N3A (N3 Audio) - Instant Altitude Awareness Improvement!
Review by: zenmonkey760, 2012-03-17
I've been wanting one of these N3A (N3 Audible) altimeters since they came out, and just finally got around to purchasing one.
Just for the record, I have been jumping with 3 altimeters: (1) An N2 on my wrist as my visual freefall altimeter and as my audible canopy altimeter. (2) A Pro-Track for free-fall audible altimeter. And (3), an Optima as a deployment audible and visual (hooked up to my hypeye Pro-D's LED via the Hypeye Extension.) as well as an audible canopy alarm.
So, because of all the beeps, sirens and visual cues, I thought I was supremely aware of altitude. However, from the first jump with the N3A I realized the degree to which I wasn't aware of where I was in the sky.
We all know that we're falling fast and that in a B2E position, we're hitting 1000' every 5 seconds, and maybe twice that speed in a freefly position. But, while performing maneuvers, it's easy to fall for 10 seconds and think it's only been five.
I used the N3A for the first time on a tracking jump. From the moment I heard the N3A tell me "12", I instantly knew where I was. Then, as I was in a dive to get down to the other trackers, it said "11", and again I knew exactly where I was, even though my visual altimeter was out of view.
Then, for the first time since I started skydiving, I didn't feel stressed when it was time to break off. Previously, especially on a tracking jump, I might have looked at my visual altimeter at 7000' or 7500, and then not realized that I had fallen 1500-2000' so, the break-off alarm from the Pro-Track would always come as a 'surprise'. But, because the N3A said "Break Off" at my configured 5500' altitude, and it said it in a calming voice rather than a jarring alarm tone, and it said it shortly after it had told me "6", I was expecting it rather than being surprised.
I used it for a few more jumps before deciding to try adding my MP3 player to the mix. All I can say is WOW! I didn't really pay any attention to the music while in freefall, although I did notice that it would attenuate so I could hear the altitude announcements. But under canopy, the music was pure bliss.
I won't be getting rid of any of the other altimeters, because redundancy is never a bad thing when it comes to lifesaving equipment. However, the increased altitude awareness and the calming voice rather than jarring alarm tones mean that I will be jumping with my N3A as my primary audible from now on.
On the other end of things, I'm disappointed by the closed proprietary nature of data download. I do believe, that Alti-2's exclusive relationship with Paralog is bad for consumers. Having an open architecture that would allow anyone to write software to download and process the data would create competition and therefore software feature improvements and possibly reduced prices. Why shouldn't I be able to plug my N3A into my Android phone or tablet and download the data using software that I or someone else has written?
Another negative is that there's no indication that the device is working. While climbing to altitude, it doesn't display anything to let you know that it knows you're climbing. In fact, it doesn't show anything to let you know that it will work. That was a bit unnerving on that first jump.
Finally, the only other negative about the N3A is the price. At $350, it's costly for the feature set. For that price, it would be nice if it included GPS functionality similar to the Flysight.
Regardless, I have fallen in love with the N3A and probably the only thing better would be a slimline HUD.