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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: The AnaBat Walkabout Bat Detector Part 1 Of 2

Review Of The AnaBat Walkabout Bat Detector - Part 1 Of 2

The AnaBat Walkabout is a feature-rich bat detector from Titley Scientific
The Walkabout has been designed and built from the ground up by Titley, to be a very versatile bat detecting device. It just so happens, that it also functions as a complete Android tablet as well.


The AnaBat Walkabout configuration screen


The AnaBat Walkabout arrives in a well packaged box, with a good amount of protection:



Some accessories included as standard

The AnaBat Walkabout in it's plastic holder












This bat detector/recorder, is intended for active bat detecting. But, during my test period, I've used it many times as a passive bat recorder, where it's performed admirably. A suitable windowsill is the only prerequisite, one with a screen installed is preferred. 



For a quick overview of The AnaBat Walkabout, have a look at this video made by Titley Scientific. 
And you can get an excellent overview of this bat detector's features, by visiting Titley Scientific's page on it Here.

As for The AnaBat Walkabout's User Manual, for quick, illustrated, looks at button functions and screen features, see pages: 8, 13, 14, 29, 37.

Here are some other areas which I found particularly interesting; and helpful in understanding what it can do:
  • Features Of The AnaBat Walkabout   Page 7
  • AnaBat Walkabout Basic Operation   Page 11
  • Scroll Wheel And Quick Menu Settings   Page 15
  • Audio Settings   Page 20
  • Audio Feedback Reduction, Dynamic Range Compression   Page 25
  • Sleep And Screen Off Mode   Page 27
There is much more to see and read, of course.

Essentially, The AnaBat Walkabout itself, is a very versatile bat detector. You can listen to, record, and view bat calls in a myriad of different ways (in many combinations). It's like The Swiss Army knife of bat detectors.

By now, most have seen an advertisement or two featuring Titley's Walkabout. At first glance, most would (naturally) make a few assumptions: 
  • It has a large (5") colourful display with live spectrograms.
  • It appears to be comfortable to use in the field (one-handed operation). 
  • It's made by Titley Scientific, so being a good quality instrument is a foregone conclusion.



 
That is all well and good. However, after testing it nightly since it's arrival, this device seems to be quite a bit more than that. So much so, that I'd feel more comfortable referring to it as a system (rather than just a device).
It's more like a portable, easy-to-use, bat recording lab. With the added advantage of being a fully-functioning Android tablet as well!


AnaBat Walkabout in Android Tablet Mode


Here are some of the specific features which I particularly like:

  • Heterodyne, and Auto-Heterodyne audio output. There are several other types to choose from (but I find these two most pleasing).
  • Built-in GPS.
  • Wi-Fi.
  • Select-able frequency range of 5-200kHz. 
  • 16 bit resolution, and a 500kHz sample rate.
  • Temperature, Lux, and humidity sensors.

In regards to this last bullet point, the ability to record temperature, humidity, and Lux (ambient light levels) is of importance to both amateurs and professionals. Obviously, when recording bats (and documenting their behaviour, etc.) having the temperature, humidity, and even light level (Lux) data is important. Even as a hobbyist first starting out, I made a habit of recording temperature (and wind speed). But, I digress...


AnaBat Walkabout in 'Basic Mode' - (GPS coordinates blocked for privacy).
 

For those considering The AnaBat Walkabout, I'd like to point out something which became obvious to me during the test period. The recordings made by The Walkabout, are: High-quality, high resolution (up to 500kHz sample rate) recordings, which any Professional (Ecologists, Bat Workers, et al) would be pleased to work with. Due in large part, to the detailed spectrograms produced. 

The unit itself weighs 14.6 ounces (415 grams), and measures 7.1 x 3.9 x 1.1 inches (180 x 100 x 28mm). 
Of the (scant) documented opinions I've found regarding The Walkabout, some have written that they've found it "a bit heavy". 
Generally speaking, it is among the heavier bat detectors I've reviewed. However, the included hand strap does make it much more comfortable, and easy to hold for extended periods. I've only found it to be slightly uncomfortable after using it in the field for several hours. If your bat detecting/surveying time is under an hour, you'll hardly notice any fatigue. 
In summary: During longer bat detecting sessions (3-4 hours), you may find it just a little tiring. There will obviously be some variation from individual to individual.

AnaBat Walkabout's Full-Spectrum mode is another favorite of mine

I feel that any added heft, serves as a reminder that what you're holding isn't a toy. It's a high-end bat recorder, and should be treated as such (with care!).

