Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: The BatBox Griffin, From BatBox, Ltd. (UK) Part 2 Of 3

Review: The BatBox Griffin Part 2 Of 3

Aside from the fact, that that The Griffin is an advanced instrument for bat detecting - I feel compelled to mention, that it is somewhat of a conversation piece as well! You may think that I've "lost it" this time...but, it's true! And, I just had to mention it - Although it may seem trivial to some...I find it to be a nice advantage.
You take this beautiful, blue display for instance:

It's a back-lit, LCD/negative blue display (128x64). And, it's simply a joy to behold, most of my pictures do not do it justice - Complete with very cute splash screens at boot-up and shut down! - I do have pics of said cute splash screens, but won't post them up. They will be a neat surprise to new owners of this unit.
Well, these are the kinds of things that even the layperson (even one who has no interest in bat detectors) can appreciate.

OK, this is a serious bat detector - So let's get back to a serious review...

In general, the layout on The Griffin, is very straight-forward and simple. I like the front-mounted, diffused, LED indicator. It's a bi-color LED, and provides a soft, intermittent flashing: Green: to indicate Normal/On operation. And Red: to inform the user that a program has been stored, and will execute. It serves to assure the user, that although the unit is in a powered-off state; it will be turning on/recording later.

Below, is an example of what a typical triggered recording looks like; in Audacity (free program). In this example, upon first opening the file, Audacity "decided" to use 44.1kHz & 32-bit. The machine actually makes the recording at PCM 16-bit 44.1kHz quality. Which, as many of you are aware, is substantial. You can see the dialog box where I chose to specify 70560, as the sampling rate:

By specifying 70560, you are reducing the original 705.6kHz sample rate of the recording by a factor of 10.
This is simply one random experiment. There are almost countless combinations, and opportunities to experiment further. The example above, contains calls from my local Katydids (@ ~40+ Meters distant) and a couple of bat calls.

Below, is an example of what a single, isolated bat call looks like, when using Audacity:

This is an example of what Katydid calls & Bat calls look like, when using Audacity -
As far as I can tell, (and after listening to the recording numerous times) the first 2 are insect calls, the rest are Bat calls):

Here is a sample section, of the recording above, using BatScan Ver. 9 software (from BatBox, Ltd.):

The Time Expansion option was selected in Batscan, when analyzing the file above. This particular example appears to be of a bat that was recorded at a fair distance. I will be posting a few more examples in the future.

Here is a look at what the additional, detailed Info, (in raw format) that was recorded by The Griffin:

<record_time>00h 00m 48.02s</record_time>

This information, can be viewed in a much neater format, by using an application that reads .HTML or .XML files.

And this is the other data file, that is automatically created, with each recorded event:
This was simply opened with Notepad, but can opened using various text editors (The data looks the same when using MS Word to view):

rec_time=00h 00m 3.00s

I find it to be a nice plus. And, for those who are really into spreadsheets, applications and databases: There are numerous possibilities.
These are all just some minor details, which you will discover on your own. Advanced (experienced) users of bat detectors, will be able to just "take the ball and run with it" (as they say).

Suffice it to say, that programming the unit (for automated operation, etc.) is not difficult in the least.
Which reminds me: I've found it easy to become accustomed to using The Griffin. After only reading through the User Manual once. This is not the case with all advanced bat detectors, by the way. With other high-end detectors, you need to practically study the manual...So, I believe this is important to note.
As far as one-handed operation: Although it is possible, I much rather use both hands when operating the unit.

I happen to like the way it instantly switches (or toggles) between each of it's operating modes - With a press of the 'H' key. Each push will scroll through: Heterodyne, Frequency Division, Binaural, and Silent (recording) mode.
Another advantage, is that your recording time, is only limited by the size of your CF memory card. It's basically the kind of instrument you can take on a bat survey or exploration, without the need for any additional equipment. This is not to say that you cannot bring additional recorders, etc. if you so choose. As some users, may want to do just that. The usual (lossless) direct-to-card recording is not the only way to record. There happens to be a perfectly serviceable Headphone Jack provided. This can be used for recording either a heterodyne, frequency division, or Binaural output - to any suitable recorder.

For example: I tried a few further tests myself, this evening. And the results were great, just as I expected - Like having 3 different detectors available, all in the same box.
So you see, you do get a lot of bat detector for your money. If your an advanced Hobbyist: You'll have enough variations to experiment with (to keep you busy for a while).

But again, the point of this system; one of it's main advantages, is that you can just grab it and go. Battery life is great - A set of 4 AA-size, fully charged (NimH), or fresh alkaline batteries - will last you all evening, and well into the dawn hours. This has always been the case for me (regardless of the type of batteries I've employed).
I have come to realize, that an important facet, of the overall value of a bat detector - Is how easy it is to use. A bat detecting system that is easy to set-up and use, is likely to be one that you use more often. As opposed, to one that needs a bit more set-up time, accessories, and sometimes: A bit of a hassle.
In other words: How is the detector for daily use? Well, at this price-point; you get an advanced system that also happens to be very easy to use. When you become familiar with it: It can go from 'Off' to 'Listening' (recording) in under ~20 seconds.

Things I like: 
The display! Plus it's ability to automatically or manually (10 levels) adjust LCD brightness.
The external power option - Makes stationary recording free of the hassle of battery changing.
The internal (electronic) design of the unit - Such as limiting the AGC to be employed for speaker or headphones only.

Things I don't like: 
I would like to see a slightly more protected microphone: Something to provide a bit of protection of the mic element. This appears to be the only (external) design weakness I could find. I realize I may be "nit-picking" here... Let me be a bit more clear on this: The housing itself is OK, and in general, seems to be sturdy enough. What I'd like to see, for example - Would be perhaps a fine (translucent), or black nylon (fibrous) material in front of the element. I think I would just feel a bit better. The reason for this, is - The Griffin is such a high-end and capable system, I would prefer to have the "business end" of it kept safe.

More to follow - I hope to add more images to this post in the future (sonograms, etc.)

Stay-tuned for the upcoming Part 3 Of 3 of this review...
*Note* Part 3 of this review, will cover all of the latest updates and new features. As I type this, new firmware-based features are in the works for this unit! There will be quite a few very interesting updates and improvements made to The Griffin, in the very near future...

Link to Part 3 Of 3

Until then, Happy bat detecting!

1 comment:

  1. Just wondered if you tried to analyse calls using Analook? Is it possible to record simultaneously in Het, TE & FD during a manned/triggered survey?
    Would this unit replace the need to have a Petersson & an Anabat unit for doing full spectrum surveys? More info of this nature and on analysis time & software requirements would be gratefully received:)