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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The BAT MiniMIC Ultrasonic Microphone From Binary Acoustic Technology: First Impressions

The BAT MiniMIC Ultrasonic Microphone From Binary Acoustic Technology: First Impressions

I'm very pleased to report the arrival of the New BAT MiniMIC Ultrasonic Microphone.  
The test unit, arrived yesterday; from Binary Acoustic Technology (in Tucson, Arizona). I've been fascinated by this (relatively new) recording system; since first reading about it several months ago. In fact, I would advise anyone who is interested in a PC-based recorder to take a good look at The MiniMIC's Page Here.

I'm happy to declare that this is not my first time testing and reviewing an ultrasonic recording device from Binary Acoustic Technology. Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a Review of their AR125 (which is still available for purchase, from their Site).
   
As evidenced by my past experience (with The AR125 from BAT), the company is obviously keen on shipping their products neatly, and well-protected. At this point, I presume it's safe to say that the sturdy, pink foam-lined boxes are standard. For those who happen to hold things like proper packaging in high regard: You may rest assured - All components of The MiniMIC microphone kit are well-packed and protected. Below, is a photo of the recently unpacked BAT MiniMIC:


The double-boxed and well packaged MiniMIC
 
This USB-based ultrasonic microphone has several unique features. As per this (partial) snippet, from the Binary Acoustic Technology Site states:

" It employs low noise circuitry along with 16-bit digital converters to achieve high sensitivity along with a large dynamic range.  It is capable of detecting bats at a distances up to one hundred and forty feet."

16-bit digital processing is certainly impressive in it's own right...Low noise circuitry is nothing to sneeze at either. But, it's the second sentence (above) which interests me a great deal - Since (again) the distance at which a bat detector can record bats, has always been at the top of my "List" of priorities.
When it comes down to the discussion of the performance and value of an ultrasonic device, I'm usually anxious to determine the distance at which bats can be picked up.

Well, for now I'll just state that preliminary tests have been impressive. I'm not entirely certain, of how well liked computing-based bat recording devices are, in general. But, I've liked them from the start. And, I find myself becoming more and more fond of them. They have a lot to recommend them. As we shall see in the upcoming reviews...Of both The BAT MiniMIC and The M500 from Pettersson.

Until then...

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, June 27, 2014

The New micro trio X05 Series Bat Detector From Ciel EaM

I'm very happy to report the arrival of a New (full-production-PCB) micro trio X05 Series bat detector from Ciel EaM. The test unit I have (pictured below) still happens to sport the black & yellow cover - But, the important thing is, that I can fully recommend this flagship of their new X05 Series detectors.

The (new) micro trio test unit from Ciel 

The full-production units will be black & blue in colour (as pictured on their Site). And they will be a pleasure to use! Excellent! 

I'll be re-visiting this bat detector in a future post...

Happy bat detecting!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Next Software To Be Reviewed: SonoChiro from Le Club Biotope

The next software package to be reviewed, will be: SonoChiro from Le Club Biotope (France).

 The very neat SonoChiro logo

Just the basics, for now:

The software application is called SonoChiro As you can see, from their (Biotope) Website, it is an automated bat species identification software. It is available, in both English and French.

Although it is (currently) focused on European species of bats - I inquired about testing and reviewing it; since I have many Readers from Europe (and the UK). And, I find automated bat ID software fascinating!
I believe that many regular Readers will probably find this application very interesting.  
It seems to have a lot of interesting features! 

Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Pettersson M500 Ultrasonic Microphone - First Impressions

The Pettersson M500 USB Ultrasonic Microphone - First Impressions: Wow!

It's here! It arrived rather quickly, here to the U.S. from Sweden. Un-boxing and first impressions are simply wonderful! As always, products from Pettersson Elektronik are always very well-packaged.

"Great things come in small packages"

For this test unit, an additional USB mini male to USB-A male was included. This is the much shorter coiled version, shown still in the package in the Pic below:

The M500 in box, along with coiled cable for Tablet PC use

I confirmed with Mr. Pettersson, and the additional coiled/compact USB cable will be included at no charge, upon request. This is the case when ordering from Pettersson directly. If ordering your M500 Microphone from an Authorized Dealer, it would be best to ask.

