I’m sure your knowledge of both German and transceiver tests is better than mine, Ise.
As you think this test is rare, perhaps unique, it seems worth exposing the results to an English speaking audience, so I‘ve translated it. I’m not a professional linguist, and it’s over 30 years since I lived in Germany so the translation is probably a bit rough. There seems to be a space limitation on forum posts, so I can’t give the full translation here.
Now that I’ve translated it, I stand by my earlier view that the article is written in terms (“journalese”?) from which it is not easy to extract general conclusions. I give below first a translation of the authors’ test protocol, then my view of the important conclusions from their results, then my comments on those conclusions.
How the tests were carried out (nearly verbatim translation of the authors’ test protocol)
Five of the best-selling avalanche transceivers were tested: Arva Axis, Mammut Element Barryvox, Ortovox 3+, Pieps DSP Tour and BCA Tracker 2. The list prices are all around 400 Swiss francs.
The test was in collaboration with WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF, i.e. Schnee und Lawine Forschung) and was planned and carried out in collaboration with an external expert.
In the tests 20 students (Schüler, which could also be translated as schoolchildren) searched for buried avalanche beacons. Students were chosen as test subjects because they were inexperienced with avalanche transceivers.
The tests took place in fields of size 40 x 40 meters.
The fields were 70 m apart, so that adjacent ones could not interfere.
In each field, 4 transmitters were buried 1 meter deep, which corresponds to the average burial depth in avalanches.
In each search, the students had to search for 3 of the 4 transmitters: one of the 4 was always switched off, so the students could never know which transmitters were activated.
Each search was stopped after 12 minutes, even if the student had not found all the transmitters.
The students searched for the transmitters using a probe. When they found the transmitter, this was registered automatically at the test centre.
The field supervisor confirmed the find. The student marked the find on his transceiver, and then continued to search for the next transmitter.
The students changed field after each search and went to search the next field.
In total, in the course of the day, 40 data sets per transceiver were accumulated, giving a total of 200 searches.
The results of each search contained the search time for the first, second and third transmitters.
My summary of the conclusions of the study
The average times for finding the first burial varied between 2.06 minutes (Barryvox) and 2.48 minutes (Arva). All the searches successfully found at least one burial within 12 minutes except two searches using the Tracker.
Search times for the second burial were a bit longer than for the first: between 2.11 (Barryvox) and 3.52 minutes (Pieps). The main reason for this is that the search times are longer for devices with marking difficulties.
The authors also conclude points about marking with specific transceivers:
The inconvenient location of the buttons on the Arva led the searchers to select a switch inadvertently with their gloves and so lost burials that had previously been marked.
The Pieps also lost burials that had been marked, leading to increased search times.
The best transceiver in the test is clearly the Barryvox. Only in one search did a student fail to find the third burial within 12 minutes with this transceiver. Also the search times are shorter than the other devices.
My comments on these results
The test protocol is quite challenging, particularly for inexperienced users. Even finding the first burial is potentially complicated by the presence of the other two transmitters.
I don’t believe that inexperienced users would have found a first burial in little more than two minutes using analogue transceivers: it would have taken a lot longer. Modern 3-antenna digital transceivers really are better.
Finding subsequent burials depends on the ability of the combination of the searcher and his transceiver to ignore the ones that have already been found and continue the search rapidly. Many of the conclusions of the study relate to the ability of an inexperienced searcher to mark targets in the transceiver as having been found, and keep them marked.
The Tracker 2 does not have a marking function. Nevertheless, in about ¾ of the searches with the Tracker, all 3 burials were found in under 12 minutes, a larger fraction than the Arva and the Pieps, and much the same as the Ortovox, all three of which do have marking functions. Only for the Barryvox does the marking function appear to have given a decisive advantage for these inexperienced users.
The relative importance of training for multiple burials is controversial (http://pistehors.com/news/ski/comments/0831-multiple-burials-revisited/ http://pistehors.com/news/ski/comments/0817-multiple-avalanche-burials-rarer-than-you-think/ http://pistehors.com/news/ski/comments/1028-problems-with-multivictim-searches/ ).
It can be argued that inexperienced users should not be confused by being taught to mark burials. The present tests would seem to support that view for the Arva, Pieps and Ortovox, but not for the Barryvox. It would be good to see further tests like the present one carried out, to see whether this result is reproduced.