Most places, including Titley, have The AnaBat Walkabout on sale for $1,595 - Or £1,599.00 if you were to order from NHBS or Wildlife & Countryside Services

The AnaBat Walkabout is designed in a very sturdy plastic housing (in what one might call "Signature Titley yellow"), with a removable dark gray Directional Cone. When attached, it provides directional characteristics to the front-facing, built in (Knowles) microphone.

The nice thing about The Walkabout, is that it can be used with it's default settings (out-of-the-box) in situations where:
  • You would like to get started quickly.
  • You are using it for some general bat detecting. 
  • You are a hobbyist or don't have a lot of experience.
And can also be used in situations where all of the advanced features can be brought to bear:
  • During transects, surveys, and other professional endeavors.
  • You would like to make full-spectrum, high resolution (500kHz) recordings.
  • You would like to get close (zoomed-in) looks at the live spectrograms in the field (to help with immediate ID (if one is sufficiently skilled).
  • You would like to view spectrograms in zero-cross, and/or full-spectrum mode.
To summarize, you can use this detector in a quick & easy manner, utilizing the default settings -Or- You can familiarize yourself with it's myriad of features, and fully customize the way it records, as well as the information displayed as it does so.


AnaBat Walkabout in Zero Crossing mode


The AnaBat Walkabout would be well-suited for both amateur and professional users. Amateurs and hobbyists will enjoy things like: It's ease of use, impressive appearance, and included standard accessories. As well as optional accessories.

Professionals will appreciate things like: Performance, sensitivity, and the myriad of customization available (in both the recording & display choices/features). There are several, which I plan to cover more in Part 2 of this review.
It would be well-suited for professionals / researchers who have already decided on Anabat Insight as their software platform of choice for analyzing bat calls.

I found The Walkabout to be very sensitive, and accurate in what it detects. The ability to trim it's frequency response will be a very welcomed feature; especially for professionals.

Pros:
  • Many types of audio settings to choose from (Heterodyne, Auto-Heterodyne, Frequency Division, Full Spectrum, Time Expansion).
  • Several types and combinations of displays to choose from (Heterodyne; Zero-Crossing and/or Full Spectrum).
  • Built upon a fully-functioning, Android tablet (WiFi, etc.)
  • Built-in, rechargeable, 7000mAh Lithium Ion battery.
  • AnaBat Insight bat call analysis software is free.
  • Operating system (and more importantly), the Walkabout system itself, may gain additional features, etc., through dynamic software/firmware updates.

Cons:
  •  May be a bit heavy for prolonged use.
  •  May be considered expensive.

Much more to follow, in Part 2 Of 2 of this AnaBat Walkabout bat detector review. 

Until then, 
Happy bat detecting! 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Review Of The Anabat Swift Bat Detector from Titley Scientific - Part 2 Of 3...

Review Of The Anabat Swift Bat Detector from Titley Scientific - Part 2 Of 3


Very nice protective case included with AnaBat Swift


When it comes to any technology kit, I've always been an advocate for reading the User Manual. As a summary, I'll point out some areas which will help provide an overview of The AnaBat Swift.

While first "Jumping around" inside The User Manual, some of the pages I was drawn to were:

Page 4 - Features of the Anabat Swift

Page 5 - Getting Started

Page 9 - AnaBat Swift basic operation


Colour touchscreen displays the system's status at a glance.


The AnaBat Swift's System > Status screen


In practice, using the headphone output jack, to listen-in while recording bats, is about what one might expect: The sounds heard via the headphones, sounds like a typical frequency division bat detector. Nothing fancy here.
However, the addition of an inexpensive external speaker, can add another dimension to this passive bat detector.

In my case, a quick rummaging around in my electronics box turned-up a simple amplified speaker (from RadioShack). This turned-out to be a perfect fit for my intended purpose:
Which was to have The AnaBat Swift function as an active monitor, for live bat calls as well (while simultaneously recording). This is ideal for "deploying" the (opened) unit on a windowsill. Setting-up bat detectors on windowsills, is a practice which I've been quite fond of over the years.
I haven't had a chance to try an ordinary speaker; and I'm not yet sure if the headphone output jack (3.5mm) would be able to drive one. But a small amplified speaker is probably best suited for the purpose anyway.



Small amplified speaker, connected to the Headphone jack (via 3.5mm audio patch cable).

