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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!

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