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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Dodotronic's Ultramic200K

– ULTRAMIC200K – From Dodotronic



I'm excited about a new product, that has just become available from the folks at http://www.dodotronic.com/ In this case, It's a new ultrasound microphone, called the Ultramic200K. The main purpose I'll be using it for, is to record bats! But, any type of ultrasound can be recorded. You can see photos and info of the new unit, by visiting the link above.


One of the reasons that I am really thrilled about this device, is that until now, there's never been a true, low-cost version of professional ultrasonic microphones - Such as the high-end (and very high cost!) models offered by a few specialist suppliers in Europe. 

These are geared more towards the Professional's budget, way out of reach for the average bat enthusiast.
Another great feature of the Ultramic, is that it plugs right into a laptop. Unlike the expensive professional units, which require the user to purchase one or more additional hardware components. Since most folks have laptops these days, just about anyone can have a professional style bat recording system that's simple (andinexpensive!).

The newly released, free SeaWave software has been modified to run the Ultramic smoothly, even on a Windows tablet with low-power Atom CPU. You can find SeaWave here: Download SeaWave
 

As you will learn from the Dodotronic Web site, the Ultramic200K is an ideal choice for someone who enjoys "experimenting" and discovering new ways to use the various (free) software packages available. It is a very versatile device, with lots of features; so there are quite a few ways in which to record sounds. One can use it straight away, simply by plugging it into your portable computer. It may be used with a Windows or Linux operating system. Or, you may try it with any free, downloadable sound application of your choice.
I've completed some tests and comparisons on one of the first prototypes of this unique microphone. Recording tests of the UltraMic200K reveal a very capable piece of equipment.

Ultramic200K First Impressions:


I received the Ultramic200K prototype today (here in New York, USA), less than a week after ordering it. The mic was well packaged, with bubble wrap and a padded envelope.
The microphone has 'ULTRAMIC200K Distribuito Da DODOTRONIC' printed on it, in neat, black lettering.



The unit is lightweight and very compact. Upon plugging it in to my laptop (running Windows XP) via USB cable, It is recognized right away.
I immediately launched the SeaWave software, since I knew it already has a convenient template for this microphone. After launching the SeaWave application, you can simply click on the 'Quick Settings' pull-down menu on the right, and select 'UltraMic 200K 16 bits'
I've found two ways to get it ready to record - Although, there may be others (I'll confess: I have not read about all the capabilities of this software yet). You may either click on the 'Rec Mode' button (lower left side of screen); or click 'Task' on the upper left area of the screen (sometimes referred to as the file or menu bar) and choose 'Real-Time Analysis + Recording'. Either of these actions will cause the large 'Start' button to turn red, and read 'REC Start'. A single-click on that button begins recording.
 

The first thing that struck me, was it's ability as a microphone in general: Outstanding! It has simply amazing performance! It easily out-performs each of the shotgun microphones I had to hand (including the well-known Sennheiser MKE-300). The sensitivity of this (MEMs-based) microphone is astonishing. This is especially noteworthy, as the Ultramic was not designed to perform as a shotgun mic.
The main feature that I always look for in a new bat detector, is it's ability to detect bats from a good distance away. And, I'm happy to report that the Ultramic200K can pick up bats at the same distances as my other top bat detectors.
Tonight was the first real test for evening bats. And it performed very well indeed! The sensitivity of this mic is phenomenal!
I still have a lot of learning to do, as far as the SeaWave software goes, but I give it a thumbs up, overall. And it can be used with just about any software that detects a USB microphone. Audacity, etc.
When it comes to the ability to pick up distant bats on the wing: The mic easily matches my beloved BatBox Baton (one of the best performing bat detectors in my collection).
I will say, that this is the perfect ultrasonic microphone for those Nature Recordists & bat enthusiasts who enjoy experimenting with recording equipment. The combinations of software settings seem endless. I've only just scratched the surface of what can be accomplished with this hardware & software (SeaWave). The full version of SeaPro, has even more (and very desirable) capabilities.
As you will learn from the Dodotronic Web site, the Ultramic200K is a very versatile device, with great specifications and lots of features; so there are quite a few ways in which to record sounds. Many different combinations of settings are possible.
I've only tried a few so far. 

One of the most outstanding features of this device, is that it is capable of time-expansion bat detecting! To me, this alone was worth the price of admission. I've wanted a time-expansion bat detector for years now...
Another reason that I'm very impressed by this device, is because until now, there hasn't been a low-cost ultrasonic microphone available to Hobbyists. So, I am pleased to report that the Ultramic200K costs as much as many conventional bat detectors. 200 Euro + VAT + Shipping. 


Many of the specialty ultrasonic microphones on the market have been very high cost units, which also required additional add-on hardware in order to function. Sometimes, one also has to factor-in the expense of additional cables.

With the Ultramic, no additional hardware components are necessary.

Among the options in the SeaWave dialog box, is an option to adjust the Digital Gain. Well, just increasing the value in small increments provides amazing results - The mic becomes super-sensitive, but at the same time doesn't over-saturate or suffer from too much clipping or distortion. I'm not sure how or why that is, but I'm happy about it (I've just never seen it before).


I've been informed, by the software Designer, that the Digital Gain feature of SeaWave, should be used sparingly, and on weak signals (as needed). I did start to think that I would be
losing some signal to noise performance - But, it was so much fun increasing the gain! It's like turning the Ultramic into a Super-Mic! Wow! : ) 

In any case, this new Mic; along with the awesome SeaWave software are the best things to happen to ultrasound recording in a long time!

Happy bat detecting!


A link to the above review, in PDF format, on Dodotronic's Web site: PDF version on Dodotronic Site

3 comments:

  1. Ever since their arrival on the market I have been a passionate user of Ultramics (200 and 250 versions) running a number of different software on various computers, but always wishing for something more portable than a laptop. Finally, there's a new android app called BatRecorder by Bill Kraus available on Google play store. It offers recording with live spectrogram, triggering options and a lot more. Ultramics and other mics are supported. The app is evolving at a fast pace, well worth keeping an eye on! The autor does a fabulous job in my opinion.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent! Thanks very much for your comment.
      Yes, I am aware of the great work of Bill Kraus; and I hope to publish a post very soon, featuring the BatRecorder.
      Cheers!

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  2. Hi. I have an ultramic 200K that I am trying to use. I have tried to use it with SeaWave and also with Audacity. Both Applications "see" the mic, but I am not able to record anything (however, under Sounds in the Control Panel I am able to see that it is responding -- i.e. green level bars appear and change). Any suggestions? Thanks.

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