I should remind the reader, that using the Headphone output in this manner is just an idea I had; just something to try. Not something mentioned by Titley. If you decide to try it, your results may vary (depending on the amplified speaker used). You may find (as I did) that the audio produced in a typical pair of (inexpensive/generic) headphones is a lot more pleasing.

Fortunately for me, this is the view out of my (current) windowsill:


Where I point my bat detectors, for quick, nightly tests.

The AnaBat Swift, with Omnidirectional Mic, routinely creates good quality recordings at respectable distances. The water's edge, of the lake pictured above, is a favorite flyway of Big Brown Bats (Eptesicus Fuscus). And it lies approximately 40 meters distant.

AnaBat Insight


  •  Opening recordings:
File > Open > Open Directory 
The directory is then loaded, and appears on the left hand side of the screen. 

  • Playing back the files, my take:
Pitch Shift - Sounds pleasing, very basic.
Heterodyne - Sounds pleasing, strong and clear (probably my favorite).
Comb Filter - Sounds pleasing, subdued/lower.
Frequency Division - Sounds great when using ZC recorded files. Not for listening to full spectrum recorded files.
A couple of spectrograms below, recorded with The AnaBat Swift.
 

Big Brown Bat pass (Eptesicus fuscus) - Viewed with AnaBat Insight's default settings with FS (Spectrogram) and Zero Crossing selected.


Another Big Brown Bat pass (Eptesicus fuscus) - Viewed with AnaBat Insight (there are a myriad of customization's and colors available).


I like the Metrics, and the Metadata display areas, on the right-hand side of the AnaBat Insight screen. 
For Frequency Division, the multiplying factors available are: 4, 8, 16, 32. I would like to see '10' as an option, so that results from low-cost bat detectors can be accurately played. Obviously, this is just a minor point.

I like the touch colour screen on this unit. I found that I had to re-calibrate the touch screen a few times, to get it to my liking. In general, I like the way the screen menus are laid-out. There is also a Force Screen On option, useful for using the unit as an active monitor. As in using a connected headphone or speaker, as mentioned previously. It ensures that the screen doesn't go into sleep mode (battery power consumption is increased).
I like the way the AnaBat Insight software informs you when an update is available.
It gives you a complete overview of what is about to take place - See screen shot below:


Thorough update information.


Other sections of the AnaBat Insight Manual, which I found useful were:
  • Frequency Scale (Page 14) - Info on how to change and customize (your own) frequency scale.
  • Time Scale (Page 15)
  • Trigger Settings (Page 16)
  • Graph Colours (page 17)
  • Spectrogram De-Noise (Page 19) - Caused the application to crash, on more than one occasion.
  • View Power Graph (Page 20)
  • Audio Modes (Page 25) - Brief explanations of each audio mode.

 
A ZC recording of a bat pass, in Dark Mode. Mouse pointer held over one of the pulses, provides temporary pop-up of Metrics.


As is the custom with unattended bat recorders, The AnaBat Swift automatically produces a Log File. And, as I've mentioned in the past, it reminds me of log files which computer servers create. For those who are interested, here is a typical example of such a log file, from The AnaBat Swift:

,INFO,Power Button Wakeup
,RTCBATT,3.24
16:58:09,POWER,on
16:58:09,INFO,GUI start
16:58:09,INFO,night mode start 20:01 end 5:57
16:58:09,INFO,Status: Insert an SD card
16:58:10,TEMP,53.7        -------- I really like this feature.
16:58:10,BATT,5.20
16:58:10,BATT,5.17
16:58:10,INFO,CPU usage 78%
16:58:10,INFO,sd card 1 inserted
16:58:10,INFO,Status: Please wait
16:58:11,INFO,CPU usage 72%
16:58:13,BATT,5.08
16:58:13,INFO,card 1 in use 30.5G free
16:58:14,DATE,2019-07-03
16:58:14,TIME,16:58:14 -4:00
16:58:14,INFO,Anabat Swift
16:58:14,INFO,Hardware Rev 2.0
16:58:14,INFO,Device ID Private
16:58:14,INFO,Software 1.4 (master/d035424)
16:58:14,INFO,Bootloader 1.0 (jro-4723/1db4759)
16:58:14,INFO,Recording div 8 ZC files
16:58:14,INFO,Transect Off
16:58:14,INFO,Max file length 12s
16:58:14,INFO,Analog HP filter On        -------- (High Pass) I like this feature.
16:58:14,INFO,Sensitivity is 10
16:58:14,INFO,Trigger Freq 15kHz to 155kHz  -------- Allows you to tighten the recording window.
16:58:14,INFO,Min event 2ms
16:58:14,INFO,Trigger window 2s
16:58:14,INFO,Recording mode is Night
16:58:14,INFO,Status: Next recording at 20:01
16:59:09,INFO,User inactive for 60 seconds
16:59:14,INFO,GUI stop


