Pieps has upgraded their DSP beacon with a new case, improved harness, better marking for multiple victims, and a few new special functions in the Pro model.
Although Pieps is no longer king of hill for max range they’re not shabby either, with a solid 52+ meter range whether oriented parallel or crosswise. As with the original DSP, the range is typically a bit better when in the poorly couple position. In plain english, this means it has a solid circular receive pattern, not favoring one orientation over another as every other beacon does to some degree. In spite of this Pieps only recommends a 25 meter search strip width, so you have plenty of breathing room on that.
Circular, 50+ m Range
Intuitive Audio/Visual Clues
Fast Mark Function
Not So Good
Slow Response time
The harness is improved over older Pieps models, with a simple sling design and a molded pouch to hold the beacon. You can tether it to the shoulder sling of the harness, or if you prefer, to a wrist tether for clipping to a belt loop if you stash the beacon in a pants pocket.
To turn the beacon on, slide the side sleeve up while depressing the locking tab to the middle, Send position. After turning DSP Pro on (to SEND mode) it runs through a quick self check showing the firmware version, then says OK if it passed the check or an error message if it doesn’t, followed by the opportunity to do a Group Check and then begins transmitting.
To begin Searching, slide the sleeve up one more notch, to Search. Once a signal is detected, move along the slide path in the direction indicated on screen. There are two membrane buttons allowing special functions. In practice you’ll use the lower one a lot to flag, or mark (actually it “masks”) a located beacon.
Like the original DSP (v8.2), the new DSP Pro can “mark” located beacons, scan to give a sense for how many beacons are within 5, 20, and 50 meters range, read the frequency deviation of other beacons, and search for a TX600 dog beacon operating at 456 kHz, a lower frequency. New features with the Pro include the ability to run a dedicated Group Check, and measure slope angle. Rather than force you to read the manual (downloadable from Pieps website) here’s a quick video tutorial of these functions.
To begin searching, move the slider up another notch and begin searching for a signal. If it’s within 53+ meters you’ll find it pretty quick. Beyond that you might get a momentary hit, but it won’t lock until you’re closer than 50 meters. Inside of 45 meters not only can you rely on picking up a signal, the DSP Pro (or Sport) will provide a fairly accurate distance reading, with a small amount of digital bounce throughout its range.
Once the signal is found, move in the direction indicated and make sure the numbers decline. There is no back up indicator if you go in the wrong direction, but the direction arrows are reliably accurate and unlikely to send you on a wild goose chase.
When you get close, less than five meters, sloooow down. If there is a weakness to the DSP Pro it is response time. Far away it is good enough, but when you get close it is evident the display is indicating a distance and direction that is averaged; fast movements can yield erroneous readings. Like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the pinpoint race. Don’t forget to put the beacon as close to the surface as is reasonably possible for the fine search.
Like many other beacons, the DSP Pro (or Sport) will beep in time with the strongest signal received. Inside of 10 meters the beeps progressively increase in frequency and pitch as you get closer.
When there is more than one signal the DSP Pro will usually indicate that in the 40-25 meter range by adding a second icon along the bottom of the display, or showing three dots after the first one-to-three victim icons to indicate it thinks it sees yet another, but either doesn’t have a dedicated icon for more than three, or isn’t totally sure if there are more than three. These three dots are common with noisy analog signals inside of 10 meters, so be aware, not being certain isn’t a flaw, it’s a clue to the nature of the signal it “hears.” You may notice the display have an interruption in timing and momentarily show a distinctly different distance and direction, then go back to the pattern it had before. This is another indication of a second signal.
The single best improvement in the DSP Pro is how reliably it marks signals now. When the signal is less than 5 meters way simply press the flag button momentarily and it will immediately mark that signal and ignore it thereafter so you can focus on the next one. Occasionally the DSP Pro did still have trouble marking a noisy analog beacon when other beacons were nearby, but not when closer than three meters to the noisy signal. As ever, the only true way to “mark” a victim is physically with a probe. Marking electronically makes finding subsequent victims easier.
Gone with the new version of the DSP is the Smart Transmitter which adjusted the timing of the signal to reduce interference in the presence of other beacons. A great idea, but one that required more technical understanding and explanation than the average “dude” could comprehend. It has been replaced with an Intelligent Transmit feature, not to be confused with being smart (a smart alecky comment if there ever was) which selects the antenna that will transmit the strongest signal to improve a searchers ability to find the beacon. Items such as a shovel, probe, or other electronic device near the beacon could cause interference, so the DSP Pro senses that and selects whichever antenna yields the strongest signal to help the victim be found easier.
On the basis of comparison for the essential features, range, reliability, ease of use, and ability to help sort through the confusion of multiple signals the DSP Pro and Scout are top notch. It locks on well, and gives accurate distance readings. It could give erroneous readings in close, if you panic and move fast. Come in for the final reading slow and low and you’ll pinpoint where to probe faster. Personally, the clinometer is the clincher, making it something that might help with prevention, if not the cure, to avalanche accidents.