As you can see, the unit is small. However, it is robustly built. Very well-made, with solid construction throughout.

 The M500, standard USB cable, and USB Thumb Drive containing software

Installation was a breeze! And, although I've only "tested" it for a very short time (since it's recent arrival) - I can tell you that I am thoroughly impressed with this device!

The included recording software is perfectly laid-out, and features everything you need to start recording bats.
Much more to follow!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

New Product From Pettersson Elektronik - The M500

A new bioacoustic microphone, from Pettersson Elektronik - It's The M500 USB Ultrasonic Microphone. It's competitively priced, and has some excellent specifications:
  • A 500 kHz sample rate
  • 16 bits ADC resolution
  • High-quality microphone with optional directional horn
  • An advanced anti-aliasing filter
I find each of these major specifications very exciting!
  
The expected delivery of The BAT miniMIC test unit should be sometime next week. Now that I've been testing the new Pettersson M500, I'm looking forward to The BAT miniMIC more than ever! 

This M500 USB Ultrasonic Microphone, with it's 500 kHz sample rate, produces some of the loveliest spectrograms I've ever seen! I will be sure to include several in my review...

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: The micro trio From Ciel (New X05 Series)

Review: The micro trio From Ciel EaM

The brand-new micro trio bat detector from Ciel is three bat detectors in one. It is capable of operating as a heterodyne, frequency division, and (briefly) as a time-expansion detector! 

It is the latest offering from Ciel in Germany; and is part of their brand-new X05 Series of bat detectors. What makes this bat detector stand-out from the rest, is that it is the first low-cost time-expansion unit made. This is definitely something that many bat detecting hobbyists have been waiting for! 
However, before we all get too excited - I must point out, that this unit will only allow you to make one TE recording at a time.
Be that as it may, I believe it will still be attractive to many beginners; who would love the opportunity to have their very own time-expansion bat detector. 

As the saying goes "We were all beginners once"
Thinking back, to the time when I was a beginner: I know, that I would have gladly welcomed the opportunity; to get a detector which actually featured time-expansion (no matter how limited). 
Had this micro trio been available back then, I would have definitely set my sights on one. Because being able to make TE recordings of your local bats (even if it's one-recording-at-a-time) would've still been an attractive feature.

The current price, of the micro trio is: 199.00 Euros / 270 U.S. Dollars / 162 GB Pounds
(Price includes VAT & Delivery in Europe)

The (single) TE recordings, may be transferred to the recording device of your choosing - Including, of course, your PC (or other computing device) via a stereo patch cable.
This is done simply by playing the recording back (red button), while the micro trio is connected to a recording device. 
Again, this is accomplished via it's (3.5mm) Headphone jack. With the micro trio, you also have the ability to record a bat pass in HD (heterodyne) mode. A full 3 seconds of recording time, in HD Mode. It may not seem like much, to some - But, in practice, it works out just fine. The heterodyne recording is done in real time; whilst the TE recording is slowed down 10x upon playback.

The full product description, may be viewed on Ciel's Website. Their Brief Manual, for the micro trio, may be viewed and downloaded Here
In addition, the full Instruction Manual has also been made available Here. This recently released, 12-page Instruction Manual contains a lot of excellent information regarding the use of the micro trio - And I highly recommend it!

The micro trio fits fairly comfortably in the hand. Those with smaller hands may find it to be a little large for their taste. Especially if you're on a particularly long bat walk. The fact that the unit is very light (with 9v battery installed) helps compensate for this.

With all those stories of detectors falling into streams...I was happy to see an adjustable nylon wrist loop included. 
Insert wrist - adjust for a snug fit - and presto! Bat detector is secured. 
It's like being handcuffed to a briefcase (like in the movies!) - No worries of losing it - Neat!

