Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Deciding Between the New Barryvox S and Barryvox Transcievers: Which Beacon Should I Get?

Since Mammut has two brand new transceivers available this October, this post will try to help people decide which is best for them, and at the end I'll provide some guidance specifically for professional organizations who operate a fleet of transceivers.  We've also covered the basic functions and what's new about the beacons already HERE (link), and will continue to go into detail on various functions and features to help people get familiar with the new beacons throughout this fall and winter.  Anyone who has specific questions that aren't answered, please let us know in the comments so we can edit to clarify or include the info you need in a future post.
The Barryvox S offers enhanced performance that benefits all users, regardless of their experience.  It also offers additional function for anyone who will practice an Alternate Search Strategy such as micro strips.

The Barryvox S and Barryvox transceivers share many features, but there are several key reasons why a user might choose the Barryvox S over the Barryvox, so it’s helpful to understand the differentiating features of the Barryvox S and who each beacon is designed for.  The differentiating features of the Barryvox S are simple to identify, and each provides real benefit to a variety of users.  When choosing between the two, keep these benefits in mind to decide which will provide the best degree of function for you.

The Barryvox is designed with ultimate simplicity in mind.  This model is very capable in both single-burial and multiple-burial searches using the marking function, and has an extremely simple user-interface utilizing only one button.  It's an extremely capable beacon and a good choice for anyone who will use it for single burial searches or for multiple burial searches using only the marking function.  It has a very long range and search strip, a very good signal-separation function for multiple burials, a large 2" screen that is backlit and functions with polarized lenses; but it does not have some of the background functions of the Barryvox S.

The Barryvox S has several additional benefits built into it that provide background searching assistance for both beginning and advanced users--it's definitely NOT just a beacon for pros.  For this reason, it’s helpful to keep in mind what the differentiating features are, since many beginner as well as advanced users will choose the Barryvox S for these reasons:

1) Barryvox S contains several features in the standard operating mode that benefit all users, regardless of their experience or ability level. These features are not found in the standard Barryvox, and most importantly these functions operate in the background of the standard operating mode, so the user doesn’t have to “do" anything to take advantage of these benefits:

  • The larger 2.2" screen makes it easier to see and read, even in difficult lighting conditions
  • Dynamic screen icons cue the user through a search, helping to keep the search moving and hopefully preventing moments of indecision.  A "dynamic screen icon" is one that MOVES or changes through the search to indicate what you should be doing--an example would be the searcher icon shown at the bottom of the screen:  running during the signal search, slowing down through the coarse search, and finally crawling during the pinpointing phase.  
  • Smart Search operates in the background and allows for efficient, follow-the-arrow guidance through both the coarse search and the fine search, ending at a specific probe-location, in a manner that is forgiving of imperfect searching technique such as a sloppy grid search, changing the height of the beacon from the snow or turning the beacon.  
  • Auto Guidance also operates in the background and allows the transceiver to continue providing uninterrupted search direction even during signal-overlaps encountered during multiple burial searches.  This feature virtually eliminates the "stop stand still" message that the Pulse and Element used to indicate signal overlap, allowing you to continue following the curved field line without stopping or being sent off-course because of the overlap.
  • Lithium Batteries  the Barryvox S can utilize Lithium batteries or alkaline batteries, like the Pulse before it (link).  Lithium batteries last longer, are lighter, and if they fail don't damage your beacon from acid corrosion.  Make sure to read the REFERENCE MANUAL for critical information on the battery life indicator function, but this is a very big advantage for many users.
    The Smart Search function in the Barryvox S offers "follow-the-arrow" guidance to cue the searcher through all phases of the search, ending with the "probe-here" icon shown in this screenshot.

These three screenshots show one example of Dynamic Screen Icons--the searcher is running in the signal search, slowing down in the coarse search, and crawling in the fine search.  In usability testing these dynamic icons proved to be very intuitive to follow, and helped to prevent momentary indecision.  

2) Barryvox S also allows the user to activate the PRO SEARCH menu option.  Anyone who will practice alternate search strategies such as Micro Strips or 3-circle will benefit from utilizing the Pro Search option to access the Alternate Search Mode, which is optimized specifically for these difficult situations.  Activating this single setting allows the Barryvox S to positively identify signal-overlap or other difficulties encountered during multiple-burial searches, so the searcher has a definitive indication of when an alternate search strategy such as micro-strips, 3-circle or micro-box is required, and to solve this by going into the Alternate Search Mode.  

The main point we want to get across is that there are a lot of reasons why the Barryvox S may be a great beacon for you and provide you the best value, even if you are using your beacon only occasionally or you wont practice alternate search strategies--it's NOT just a tool for professionals and the benefits don't require you to do anything different than you would on the standard Barryvox or any other beacon without these features.  We put a huge amount of our development effort into making the Barryvox S as simple and intuitive to use as possible specifically to bring these benefits to more users.

In addition to the benefits that will help every user, there is also the Pro Search option that aids a user in identifying when they are experiencing signal overlap, so they know definitively when to switch to an alternate search strategy.  Unlike the Pulse, the Barryvox S has only one "user profile" and activating the one "pro search" option is the equivalent of putting your Pulse into the advanced user profile and then changing 3 different user-settings...the difference being it requires only 1 action instead of 4.  Once it's activated you never have to change settings again.
Guides and professional rescuers need to practice alternate search strategies in order to deal with the complications that arise during close-proximity multiple burials and situations involving interference, but also recreational users who ski or ride lift-accessed terrain or popular backcountry areas where there is a higher likelihood of a multiple burial or even participating in an accident involving another party of riders.  These alternate search strategies are the exact same techniques and situations used with all digital transceivers from every brand, the difficulty is in identifying WHEN to use such a technique versus when you can continue to rely on the marking function.  The Pro Search and Alternate Search Mode allow for positive identification of when such a technique must be used, as well as frequently allowing you to continue using the marking function when others need to switch to an alternate strategy, and offers an easy switch to a setting that is optimized specifically for these techniques.  Especially with the new Pro/Rec split in avalanche education with a separate rescue module on a recurring basis, we think it's likely that more people will practice these situations in the future as well.  We'll go into detail on the Pro Search function in a future blog post, so stay tuned on this.

For fleet managers, both the Barryvox and Barryvox S allow the use of our w-link fleet-management tools (link).  A new service software version (available fall 18) will be required to work with the new beacons, but their capabilities are slightly different.  Both beacon platforms utilize an updatable firmware for a long service life, but the Barryvox does not have the ability to be custom-configured by a fleet manager since the settings are fixed--the only true fleet management function that can be performed on the Barryvox is to record the beacons' self-check as part of a risk-management protocol. The Barryvox S will do this as well, but also allows the manager to install a custom startup image or message or an inventory number on the startup screen, as well as to install a custom user-configuration onto the beacons for uniformity of training or to differentiate between guides and guests, while retaining a homogeneous fleet for maximum versatility.  Beyond this, we recommend all guides and group leaders practice alternate search strategies to deal with a potential multiple burial complication so those users should choose the Barryvox S.  Clients usually wont be well-trained enough to utilize advanced searching techniques, so here the fleet manager needs to decide between the two beacons based on the standard operating mode and weighing the importance of fleet uniformity for training and flexibility.  Contact us directly if we can offer any guidance on this.

We hope this helps people decide which beacon is best for them.  If you have questions about this please leave a comment or contact us and we'll try to help.


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