Mammut Barryvox S Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Super fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in our review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinations
Cons: Expensive, more complicated than other models, somewhat complicated for novice users
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Mammut Barryvox S is one of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market. Though it works well in the hands of a beginner, they would certainly be shelling out more money than necessary for added features they are unlikely to ever use. It also isn't quite as easy to bracket with as some other models. For more experienced users and industry professionals, this beacon is hard to beat in any category. It's fast at finding a single beacon, comfortable to carry, and the best model for complex, multiple burials. It's the beacon we'd choose to use for an AMGA and ACMG Ski Guide's Exam or other Avalanche Professional level rescue examinations.
The Barryvox S has a fast processor speed, and our testers (all professionals in the avalanche safety industry) noticed how quick this beacon was, particularly under 10 meters, and during the bracketing stage of the fine search.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
When you first turn it to search mode, it shows a very clear graphic displaying the pattern a rescuer should take during the single search. Once a signal is obtained, it gives you curved or straight directional arrows that are very precise and among the easiest to understand and follow of the beacons in our test fleet.
The arrows can be straight, show varying degrees of bending, and even show you a "U" if you've gone too far. These arrows are more similar to a modern car-mounted GPS, as opposed to other avalanche beacons which illuminate 1-2 arrows at a time out of five.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
This beacon is quite fast in the fine search, particularly during the bracketing stage, though it's not necessarily the easiest. This is most notably due to the directional arrows, which disappear at three meters instead of two meters. The Barryvox S was precise with its numbers and brackets, with the buried beacon consistently in the low point at the center of the box.
After extensive testing, we are thoroughly impressed with the speed of this beacon.
Range certainly isn't everything in a beacon, but this model blows the competition out of the water, and that is never a bad thing.
It had a 70-meter maximum range (and thus a 70-meter wide search strip width) in digital mode and up to a 95-meter range in analog mode. Even without the added meters in analog mode, this beacon still is in the top tier for range.
Ease of Use in Multiple Burial Situations
For complex burials and professional training and examinations, this beacon is pretty tough to beat.
The Barryvox S flags beacons in multiple burial situations, similar to other top models. It "blinds" one beacon's signal from the search (also commonly called flagging or marking). The Barryvox S got confused or misflagged burials less often than any model we tested. It also scored the best in simulated AMGA, ACMG or Professional level avalanche rescue scenarios, which all involved three or more burials in a 100m x 100m area, with at least two proximity burials where a beacon will have to deal with extensive signal overlap.
A useful feature rarely found in other beacons is the ability to go "back" and select a beacon the searcher might want to resume looking for in the event of a false strike or some other mistake.
The Barryvox has an excellent signal lock, which means it doesn't jump from one beacon to another in close proximity burials (which is a good thing), and its marking function proved the most reliable of any model we tested.
The features category is where the Barryvox S is one of the most stacked option on the market.
The Barryvox S is "Lithium-enabled", meaning it's okay to use with lithium batteries (most beacons will give you inaccurate battery life with lithium batteries, and the manufacturers don't recommend it). The advantage of lithium batteries is less risk of leakage; they're more stable in low temperatures and have an extended battery life — 350 hours in send mode compared to 300 hours with standard alkaline batteries.
The Barryvox S uses a second "W-Link" frequency, which creates an additional communication channel for other information and options for managing the Barryvox S in fleets. There is also an Analog mode, which can be extremely helpful in more complex scenarios, most notably while micro-strip searching during close proximity burials.
The Barryvox S requires two hands to turn on. You must depress the orange button with the "lock" symbol at the top of the beacon, which in turn allows you to slide the other switch between Off, Send, and Search. This model also has two up buttons on the right side of the body that work as up and down controls for the menu, as well as an orange "flag" button used for selecting menu items or marking a buried beacon.
We liked the fact that it required two hands to turn it into Search mode (making it less likely to switch into the wrong mode if you are buried), but only one hand to turn it back to Send mode.
