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Pieps DSP Sport Avalanche Transceiver Review

Pieps DSP Sport

Summary: The Pieps DSP Sport replaced the Pieps DSP Tour shortly after Black Diamond acquired Pieps in 2013. The Sport includes the strengths of the popular Tour plus a slew of notable enhancements. And the Sport costs less than the Tour. Black Diamond is truly pushing the envelope with the price-to-features ratio of avalanche transceivers.

The Pieps DSP Pro is the Sport's big brother. The Pro adds several features that, depending on your needs, are enhancements or unnecessary. The features discussed on this page apply to both the Sport and Pro models.

Old versus New: If you liked the "old yellow" versions of the popular Pieps beacons (i.e., the original Pieps DSP and the DSP Tour), you'll be stoked to see that Black Diamond has made these transceivers even better. Here's a summary of the changes between pre- versus post-Black Diamond versions of the DSP transceivers.

  • New Housing. The first thing you'll notice is the different appearance of the transceivers. Rather than the traditional Pieps-yellow, the Sport is now green and the Pro is brown-ish. The new models are slightly lighter than the older models if you include the harnesses and slightly heavier if you don't. They also have a smoother shape that makes the newer devices more pocket-friendly.
  • Controls. The next thing you'll notice is the updated Power/Send/Search switch. The new switch is much easier to operate while wearing gloves and is no longer subject to accidental changes by radios and magnets. A downside to the new switch is that, after years of use, it can be difficult to slide. I'm unsure if it can be lubricated. The Pro version now has two buttons versus the original DSP's three (fewer is better).
  • Faster Searching. The directional indicators on the new DSPs sense and display changes in direction almost immediately. The older DSPs felt a little sluggish relative to the BCA Trackers.
  • New Display. The display screen is approximately 25% larger and is now made of hardened glass.
  • Improved Battery Life. The battery life was improved considerably. The Sport is still rated at 200 hours, but the Pro is rated at a whopping 400 hours.
  • New Harness. Now in its fourth iteration, the new harness is a pouch-style pocket that closes with a Fastex buckle. A clever design causes a pull on the closure strap to extract the transceiver from the pouch. The elastic leash is threaded through the tailored and vented shoulder strap. This makes it easy to extend while searching. This is undeniably one of the best harness designs. The new harness is compatible with the original DSPs and can be purchased separately from Black Diamond.
  • Audible Indicator. While searching for another transceiver, the audible indicator now increases in pitch and cadence.
  • User Upgradeable. You can upgrade the Sport and Pro at service centers.
  • Multiple Burials. The new DSPs are much faster when marking multiple burials (via a quick press-and-release of the Flag button). This is a little confusing if you're used to the older DSPs, because pressing and holding the Flag button on the newer units has no effect. You can now "unmark" the last transceiver that was marked by pressing and holding the Mark button for three seconds.
  • Cadence Adjustment. The new DSPs no longer have the "Smart Transmitter" feature where the cadence of the transmission changes to reduce the likelihood of signal overlap during a two-victim multiple burial.
  • Antenna InteferenceAntenna Selection. The new beacons will transmit on the shorter (i.e., x-axis) antenna if the transceiver senses interference with other electronics (e.g., a cell phone) or if there is damage to the primary (i.e., y-axis) antenna. You can test this by waking up your phone (you don't need to be on a call) and holding your phone as shown in this picture. The display should then show that the shorter antenna is transmitting.
  • Battery Status. The battery status is now displayed as an icon that is either empty, 1/3, 2/3, or full. This is a significant downgrade from the original DSP and the Tour (and most other transceivers) which display the battery status as a percentage (e.g., when the DSP Sport displays 1/3 charged, it can transmit from between 20 and 120 hours—a ridiculously imprecise range).
  • Improved User Manual. Although the new user manual is vastly improved, it's still filled with stilted sentences (e.g., "You can check punctually the angle of a slopes.").
  • Lower Price. The retail prices of the Sport and Pro are $75 less than the Tour and the original DSP. The DSP Sport is one heck of a transceiver at this price.

Black Diamond obviously listened to feedback from their users and scoured BeaconReviews.com. The above changes, and the aggressive prices, once again position Pieps as an industry leader. You can't go wrong with either the Sport or Pro.

Back to Basics

The remainder of this review explains the core functions of the DSP Sport and DSP Pro. Other than the above mentioned changes (which are significant), these transceivers are basically unchanged from the Tour and original DSP.

