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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: Brand-New Stereo Batscanner From Elekon AG Part 2 Of 2

Review: The new Stereo Batscanner - Scanning bat detector from Elekon Part 2 of 2

The current User Manual, is a straightforward, one page document (now available in pdf format Here). It is currently available in both the English and German language.

I'll admit, I do not have a lot of experience using Stereo bat detectors - But - Testing Elekon's new Stereo Batscanner (on a recent field trip) was a real pleasure.

I was pleasantly affected with this new Stereo Batscanner, right from the start. Having a sensitive, high-quality microphone on each side of the unit, makes it twice as hard to miss any foraging bats.

An FG Knowles Mic on each side (Port & Starboard):

Above the detector in this Pic, is a (high-quality) right-angle stereo adapter. Along with a (shielded) Stereo patch cable (for connection to a recording device). Both are 3.5mm.

The 3.5mm audio output jack, is located at the front & center of the bat detector. A right angle (male-to-female) stereo adapter (like the one pictured above) may help to keep things neat. These may be found/purchased separately, 
As many are already aware, The FG Knowles microphone element(s), such as those used in The Stereo Batscanner are rather robust. In other words, they are quite tough. Their small, dainty appearance might lead one to presume they are delicate - But, this is not the case. Even so, I rather wish there were something there to protect the Mic...Perhaps a thin circle of (acoustically-inert) Felt/material.

There is no denying, that the Stereo Batscanner is unique. The only other (popular) Manufacturer producing stereo bat detectors, is Ciel (in Germany).

The Batscanner Stereo (in the dark)
  
In use - The best description I can offer, in one word is: Pleasant. I envision experienced Bat Workers enjoying the sounds of bats foraging, in stereo. In heterodyne mode, mind you; considered by most (experienced bat listeners) to be the most pleasant mode in which to listen. I'll take this opportunity to remind the reader, that even with the year 2015 approaching, there are still those who enjoy the simple pleasure of listening to bats. In heterodyne mode.
Have a listen yourself, to a quick & easy recording I made below:
(The Stereo Batscanner was connected to a Tascam DR-08 via a stereo patch cable)

video
Can you tell which direction the bat is flying from? 

The point is, that this detector is of value to both the Hobbyist (who, for example) may not be overly concerned about which direction the bat began it's flight from -To- The Professional, just starting out (with Surveys, etc.) -To- The seasoned Professional, who will be able to easily confirm the bat's direction of flight. -Or- even an individual who prefers to use it outside of work; just relaxing in the back garden. I'm sure the market for potential owners doesn't end there...

Pros -
  • Stereo!
  • No tuning needed - Scanning Heterodyne.
  • Wonderful, small size - Fits in a pocket!
  • Relatively long battery life.
  • Easy to record from, for unattended monitoring.

Cons -
  • Slightly higher price than some other detectors.
Thank you, to Elekon AG, for the loan of the new Stereo Batscanner.
I understand, that there have been a few (minor) improvements made, since the very first prototype was released. Perhaps I'll be re-visiting one of the very latest (full-production) Stereo Batscanner units in the future?

In any case, I am planning to add more recordings -and- a couple of sonograms to this post, in the near future.

Until then...
Happy bat detecting!

Up next, will be a Review of The New SMZC Songmeter platform from Wildlife Acoustics.
Followed by a Review of the new M500 USB Mic from Pettersson.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review: Brand-New Stereo Batscanner From Elekon AG Part 1 Of 2

Review: The brand-new Stereo Batscanner - Scanning bat detector from Elekon AG

It's finally been announced & released! I'm very happy to report, that I've had the opportunity to test (and use) the new Stereo Batscanner from Elekon for months now...And now, since Elekon AG has announced it - I'm finally able to share my thoughts.


This turned-out to be a very fortunate situation; the timing was perfect, since I was able to test the new detector on one of my recent "mini field trips". We travel to a location (not too far from here, actually), where the bats are even more plentiful (and diverse) than those I routinely record at home.
The result, was a digital recorder full of stereo recorded bat calls! I used my ultra-portable Tascam DR-08 recorder. 


