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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: The FG Black Microphone For Batlogger - From Elekon

Review: The FG Black (optional microphone) For Elekon's Batlogger / Batlogger M
A follow-up/continuation of the recent 'First Impressions' Post Here.

I was recently considering the addition of a new shotgun microphone to my collection (of odd DIY mics) - Specifically, for the purpose of recording singing insects. But, while testing this FG Black microphone - I discovered that it has the ability to record singing insects very well, if one is inclined to do so. It has allowed me to easily record several species of Orthoptera so far.
Thanks to the fact that the Batlogger detector is able to tune all the way down to 2kHz! This bat detector also allows you to target just about all species of singing insects in the Northern Hemisphere. 
Those who are only interested in recording bat calls, cannot really begin to understand what a treat this is, for those of us who enjoy recording singing insects. 

Okay, getting back to bat detecting now...

Among those who would find this microphone most useful, are those who do passive recording. Primarily because the microphone is weather proof. It is well-made, and quite resistant to rain, humidity/moisture. It is also excellent to have installed on your Batlogger, while out in the field: doing surveys, or general bat detecting, etc. If it begins to rain, the microphone of the unit may remain somewhat exposed – allowing one to continue to record bats even during inclement weather. I will take this opportunity, to remind the reader that the Batlogger unit itself is not weather resistant: Do be careful!

(The FG Black microphone from Elekon)

Again, the advantage of this microphone really becomes apparent during passive recording. A typical scenario, similar to the manner in which I tested The FG Black microphone would be to attach the microphone to a shielded audio cable (a good quality, shielded, audio cable with 3.5 mm male/female connectors at each end). The end with the microphone plugged into it would be secured outdoors (or outside a window) - While the detector itself would remain warm and dry indoors. This also has the advantage of allowing you to listen to the bat calls, as they fly by. For devoted hobbyists or enthusiasts, what could be better? 

The FG black microphone would be a welcome solution, for many Batlogger users, who use the detector on a regular, nightly basis. Since one cannot always be sure if it will rain or not.
In general, an ideal scenario, would be to have the microphone positioned in an area fairly well shielded from direct rain.

It is an interesting and welcomed advantage: Being able to rest easy, knowing that the microphone positioned outdoors will be safe, if it should happen to rain. The FG Black microphone opens up additional opportunities for bat detecting. For those of us who set up Detectors for passive recording, on a nightly basis.

In fact, we had a bit of (unexpected) drizzle the other night - And the microphone stood-up admirably. Still working fine! Excellent.

Happy bat detecting! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

From Wildlife Acoustics's Web Site - Microphone Calibration

Directly From The Wildlife Acoustics Newsletter:

 

Are your ultrasonic microphones working
as well as they could be?

There's nothing worse than going into the field not knowing whether your microphones are working properly. Discovering after the fact that your bat echolocation data has been affected by a microphone that's out of spec can be frustrating and costly.
The good news is that our Ultrasonic Calibrator eliminates those headaches because you can instantly test and verify your SMX-UT, SMX-US and Echo Meter EM3+ microphones in the field.
Need to know whether your Song Meter SM2BAT+ recorder and microphones are working properly as a system? The calibrator's Chirp Mode will take care of that.
So remember, don't get caught on a deployment with your mics out of spec. Check out the Link.

Check out this very cool-looking tool:


Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Latest From Elekon: New Improved Version Of BatExplorer Software

From Elekon's Newsletter:

New Improved Version Of BatExplorer Software 

New BatExplorer version 1.9
Clearer and faster. One could summarize the new version of the BatExplorer software.
A new "compact view" of the spectrograms increases the overview significantly. The calls will be cut and concatenated so you can see call shapes and type at a glance. Horizontal guide lines enable quick visual distinction or grouping of bat species and thereby accelerate the manual evaluation.
Thanks to new calculation algorythms the analysis is now faster and the call recognition is improved.
By zooming with the mouse in the activity or frequency diagram, the recordings can now be filtered easily and quickly by time or frequency. Also, the map and the call list is now adjusted accordingly.
It is now possible to enter custom texts as bat species. This also allows to assign species which are not included in the library.
Further changes can be found in the Changelog.

