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Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Kaleidoscope Pro Software From Wildlife Acoustics Part 1 Of 2

Review: Kaleidoscope Pro Software From Wildlife Acoustics. Part 1 Of 2

First, I must apologize: This review should've been posted much sooner. I was away from home recently, searching for "battier pastures"... I forgot to pack my laptop's A/C adapter. So, I was unable to share all of the great screen captures I'd originally prepared. 

If you are interested in an automatic bat call identification package - Then I urge you to download the free 15-day trial of Kaleidoscope Pro. You get to try out the full version of this software for 15 days, which will give you an opportunity to fully test drive the package before you buy. Just to clarify: This is a fully-functioning trial version - Nothing is disabled or limited, as in other software trial downloads. As I'm sure many of you already know, this is not a common practice. Most of the time, trial versions of software applications are severely limited.

The offer from Wildlife Acoustics has recently been extended - The free trial download will be available until June 30th 2013.

Again, I urge you to visit the Page - Check out the amazing screen shots! Watch the video presentation by Guest Speaker David Riggs, etc. There is a lot to see and learn there! Especially, if you're considering the purchase of a license.

I have tested this application, and found it to be excellent in overall performance. As per the Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope Pro page: "Today we offer classifiers for 21 species of North American bats and 10 for the U.K.."
This is very impressive. I have compared it, to all of the other Auto Bat Call ID software packages; Including SonoBat. And, frankly it is one of the two best applications I have found. The other, being BCID.

Which is better?

In regards to features, performance, and ease of use: Kaleidoscope Pro is clearly "smoother around the edges" (more refined, etc.) than the other currently available packages out there.
Kaleidoscope Pro is clearly the winner between the two.

Kaleidoscope Pro currently retails for $1,499.00 (U.S. Dollars)
BCID's current price is $979.00 (U.S. Dollars)

Something else that is interesting, is that - In many ways, the two are somewhat similar: Both in the way they look, and the way they work. Which brings us to the next question; how does it look? Below is a screen capture of the first dialog box you see upon launching Kaleidoscope Pro.
By default, it opens up as a medium-sized dialog box. Here is a full view, enlarged (maximized Window) for a better look:

Kaleidoscope Pro Ver. 1.1.3

Here is a quick screen shot, of one of tonight's recordings (picked up with the new Avisoft USG 116Hnm) - Lots of color variations are possible, they are easily changed using slider controls:

 Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis)

At this point, I should probably re-iterate something here - For those who haven't seen my recent review of BCID software (from Bat Call Identification, Inc.) and that is - In the realm of automatic bat call identification software:
There are currently only two software packages that warrant consideration for purchase:

Kaleidoscope Pro -and- BCID.

There is also a third. I list and describe it separately here, since it is a free application. It is awesome; and works beautifully with The Batlogger series of bat detectors (from Elekon).
It is BatExplorer from Elekon AG. The good news, is it's free. The bad news is that:
American bat species are not currently included.

In summary:

Kaleidoscope Pro is a comprehensive, very well-made, software application. It also seems to have a bright future, with various advancements already planned...Frankly, I can't keep up with all the neat additions they've been making! Which is why this is going to be a two-Part post.

BCID gets the job done, almost as well. But, leaves some things to be desired. And, may even be considered to be lacking in a few (minor) areas.

BatExplorer works absolutely beautifully - With two caveats: 1. You must be using files produced by a Batlogger detector: In order for everything to work quickly, smoothly, and with the minimal number of mouse clicks -and-  2. No American bat species are covered.

The three companies listed above, are each very knowledgeable and dynamic. They pay attention to exactly what is needed by Bat Workers in the field; and do their best to tailor their software to suit their various needs. Wildlife Acoustics is chief among these. In regards to my use of the term 'Bat Workers' here - You may take this to include: Bat Biologists, Researchers, PhD's and soon-to-be PhD's. And generally anyone who works with these incredible mammals.

I have only reached these conclusions, after a lot of careful research. After studying user manuals, specifications, numerous field reports, other reviews (from those with more field experience than I), and a lot of correspondence with several Bat Working Professionals.