The new Batscanner Stereo, shown with stereo patch cable
(notice LED indicator near 'A', representing Auto Mode)

While on-site, at the "batty" location, a substantial amount of time was spent testing The Stereo Batscanner. The first half, of this particular test session was devoted to testing the new unit's general abilities, as a hand-held bat detector (before hooking it up to the digital recorder, via a stereo audio cable).
It was a real pleasure to use. Of course, there were many (general) similarities to the original Batscanner. The exciting part, was hearing the bats as they flew from Point A to Point B. This new stereo Batscanner adds a wonderful, new dimension  to bat detecting:

A user is able to determine the direction of flight of the bats, as they are being detected.
This can be accomplished by using your ears - And/or your eyes:
  • The front-mounted speaker produces enough clear audio, to allow most (experienced) bat chasers to actually determine the origin of the calls, as a bat flies from left to right (or vice-versa). 
  • The (very clever) LED indicators on the front panel (below the frequency readout) also indicate which (of the two) microphones are detecting ultrasounds. Very neat!
So, if you cannot decide which direction the echolocation's are coming from, using just your ears...You will be able to determine which direction they're coming from using your eyes!

I found, that simply listening to the foraging bats, was very enjoyable with this new stereo Batscanner. I believe that many experienced detector users will also find this new Batscanner a joy to use. It has all been very exciting for me.

The new Stereo Batscanner arrived promptly from Elekon AG, in it's typical box (packaging) which may be seen below:

 The Stereo Batscanner, in it's box as received (via UPS)

I love the small size and weight of this unit. It's very similar to the original (Mono) Elekon Batscanner. It's nice to have such a capable bat detector in such a small, and easy-to-hold enclosure.

 The battery compartment

The new Stereo Batscanner is also available from NHBS:


 
Features - The new, Stereo Batscanner from Elekon is a scanning, heterodyne bat detector. As it's predecessor, it automatically scans the detecting area for any ultrasonic bat calls - When it detects the ultrasound of a bat's echolocation, it stops scanning, and displays the peak frequency of the detected call.
During my testing, I found the unit's ability to display peak frequencies of the detected bats to be quite accurate. While simultaneously using high-end bat recording systems, to confirm. 

The Stereo Batscanner is super-easy to use: It powers On, by depressing two buttons on the unit: The Power-On -and- Volume Up buttons. This design (also present on the original Batscanner) prevents the unit from being turned-on accidentally. While in transit, in a pocket, etc.

This detector has the potential to suit a variety of different owners: From Beginners just starting-out, to experienced "veterans" (Hobbyists), to even Professional Bat Workers who would like a comfortable, easy-to-use detector for quick listening sessions, etc.

You can tell which direction the bats are flying from, even from the recordings. Very nice.
I intend to post the various stereo recordings, in the up-coming Part 2 Of 2 of this review.

There is much more to follow, in Part 2...
  
Happy bat detecting!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: The AR125 From Binary Acoustics Technology

Review: The AR125 From Binary Acoustics Technology - A Re-Visit Review For 2014

So, I've actually written a (somewhat brief) 2-Part Review of The AR125 Ultrasonic Receiver before (approximately one year ago): 
Part 1 (2013)
Part 2 (2013)

Why a Re-Visit Review now? Well, there are two reasons:

1. After witnessing the wonderful performance of The MiniMIC from Binary Acoustic Technology, I began to wonder if there was something I missed (when I originally tested their AR125). After all, The AR125 Receiver is described (on B.A.T.'s Site) as having the ability to pick up bats at "...distances up to several hundred feet" 

2. I've decided to begin writing Re-Visit Reviews of several (previously reviewed) bat recording devices. I hadn't originally planned to begin with The AR125, it's just they way things turned-out.

The AR125 Ultrasonic Receiver is a directional bat detector, which utilizes a wideband ultrasonic element. It does not have an omnidirectional microphone.

Packaging is still the same:The receiver arrives very well protected. The unit itself (with handle removed) weighs in at almost 16 ounces.

The current price (direct from Binary Acoustic Technology) is $1095.
You can have a look at the spec sheet Here (PDF format).  

At first glance, some have said that it looks like the radar gun used by Police to catch drivers speeding. It's very easy to use, simply point it in the direction of suspected bat activity. It may be mounted on a standard Photo tripod, and aimed at any area of suspected bat activity.

The ideal buyer, would be someone who does roost surveys. But, of course, there are many other uses.
This product would be good for anyone who need to focus on a particular area, when making their ultrasound recordings.

With The AR125, the (ABS plastic) handle may be removed.
Now that I've reviewed two samples of this unit, I can advise, that the method of handle attachment may vary. 

{Photos will be added soon} 

The unit is connected to your (PC-based) computing device, via (the included) USB cable. Installation of software and drivers is very straightforward, without any issues.
Once you're connected, you have control of a directional, ultrasonic microphone - Via a medium-sized (default) Dialog box.