By the way, ...
... did you know that you can enlarge the map and display it in a separate window? Clicking the \'Fullscreen\' button opens the view and makes it possible to eg. see the map on the second screen. Also, if a GPX track was recorded, its altitude and speed profile can be shown.

 


The obvious, major difference in this version – is of course the compressed sonogram windows. As described, They are smaller but show a more pronounced image of the actual bat calls. I believe this is an excellent improvement. One of the other main things that I noticed right away, is the improved look of the Statistics window: It features a more accurate depiction of data, which can be read at a quick glance. I like it!

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: The NEW Batscanner From Elekon!

Review: The NEW Batscanner From Elekon! 
Elekon - Making great bat detectors even better!

It's a wonderful thing, to see a bat detector Manufacturer making an effort to improve their products. Especially when their products are great performers to begin with. It's simply commendable. The original Batscanner from Elekon is a wonderful detector, which deserves high praise. It seems to me, that this new version has even more to be happy about.
To begin with, it's smaller than the original. In the pic below, I've placed a well-known (Tascam) recorder and a PP3 9v battery near the Batscanner - To help illustrate just how pocket-able it is:

(The new Batscanner from Elekon)

Using the Batscanner is (still) very simple: There are three buttons on the front of the unit - From left to right: The Power On/Off Button, Volume Down, Volume Up. The detector's speaker is located just below these buttons, and provides a surprising level of sound when turned up (beyond 3). Volume settings go from 0 to 5 (Zero being muted, actually).
The Headphone Socket is located on the upper right-hand side of the unit. 
And, although using this jack for audio recordings is not recommended (by Elekon) I still enjoy making an occasional recording or two (every now & then). Using a shielded audio "patch" cable (3.5mm male plugs on both ends) connected to the (Tascam) recorder pictured above: I've gotten some nice-sounding results (Blogger still doesn't have an easy way to share audio files yet).
As I've stated in the past, I'm one of those Hobbyists who enjoys the musical quality of heterodyne systems. Which would explain why I'd even bother to make a recording.

This latest version of The Batscanner, still employs the built-in, advanced algorithms as the original did. As I've mentioned in my review of the original Batscanner (Link to Part 1 Here). For those who are not familiar: The algorithms are basically a set of computerized rules that are followed when making a decision. For the purpose of our discussion, The Batscanner bat detector: The algorithms decide which sounds are from bats (desired sounds) - And which aren't. These latter sounds originate from other sources, and are therefore (largely) ignored.

The new Batscanner typically retails for under $400 U.S. Dollars, when ordering from Dealers such as: Wildlife & Countryside Services and NHBS


Keep in mind, that the Batscanner may also be ordered directly from Elekon in Switzerland (via their Online Shop).
I'd suggest you check each option to see where you can get the best deal.  

The Batscanner is a good choice for someone who'd like a bat detector that is a bit more advanced than those which are typically considered (in this price range).
The more one looks into the features of this detector, the more it seems to be a good choice. As a final bit of purchasing advice: If you're considering a bat detector in the same price range (~ 250 Pounds Sterling) then you should definitely consider The Batscanner.

Using The Batscanner is very simple: Just power on and enjoy! I normally keep the volume set at 2 and just listen. I've noticed that upon initial power-on: The volume is set at 3 (out of a possible setting of 1 thru 5). I find myself turning it down one step (to a setting of 2) when listening in typical suburban environments. In even less noisy environs (such as quiet woods, etc.) a volume setting of 1 may suffice.  

When you first power-up the unit, it begins at a frequency readout of 48kHz, this is simply by design and has no effect on it's speed/performance, or ability to detect/register a bat at either side of the spectrum.
It's a very unique bat detector: Simple on the outside; easy to use, etc. While all the "magic" is at work on the inside. Namely, those algorithms.

