pieps Sport has a functional and easy to use flagging feature that is an improvement over the previous, older Pieps DSP Tour. It shows the number of victims with little buried person icons up to four victims, and when the Pieps DSP Sport flags a victim, it puts a square around them to show they have been flagged. The Sport has no "unflagging" feature like the more complex models.

Features


Transmitter Technology

The Pieps Sport has Smart Transmitter Technology which helps decrease signal overlap in multiple burial scenarios. When a buried beacon hasn't moved in two minutes, it searches to see if other beacons are sending nearby. If it senses one with five or six meters, it adjusts the cadence so that the two don't overlap, making it easier to find distinct beacons. This model also uses a much harder glass to further protect the screen from damage compared to the older Pieps DSP Tour.

Comfort to Carry

We thought the Pieps DSP Sport came with a more comfortable harness system than average among the beacons we tested and it was relatively easy to use. For backcountry users who prefer to wear their beacon in a zippered pant pocket, we thought the Pieps Sport was average or many just below average in the comfort category. While we liked the new DSP Sport over the previous DSP Tour in almost every way, this was the exception, as the new version is thicker and less contoured than its predecessor, and therefore less comfortable. We thought it was very comparable to the Ortovox Zoom+ and the Mammut Barryvox for comfort while carrying in a pocket.

The only thing we don't like about the new Pieps compared to the old one is the battery life display. The old Pieps DSP Tour and DSP's display battery life like all other beacons with a battery percentage, while the new Pieps Sport uses a battery bar displaying 1/3, 2/3 or 3/3 full similar to most cell phones.

Best Applications


The DSP Sport is a solid beacon for most backcountry users with most of the features that people want, but not a lot of extras. This makes the Sport a good beacon for everyone from fairly novice users to even more seasoned and experienced users. It isn't as basic as the Ortovox Zoom+ or the Tracker2, but also isn't that much more complicated and the Sport has a bunch more features. For the highest level of demanding users, like ski guides or other professionals, the Sport will work, but they might want an even more advanced beacon like the Arva Pro-W, Mammut Barryvox S or Ortovox S1+.

Showing the harness for the DSP Sport.
Showing the harness for the DSP Sport.

Conclusion


The Pieps DSP Sport is a product that we do not recommend our readers use due to safety concerns cited in numerous press and social media reports about its switch design.

Ian Nicholson