{Photos will be added soon}

Accuracy is very good, but sensitivity isn't as good as expected. In other words, when it records a bat - It will register/reproduce the sound faithfully. But, it doesn't pick-up (detect) as many bats as say...The new Pettersson M500 (which I've pitted it against several times).
The Pettersson M500 may be used as a directional bat detector, by attaching the small cone (provided).

I've always "got to call 'em as I see 'em". And, lately, I've had to report some harsh realities here on the Blog. There's a limit to how diplomatic I can be. 

Pros - 
  • Accurate.
  • Very good rejection of non-bat sounds.
  • Very convenient to mount and aim.


Cons - 
  • Only records strong bat calls.
  • Pick-up pattern is very directional.
  • Range is not nearly as far as advertised.

The AR 125 may be ordered, directly from Binary Acoustic Technology Here.

I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to Re-Review The AR125. This review will be updated and revised as needed.

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The New SMZC From Wildlife Acoustics

The new Songmeter SMZC from Wildlife Acoustics has just arrived.
I'd just like to share just a few of the pictures, that I took while unpacking the new SMZC:

The new Songmeter SMZC, being un-packed.

This is one of the first SMZC's - Full-production units will feature a handle to aid in opening the unit.
Nice back-lit LCD display.

Under the hood...
 
Coming Up Next: The "Re-visit" Review of The AR125 from Binary Acoustic Technology.
I'll be sharing my findings, resulting from this second (closer) look - At The AR125.
Link to my original Review Here (and Part 2 Here). These two Links will be updated soon, with new information.

A major field trip is scheduled for this week.
We'll be visiting an area, where the bats (and moths) are very plentiful!
Several new detectors will be tested...Chief among them will be The New Songmeter SMZC from Wildlife Acoustics. In an area with large numbers (and species) of bats - A Zero-Crossing bat recorder will be just what the Doctor ordered!

Until then, 
Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Update Post - The Latest News: Upcoming Bat Detector Reviews

Just a short update, on the latest happenings...This will (probably) be a temporary Post -

Well, just when I thought my testing of bat detectors was beginning to slow down...

The AR125 Ultrasonic Receiver from Binary Acoustic Technology has arrived.
It is currently under test...I did perform a full test and review of one, a little over a year ago. But, in light of the performance of The MiniMIC: I thought it would be good to "revisit" it; and write a more detailed review of it. I will be performing some more side-by-side comparisons, with a couple of other systems. 

When I perform "shoot-outs" (comparisons between two detectors/recorders) I strive to choose two which are evenly matched. In other words, similar...
Such as: In the same price category, same general type, size, technology, etc. The more similar they are, the better matched they are in a comparison ("Shoot-out"). It only makes sense.
The side-by-side comparison currently in progress, is between The B.A.T. AR125 and The Pettersson M500. If you consider these closely, you cannot deny that they are evenly matched for a comparison (relatively speaking).

The brand-new, top-secret bat detector is still here...I've made lots of wonderful recordings with it. With the help of a digital recorder (The Tascam DR-08, in this case). Which is a nice little recorder for someone on a budget (like me). 
In any case, this new bat detector is scheduled to be announced sometime this month. Nothing "written in stone" of course. It may be later than expected. However, I find it very exciting! - I believe a lot of Folks will like it, because it is not your typical bat detector. I like it very much!

The arrival of Wildlife Acoustics's brand-new, unattended bat recording solution - The SMZC. As you may have discerned, from what you can see (so far) it is in fact poised to compete with Titley's AnaBat Express. I have not had the opportunity to test or review The AnaBat Express; but the brand-new machine from Wildlife Acoustics' will be here shortly!
Was delayed due to the recent major Bat Conference in The UK. Which, I understand, was a great success, by the way!

The wonderful little M500 from Pettersson is still here; it's just awaiting the release of some exciting new software - Before I can go ahead and perform a full test and review of it. It will be worth the wait!

In addition, at least one more brand-new, bat detector should be arriving before this bat detecting season is over...(this one should be very interesting as well). And, I suspect it will be a top performer.

And finally, Part 3 Of 3 of The B.A.T. MiniMIC Review has been completed, and posted.

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 3 Of 3

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 3 Of 3

What we have established (in Parts 1 & 2 of this review), is that The MiniMIC is not only a very capable ultrasound recording solution, but it may interest you to know, that it is even more capable than most. 

To answer a question which a few Bat Workers/Professionals have had: Yes, it must be plugged-in to a PC of some kind. Whether it be laptop, sub-notebook, or hand-top computer.
Again, installation is Plug-and-Play.

