Thursday, September 5, 2013

Several Mini-Reviews Of Bat Detectors - With Convenient Links To The Full Reviews

More than one Reader suggested, that they'd like to see some of my detector reviews more conveniently located on the Blog. In other words, easier to navigate back & forth from - For ease of comparison, etc. One Visitor, informed me that they had trouble locating reviews of specific bat detectors they were interested in.
So, what follows, are a bunch of Mini-Reviews of bat detectors; with convenient Links to the full Reviews (including a couple of digital recorders at the end). I hope having all of these reviews in one Post proves useful for those trying to decide on a bat detector to purchase.
More than one of the Reviews are of machines that have been discontinued/replaced by newer models. But, I did not omit them, for the sake of completeness.

Beginning with some of the offerings from Wildlife Acoustics:

EM3+: The EM3+ is the latest version of a revolutionary, advanced bat detector which is packed with features. The first (and only) handheld bat detector to have a live spectrogram display. This instrument detects bats in: heterodyne, full spectrum and time expansion. It records bat calls in full spectrum, and zero cross format, with a 16-Bit/384kHz sample rate (which enables recording of Lesser Horseshoe Bats). The calls are conveniently recorded to the (included) SD card, in .wav format. It’s like holding a bioacoustics lab in your hand.

The SM2BAT+ is one of the best passive monitoring/recording solutions available. Researchers have used the SM2BAT+ for various studies: Many have been conducted not only for bats, but for birds, singing insects, and amphibians as well. Proof of it’s versatility. Some of it’s unique features are: Two channels for recording bats at two elevations (or locations) simultaneously, coverage may be increased by placing two microphones up at different heights. The system also features very flexible programming options.                                                                                                                     
Compared to the Pettersson D500X, The new SM2BAT+ offers: Double the battery life in full spectrum mode, and 8 times the battery life in zero cross mode. There are more than a few built-in filtering options available. And a fully weatherproof enclosure and microphone(s). All this, for half the price of The Pettersson D500X; I suppose it’s no wonder that over 10,000 units are currently in use around the Globe. Once I became familiar with it’s operation, I found it easy to use and hassle-free, for my nightly recordings.

BatBox Baton: An excellent choice for a Beginner. An easy-to-hold, frequency division detector which features simple, one button operation – Yet has amazing sensitivity, and remarkable performance for it’s price (an excellent value). A digital recorder/audio cable can be added, to get started with recording of bat calls. It is lightweight, sturdy, and very comfortable in the hand. When powered on indoors, a slight hiss is heard from the speaker – I’ve always considered this to be an indication of it’s sensitivity; and have never found it offensive. Also, this is not an issue when outside detecting bats. However, not everyone shares my view on this. This robust little detector is supplied with a copy of BatScan sound analysis software. My unit had served me well, for many years.
BatBox IIID: A very good quality heterodyne detector. Features a very accurate, digital display (of tuned frequency) with backlight, and the ability to operate/tune the detector with one hand. Excellent build quality; including a sensitive, broadband electret microphone element. The microphone on this unit has a wide bandwidth (greater than 16kHz) which assures excellent response and performance.

BatBox Duet: A favourite amoung many Bat Workers and bat hobbyists. This unit is very popular, and for good reason: It offers the heterodyning ability of the IIID, along with an easy-to-read, digital display with backlight - And adds the ability of frequency division. A voice commentary button for annotating recordings is another highlight. Good choice for recording to digital recorder (for call analysis later).

BatScan Software: This software’s ease-of-use, affordability, and wonderful results make it an ideal choice for hobbyists just starting out. The application displays sonograms, which are easily manipulated, along with the ability to playback (listen to) calls on the spot. May be used on recordings made with many different types of detectors; using several methods. (frequency division and up recommended). Also allows those starting out, the ability to grow with the application (as the more advanced techniques and “tricks” are learned). An ideal choice for Beginners wanting to try examining the sonograms obtained from recorded bat calls.

BatBox Griffin: An amazing machine that comes close to perfection in an advanced bat detector. This is the top-of-the-range detector from BatBox, Ltd. It features an aesthetically pleasing and informative display. Very versatile, allowing bats to be heard using heterodyne, frequency division or binaural mode. This advanced unit records bat calls in time expansion mode, and has many built-in options available. While this unit is advanced, it is also a pleasure to use. It can be set-up for an evening of unattended recording in less than 30 seconds.

