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Pieps DSP Sport Review

This beacon packs in ease-of-use coupled with most of the features that a majority of backcountry users are looking for at a very respectable price.
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Price:  $320 List | $294.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Fast, good range, good price, awesome flagging feature, very intuitive design, better than average in the fine search
Cons:  Battery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage, switch that turns the beacon from search-to-send can be difficult to use with thicker gloves
Manufacturer:   Pieps
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 30, 2018
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86
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 14
  • 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 more basic version of the Pieps DSP Pro. Some of the upgrades the DSP Sport has from the previous model are an improved processor speed, better flagging function, 25% bigger display and reduced price. We think nearly all changes that Black Diamond/Pieps made were substantial improvements, and it was previously our Best Buy Award Winner because of its quick processor, stellar multiple burial functions, and killer range. While it's still a good deal at $320, it isn't the unbelievable price it used to be. We gave our Best Buy Award to the Backcountry Access Tracker 2, which is equally as easy to use, slightly quicker at finding a single victim, but lacked a true marking/flagging function for a $300 buy.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pieps DSP is an excellent all-around beacon that will work very well for the majority of backcountry users. While it's a scaled-down version of the Pieps DSP Pro and DSP Ice, in reality, most users will never use the features and functions that those beacons have that the DSP Sport doesn't. So while the DSP Sport might be the "more basic" model, it still has all the features that most backcountry users are looking for. Most importantly, it proved above average for a beacon's most important aspects, like processor speed, ease of finding a single victim, and ease-of-use during the fine search/bracketing stage where most rescuers struggle the most. This model was formerly a winner of our Best Buy award when it was only $275, and it remains a good value at $320.

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 Pieps DSP Pro.

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.

The Pieps DSP Sport versus the Pieps DSP Pro


Both the Pieps DSP Sport and the Pieps DSP Pro are solid beacons that share many of the same features and functions with a handful of differences. As you would guess, the Pro is geared toward more advanced users (ski guides and other backcountry professionals), and the Sport is a more basic but still very capable beacon with all the features that most users want like a reasonable range, quick processor, and above average flagging features.

The Pro has all of this with a slightly longer range, an "unflagging" feature, a 400hr battery life (double that of the Sport), a frequency check button, and a scan feature for use in multiple burial situations. To sum it up, most backcountry users will be delighted with the Sport and with the exceptions of guides or advanced trip leaders, we don't think that most people will benefit or use the advanced settings and features of the DSP Pro.

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 Pieps DSP Pro, Arva Pro-W, Mammut Barryvox S or Ortovox S1+.

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

Value


At $320 the Sport is one of the cheapest triple antenna beacons on the market, along with the Ortovox Zoom+($300) and the BCA Tracker 2 ($300), but has the longest range and the best multiple burial functionality of any of these beacons. The Arva Evo4 ($290) is also one of the best value beacons for the price and is worth considering if you are thinking about buying this beacon.

Conclusion


The Pieps DSP Sport is a solid beacon for the vast majority of users out there from novice to expert. On the ends of the user spectrum, it isn't the most basic nor is it the most complex, but it is fast, and for a $320 beacon it has the longest range and the best flagging feature for beacons in that price range.


Ian Nicholson