The MiniMIC can be used as one would use a "standard" bat detector/recorder. The key, to using it comfortably, is to use one of the latest PalmTop/Handtop PC's. Many of them are very neat, compact and easy to handle. 
In fact, Binary Acoustic Technology recommends using one, right on their Site (The MiniMIC page).  
When using a PC which is small & light enough: The MiniMIC is great for active recording, with it's live sonogram display. Sometimes, double-sided foam tape can be a good friend.
And, of course, it's excellent for unattended recording.

During the (Approx. 1 Month+) test period, with The BAT MiniMIC - It just so happened, that the laptop where my Kaleidoscope software resides, experienced a hard drive crash... So, I was (sort-of) "forced" to use more and more features of The SPECT'R III & SCAN'R software, from B.A.T.

In the following review, I refer to the pages/sections of the SPECT'R and SCAN'R User Manuals. The Reader should not take this as an indication that the User Manuals are complex! In fact, the very opposite is true: Both User Manuals are short, simple, and a pleasure to read. All necessary information is succinctly laid-out. The same is true of the Hardware Manuals - Well done, B.A.T.

---Thoughts regarding SPECT'R III ---

Many will be very pleased to learn that while using SPECT'R's Audio Monitoring: Listening through your PC's speakers (while either simply monitoring, or recording) - SPECT'R is functioning as a heterodyne detector (4.0.5 in Manual).
The audio output sounds great - Very strong, even on my little sub-notebook (mini-laptop) with it's tiny speakers.

I found the overall design and look of the software's main interface/dialog box simple and easy to use.

Of course, this application is excellent for acquiring the recordings from Binary Acoustic Technology's various microphones (hardware).
It's very simple to go from launching the application -to- recording bats.
I like the accuracy of the different features:  
  • The Spectral Trace Window
  • The moveable (Green) Tuning Indicator (P. 3.5 in User Manual)
I also like:
  • Automatic Snapshot Mode (P. 3.6.1)
  • Being able to select, between Natural -and- Digitally Compensated response.
  • The ability to select frequency range (where Snapshots are triggered).
  • The Pop Filter (reduces false triggers from a variety of unwanted sources).
  • The ability to easily select UTC or Local time (for call logging)
SPECT'R III also generates a Log File, automatically. As many of you are aware, several bat recorders (from other manufacturers) do this In a similar fashion. And, I'll say it again: It reminds me of the Log File of a computer server (from my days as a Network Engineer).
Logging all the events which the system has experienced.

Pros- 
  • It features an Operation Timer (P. 3.7.1) - Allowing recording to start & stop at times which you designate.
  • Remote File Transfer - Allows you to set-up a remote collection (Web-enabled) PC, to receive Snapshot recordings from the main machine. (P. 3.8)
  • May be used with (an optional) GPS unit (The Garmin GPS18x USB) P. 3.10

Cons -
  •  Unable to be used as a stand alone recorder.

Some key sections of the SPECT'R III (Ver.3.3) User Manual:

3.4.1 Main Screen Control Section
3.4.2 SonoSCOPE Control Window
3.4.3 Spectral Trace Window
3.6    Recording
3.6.4 Snapshot specific controls
3.8    Remote File Transfer
4.0    Basic Operation 
4.0.7 Snapshot Recording
4.0.8 Running SonoSCOPE

SPECT'R III may be ordered Here.


--- Thoughts regarding SCAN'R ---

SCAN'R (Snapshot Characterization and Analysis) is the application developed by Binary Acoustic Technology, to allow one to analyze and process ultrasonic recordings.
The software itself, features a fairly simple design and easy to use interface.

This product is the ideal companion to the aforementioned SPECT'R software. 
SCAN'R basically allows you to determine which recordings contain bat calls, and which do not. Or, in some cases - Recordings which picked-up noise, etc.
It refers to bat calls and non-bat calls as "passed" or "failed", respectively. This makes it very easy for you to delete the "failed" recordings, which didn't record bat calls. I've found it to be very accurate in this capacity. 

As per Chapter 2, of The SCAN'R User Manual: "It supports two different base parameter sets...(conforming) to both Analook and SonoBat protocols"

Pros -
  • Includes Signal Pressure Level (SPL) and curvature, a spectral shape measurement.
  • Ability to process many files (recordings) at one time. 
  • Settings are saved for the next session of use.

Cons - 
  • Only has base parameter sets for Analook and SonoBat. 