The shape and design of the X05 Series is totally new, nothing like any of Ciel's previous model bat detectors.
The electret-type microphone element is located on the front, right-hand-side of the unit. HD mode operates as you might expect: Frequency is adjusted (tuned) via a conveniently-positioned thumb-wheel. Same goes for tuning in TE mode - One-hand-operation for both. FD mode requires no tuning, of course. You may toggle between modes with the momentary press of a single button. So, it's very easy to use.

As with several of Ciel's bat detectors, the X05 Series of units are well-suited for the hobbyist. 
The TE recording feature is activated, by pressing the red 'Rec' button. Best results would be obtained, while observing multiple (or swarming) bats. To further ensure that bat calls are not missed. With a little practice, capturing individual bat calls (recordings) will be easy.

Pros:
  • Time-expansion mode! (and recording).
  • Three detector technologies in one device.
  • Ability to record in both HD & TE modes, with built-in memory.
  • Relatively low-cost.
Cons:
  •  9v batteries do not last more than 12 hours of continuous use.
As always, the majority of my bat detecting is done via passive monitoring (overnight recording). In the case of the micro trio, I do this using the FD mode. A rechargeable (NiMH) 9v battery lasts for one overnight recording session - From Dusk until Dawn. Currently (in my case) this amounts to less than 12 hours.
High quality / heavy-duty alkaline batteries lasted longer in my tests. And, they also seemed to produce better overall performance. The micro trio displays a "Lbat" indication when the battery must be replaced.

The micro trio has worked well for me, for overnight recording; hooked-up to a Tascam DR-08 digital recorder. Of course, various other digital recorders may be used. Again, make sure that you use a good-quality, shielded stereo cable for connection. This will help avoid local interference from other sources in the area.
As for your recorder, one of the lower quality settings (i.e. 16-bit/44.1kHz) is all that is needed. And, will provide even better results in some cases than higher quality settings. This is also true, when using lower-quality (inexpensive) digital voice recorders. However, you should feel free to experiment. As you can see on the specification section (under 'Technical Data'), The micro trio's FD mode is of the type which retains amplitude. This is a big plus for anyone who wishes to analyze their bat recordings.

The (FD) recordings may be used for playback and analysis: 

FD recording made with micro trio - Displayed (and zoomed) using BatScan 9 
(Bat hasn't been positively identified yet)

The same FD recording - Displayed (and zoomed) using (free) BatExplorer

The new X05 Series of bat detectors, which also includes The BATz 2.0 HD detector (for young Naturalists), The micro duo HD & FD (w/ record memory) may be ordered directly from Ciel Electronique's online shop

These detectors have a range of 18-130kHz; which means that many North American (and European) singing insects will not be detectable. This, of course is a blessing to most!

After testing and using the micro trio a bit longer, and at different (field) locations - I've found it to be a very nice detector overall. 
I also tested the unit with several 8 Ohm speakers - And it was able to drive them nicely, without any issues. Standard, Mono speakers were tested. This would be of interest to those who enjoy passive monitoring. 

These simple speakers also worked well when plugged into the 'Line-Out' of the digital recorder(s) while in use (with The micro trio).
This would enable you to listen/monitor bat passes while recording. Please note, that having a small digital recorder also driving a speaker, will drain additional power from the batteries. As previously stated, the same may be accomplished using (stereo) earphones/headphones. Compared to a full-sized speaker - Small earphones would place slightly lower additional power demands on the recorder's batteries.  

I found each of the three operating modes to exhibit excellent sensitivity. Very nice!

The maximum pick-up range (distance at which a bat may be recorded) is still TBD. I will publish any further findings in an up-coming "revisit" post.
At this price point, you shouldn't expect Professional-level performance. However, I believe it is an excellent choice for many bat detecting hobbyists!

As always, I may revisit the micro trio, in a future post.

Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Update Post + The Next Bat Recording Device To Be Reviewed!

The next bat recording device I'll be reviewing - Will be the newest ultrasonic microphone from Binary Acoustic Technology: The miniMIC Ultrasonic Microphone
It's specifications, and reported capabilities look wonderful! - You may view/download the Product Description Here (in PDF format). Wow! I'm really looking forward to the opportunity! 

