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Pieps Pro BT/Black Diamond Guide BT Avalanche Transceiver Review

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Pieps Pro BT
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BD Guide BT

Summary: The Pro/Guide transceivers replace the Pieps DSP Pro transceiver. They are more feature-packed versions of the Powder BT/Recon BT transceivers.

Naming Confusion: The Pieps Pro BT avalanche transceiver is identical to the Black Diamond Guide BT transceiver. (Black Diamond has owned the Pieps company since 2012). The only differences between the Pieps Pro and the BD Guide are the colors: the Pieps Pro has a yellow switch and the Black Diamond Guide has a light blue switch. This website refers to these as the "Pro/Guide" transceivers.

Quick Review

The Pro/Guide transceivers are even better than the Pieps DSP Pro. The five-star rating is based on extensive testing of the Pieps DSP Pro and on limited testing of the Pro/Guide.

The transceiver comparison does have a column for the Pro/Guide.

Summary

The following are some of the enhancements to both the Pro/Guide BT and Powder/Recon BT transceivers compared to the Pieps DSP Sport and Pieps DSP Pro transceivers. You can also read about the additional enhancements to the Pro/Guide.

  • The new transceivers can connect to the Pieps app on your phone using Bluetooth (aka "BT"). This unique feature makes it much easier to change the configuration settings such as whether you are using alkaline or lithium batteries, the time before the transceiver should auto-revert to transmit, whether group check should appear on start up, etc. You can also use the Pieps app to update these transceivers, turn multiple "BT" transceivers into a mobile beacon park, and more.
  • The new transceivers have a sliding Off/Send/Receive switch that is similar to the Pieps Sport and Pieps DSP Pro, except the new transceivers have a sliding "lock" that prevents the Off/Send/Receive switch from accidentally moving whereas the previous transceivers had a push button lock. This resolves the problem in the DSP Pro and Sport where the release tab might not secure the switch.

    Unfortunately, the new locking mechanism is not glove or mitten friendly and it often needs to be physically pushed to the right to fully engage.
  • The reception range of the new transceivers is purportedly improved when the transmitting and receiving antennas are in perpendicular alignment. In my testing, the ranges in this orientation were similar to previous DSP transceivers (i.e., outstanding).
  • The harnesses are similar to the Pieps Sport and Pieps DSP Pro, but they no longer have the clever design that caused a pull on the closure strap to extract the transceiver. I'm puzzled why they would remove this minor yet helpful feature.
  • You can update the transceiver's firmware using the Pieps app on your cell phone.
  • The transceivers now have a formal "group check" mode that is activated by pressing and holding the Flag button when CH is displayed during startup. You can enable/disable the prompt for the group check using the Pieps app.
  • The transceivers support lithium as well as alkaline batteries. Lithium batteries last much longer than alkaline batteries (with lithium batteries, the Pro/Guide can transmit for up to 600 hours which is the longest of any avalanche transceiver).

Additional Enhancements to the Pro/Guide

The following are some of the enhancements to the Pro/Guide BT transceivers compared to the Pieps DSP Pro:

  • If you set the "Scan Mode" to "Detailed" using the Pieps app (this only needs to be done once), you can select individual transceivers during a multiple burial search. To use the detailed scan mode:
    1. Slide the Off/Send/Search switch to the Search position.
    2. Press the Scan button once to enter scan mode. A scan icon will appear on the screen and the transceiver will show the distance and direction to the transmitter with the strongest signal. The "victim silhouette" associated with that transmitter will be highlighted.
    3. Each time you press the Mark button (aka the Flag button) the transceiver will advance to the next transmitter, display its distance and direction, and highlight the associated silhouette.
    4. To exit the scan mode, press the Scan button once.

    Although this feature does require frequent practice to remember which button does what (i.e., pressing Scan enters the scan mode and the Mark button advances to the next transmitter), it is extremely helpful during a multiple burial search.
  • In addition to the group check mode mentioned above, the Pro/Guide also has a "Pro Mode" group check mode that can be enabled from the Pieps app. To activate this mode, press and hold the Scan button when CH is displayed during startup. When the Pro Mode is active, tipping the transceiver down causes it to transmit and tipping it up causes it to receive. Personally, I find the Pro Mode group check confusing and leave it turned off.
  • Although the Pro/Guide transceivers can check the frequency/pulse/period during the Group Check (if you hold the Scan button pressed), they won't display the transmitting frequency. On the Pieps DSP Pro, you could press and hold the Scan button while searching to display the transmitting beacon's offset from 457 kHz.
  • If enabled (using the Pieps app), the Pro/Guide will vibrate when it first receives a signal during the signal search.This should allow you to look for clues on the avalanche debris rather than look at the transceiver's display. It also vibrates any time you enter Send mode (i.e., after you turn the device on or after switching from Search to Send).
  • If enabled (using the Pieps app), you can activate a pseudo-analog mode by pressing the Scan button while searching until you hear analog audio. I am a big fan of being able to hear analog audio, but the analog audio on the Pro/Guide is unusually noisy, and unlike the Barryvox S, the Pro/Guide transceivers do not display distance or direction when in analog mode. As implemented, this mode is almost worthless.

Conclusion

The Pieps Pro BT and Black Diamond Guide BT have excellent search ranges, simple user interfaces, and are easy to update. They also have a good scan mode, an advanced group check mode, and provide user feedback via vibration. If you learn and use the scan mode, these transceivers are even better than the already-excellent Pieps Powder/BD Recon.

Model:  Pro/Guide
Manufacture:  Pieps/BD
Retail Price:  $449.95
Score: 
Type:  Analog and Digital
Antennas:  3
Marking:  Yes
Updateable:  Yes
Owner's Manual:  Read It

Pros: Great range, good scan mode, simple controls, easy updates, excellent perpendicular reception range.
Cons: More expensive. Ineffective analog mode.