Some key sections of the SCAN'R (Ver.1.7.3) User Manual:

3.4.2 Input File Selector
3.5    SCAN'R Menu Operation
3.6    SCAN'R Setup and Operation Windows
3.6.2 Scan Setup Window
3.7    Trace Window
3.8    SCAN'R Output File

SCAN'R software may be ordered Here

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 2 Of 3

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 2 Of 3

When I was a young Lad attending one of my first (private) schools, for those wanting to become Computer Technicians...
The very first thing they taught us was: "Hardware needs software...and software needs hardware." Meaning that each needs the other, in order to function. 
Something for the Novice to keep in mind; simple, but true.

In light of the small "herd" of computer-based bat recorders, which have started to find their way here (to me, for review) - Perhaps this saying bears repeating. At the very least, for the sake of any Beginners, who may be considering the purchase of such devices.
Because - These bat recorders are basically, hardware devices, which do require software.
In the case of these ultrasound recorders, the "software section" is being provided by your computer (in simplest terms).

Several of these types of bat recorders have already been reviewed here. Including, in fact, another great detector from Binary Acoustic Technology: The AR125 
You can see my Review of it here: Part 1, Part 2
 
I have also reviewed devices here from: Avisoft, Wildlife Acoustics, Dodotronic - Several more are currently in progress (This BAT MiniMIC, The M500) - And there are a couple more, still in development...

...Back to The MiniMIC USB Microphone, from Binary Acoustic Technology. And, the software which comes bundled with it - A full-licensed copy of SPECT'R III and a "limited" copy of SCAN'R; along with device drivers, etc. All located on the included CD ROM.

A screen-capture of SPECT'R, Window maximized while running

Note: When using SPECT'R, with it's default Contrast & Brightness settings: The (scrolling) live display (spectrogram) window always looks best when it isn't maximized. If you choose to use it maximized, then some minor adjustments to those two controls, will yield a better-looking display.
As you may have seen, in my First Impressions post, and Part 1 of this Review: The BAT MiniMIC kit has a very neat and simple appearance. Again, it is of a nice compact size and weight. Also, this MiniMIC is not a brand-new product. It has been available for over a year now.

After more than a month of testing, comparing, and (sometimes) simply using The MiniMIC: I've become very familiar with it's capabilities. Within this time, The MiniMIC microphone and SPECT'R III software has never let me down. The software never "froze" or crashed.
Something else to note, is that unlike several other (similar) microphone control applications: SPECT'R will allow you to launch it, without a device attached. It may seem minor to some, but I found this to be a plus.

SCAN'R - Automated Call Analysis Processor, is described very well by Binary Acoustic Technology, on their Website: 

"SCAN'R is a post collection processing tool.  It automatically scans files and file directories searching for recordings with bat calls.  It generates either SonoBat or Anabat compatible parameter sets.  It also runs on Windows XP/Vista/7/8. "

Now, I know of some Professionals, who shun computer-based recorders. Apparently, they have their reasons...None that I happen to agree with (for the most part).

The way I feel about this subject, can be summed-up as follows: "Injecting" the detected ultrasound directly into your computer, (creating a recording) removes an extra step: 
You don't need to remove, and (physically) transport an SD Memory card (from the recorder, to the computer). Then, copy the recordings (typically .wav files) over to the PC where you'll analyze them. Many of you are probably thinking "It's not that big a deal in the first place, really". And, I might have even agreed with you! But, I've grown rather accustomed to this arrangement lately...

Well, on the topic of computer-connected ultrasound recorders, a few have shared their dislikes with me.

I have read quite a few complaints in the past (again, mostly from Professionals). Among the ones that I do recall (at the moment) are:
  • They would rather not be tethered to a laptop.
  • They would rather have a device with batteries, replaceable in the field.
  • They would rather not have a bright laptop screen to look at (ruining their dark-adapted eyesight)
And, some of us might agree with some (or all) of these Cons.

I enjoy doing passive recording, so I don't mind being connected to a computer.
Laptop batteries although expensive, are not un-obtainable. I will admit, that they'll add considerable weight and bulk, to your kit (bag).
I can certainly understand the concern over a laptop screen ruining one's night-adapted vision. It is a legitimate concern. The only thing I can add here, is that I almost always keep my LCD display(s) at their lowest/darkest setting. While in use, in the field, my thinking was: "I know it's recording, so there's no need to keep looking at it"
Again, I will point out the increasing popularity of Palmtop/Handtop computers (although I don't own one myself).

