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Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: The New Echo Meter Touch From Wildlife Acoustics - Part 2 Of 2

Review: The Brand-New EM Touch From Wildlife Acoustics - Part 2 of 2

As we've established, in Part 1 of this review, the ideal buyer for The new Echo Meter Touch, would be someone who already owns a compatible Apple iOS device.
This product is also good for someone who prefers a bat detector, which has the ability to constantly improve. This is accomplished, via The EM Touch Software -and- Firmware updates. These will be released regularly, from Wildlife Acoustics.
  
Further good news, is that (as with other iOS Apps) you will be prompted/notified, directly on your Apple device. So, there are no worries about missing or overlooking an e-mailed Newsletter.
The following, are conclusions which I've reached, after using The Echo Meter Touch (with iPad mini Retina) for almost a month now.

So far, I've confirmed The Echo Meter Touch recording bats from a distance of just over 20 Meters. Fairly impressive for a bat detector in this price class. However, I have a feeling that it will be able to pick up bats from even greater distances.Therefore, I will continue to test the EM Touch, to determine the outer limit of it's recording range.
Just a bit more testing, in a different location should corroborate this for me. And of course, any findings, etc., will be published here - In an future (update) post.

The distance at which a bat detector can detect and/or record bats, has always been one of the most important factors (for me). This is the case whenever I evaluate any bat detector. 

The GPS performance is absolutely wonderful! Thanks to the constant access to Google Earth/Maps. I have not seen a GPS system this accurate, since Elekon's Batlogger M. 
Thanks again to Internet access, the live (and recorded) GPS' accuracy seems to be just a hair more precise than even The Batlogger's. For example - When doing some simple bat detecting from within a home: The Batlogger M almost "knew" which room of the house you were in. With The EM Touch, it actually does "know" exactly which room the unit is in.
This observation simply illustrates just how accurate the GPS is. By default, the exact location of The EM Touch+iOS device is represented by a pale blue dot (not shown in photo below). I was pleasantly surprised by it's accuracy. And those performing Transects will be too!

In the photo below, each colored line represents a different recording. Typically, these will be of various bat calls. And will serve to represent the location where each bat was recorded. However (in some cases) there may also be some, from non-biological recordings (man-made noise for example). 
Since the recordings shown below were made from inside a house: The GPS readings tend to get confused. Which, results in the random squiggly lines you see in the image below. This does not occur when using the Echo Meter Touch outside, in the field.


The GPS screen (satellite view) of The Echo Meter Touch. LANO stands for Lasionycteris noctivagans (Silver-Haired Bat).

Pros:
  • Many people already own a compatible iOS device, so the only purchase necessary, is The EM Touch unit itself. 
  • The basic Echo Meter Touch software is free; and very easy to use.
  • It possesses almost all of the most desirable features in a bat detector: The ability to monitor, record, playback, and identify* bats; all via finger-taps on your iOS device. (*with the optional software).  
  • Being coupled to a modern & dynamic iOS device, and being a fully upgradeable bit of hardware itself, are both desirable traits. Both halves of this EM Touch system, are dynamic.
Cons:
  • Cannot charge/plug-in The iPad while the EM Touch is in use - There would be an advantage to this: Whenever the Echo Meter Touch is used from inside a house.
  • The microphone sensitivity cannot be adjusted.
  • The Trigger threshold cannot be modified/set.
*The interesting thing, about the issues in the above list of Cons, is that at least two of them can (and may) be reconciled via firmware updates. Specifically, the Microphone sensitivity adjustment and Trigger threshold setting. Once again, it's hard to ignore the flexibility (and possibilities) of The Echo Meter Touch.

In closing, I'd like to share a quick video I made, demonstrating one of my favorite features of The EM Touch Auto ID software. I highly recommend going for the In-App purchase! You'll be glad you did. In this quick (and spontaneous) video, "shot" in my living room, you can see The Auto ID software analyzing each of the recordings: The blinking yellow bat icon, represents the analysis being performed on each individual recording. 
When the blinking bat goes from blinking to solid - It means that a bat was recorded (and identified!). The standard, date-time format of the recording's name, is appended with the abbreviation of the bat's Species name. Which, in the case of this short video, was 'LABO' (Lasiurus Borealis) - An Eastern Red Bat. I apologize for the poor quality of this video, I hope to replace it with a brighter version soon.





