Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: The New LS-100 PCM Recorder From Olympus Part 1 Of 2

Review: Olympus LS-100 PCM Digital Recorder Part 1 Of 2

The new LS-100 PCM recorder, from Olympus arrived the other day. Further first impressions are that it seems to be a very capable piece of kit. Skimming through the specs of this digital recorder, some of the features that caught my attention were:
  • 96kHz/24 Bit capability
  • Frequency response Between 20Hz ~ 20kHz
  • 2 Low Cut Filters available: 100 or 300Hz
  • Rechargeable Li Ion battery ~ 12.5 Hour battery life
  • 2 XLR connections with 48v/24v Phantom power
It is provided with a very thorough user manual. Since I've owned and used quite a few Olympus digital recorders over the years: I was able to make some quick recordings, without reading the manual.
I don't recommend this -but- It does serve to illustrate just how easy it is to use this machine.
Once you carefully read the User Manual (preferably, with the recorder in-hand) you'll be operating it like a Pro in no-time.

I had a serendipitous recording opportunity come up:
It was around 2:00 AM, when I heard some birds chattering in the Red Cedar trees in my (next-door) neighbor's yard. Very unusual! Not only was it 2 AM, but temperatures were in the mid 30's Fahrenheit. I grabbed the LS-100 and made some recordings, without even lowering the window screen. I carefully held the LS-100 close to the window screen, in the direction of the Cedar trees.

The most interesting thing that happened, as a result of these backyard birds singing, was that the LS-100 had an opportunity to prove just how well it performs. And, what a useful addition it would be, for the wildlife sound recording enthusiast.

While I was monitoring, and recording short samples of the birds singing - There were some periods of time, when (to my ears) nothing was heard. I also made a couple of sample recordings during these silent periods as well. And, when playing those particular recordings back (using only the LS-100's built-in speakers) I heard the bird songs! I was both happy, and impressed! In short: This recorder was able to pick up and record, sounds that were outside the range of average human hearing. These are the kind of recorders I like!

Just a few details that I recall, from the time the recordings were made:

The birds were located approximately 30 feet away.
The LS-100 was being used in it's standard, Recorder function.
Mic Gain was set to 'Mid', Recording Level: Manual (both knobs set to 10)
Neither of the audio filters were in use.
Sample Rate was 96kHz/24 Bit*
*I believe this last setting, was the reason why the in-audible bird sounds were recorded (high sample rate!). Along with the great overall sensitivity, the high sample rate was able to detect, and digitally reproduce the sounds.  
Similar to the way that a full spectrum recorder, is able to make ultrasonic bat calls audible. 

I've tried creating some (aesthetically pleasing) sonograms of the bird calls - Using quite a few applications that I had available; but I've had no luck so far. Of course, most of my software is set-up for bat calls, and other ultrasounds, etc. 
Whether I'll be able to produce some good sonograms from these recorded .wav files remains to be seen. If I'm able to: They will be included in Part 2 of this review.

I'll be visiting some suburban areas this week. And, I hope to make some ultrasound recordings of singing insects. In which case, I'll have no trouble producing some nice sonograms.

The New LS-100 Recorder From Olympus Part 2 Of 2

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Just Some Random Thoughts, Updates, And Ramblings

Just some miscellaneous "ramblings" and random thoughts that I wanted to share:

I'm excited about exploring Untermyer Park again, in about a week or two. 

Since Winter conditions haven't left us here yet, in the Northeastern U.S....There probably won't be too much to report, as far as bat activity goes. It may still be too cold...
But, I will do my best! I'm hoping to get at least a recording or two. Perhaps some pics of hibernating "tree bats" if I'm really lucky (Eastern Red Bat, Silver Haired Bat, etc.). I feel a bit more confident now, having read most of The Bat Tree Habitat Key by Henry Andrews.

I'm happy to report, that my Wife bought me my first Anemometer (wind meter). This is the one I was looking at: Handheld Anemometer It looked like a decent-quality, low-cost unit. It only costs a little more than a non-digital (old-fashioned analog) unit.
Anyway, along with temperature (which is recorded by the Batlogger M) - Accurate wind speed measurement, is the next most important bit of data for a bat researcher to record while bat detecting.