{For those who might be wondering: I use the term computer, because the term PC (Personal Computer) is generally used to represent Windows-based devices. And, The Echo Meter Touch only connects to iOS (Apple) devices}

What I'd simply like to establish here, is the general ability and performance of The BAT MiniMIC. 
I have performed comparisons and "Shoot-outs" against other bat recorders; practically to the point of exhaustion! I should remind the Reader, that I'm just a "one-man-show" here...
And, what I've found - Is that it's ability, is amazing!
Whenever I wanted to record every, single, last, bat in the area - The MiniMIC was the recorder to reach for. While it is turned on, bats will be hard pressed to "sneak through" your airspace undetected.
This brings us to the next point: What if you require (or simply prefer) to use a hand-held bat recording solution? Such as: An AnaBat SD2, an EM3, a Batlogger M, etc.
Well, then by all means, there is no reason why you should not equip yourself with one!
But, some bats will be missed. If you can accept that reality, then all is well.
I can accept it pretty easily, since I'm just a Hobbyist. Others may not... 

As I've mentioned in a related post: Whenever I test any bat-related product, which runs on a PC: I test it on several different laptops, to monitor it's behaviour, etc.
I noticed something, when putting SPECT'R III "through it's paces": It never had an issue, no matter how old or slow a laptop I ran it on. It always performed without problems.

The SPECT'R III application is used to control and operate the MiniMIC (or other BAT ultrasonic receivers) via a standard USB cable. It basically transforms your laptop/palmtop, into a hard disk drive-based ultrasound recorder. 
It runs smoothly, on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8.

It is one of (the two) software applications which will be covered in further detail, in Part 3 of this review.

Until then,

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Results Of Friday Night's Field Trip...

My Brother-in-law, Nelson, took me for a drive last Friday night; up to a woodland area - So that I could do some serious bat recording. We had fun!

I got an excellent assortment of bat species, and numbers of recordings, for the short time we stayed. The moths were also plentiful, and very cool! I spotted at least one Underwing (Catocala Sp.) - Among my favorites! 
Below, are the results from the "shoot-out". I've included Wiki-Links to the bats.
I'm not prepared to list the main competitors from the "shoot-out" at this time. For now, they will only be known as Detector A & Detector B. 

The identifications of bat species, from the various (.wav file) recordings, was made possible by the "Magic" of Kaleidoscope software, from Wildlife Acoustics. I don't know what I would do without it!

From Detector A: ...OK, the "identity" of Detector A is not important; and shall remain unknown... Suffice to say, that it was a high-end detector, which was held in the hand during testing.

Total: 42 Bat passes

35 - Evening Bats

3  -  Eastern Red Bats

2  -  Big Brown Bats

1  -  Silver-Haired Bat

1  -  Hoary Bat

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From Detector B: Detector B...Was The MiniMIC from Binary Acoustic Technology

Total: 96 Bat passes

66 - Evening Bats

17 - Eastern Red Bats

4   - Big Brown Bats

9  -  Silver-Haired Bats

0  -  Hoary Bat  ...Zero Hoary Bats, but Detector A confirmed one...Interesting...

The MiniMIC produced excellent results - even when placed in less-than-ideal positions...

​Well, next up, will be Part 2 Of 2 of my BAT MiniMIC, from Binary Acoustic Technology. Which will address the typical use of the MiniMIC, as well as my thoughts on the unique software applications. There is still so much more to cover/discuss in regards to The MiniMIC...Again, it also needs to go back to Binary Acoustic Technology very soon... 

Some unexpected results of last night's (short) "Shoot-out":
SM3BAT - 5 Bats confirmed (ID'd) 
MiniMIC  - 6 Bats confirmed (ID'd)  
{The SM3BAT was being used in Zero-Crossing mode, as an experiment}

I've also been testing one of the first prototypes, of a brand-new, top secret bat detector. It's output is heterodyne; and it performs wonderfully in the field. I love it :) Due to be released ~ September of this year. I'm sorry that is all I can say for now.
In other news...A brand new (large) software update will be released very soon for The Echo Meter Touch.
Also, a wonderful, new passive monitoring solution is in the works (from another company). It is also currently confidential. It brings me lots of joy, knowing that manufacturers are hard-at-work to bring us wonderful new bat detectors!
I'm also proud to say, that many of them ask me to share my thoughts on their designs, and how I believe they may be improved.

Happy bat detecting!

Fledermauserfassungsglück!
 
Bat détection heureux! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 1 Of 3

Review: The MiniMIC Ultrasonic Microphone From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 1 Of 3

The new MiniMIC from Binary Acoustic Technology is a USB-powered, ultrasonic microphone for recording the ultrasonic sounds (of bats). I'll also point out, that the frequency range for this device, is 1 to 125kHz. Which means, that those (of us) who are also interested in recording singing insects, are in luck!