As with several of my recent reviews, I will certainly be revisiting The EM Touch; via future blog posts over the coming months. I promise to help everyone keep abreast of any new developments.

Happy bat detecting!

22 comments:

  1. Great review! The video also was a nice touch. With the software, it didn't look like it identified many bat calls - only one. Is the program not that accurate?
    Thanks again for all your bat work.

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  2. Thanks very much for your comment, and the kind words! I appreciate it.
    Actually, the system (and software) is very accurate (and sensitive). The reason for all those "NO_ID's" was that I just happened to do some quick testing in an urban environment! In this particular case: The EM Touch was facing a busy street! The majority of those 'NO_ID's' were from noisy automobiles driving by. And, it wasn't at the peak time for bat activity either! Luckily, the area has it's fair share of Tree Bats - And we got one!

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  3. Hello again! Thanks for all the Reviews!
    I also test my Echo meter Touch.
    Some conclusions:
    Chrome works better than Explorer when using file transfer.
    Kaleidoscope was shown to work even when I converted audio files from Electon Batlogger to time expansion.
    Thanks a lot - Ake from Sweden

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  4. Thanks for the review. The system was designed in the United States. Does it do a good job at identifying local Australian species? Do you have to have bats actually flying overhead to detect them? Whats the range?

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  5. Thank you for your comment. If the species of bats in your area are on the UK List (of the Auto ID software) then, they will be identified. Bats do not have to be flying overhead to detect them - During my testing of The EM Touch, I found it able to record bats at about 20 Meters - However, I'm fairly certain that it's range is much further than that.
    Wildlife Acoustics does plan to add other species to their Auto ID software; I'm sure that Australia is on their list.

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  6. I just published a few spectrograms taken with the Echo Meter Touch on my new blog:
    http://birdsandbats.blogspot.de/2014/05/which-bat-species-do-these-spectrograms.html

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  7. Hi. Thanks for the review. Just as a helper for those new to buying bat detectors I wondered I'd it might be helpful to add another few 'cons' that I think may be relevant to folks who want to get as much 'bang for their buck' as possible...

    - no heterodyne capability
    - no option for external microphone
    - no opton to expand memory for
    multi-night recordings (assuming it can do times recordings? )
    - no option to replace batteries in the field


    although these may not be important to everyone I think they are must have features in some cases in some countries. For example here in the UK many citizen science projects require volunteer bat surveyors to use heterodyne detection method by default. Touch users would be excluded from taking part in a substantial number of such volunteer projects.
    These things are more important than your article suggests in my opinion. No disrespect intended at all.

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  8. Hi,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree, that getting the most "bang for their buck" is important. When thinking of that particular subject, the first detector that comes to my mind - Is the brand new X05 Series Detectors from Ciel. That just happens to be the first one I thought of. 3 detectors in one hand-held unit definitely sounds like a good deal. But, of course, there are others!
    - no heterodyne capability --- This is true.

    - no option for external microphone --- Not really needed...An Apple Ext. cable may be purchased, achieving almost the same result: The Mic may then be placed outside a window (for example), while the iOS device remains inside.

    - no opton to expand memory for
    multi-night recordings (assuming it can do times recordings?) --- I get what you mean here. The only remedy for this concern, is to buy an iOS device which already has a good amount of memory. However, it has been stated (on WA's Site I believe?) that an iPad with only 16GB, is able to record *many* more recordings than most people would expect. At this point in time, it is not able to do multi-night recordings. However, I should add:
    -- It was never even intended for overnight recording (although myself, and many others do it all the time w/o issues)
    -- Detectors which are able to do multi-night recordings cost ~ $400 (U.S.) more than The EM Touch (and up). The first one on that list, being the new AnaBat Express.
    - no option to replace batteries in the field --- This is true.

    Thanks for pointing these things out. I didn't list these particular points as Cons, since I honestly felt they just be considered "the nature of the beast"...The "beast" in this case, being an Apple iOS device.

