Powerful, small, and flexible, the new NeoXS from Parasport is the newest product in audible altimeters available to skydivers. If you’re a freeflyer, wingsuiter, speedskydiver, or a relative work skydiver, you’ve probably already recognized the need and value of a trustworthy audible.
Slightly smaller than other audible devices, it is also slightly thicker. The casing is a combination of heavy-duty cast aluminum and plastic. The NeoXS fits inside of any skydiving helmet set up for an internal audible, and with a little work can be made to fit on the outside of any helmet set up for external mounting. Although there is no cradle currently available for the NeoXS, it should be easy to mount on goggles if jumping without a fraphat or helmet.
The Right Stuff-
Heavy and tough, this is one tool you won’t have to worry about dropping on the floor. The test unit sent to me survived several drops from an 8’ height onto carpet, linoleum, and concrete without missing a beat. The aluminum case is available in multiple colors, making it easy to spot in a gear box or bag, or on the ground at the DZ. It also makes it easy to engrave your name and license number for quick identification and loss prevention.
With three alarms for freefall and three alarms for swooping modes, the NeoXS may be set up for any skydiving discipline. Alarms may be set to various volume levels, and you’ll want to be exceptionally careful with the highest levels of volume. This small package is LOUD when set to the high-volume setting. On one jump, I used standard foam earplugs to see if I could hear the device at full volume, and the cutting pitch and squeals easily penetrated the foam ear plugs. This can be of significant benefit to hard-of-hearing skydivers or for those that like to wear earplugs in the aircraft, and would prefer to leave them in during freefall.
The NeoXS is slightly smaller than most audibles, but not significantly so. It'll fit the audible pocket in any skydiving helmet.
Skydivers that enjoy multiple disciplines will appreciate the various profile modes the NeoXS offers. Going from a tandem to an AFF to a wingsuit jump? No problem. This unit stores up to four profiles, allowing very rapid switching from one profile to another. Simply push the joystick three times to enter "edit" mode, move the joystick to the left to change the profile, and put the NeoXS back in the audible pocket. The audible always resets automatically but can be manually reset.
Another benefit is the always-locked modes of the unit, making it impossible to accidentally change profiles when the unit is left in a gear bag.
The unit may easily be reset for new MSL altitudes, simply by entering the configuration mode and using the joystick, reset the zero point of the device.
What You'll Love (in a nutshell)
3 freefall signals
3 canopy warnings
real time altitude display while climbing to altitude
simplified programming of warning altitudes
4 user programmable profiles
Can be set EXTREMELY LOUD (user selectable volume)
May be programmed during climb to altitude
It's heavy (durable aluminum). It won't crush in your gearbag
The Not-So-Right Stuff-
The owners manual could use some improvement. It’s not immediately clear how to program the profiles, or which profile is being used. Actually programming the unit makes the profile modes perfectly clear, however. The same may be said for swoop modes. Better diagramming might alleviate this small concern, or perhaps some on-line help. Once the programming dialog is accessed, the procedures for setting altitudes become readily self-evident.
The only major concern with the unit is that the small joystick sits slightly higher than the recessed area in which the joystick is mounted. The recessed area makes it obvious that the manufacturer wanted to prevent the joystick from being accidentally knocked about, but the joystick does slightly protrude above the recess.
The joystick is marginally elevated. Initially, this suggested a problem, but in working with the unit in real-world situations, it is not an issue due to the unit always being locked. Three button pushes are required just to unlock the unit, and then the joystick is used to enter programming modes.
The unit also offers no backlight, making it difficult to set up for night jumps or in those wee hours of the morning. The LCD is clear and textually driven, however.
What You Might Not Love
Owners manual is weakly written
Joystick button is slightly higher than body/recessed space
No backlight for night-time programming
It's heavy, weighs nearly double compared to other audibles (I personally like the heavier weight.)
Although the owners manual could use some improvement, the only real challenge encountered was figuring out how to unlock the unit. (This is achieved by repeatedly pressing the joystick until the lock icon first flashes and then turns off.) A quick glance at the owners manual was required to determine how to unlock the unit after a few minutes of trying to do it by instinct.
Once I’d unlocked the unit, I put the manual down to see if I could self-start the programming procedure based. I could, and it was very instinctive once I’d reached the unlocked stage.
The four main menu options are Profile, Swoop, Alarm, and Configure. Programming for Meters or Feet display is offered in the Profiles menu, with three altitudes available. Additionally, unique volumes may be programmed for swoop alarms vs freefall alarms.
Alarm altitudes cannot be programmed lower than a subsequent altitude, thus preventing accidental programming errors.
The NeoXS is easily opened with a normal screwdriver. No special tools or jewelers-sized screwdrivers are required. The unit does not need to be opened to change batteries (you can see the battery door in the housing), I simply like disassembling things to see what they're made of. The reason for the weight is obvious; this is not thin, easily crushed aluminum.
*(Opening the NeoXS will void your warranty, do not try this at home, kids!)
The alarms are varied, allowing for each alarm to play a distinct tone and pattern, thus eliminating confusion about what alarm is for what altitude.
As a side note, I wouldn't mind seeing a manufacturer develop personally-created alarms such as one recorded by a user. Wouldn't it be cool to hear your own voice at the third warning saying "Hey buddy, it's time to pull?" All that would be involved is either a USB connection to a computer, or a microphone built into the audible. It would be difficult to output audio frequencies that cut through the noice properly, yet wouldn't a voice be more fun than a screech? But I digress...
In evaluating the unit, the joystick could not be accidentally moved in “real-world” scenarios, but in putting it in the helmet and using fingers to move the unit around, I was able to “accidentally” hit and move the joystick but could not affect the programming modes, as the unit is virtually always locked. It is impossible to leave the unit unlocked, as it returns to a locked mode 30 seconds after programming input is ceased. Therefore, it’s impossible to accidentally change the modes by moving the unit around inside a helmet pocket or other location.
The unit uses one CR2430 battery and offers a very long life. These batteries are easy to find at most any grocery or large retail store.
All in all, I like this little audible. After having used it for a little over a month, I feel pretty good about the quality, durability, design, and how it functions. I’d first seen it when it was announced at Reno PIA 2007 when Paulo from Parasport overheard me complaining about a particular audible I had (A Cool n' Groovy Fridge Company audible) and its lack of adjustable features. When he set the NeoXS to screaming, it had everyone anywhere near covering their ears, it was so loud. The fact that it can be taken down to a nominal level is great for those that still have fully intact hearing. Levels may be checked on the ground, so it's not an exercise in aerial experimentation to determine which volume levels are best for you.
At $170.00 USD, the price is right too, and makes it an accessible cost point for most any skydiver.
Overall, this is a very tough, well designed and manufactured tool for skydivers and from my perspective, should be part of any consideration in purchasing an audible altimeter.