Yes, you've read that correctly - Bat researcher.
Because, it's occurred to me, that over time - Some bat detecting enthusiasts may eventually become a bit more interested in the lives of bats. Perhaps, it's safe to say, a bit more serious about the recordings they make, as well as the records they keep.
This has definitely been the case with me; and with a few other individuals that I'm aware of.

Those of us who enjoy studying bat behavior, are afforded the luxury of doing these things as an avocation. Most of us, may enjoy bat detecting without any of the dark and wet cave exploring, or tedious hikes through rugged and muddy terrain - Which are almost always necessary when bat research is one's vocation.
Next topic - Hardware: So far, the LS-100 PCM Recorder from Olympus, has proven to be a valuable addition to the wildlife recordist's "toolbox". My preliminary tests have shown, that it excels in the areas of most importance to a nature recordist: Great performance of the built-in mics (esp. when Gain/Rec Levels are turned up), excellent XLR mic performance (for shotgun mics), and excellent performance and control of the 3.5mm mic jack (my favorite). These features make it a great choice, for recording on-the-go. A full review will be posted soon...(I'm afraid my Fibromyalgia hasn't been cooperating).

As for Elekon's Batlogger M - For now, I guess all I can say is Wow! I haven't had the chance to fully test all of it's features yet... But, so far, I'm very impressed. This unit is versatile!
The Batlogger M simply appears to have it all. In all probability, this is the last bat detecting system you'll ever need. The harmonious relationship between the hardware and (free) software, is wonderful - Everything flows together, like a Symphony from Honegger.

{Side note: I've never gotten around to posting much about myself on this blog. But, for now let me assure you, that when it comes to electronics, computers, and software: I know of what I speak.}

Once you become acquainted with the (simple) menu system, it is a joy to work with. In the hand, the device gives one the impression of a professional piece of equipment. I realize that the current retail price of The Batlogger M (~ $2000 U.S.) is not in everyone's budget. At the next price point down (~$1500 U.S.) I would recommend the Pettersson D240X.

{Side note: My Brother-in-law has taken me on a driving tour of locations near his new home: The area is full of diverse Woodlands, mountains, river valleys and caves. Great prospects, for determining the effective distance of bat detections.}

Again: Full, detailed reviews - Of both the incredible Batlogger M, and Olympus LS-100 recorder will be posted up here as soon as possible. Each of these devices has a host of great features, that I'm really looking forward to sharing. Stay tuned!

Happy bat detecting!

New Developments At Dodotronic: Regarding The Ultramics

A bit of breaking news: New developments at Dodotronic: Regarding The Ultramic series of their microphones - Now On Android! Check-out the Link

Cool stuff!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Batlogger M From Elekon Has Arrived!

The Batlogger M From Elekon AG (Switzerland) is here!   ...Just a short post (for now)...

Now, this is a Bat Detector! What a fantastic package. It currently comes standard with:
  • A Kingston 16GB (Class 10) memory card.
  • Power adapter for charging the built-in, high performance, Lithium battery.
  • Sennheiser earphone set, with accessories and carry case.
  • A high-quality microphone (the mic is also replaceable). 
  • A nice, sturdy, black plastic carry case - The case is foam-lined; and keeps the Batlogger and it's accessories safe.

The kit was sent to me, to be tested and reviewed, directly from Elekon (in Switzerland) via UPS Overnight! Wow! It arrived quickly.
In any case, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out a few things: This kit may be a little more expensive than some others that are currently out there - But, it's easy to see: That what you are investing in, is a very high quality product. The old adage is certainly true here - "You get what you pay for" This unit has already been proven, to be much more effective than both the SM2BAT+ and the AnaBat SD2 (and not by me). I haven't started to seriously test it, yet!

Have a look, at this beautiful Batlogger M kit: 

I'm very excited about reviewing this machine! This bat detector has it all; with each recording it can log: Location (via built-in GPS), Time, Frequency and Temperature. Add a handheld Anemometer (to record wind speed) and a Tally Counter - And, you have everything needed to perform Professional Research and Bat Surveys.
A complete system, in a small carry case!