In other words, all other currently available bat call identification software has been thoroughly scrutinized by yours truly. 

EchoClass - Although free, is hardly good enough to be considered for any serious (accurate) results, etc. No technical support
SonoBat - Doesn't have a good "track record" or substantial following among bat workers. 
What I've learned from other owners, is that End User support leaves much to be desired.
For (one) example - In the recent past, I e-mailed almost a half-dozen questions (to SonoBat) that all went unanswered. Others have reported the same thing. This basically translates to - No technical support. 

Part 2 Of 2 Review Of Kaleidoscope Pro

Happy bat detecting!

8 comments:

  1. You're absolutely right about Sonobat support. It's terrible. Joe's not actively working on the product or upgrading it, etc... But, Sonobat is the best product available for bat identification. It was the first and only (until KA) Bat-ID product of it's kind to have a complete call library of the entire United States. And you're dead wrong about professionals not using it. Many bat biologists are using it.

    ALL of the Bat auto-ID software is highly inaccurate. It has to be checked manually. The results should never be trusted as is and most of these products include something to this effect in the disclaimer. Sonobat certainly does.

    Kaleidoscope is the worst for accuracy. Just take a look at what it does for MYCA/MYYU. An analysis of Kaleidoscope that I was recently privey to revealed only a 42% accuracy rate in a sample of 8 different western species and only 81% of the high-quality recordings were identified, the rest were thrown out! That's not very good... I wasn't very impressed with the product and it's certainly not worth $1,500.

    Sonobat's auto-id software is a little better, but none of them are REALLY very good.

    I would recommend that you check out the "manual" version of Sonobat (approx. $400.00). It has call libraries for the entire US and that's what I use and recommend.

    Best Regards,
    Lone Ranger.

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  2. Thank you very much for your comment.

    My information and sources inform me that SonoBat:
    -Is losing it's following, among Professionals (frustrated with lack of support)
    -Is not as accurate as Kaleidoscope Pro (that KP has now surpassed SB in terms of accuracy)
    -Is ~ 400x slower than Kaleidoscope Pro

    You raise some interesting points, that I will definitely look into further. I would like to try out the "Manual" version of SonoBat: But, have been reluctant to purchase it. Since I've never received any response to any of my e-mails, how can I even be sure that I would receive a license after sending payment? A little scary, you know?

    Thanks again.

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  3. BCI (Bat Conservation Intl.) uses the automated version of Sonobat (3.x).

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about the accuracy issue. :-) Just recently, when I was beta-testing KA, Sonobat 3.x was more accurate, and that was while it was being used to compare accuracy by (Ian)@ Wildlife Acoustics!

    KA may be faster, yes. But, none of these automated products are very accurate. That's the real bottom-line for me. I was impressed with the speed of KA, but if it's not accurate, who cares? A 42% accuracy rate is pretty bad!

    It's been my experience that Joe @ Sonnobat will provide you with good service if you're purchasing one of the products. And you will have it available immediately via download, and then he will mail out a CD and hard-copy manual to you fairly quickly. No need to worry about that. He just doesn't field a lot of other questions. If you have a problem with the software, he'll get on it right away. When I purchased the 2.x version it didn't work well with my older AMD CPU chip, which had an early version of "SSE", which is an optimization algorithm. He gave me a re-compiled version the same day and it worked great. My current PC has the newer SSE2/3/etc. capability...

    Kind Regards,
    Lone Ranger.

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  4. Thanks again, for your comment.
    Well, to be totally honest, I believe you've made a skeptic of me...Regarding the accuracy issue. My goal has always been to provide accurate and unbiased reviews and information. So, I must get to the bottom of this.I would have to agree, a 42% accuracy rate would be sad. Well, I will do my best, to confirm accuracy levels. And update this Post, if needed.
    The experience that you've had with Joe at SonoBat sounds great.

    Thanks,

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  7. Have you used Sonochiro?

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  8. No, I haven't. It looks interesting, but it wouldn't be easy for me to perform a proper test of it - Since it currently doesn't include American bats.

    Regards,
    Al

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