Something new that I've noticed with this latest Batscanner, which wasn't as evident in the first version: The Orig Batscanner had fairly low sensitivity to singing insects.
The new one is much more sensitive to their calls - but in most cases, doesn't "register" (display) the frequency.
This may be considered a mixed bag of sorts: Bat enthusiasts will be pleased that it doesn't pick-up/register the frequencies of singing insects...
Insect enthusiasts will be disappointed that the unit doesn't display the frequency of the singing invertebrates. After all, it is a BATscanner - So those who enjoy listening to Orthoptera should look for another ultrasonic device...

I really enjoy using this unit! When it does pick up bats, it does so in fractions of a second. The MEMs based microphone is fairly omnidirectional, and doesn't miss much! You needn't concern yourself with being pointed in exactly the best direction (although it always helps, of course). The point being: It is not a directional microphone.

Pros:
  • Small size - Very easily portable.
  • Excellent sensitivity, from MEMs microphone element (which is replaceable).
  • Simple operation. 
  • Great pick-up range (comparable to other detectors in it's price range).
Cons: 
  • The two-digit Frequency Display may be too bright for some. For those who prefer to preserve their dark-adapted vision.
It isn't adjustable, but I'm sure a small piece of masking tape would diffuse the light a bit (if desired). I haven't tested the unit in deep woods, so I didn't have a need to use the tape idea.
If you do try this: Be sure to use a tape with mild adhesive (masking tape, paper tape, etc.).

What's the bottom line? Whenever I'm off to a good "batty" location: Not deep woods/streams or lakes (because that is when The Batlogger M is best!); But, simply places like Suburbs fringed with woodland, or perhaps a Friend or Relative's home (which features a large back garden, etc.) - Then, The Batscanner is the choice I'd make; It would be the detector I'd reach for.
What I've done during the test period, was to bring a small notebook to jot down the frequencies displayed by The Batscanner while picking up bats. To look over later on - Pretty neat!

Note: This new version of The Batscanner replaces the original version. The original models will no longer be produced. Which means that going forward, only the new Batscanner will be available.

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, August 9, 2013

First Impressions: The 'FG Black' Microphone - For Elekon's Batlogger M

First Impressions: The 'FG Black' microphone - For Elekon's Batlogger M

If you've been keeping abreast of top-of-the-range bat recorders recently, then you're probably familiar with The Batlogger M (from Elekon AG in Switzerland).
By now, I'm sure that many of you are well aware of what an incredible bat detector it is. It's capabilities have been proven to exceed those of instruments in it's price range, and several costing much more.
Just to reiterate my thoughts on The Batlogger M: I've found it to be the best performing bat detector I've reviewed thus far.
Several distinguished Bat Workers feel just as enthusiastic as I do about the Batlogger (if not more-so!).
I'd never really given much thought to the possibility of this unit performing even better...
Then Elekon made some optional Microphones available, amoung them is one called 'FG Black' - The fact is, they have made more than one optional microphone available. And they have been available for as long as the Batloggers have...but this Post will focus on The FG Black model.
In the photo above, from Left to Right: The FG Black, The FG Green, The BL (Stock) Mic


There's this wonderful comparison chart, of optional microphones that I've been admiring recently: Elekon's Microphones

What follows, are my initial impressions and findings. I believe that I'll be able to gather enough detailed information about this mic to write a more lengthy Review. If not, I will simply update, and add to this Post. 

Just Imagine, being able to take the "stock" Batlogger, and increase it's capabilities even further.
As you may have noticed from the microphone chart on Elekon's Site: The FG Black features an integrated preamplifier (Wiki Link explaining what a preamplifier is).
Which helps to explain why this microphone upgrade has such an amazing impact on the detector's overall performance. 

I'm monitoring it's sensitivity even now, as I type; and it's simply wonderful.
It wasn't like this on the first night I tried it out! It was rather chaotic - I simply wasn't prepared for the dramatic difference compared to the stock mic (A MEMs unit, called the BL).