    As for your point on The UK Citizen Science projects, and the use of heterodyne detection methods in general: I am rather fascinated by the whole subject. In the same way I've always been fascinated with Morse code. IDing bats using this method is simply wonderful! Not to mention, that the bat calls reproduced using heterodyne sound very charming. I may even devote an up-coming Post to this great subject...A revisit, to the classic method!
    I have nothing to do with the lightning-fast advancement of bat recording technologies...I'm just an innocent bystander, doing his best to adapt...Just like everyone else :)

    I am aware that some Groups (I vaguely remember which ones, too) indicate heterodyne detectors for these volunteer projects - But, I also see some (UK) Groups becoming more progressive: More flexible as to which detectors volunteers use.
    In any case, it is always my sincere hope, that Folks considering the purchase of a new detector always weigh their options very carefully.
    Thanks again,
    Al

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  9. The comment posted on July 28 is very helpful for this beginner, as is Al Milano's reply. The Cmiel micro trio is certainly an interesting alternative.

    That the Touch "has the ability to constantly improve", as the review puts it, is indeed a big plus. Still, it must be noted that WA says: "We're continually developing new classifiers as well as improving existing classifiers. Your Kaleidoscope Pro 2.0 license includes all bat specie classifers with 12 months of free updates." Apparently the Auto-ID software which costs only a tenth of the Pro 2.0 licence does not include upgrades. Not really a problem: I might just wait until WA has added five species from my area which are presently missing (Myotis mystacinus, Myotis bechsteinii, Myotis myotis, Plecotus auritus, Plecotus austriacus).
    Best regards, Stefan (Germany)

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  10. Hi Stefan,

    Excuse brevity, I had a longer response and it was lost when google made me log in. :(

    "Forever" is too long for me to promise, but for the time being, we do not have plans to charge for updates to Auto-ID. In fact, version 1.1 which will be in the store mid-week will be updated to Kaleidoscope 2.0 classifiers. This does add some species, though non on your list. Well... kind of... we are now lumping all Myotis in the UK together. We tried breaking out to species, but it just did not work well. we will, try again when we have collected more training recordings. Most we get are just tagged "myotis" so they don't help.

    Kind regards,

    Sherwood Snyder, Product Manager
    Wildlife Acoustics, Inc.
    3 Clock Tower Place, Suite 210
    Maynard, MA 01754
    office: (978) 369-5225 ext. 502

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sherwood,

      many thanks for the clarification - makes the EM Touch and the Auto-ID software look even more attractive. A few miles away someone had recorded Myotis emarginatus. Thus, in my area the identification of "Myotis" could pose some problems, but as long as it keeps my nights interesting, I won't complain. The more Myotis, the better.

      Kind regards, Stefan (Germany)

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  11. Hi,

    This looks a very interesting system and one i'm considering buying. My question is for Sherwood really. If the auto-id lumps Myotis species together, if we really need to identify the Myotis bats to species level, presumably we can use the on screen spectrograms to look more closely at individual calls to try and identify to species. If we play back saved recordings, we can look at the spectrograms at a later date, if so, can you take screen shots of the spectrogram to send on to other bat users to get their opinion?

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, your presumption is correct: You can always examine the spectrograms more closely later.
      And yes, you can take screen shots to send to others.

      Best wishes!

      Delete
  12. It's worth pointing out that the auto-ID software for the EM Touch is now free via the App Store, therefore making the EM Touch even more of a 'no-brainer'.
    Even for those without a compatible iOS device, the combined cost of a suitable device and the EM Touch is still less than that of an EM3+, and arguably is a better setup.
    For anyone wanting an extremely portable detector, perhaps to plug into their 'phone (I upgraded my contract Android 'phone to an iPhone specifically to use the EM Touch), I always recommend the EM Touch.
    I sell bat detectors from AnaBat, Batbox, Ciel, Elekon, Magenta, Pettersson and Wildlife Acoustics, so have no particular bias, and I think that the EM Touch is arguably the best hand-held device in terms of quality of display, microphone sensitivity and recording ability. Auto-ID is far from perfect, but it is getting better, and I look on this as a free bonus that can save time by identifying the 'easy' bats and leaving the others, such as Myotis, for further analysis from spectrograms.
    I'm always available for a chat for those who want to discuss their requirements before buying, so give me a call.

    Warm Regards,

    Martin.

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  13. Thanks very much for your Comment, Martin!
    Indeed, now that The EM Touch Auto-ID App is free...This makes The EM Touch a great value for new users!
    And thank you for your recommendation. Readers may visit Martin's Site: http://www.wildlifeservices.co.uk/index.html And click on Field Equipment, to find Bat Detectors, etc.
    Best Wishes!