As covered in my 'First Impressions' post - The unit arrives very well packaged: Double-boxed; the inside box (containing the MiniMIC) is a sturdy, plain white box. 
The BAT MiniMIC microphone unit itself, is constructed from Aluminum. It is well-built, and nicely compact. It is very easy to travel with. Many people travel with their laptop anyway - So, add this neat device and it's USB cable, and you're set.

The back-end of The MiniMIC

It connects to your PC, via a USB cable (provided). The USB cable is of good quality, with Gold-plated connectors. One end inserts into The MiniMIC, the other into an available USB port of your (Windows-based) computing device. It also comes packaged with a CD, which  includes one full copy of the latest version of SPECT'R recording software. And a trial (“limited”) version of SCAN’R. The trial version of SCAN’R is limited so that it only processes recordings generated by BAT systems, either SPECT’R recordings using the miniMIC and AR units, or their other field recorders.
Again, the CD included with my test unit, contains a copy of both SPECT'R III and SCAN'R software. These are the proprietary applications, developed by Binary Acoustic Technology. To be used with their various hardware (recording devices).

After a fairly straightforward software installation; using the device is simple: 
  • Attach The MiniMIC to your laptop (or other Windows-based computer) via the USB cable supplied.
  • Launch The SPECT'R III software.
  • Customize the various recording Settings, as per your preference.
  • Create a prefix for the name of the recording files (such as "21st", or "SOVIII" for "Shoot-Out 8"). This short prefix will be automatically generated, and added to the beginning of each recorded .wav file.
  • Once you complete the previous step (above) you will be prompted: "Would you like to start recording now?"
  • Click "Yes" and you will observe the live spectrogram display and may adjust volume. 
I will cover more on these particular (software) topics, in Parts 2 and 3 of this review. I've recently determined, that this review will need to be split into 3 Parts; in order to properly cover all aspects of the system.
In addition, preliminary tests have shown The MiniMIC to posses excellent resistance to common sources of interference (EMI); such as those produced by household appliances and switching power supplies - Including A/C adapters for laptops (for one example).

The current price is $695 (US Dollars). Price is subject to change. The MiniMIC USB Microphone may be ordered directly from Binary Acoustic Technology; by e-mailing: Sales at Binary Acoustic Technology (sales@binaryacoustictech.com)
You may also browse their full Product List Here.

The design looks very simple and neat. Most would never guess that such a plain-looking piece of hardware, could provide such astounding results. 
The simple fact is, this device can detect, and make useful (accurate) recordings of bats in flight - at greater distances than any detector I've ever tested. 

Yes, I do realize that is quite a statement... So, I'll give you a minute to let that sink in...

After confirming bats at well over 60 Meters, I stopped concerning myself with any further calculation of distances...
If you needed to get nice, clear, recordings of bats from The Stratosphere, this would probably be the device to reach for!

Not only does it record the calls at further distances - which has always been a very important factor (for me)... But, the recordings are clearer, more accurate, and with no clipping. This is due in part, to the Hemispherical ultrasonic element which Binary Acoustic Technology uses in The MiniMIC. Which you can read a bit about Here.
Here is the Link to a PDF document  (by Binary Acoustic Technology) with a great explanation of the new technology at the heart of this successful system.

I actually began performing various nightly "Shoot-outs". I performed no fewer than 8 shoot-outs (just to be sure!) using various top-of-the-range machines. And each time, The BAT MiniMIC came out on top. The overall accuracy of this unit is amazing. It consistently recorded bats, which other detectors missed.

During my various tests, I also discovered something else - The recordings created by The BAT MiniMIC were of such high quality, that they enabled Auto ID software packages (such as Kaleidoscope) to produce more accurate identifications!
More accurate identifications, as compared to recordings from the other, high-end detectors.

So, it doesn't just pick up many more bats, and the recordings are not only made at greater distances; but they are also of exceptional quality. The spectrograms produced are lovely.

The MiniMIC USB Microphone would be ideal for anyone performing passive (stationary) recordings of bats. It may also perform very well for driven transects; where the use of a laptop isn't a hindrance. 
Unless the computer used is very small, and light (perhaps a Palmtop?) - I cannot see The MiniMIC being a superior candidate for walking transects. However, with the recent popularity of UMPC's (defined Here), you may be able to outfit yourself with a set-up which would be comfortable enough to walk with.