Update, on what's going on: 

The Review of The micro trio from Ciel is in progress (even as I type this) - I must apologize for the delay: It is partly due, to new information and details; which I've recently been made aware of. The mini trio review will be the very next post you'll see - In fact, it is detecting bats even as I write...Using FD Mode -to- PCM recorder -via- Stereo patch cable.

Something New is now being offered from Ciel - And it looks like a really neat deal!
It's called the 'Boxed detector starter kit 2x / Stereo heterodyne' Product no. CA0101.
It's a package deal, centered around the latest version of their Box HD2 recorder (which looks awesome!). It looks like the perfect set-up for an advanced beginner; or even an experienced hobbyist. Especially, if you plan to do a lot of passive bat recording (as I do). Further details may be seen on their Website.

And, here is a wonderful Link: Bat Sound Services - Especially for those interested in the bats of America. The Excel files provided, are an excellent resource! (Thank you Folks!)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: SoundChaser Software From Acounect

Review: SoundChaser Software From Acounect (France)

SoundChaser is a (Windows-based) software application; which has been developed by Acounect, to enable users to record wildlife sounds, with a great deal of accuracy. The application is very versatile, featuring modules which may be easily loaded/unloaded:

SoundChaser Software
The SoundChaser software from Acounect has gone through many changes over the past couple of years. This latest version (1.1), is by far the most competent and capable. One of the most important additions, has been the ability to trigger recordings. I was very happy to see this feature implemented. Having an auto-trigger feature available allows you to set-up SoundChaser for unattended (overnight) recording. This ability makes it easy to utilize an UltraMic for passive monitoring/recording of bats. Something that wasn't possible until now.

SoundChaser is currently available in two, distinctive versions:
Since my Readers and I are most interested in recording bats, this review will focus on The SoundChaser Expert software. Which is the version best suited to bat recording.

An important factor, which I'd like to point out straight away - Is that SoundChaser software is free to download and use; for 15 days. I encourage you to visit the Site, and have a look!

Whenever I review software, which happens to be freely available for downloading -
Whether it's completely free or free-to-try (like SoundChaser): I feel, that there simply isn't a need to write such a lengthy/detailed review; since anyone who is interested, can simply download and try the software themselves - For free. 
This is still currently the case with several excellent software applications. 

Below, is an excellent demonstration video (made by Acounect):

SoundChaser Demo video on a Tablet PC

The hardware (and software) requirements are quite simple; you will need:
  • An UltraMic, from Dodotronic any version will work (including the very first ones released). The two versions currently available, are: The 200kHz sample rate unit, and the 250kHz sample rate unit.
  • A laptop, sub-notebook, or tablet PC - Running a late version of Windows software as it's operating system.
  • SoundChaser Expert software.
As per Acounect's Web Site:
"Recommended requirements: Windows Vista, 7 or 8, Intel iCore (or equivalent),  ATI or nVidia GPU graphics card, screen resolution of 720p or 1080p HD, touch screen."

The Folks at Acounect have also provided a neat, and useful list of compatible/recommended Tablet PC's in PDF format Here. Each for under 400 Euros.

Installation is easy, and is outlined in their Installation Guide. 
If you are using a small notebook computer (small screen), you should select 'Full Screen' from the opening dialog box (when you first launch the application). I find it to look a lot better than the other option ('Windowed'). Again, this is something you may try-out yourself; it may be considered a matter of personal preference.

By default, the software will choose the following (syntax) Windows directory to store your recordings in: C:\Users\*Your Username*\SoundChaser Sessions - Of course, this may be easily changed to whichever location (path) you would like.

Pros:
  • Free to download and use for 15 days.
  • Only hardware purchase needed (for owners of Windows-based machines) is an Ultramic from Dodotronic
  • Fairly easy to start using.
Cons: 
  • Technical Support slow to respond.
  • Fairly high Start-up cost (for SoundChaser Expert).
Good luck! Have fun, and...

Happy bat detecting! 

*Next Post - will be the full review of the brand-new 'micro trio' from Ciel.