With the FG Black attached (using my good quality shielded audio cable) all manner of singing Insects were being detected (and recorded!)
At first, I really wasn't sure why this was happening. The first possibility that I thought of, was that certain singing insects may have just recently become active. I considered the possibility, that a certain combination of environmental conditions was responsible (for the sudden increase in insect songs).

In any case, the first thing that I did, was to go into the Batlogger's settings, and decrease the sensitivity of the trigger. I increased the threshold from a setting of 6 to 7. Yet, some singing insects were still being recorded. I didn't mind the fact that they were heard - But, at this particular point in time, I did not intend on recording them. I eventually increased the trigger to 9, in order to stop them from being recorded. 
It was obvious that this new, amplified microphone was so much more sensitive than the stock microphone. So much so, that it was easily pulling in several species of insects (residing in the surrounding trees & vegetation). Singing insects which were not detected at all, using the stock microphone.
Switching between the microphones several times confirmed this.

Thanks to the comparison chart, provided by the researcher who preferred to remain anonymous: We know that the Batlogger and Batlogger M are able to detect and record bats, at distances of well over 60 Meters... The addition of the FG Black microphone presents some fantastic possibilities, to say the least.

At this time, I have only scratched the surface of what is possible with this new microphone. I've tested it on several nights now, of course the sensitivity is terrific! And of course there's an increase in the number of bats recorded per night. But, there are more tests to be done – and more findings to report. Especially in regards to it's usefulness to those who study (and record) Orthoptera.

To be continued...

 Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

First Impressions: The NEW Batscanner From Elekon!

I'm very happy to report the arrival of The New version of Elekon's Batscanner handheld detector. The new loaner unit for test and review, arrived several days ago (to me here in New York, USA).
I was away from home, when the unit was delivered. I spent several days at a new bat detecting location: My Mother-in-law's apartment building in New Rochelle, NY. I occupied my evenings there, by performing some mini-bat surveys. Also checked all the trees for roosts during the day, etc. None found.

In any case, let's get back to the subject of this wonderful little detector! It is just so cool - I really like this one! Here is how it comes packaged, inside the box:
(similar to the way new books are packaged sometimes)


In any case, this method keeps it safe from damage, etc. The Batscanner sports a newly tooled case, that is even smaller than the original Batscanner! Cool! See pics below, where I try to convey it's diminutive size:


Preliminary tests show that it is just as sensitive as the original Batscanner, and possibly even more-so. The openings for speaker sound are different on this latest unit: It has small round holes to allow sound through (very similar to it's big Brother, The Batlogger M).
The (MEMs) microphone placement is still front-and-center (which is my preference). I prefer a bat detector's microphone to be either in the center of the front of the unit; or even a bit off-center. But, I do not like to see microphones mounted all the way to one side.

There's a lot to be said for a bat detector that is small and light enough to carry with you anywhere...You can easily place it in your pocket (just about any pocket!) on your way to an area which is good habitat for bats. It's also very nice to have with you, when serendipitous bat detecting opportunities present themselves.

If you're looking for a small, ultra-portable bat detector - Then look no further!
 
Elekon Batscanner Full Review

Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Review: The AR125 From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 2 Of 2

Review: The AR125 From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 2 Of 2



This is what the SPECT'R III software looks like - In action!



(The above is a screenshot of The SPECT'R application recording bat calls)

Below, is a screenshot of the SCAN'R application analysing calls from what Kaleidoscope software determined was an Nycticeius humeralis (Evening bat):

The screenshot below, shows what a detailed (zoomed-in-type) analysis looks like:


(I really liked this view, notice how the Fs, Fk and Fc are automatically pinpointed for you)


Both of the software apps that are provided with an AR125/AR180 unit, allow a user to accurately analyse the calls. And, with access to the correct bat call info (books/documentation, etc.) determine which species of bat they've recorded.


Here are two Links from Binary Acoustic Technology:

Click Here to see the SPECT'R 3.0 Product Description & Features brochure.
Click Here to read a fascinating and informative article entitled 'Digital Compensation - Creating The Ideal Sensor'

Happy bat detecting!