It would be perfect for someone recording bats from inside a home. I've tested it in this way many times, using various laptops. It's very convenient to set-up. The (weatherproof) Aluminum enclosure is secured outside, pointing in the general direction of expected bat activity. 
You may even perform work on your laptop, while detection is in progress - With no ill-effects at all...More on this in Part 2, and 3.

...This new MiniMIC has just set the bar very high.   

Much more to follow in Part 2 Of 3...

Until then,
Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: SonoChiro Auto Bat Call ID Software

Review: SonoChiro Auto Bat Call ID Software

The SonoChiro software from Biotope, is an automated bat call identification program. This software package is provided as a downloadable/Online purchase; from the Biotope Website.

The process of purchasing, downloading, and installing the application is very straightforward. Most potential owners/end users, will no doubt already be well-experienced with this typical install process.
The downloaded executable for SonoChiro is 9.8MB in size, and installation is fairly quick and easy; with no "surprises". The most time-consuming portion of the process, is filling-in the electronic Registration form.

SonoChiro is provided on an annual subscription basis, which includes all updates for one year. The current price is 846 Euros, including VAT.

As many of my Visitors may know by now, whenever I review any bat detecting product: I like to be quite descriptive, in regards to every feature and detail. As an example, for the past couple of years, I've even included photos of the shipping box the equipment arrives in. Not such an odd practice, I think... I've seen reviews of various products, where the reviewer includes such (packaging) details.
Here, we are discussing a downloaded software package, so I may not have any physical packaging to describe...However, SonoChiro features some interesting designs. I've already expressed my fondness of their main (purple) bat logo (in the 'First Impressions' Post).

I even like the Biotope logo! 


{So, if the Folks at Biotope / SonoChiro offer any apparel featuring these logos - please let me know!}

Upon launching, you'll notice that The SonoChiro application features a neat dialog box (screen shot below). The purple background is a stylized photo of a bat in flight. Don't let the modest size of it's interface fool you: This software application is serious business! How do I know this?


SonoChiro application dialog box

Having had a fairly long career as a Computer Engineer, I have a natural tendency to really put computer software (and hardware) "through it's paces", etc. And, I find myself testing and experimenting with such products in ways which only an advanced Engineer would understand.
So, I tested this application in many different ways. As always, this application has been tested on more than one laptop.
As a simple example - While testing it on one laptop in particular: I found that the application uses quite a bit of the computer's resources. To the point where the laptop began to run hot!

Now, almost all software applications will suggest, that you "close any other programs" which you may have open/running, etc. And, of course it is always a good practice to close applications that you are not using. However, in the case of SonoChiro, I feel that it is even more important to adhere to this suggestion. Especially, if you happen to be using it on an older, slower laptop. 

Having stated all that...During the test period I can say, that I've never had The SonoChiro "crash", freeze, or stop responding. Only those who are very experienced with software, can fully appreciate how impressive this is.

The ideal buyer of SonoChiro ID software, would be someone who records bat calls in any of the geographic areas indicated on (their) Map - Which may be seen on Page 5 of the User Manual. Note - North America is not included (unfortunately for me!).

Since the main output format of this bat call ID software is in Microsoft Excel format - This product would be best used, by someone who is familiar with this MS Office application. I mention this specifically, since a .csv file is the only output that SonoChiro produces.
This is not to say that mastery of Microsoft Excel (or any other App capable of viewing a .csv file) is required. My point, is that if I were a potential customer - I would want to be well-versed in the manipulation of .csv files. In order to get the most out of the data produced.

The process of using SonoChiro is very simple - Basically comprised of:
  1. Specifying the location of your recordings.
  2. Chosing a name for your Output (Excel/.csv) file.
  3. Select one of the (preset) geographical ranges.
  4. Click on 'Start'
That is basically it, then you just sit back and wait for your .csv file to be created. And, I do mean sit back and wait...because this software takes it's time...
Well, just remember the old saying - "all good things to those who wait"

From the many tests I've put this software through, I can state that it is indeed very accurate. This was largely determined, by using known (voucher) calls - Of species which were within SonoChiro's capabilities. The example (voucher) calls were of various species of bats, and happened to have been recorded by (well-known) respected Scientists in the field of Bat Research. I won't go into all the details at this time.

Pros -
  • Powerful, robust, software that doesn't crash.
  • Very accurate and reliable for ID of bat calls.
Cons -
  • Only outputs results in one file/format (.csv file).
  • Doesn't cover North American species.
If you are looking for an accurate and dependable bat call identification software, and you live in one of the geographical ranges covered - Then I would highly recommend that you look into SonoChiro!

Good luck, and...
Happy bat detecting!