When you turn it on, it will ask you to do a group check. During this screen is the only time you have access to the settings. The icon to access the settings is located in the upper right-hand side of the screen. From here, you can select options regarding language, user ID, search settings (basic or pro), audio guidance (with Analog option), visual guidance, and Revert to Send mode options. These are all easy to navigate using the up-down buttons and using the flag button as a select, and overall the menu is pretty intuitive and easy to operate.
Group Check Mode during the Function Check
The Barryvox S features a group check mode, which makes it easier to perform a function check before leaving the trailhead. Similar to other high-end models, this beacon has a very good signal lock, meaning it won't quickly jump to another beacon if its signal becomes marginally closer. This helps you focus on one beacon during close proximity burials. It will eventually jump to the close beacon if the new beacon comes progressively closer and the prior buried beacon moves further away for long enough. In a function check, this means waiting three to five seconds per person longer for the Barryvox to re-lock onto the new beacon if you aren't using the group check mode.
We recommend using the Group Check mode during the function check if you're the one leading the group. It's easy to use; simply select Group Check when you turn on your beacon, using the orange Flag button. This displays a series of skier icons in a line across the screen. It won't pick up a person until they are one meter away (Group Check mode can also be set to five meters). When the person you are checking is within one meter, the Barryvox makes progressively louder tones, and the skier icon in the screen becomes filled in. Once they move away, the skier icon is no longer darkened, and the audible sounds go away. We liked the Group Check function on this beacon, but its worth noting that it doesn't like it if you get closer than around 15cm (it displays texts saying "Too Close").Revert to Send
This beacon does have a Revert to Send mode, and like many other features on the Barryvox S, it can be fine-tuned to the user's preferences. It can be turned on or disabled, and when enabled, it can be set to activate after two or four minutes. It knows to revert to Send mode if it doesn't sense any motion for the pre-set amount of time. If you somehow find yourself not moving but directing traffic during a large scale rescue, before reverting to Send, the Barryvox S gives a loud beep sound to help alert the user to what is happening.
Comfort to Carry
The Barryvox S's harness system is above average for comfort and among the simplest and easiest to use. For users who like to carry their beacon in a zippered pants pocket, this model was low-profile enough to fit the bill, though it's certainly not the smallest beacon we tested.
Barryvox S vs. the Barryvox
The Barryvox S is essentially a fully-loaded upgrade from the more straightforward Barryvox, but not necessarily everyone will benefit from this upgrade. The more standard Barryvox has search, send, flagging and group check functions but nothing more. The Barryvox does not have a menu or up-down buttons. The Barryvox is perfect for everyone from novice users all the way to advanced users. The Barryvox S is probably overkill for beginners, as it has many advanced features that someone fresh off their AIARE Level 1 will not utilize. It is perfect for pros and more advanced users who will use this beacon's many capabilities.
This model is the manual camera of beacons — far more capable than a point-and-shoot, but also requiring a bit more practice to dial in and get the most out of. The Barryvox S is best for ski guides, ski patrollers, avalanche industry professionals or advanced users who will benefit from the vast feature set and exceptional performance. For folks who want a beacon that finds one beacon at a time exceptionally well, the Barryvox S works great, but you can buy a beacon that will be easier to use and cost a lot less money.
Should You Buy the Mammut Barryvox S?
If you are a high-end user, there are many reasons to buy a Barryvox S, and it performed high in every test metric. It has a long range and excels at multiple burials, an unlikely real-world situation but something guides and pros are frequently tested on, which makes this device popular among industry professionals. If you are a novice or only occasionally get into the backcountry, this model might be overkill, as well as overpriced, as it contains features you may never utilize.
What Other Avalanche Beacon Should You Consider?
This is a great model for pros and guides. We'd also point those folks towards the Black Diamond Guide BT, or for a more affordable model with many professionally geared features, check out the Arva Neo Pro. However, we think less experienced users could build their brackets faster and be better served by a Backcountry Access Tracker S or Black Diamond Recon BT.
— Ian Nicholson
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