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  14. I have owned my EMT for a year now and am generally delighted with the display and ease of use.
    The auto ID is not of much use to me as I live in Argentina although there is some overlap with the Texas library.
    My problem is that when I download the .wav files to Batsound, my analysis software, it will not read all the files. It usually reads the first one in the folder and none of the others.
    I am mystified as to why this should be. Any ideas?

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  15. So what's your opinion of this vs Elekon Batlogger M and the EM3+.

    I think my only fear is that I don't imagine it to be the durable piece of field kit I'd want to be using every day.

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    Replies
    1. For Professional, nightly use, I see your point. For all of it's good points, it does have that one caveat - It's not built for the rigors of nightly field use. That is easy to see...
      In which case, an EM3+ or Batlogger M would serve better.
      Good luck!

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  16. One needs to be very cautious using the Eco Metre Touch, this is great as an educational tool but should not be trusted sole hearted for research and or species presence. This is from many respected bat researched in (Ontario USA) that have been testing this device. I recently took a course taught by a very experienced bat biologist and had the chance to test out the Eco Metre as well as other Wildlife Acoustic products and have now used this device in the field several times to know it has serious limitations. First is the automated ID. It is important to note the serious flaw. If one bat "signature" is close to another it selects the best fit. It will not give an unknown ID. meaning that it does not choose the ID based on the correct signature of a bat but rather what is selected in the checked boxes in the settings menu. So if your in North America and you have bats from the UK selected you get very misleading and incorrect IDs (bats that don't even occur in your country). this has been brought to WA and is the biggest problem in using the data " on the fly" meaning you would need to bring the audio files into a analysis program to double check all the work. The Auto ID and any Auto ID for that matter should never be trusted 100 percent. There are too many variables. Second, it does not work well for walking transects. It is sensitive enough that it was picking up my foot steps. Also it picked up Gypsy moths and larger flying insects as Bats when clearly they were not. I would never recommended this product for research programs or for Car transects. Its a fun toy for education for general observations but never more than that.

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  17. Besides Kaleidoscope , another analysis software for recordings obtained with the Echo Meter Touch ?.
    I tried to batsound , but it seems that distorts the results of the recordings.
    Thank you

    Roberto

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  18. D Liptrott
    Hi Al
    An easy way to compare the microphone might be to use the reversing sensor on a car (they use 40khz) point the detector at the rear bumber and start walking backwards.
    Thank you for this interesting and informative site. It has encouraged me to build a simple bat detector which my grandchildren love.
    Regarding the Touch, as you say the Touch is little more than a microphone all the work is done using the hardware in the phone or pad and the software. Software is always being improved and easy to instal so the Touch can continuously benifit from this. Phones and pads are always becoming more advanced, as their functionality inceases so does the Touch's functionality. So the touch's functionaliy is really only limited to its microphone. At any stage wildlife acoustics could easily build a data logger with whatever battery pack or size of memory card needed as an add on. So the Touch has the versitility to be used as a small portable device which can be plugged into your phone (which most people would have with them at all times) or as the sensor for a fixed recording, logging add on. It just needs the software adapting for android or windows then any one can use it.

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  19. Hi there Al! First of all, a honest thanks and great deal of respect for the effort you have put into this website. I just discovered it and have had quite some reading done by now.

    I post a commend hoping you could answer some questions about this little thingy here.

    The EMT seems to be very great value for my money, being a bat enthusiast here in the Netherlands. I have access to a batlogger M, and quite like that. However, it is not mine, it is owned by my city`s ecologist. So, I`d reckon to get my hands on something I do own, and does the same. As you might understand, I`m on a limited budget.

    So here are my, for now, three questions:
    1. Would I, in case of doubt on the autoID, be able to export the .wav an process that trough BatExplorer? (since that`s free)

    2. Would I be able to export the selected and ID`ed files to a CSV and/or GPS type of file? (to share or save to database)

    3. Are there limitations to the length of a cable? (carry the Ipad in the backpack and have the mic in the air by hand or stick, and have the eyes on the 'road')

    That`s it for now. I hope I don`t ask the obvious because I missed it somewhere in your blog or other comments. I`ve read it all...

    For now, a big thanks in advance and warm greetings from the other side of the pond.
    Erik

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