The Sport and Pro DSPs are undeniably strong contenders in a crowded market. They're small, have some of the longest reception ranges of the digitals (and slightly longer range on the DSP Pro), allow you to ignore a transceiver during a multiple burial, are excellent at dealing with spikes during deeper burials, and can be user-upgraded with newer features.

Searching: The DSPs have a long range and an intuitive direction indicator. The DSPs have outstanding range in the "worst case" antenna orientation (in our testing, the DSP's "worse case" range is often better than when the antennas are aligned). That's a significant advantage because it makes it less likely that you'll fail to locate the victim during the signal search.

As with almost all transceivers, if you are headed in the wrong direction (which can easily happen, since transceivers simply align you with the transmitting beacon's flux lines) you will need to notice that the distance is increasing and turn around.

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Multiple Burials: The DSP's handling of multiple burials is similar to other digital transceivers: you press the Flag button to ignore the current beacon and advance to the next beacon. The Pro also has a Scan function that will display the number of transmitters within 5, 20, and 50 meters, but unlike the Tracker3, the scan feature doesn't indicate direction.

When multiple signals are received by the Pieps DSPs, little men () are displayed on the screen indicating the number of transmitters.

Three Victims

After locating the first victim, you can instruct the searching transmitter to suppress (i.e., ignore) that signal by pressing and releasing the Mark button (on the older yellow DSPs you need to hold the button pressed until the distance indicator changes to "--"). A box will then surround that little man and the transceiver will guide you to the next signal.

Victim Marked

To unmark all previously marked transceivers on the older DSPs, toggle the transceiver to Send and then Search mode. On the Sport and Pro, you can unmark the last transceiver that was marked by pressing and holding the Mark button for three seconds.

The newer DSPs (i.e., the Sport and Pro) were very responsive during my multiple burial testing. The older (yellow) DSP were a little slower to mark and worked best if you held the transceiver very still when pressing the Mark button. If you own an older (yellow) DSP, make sure you have the latest software update. (It's also worth nothing that the newer DSPs allow marking from any distance whereas most transceivers only allow marking when you're within 2 or 3 meters.)

Spikes: The original Pieps DSP was the first three-antenna beacon and set the standard for spike handling. It remains excellent.

Controls: The switch that changes between Off, Send, and Search is the most intuitive of all the beacons I've reviewed. The Sport's single button, a flag, tells the transceiver to ignore the nearest transceiver during a multiple burial search.

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Pieps DSP Pro
Pieps DSP Pro

Comfort: The Pieps harness is now on its fourth generation. The new harness is a very comfortable pouch-style harness. It can be purchased separately from Black Diamond.

Other Features: All of the DSPs support the Pieps iProbe.

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Pieps DSP Sport
Pieps DSP Sport

The DSPs will blink two of the little man icons () at the bottom of the screen if it senses a continuous background signal (i.e., an older analog beacon). To test this, I searched for an Ortovox M1 which had a strong background signal. The DSP's man icon did not blink during the coarse search, but it did display two blinking men during the fine search. The blinking men are an indication that the DSP is aware of an unusual signal.

Auto Revert: Both the Sport and Pro support auto-reverting from search to send, but unlike other transceivers that support this feature, this can be enabled/disabled only at a Pieps service center. When enabled, "AR" blinks in the display while transmitting. The Sport auto-reverts after 4 minutes; the Pro auto-reverts after 1 minute without significant motion. These beacons give plenty of warning, both before reverting and after, so you don't mistakenly revert during a search.

Upgrades: The firmware can be updated at service centers. Read about the latest software updates here.

Warranty Issues: I have seen three issues with the Pieps Sport and Pieps Pro which are covered by warranty. First, some units develop black "speckles" near the bottom of the display. You might think you damaged the screen during use, but the blackened screen is caused by a manufacturing defect and the speckles won't appear until you have used the Sport for a while. Second, the tiny piece of plastic where the leash connects to the transceiver occasionally breaks. And third, some cases develop a small crack near the battery door. All of these have been corrected in later models. If you do encounter these problems, you should return your transceiver to Pieps (or Black Diamond) for a replacement.

Other: Read about the DSP's self-test.

The Pieps warranty only covers the DSP for 2 years unless you register it within three months of the date of purchase, in which case the warranty is extended to 5 years.

Read the Pieps DSP Pro Review.

Model:  DSP Sport
Manufacture:  Pieps
Retail Price:  $319.95
Score: 
Type:  Digital
Antennas:  3
Marking:  Yes (multiple)
Updateable:  Yes
Owner's Manual:  Download

Pros: Great price, excellent perpendicular reception range, easy to use, mitten friendly, good harness.
Cons: Nothing significant.