(As a reminder: My blog can be easily translated into any language now. See the Google Translator on the upper right-hand side of the main page.

Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The New Olympus LS-100 Recorder Has Arrived

The New Olympus LS-100 PCM Recorder has arrived! In all respects, It's very nice indeed.

It got here in just a few days, to me here in Bronx, New York.

A couple of quick pics - Comes with a nice protective case.

The display is really wonderful; this quick snapshot doesn't do it justice:

(It also features a talking Menu - A female, somewhat "robotic" voice)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Parkhurst Forest Bat Project

These days, I've been doing my best to avoid writing short posts. But in this case, I'll have to make an exception:
I came across this Gentleman's incredible Website recently; his name is Jon Whitehurst. 
Not only does his Site contain an amazing amount of information; but it is all data that he and his Wife have collected themselves! In a word: Impressive.

I was also very happy to see the equipment that he uses for his bat surveys: Elekon!

(The Link to his Site has been added, under 'Great Bat Organizations & Other Links')

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Next Device To Be Reviewed: The Olympus LS-100

The next "bat detector" I'll be reviewing, is actually...a digital recorder :)
It's the New Olympus LS-100 PCM Recorder.
I expect the device to arrive within a few days. So, I'll be testing it soon, and reviewing it shortly. Now, of course I will put this device "through it's paces" and post a full review here on the blog. The question of how well it performs, when connected to bat detectors will be the main topic.

In addition, I'll also test it's performance when recording the ultrasound/near-ultrasound calls of singing insects. 
I'll also be submitting a review to the Wildlife Sound Recording Society  to be published in the WSRS' Journal. I've also just renewed my subscription :)

Nature sound recording is a very interesting hobby; in and of itself!

Happy sound recording!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Similarities Between Backyard Birding & Bat Detecting

It's easy to understand why so many people enjoy bat detecting and recording. Especially when you take the time to consider the similarities between Backyard Birding & Bat Detecting.
And Birding, is said to be the most popular pastime in America (probably the World).

Now, I should state right up front, that I am also a long-time Birder. I've been keeping a 'Backyard Bird Journal' for several years now. And, back when the problems with my spine & my Fibromyalgia didn't have such a grip on me: I also enjoyed attending the local Bird Walks.

There are various levels of "dedication" for backyard Birders. And, of course, various levels of effort expended by each (unique) individual Birder. And the opportunities afforded to each of us plays a major role.
I suppose, that one of the most important factors, is how easily it is to glance out one's window - Into the back garden. Are the windows facing your garden large or small?
Some may actually set aside some time, during the early morning hours, to intentionally do some bird watching. While others (like myself, these days) will rely on what they might glimpse while going about their usual morning routines, etc.
Of course, it almost goes without saying, that: More effort put forth, results in more birds seen.

Now, if we consider bat detecting...Or more specifically, bat recording. We immediately see some advantages:
  • There is no need to wake up at Dawn (or other early morning hour) to see the best (most interesting/unique birds).
  • There's no need to constantly check what's going on, via the back windows.
  • There is no concern about missing the bats, because with minimal preparation: No bats will be missed.
For hobbyists who enjoy monitoring and/or recording the nightly activity of bats - Even modest equipment makes the process almost fully automated.

A typical scenario: The equipment is set up, at the back window in the early evening (an hour before Sunset, is the most recommended time). And in many cases, if weather permits, you may simply check the recordings the following morning.
So that while you slept, the local bat activity was diligently being recorded by your trusty bat detector!
Now, if you're like me - You check the bat detector's recordings several times before turning in for the night!

For me, it's a very cool feeling; to hit the Playback button - And hear the chirps of bats that have just recently flown-by your back garden : )

Whatever the case is: The various recordings, along with any other data collected may then be noted - In your bat journal. For example, I've been keeping detailed records of my nightly bat recording sessions, since 2007.

I enjoy going over my notes; both paper & electronic, to see when bats were detected. The same way a Birder enjoys going back, through their Journal to see when (what time of year) a specific bird was seen. Among the things that fascinate me, are factors like:
  • What time of night/early morning were bats flying?
  • Exactly how early in the year were the first bats recorded?
  • Which months of the year produced the most bat activity?
  • How far into Autumn/Winter were bats still being picked up/detected?