Pettersson D100: I’ve had the opportunity to use one of these units while assisting a Bat Walk. I was very impressed. It’s hard to beat a detector with 3 high-quality microphones! This instrument is equipped with 1 electret (condenser) and 2 ceramic (piezo) microphones, a large front-mounted speaker, with an illuminated section of the frequency dial indicating the tuned frequency.  The D100 is a tunable heterodyne unit, which is able to produce plenty of clear, quality audio – so that everyone in a small group can hear the calls clearly. During my testing: Bats were detected (and clearly heard) even before they were within visual range. Features plenty of sensitivity, high-quality build throughout, and a built-in wrist strap.

D200: Pettersson bat detectors are known for their wonderful-sounding, high-quality heterodyne detectors. As with their other detectors, the D200 has a broad tuning range of 10-120kHz – The ability to tune down to 10kHz, allows one to try their hand at identifying singing insects, if so inclined. Personally, I happen to enjoy listening to (and recording) singing insects. 

D230: Pettersson makes outstanding heterodyne detectors, which produce the most pleasing heterodyne sounds I’ve ever heard. If you are after a high-quality heterodyne, a unit from Pettersson would be hard to beat. The bonus of the this unit, is it’s two instruments in one. While listening through the front-firing speaker: You may choose between heterodyne or frequency division (via a switch on the front). And, if using headphones: Heterodyne portion is heard on the left, whilst frequency division is heard on the right. The D230 is an excellent choice to take along on Bat Walks, it has plenty of (adjustable) volume to spare; allowing small to average-sized groups to hear the calls without difficulty.

Pettersson D240X: This bat detector is practically a legend in it’s own time. This model has been intensely popular amoung Professionals over the years. Don’t be fooled by it’s compact size: The fact that the D240X is small (fits easily in most pockets) almost belies it’s capabilities as top-of-the-range instrument. It allows you to listen to the both the heterodyne, and the time expansion activity going on at the same time (using any stereo earphones). You can hear the heterodyne sounds in one ear and the time expansion activity in the other, simultaneously. Add a digital stereo recorder, and you’re all set.
The single best-sounding heterodyne detector I’ve ever heard. A very capable and sensitive time expansion unit as well. Partnered with a Zoom H2 or H2n = A perfect combination; with well-documented set-up tips easily found on The Web. Confused about set-up? Use my settings! (approved by Mr. Pettersson himself): 
Normal X
Time Exp X
Gain: Low -------------------- (I used to keep it on High (as suggested) but, I thought that I was recording too much noise / non-bat calls, etc.)
Volume: Set to Minimum
Trig: Auto
Trigger Level Source: Low
Source: HF
Mem Size: I set it to either 1.7 Sec or 3.4 Sec.

Pettersson D1000X: Considered by many (myself included!) to be The King of bat detectors. Each D1000X from Pettersson Elektronik is built to order. For sheer ability, performance, and features - there's no other bat detector that comes close. Frequently selected by Professional Researchers, working on projects where accuracy is paramount.

Elekon Batscanner (The first, Original Version):
I love the very compact size, and comfortable feel it has when held. I really like the green LED display, and the ability to fit this little detector in just about any pocket. I was happy to see a line-out jack: But later learned that it’s for headphones, only. Attempting to record bat calls with this unit will leave you disappointed. As per Elekon: The Batscanner was not designed for recording bat calls.
One can immediately tell how sensitive it is, simply by powering it on, and rubbing your fingers together in front of it. The microphone on this unit, is the now popular MEMs type. When in the field (without any man-made interference nearby): Pressing the power button will cause the unit to display three dashes " - - - " on the LED display. In contrast to powering it on indoors, where it will latch on to whichever electronic signal that reaches it first.
The unit simply displays the last frequency that was detected; until a new bat flies by, within it's range. You can just look at the display and see what the detected peak frequency was.
There is something I don’t like: battery changing. You need a small Phillips head screwdriver, to remove 2 small screws that hold the battery door in place.      

Full Review Part 1 Of 3                                                    

Please note* The latest version of Elekon's New Batscanner is even better than the original!

Full Review

Elekon Batlogger M: I simply cannot say enough good things about this detector. It is simply outstanding, with unprecedented abilities: It can detect – And record bats at greater distances than any other detector I’ve tested. How far? A colleague of mine in Germany, recently tested a Batlogger M to find it able to detect bat signals at distances of over 59 Meters!                                                                 
When it comes to the overall performance of the Batlogger: Many of my Professional Friends concur with my observations. The Batlogger M from Elekon basically gets everything right: Picks up bats from greater distances, produces accurate recordings/sonograms, possesses a super-accurate built-in GPS unit, is packed with features (yet easy to use), has interchangeable (optional) microphones available, the  mic also functions as a temperature sensor (recording Temp. in Celsius), and has one of the loveliest displays I’ve seen on a bat detector. I could go on, and on, but I’m sure you’ve got the point! It’s only competition may come from The Pettersson D1000X: Long considered the King of bat detectors. But, I have not been given the opportunity as of yet…

Cons? Yes: 1. relatively high price. 