And, depending on how advanced your bat detector's features are:
  • What was your exact monitoring location?
  • What were the temperatures?
  • Light levels?
I also like to record/take note of other weather factors in my journal/notes. Primarily wind (speed & direction), as well as precipitation. These two factors are well known to have a profound impact on bat activity. Many of these factors will tell you, if bats can be expected to take flight or not.

I've read a bit recently, about the phases of the Moon having a effect on bat flight activity. So, in addition, other factors that I've started keeping track of are: Humidity, fog, etc., and phases of the Moon.

Happy Bat Detecting!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another New Bat Detecting Location For Me!

Harriman State Park

I've been to this park once before, years ago. I did some hiking and birding. This time, we will be camping over-night, for a few nights - Which, of course, will allow me to do some serious bat recording! Yay!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Bat Detector Reviews For The Spring Of 2013

The bat detectors that I'll be reviewing, for the Spring of this year (2013) will be:
(in estimated chronological order)

 The LunaBat® DFD-1 From Animal Sound Labs (Poland)

 The Batlogger M From Elekon AG (Switzerland)

 The D500X from Pettersson Elektronik AB (Sweden)

 A new "Mystery" detector (that I cannot mention yet) (Germany)

The Batlogger M and The D500X are both Top-of-the-range (high-end) instruments, which are very well-suited for Professionals. These are precision instruments, that produce outstanding results.

The DFD-1 and The "Mystery" detector may each be considered mid-range units, that are excellent performers for hobbyists, and can even be used by Professionals - As lower-cost alternatives to the higher-priced units. Currently, neither of these instruments have automated processes, recording, etc.; But that is also subject to change... ; )

Happy Bat Detecting!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Book Review: British Bat Calls A Guide to Species Identification

A brief Book Review - 'British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification' By Jon Russ

Once again, I'll state that: One does not need to be a resident of Britain, in order to appreciate and use this book. Which is the reason why I ordered a copy for myself.
Although I live in the US, after some shopping around online, I decided to order my copy from NHBS. Unlike some online-shops in the US, they had new copies in stock, ready for shipping. And the price was reasonable (£29.99 | $46/€35 approx.)

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I very quickly read through the first few pages. Followed by the Acknowledgments. And was utterly relieved to find that there were no references to any of the egocentric, stingy, American companies. Ahhh! What a relief! The same was true for the Preface section! And, I did read through it more slowly and carefully. Yay! I was so happy to learn that I could now proceed, free & clear.

I'll state right up front, that I found this book wonderful and refreshing. And, it has required quite a bit of effort on my part, to keep this review brief! This review could have easily ended up being four pages in length. I try to keep all of my book reviews brief.

Next up, was Chapter 1 - Introduction.
Among other topics, this chapter provides a short explanation of the discovery and history of bat echolocation.

Chapter 2 - Bats and sound
Provided very useful, and easy to understand descriptions of the properties of sound. The Author did a wonderful job of clearly explaining the various facets of sound, along with the "how's and why's"of bat calls.

Chapter 3 - Equipment
This section covered the subject of bat detectors :) And succinctly explained just about everything you'd want to know about them. Several other topics were related, including the various methods of recording bat calls.

Chapter 4 - Call analysis
How to use and understand sound analysis software. Very informative coverage of this topic, discussed in several parts. This chapter alone, is worth the price of admission.

{I know that it may be an old adage, but I enjoy this book more with each chapter I read}

Chapters 5 and 6 - Species echolocation guide and Species identification
These particular chapters may not be very useful to me (since I live in the US), but the information they contain - On each species covered, is simply amazing. Chapter 6 alone, makes this book a must have for any bat enthusiast residing in the UK.

It's safe to say, that I own many books on the subject of Bats. And, I'm also planning to review a few of them here soon. I can state here and now, (with certainty) that this book surpasses the others on it's overall (up-to-date) content, and execution.
In conclusion, the book is very well laid-out. It's very informative, and a fantastic reference, to re-visit again and again! ...Now if only a bat expert from the US (of Jon Russ' caliber) would publish a book similar to it (for North American species)...And soon! I'd be very happy!

Happy bat detecting!