BatExplorer Analysis Software: If you live in Europe or The UK (or surrounding areas) then you must try this software. Where else can you find a bat call analysis software, that is not only free – But also features automatic bat call identification? Software like this is normally very costly. This awesome software package is equipped to automatically identify the calls of bat species that commonly reside in UK & Europe. Being that I live in the USA, I can only make use of the other features (which are substantial nonetheless). One of the downsides to this application, is that it only comes into it’s own when used with Batlogger recordings. It may be used with recordings from other detectors, it just doesn’t speed along as it would had they been made with a Batlogger. The best part is, that you can try it out yourself, at no cost.
AnaBat SD2 bat detector: This is the latest and greatest offering from Titley Scientific; a company with a long history of building bat detecting systems for Professionals. If you happen across a program on BBC or National Geographic about bats or bat research, chances are you’ll notice the Scientists using a model of AnaBat as their detector. Their strength lies in their proficiency of recording bats in Zero cross mode. AnaBat detectors are not my favorite. I find they require a bit more effort to use than I’m willing to put forth.

Zoom H1: As a result of being obsessed with bat detecting and recording for many years, I have come to own many digital sound recorders. I’ve owned many of the recorders that are in the same price range as the Zoom H1 – And, frankly the Zoom H1 was always one of my favorites. I have since sold mine in an effort to “thin out the herd” And, I regret it very much. It was very easy to use, with minimal fuss. The only major Con it had, was a built-in speaker with very low volume (difficult to hear). However, the Zoom H1 is excellent value – Having features found only on more expensive recorders.

Zoom H2n: Naturally, this is an even better offering from Zoom, than the Zoom H1. This unit offers outstanding value and happens to be a perfect match, for the D240X. The reason for this is that the original (slightly older model) Zoom H2 was used extensively with the D240X: By both Professionals and Hobbyists. As a result, there is typically a lot of information and well-documented set-up tips easily found on The Web. If you plan to do some recording with your Pettersson D240X, then I’d advise you to look into the Zoom H2n.

Happy bat detecting!

What To Do During The Fall and Winter Months?

First, I'd like to point out that we will still have plenty of bats around (to detect and record) during the  Autumn months. Some diehard enthusiasts might be happy to know that certain species of trees bats have been spotted during the Winter months as well!
The main thing that I always do, and I also suggest this to other Hobbyists (each year) is to go through all of the year's recordings - Double-checking, identifying, and organizing.
I also plan to compile and organize some notes, etc. regarding the different (currently available) microphones; and related technology.

And, for those of us who are not Professionals (and don't have a tremendous amount of recordings) This may not be enough to keep ourselves occupied for all those months. If you fall into this category – then you might consider building a bat detector. The average DIY detector kits are easy enough to build (for someone who is moderately skilled with a soldering iron).
Basically, the only DIY bat detector kits I can heartily recommend, are those produced by Tony Messina.
There is the 'Simple Bat Detector' Kit - Which is a very neat (Frequency division detector). For listening in real-time, you need to use an earphone.
You may also produce some recordings (with some trial & error) using various digital recorders, etc.
I've done so (successfully) in the past, so...
There is The Bat Scanner kit (which may still be available).

But now, there is something brand-new out! From (another) collaboration between Frank and Tony.
It is: The ArduBat.

Now this is something a bit different. You'll need more than just a fleeting familiarity with building electronic kits. The unit is based on The Simple Bat Detector...But, goes on to the next level. The ArduBat is aimed at the incurable tinkerer - It is best suited for someone who loves building things, electronics -And- software programming. 
Yes, the unit is designed to work on top of an Arduino Uno mini-computer unit. Yes, this is where it gets interesting...
At the same time, this unique unit has a lot to offer those who do long-term monitoring/recording of bat activity.
I haven't ordered my PCB (Printed Circuit Board) yet...So, I cannot give you much insight into the whole "ArduBat experience" but, I plan to take on the challenge - And post my findings. For now, the best way to find out more: Is by visiting the very well-laid-out Website pages: Read about The ArduBat

Neat-looking device, eh? 

I'll add some more to this post, over the next few days. The fact is that a limited supply of PCBs are now on hand, in case anyone is interested. I'll be ordering mine shortly.
In the words of Tony himself:  "This is a project for those who like to program and hack on Arduino projects... non-programmers will likely not find the ArduBat as interesting."

Happy bat detecting! (and detector building!)