Further to my comments on the Log File above, the usefulness of a temperature sensor is obvious. A High Pass filter is also a welcomed feature, useful for recording in diverse environments (where other wildlife are present, etc.). The ability to limit the frequency range of the unit's trigger, is very useful for narrowing-in on the species of bat you're after. In other words, you can change the range of frequencies which the Swift responds to.
For example, if you were recording bats in the Northeastern United States, you might try changing the settings to 15kHz to 90kHz.

Part 3 of 3 of this AnaBat Swift review, will cover the differences seen and heard when using the various microphones, which should be available for purchase soon. 
Of course, the Directional Mic is currently available / stocked by most Dealers, etc.

On to The AnaBat Walkabout review! ...In progress...

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review Of The Anabat Swift Bat Detector from Titley Scientific - Part 1 Of 3

Review of The Anabat Swift passive bat detector from Titley Scientific - Part 1 of 3

My 6 Yr old Nephew, Gabriel - Displaying The AnaBat Swift box

The unit arrived to me here in The U.S., from Australia, well packaged. An appropriately-sized cardboard box was used, as well as well-placed blocks of dense foam (for cushioning/protection). 
The unit arrived in perfect condition, just as if it only traveled 16 Kilometers (instead of the actual 16,918!).


Box Arrived Via FedEx
Neat Sticker included

 
The Anabat Swift measures 182 x 119 x 43mm (7.2 x 4.7 x 1.7 inches), and weighs in at 400 grams (14Oz).
 
The base price of The Swift, is currently listed at $999 (US dollars). You have a choice between two available microphones, direct from Titley:

An Omni-Directional Mic (priced at $175 US Dollars).

Omni-Directional Microphone
(original)















-Or-

A Directional Microphone (priced at $275 US Dollars). 

Directional Microphone












Prices vary a bit, depending on where you order, etc. As always, I urge you to shop around. (Prices noted above, are at the time of this writing [June 2019]). Additional links to Dealers, may be found towards the end of this post.


AnaBat Swift in it's box

The Anabat Swift unit I received for testing, was provided with the (original) Omni-directional Mic. 

A couple of weeks from now, I will be loaned:
  • A prototype of their latest, improved Omni-directional Mic. Someone at Titley informed me that this Omni microphone, will have better performance compared to the current (original) model. 
- And -
  • A Directional Mic, whose key features are: "A lower noise floor, and better high frequency (over 100kHz) sensitivity compared to the Omni microphone."

So of course, I am anxious to test them, and share my findings, etc. For now, we will discuss the original AnaBat Swift (as it has been offered to the public since it's release).

This unit is designed to be an efficient, passive bat recorder; with many high-end features (which professionals will find very useful). Among it's features are:
  • A choice between Full Spectrum and Zero Crossing recording modes.
  • A choice of 320 or 500 kHz sampling rates.
  • Color touch screen.
  • Built-in GPS.
  • Automatic Night Mode Scheduling.
  • Two SD card slots (512GB capacity each).
  • A choice of being powered by either 4 or 8 AA batteries.
  • A headphone audio output, for listening to bat calls in real time (frequency division).
  • Excellent battery life - Able to record in full spectrum, for over 50 nights, using 8 AA sized batteries.
  • Ability to be powered via a 6 or 12 volt battery, with optional fused power lead cable.
  • Can be used for transects, utilizing built-in GPS (which updates location each second).
  • An optional Security Box is available.

AnaBat Swift in included case (Quickstart guide seen on the left)

    The Swift has a neat, lightweight design, which is also robust. When holding one in your hand, you realize that it is built to easily withstand inclement weather. It's solid build is reminiscent of The AnaBat Express. 
    Having had a (very low-cost) Trail camera recently suffer a moisture breach - I have even more appreciation for well-designed, weather proof equipment.  


    AnaBat Swift, Ready for deployment



    The Anabat Swift is easy to program, set-up, and use - not long after removing it from it's box. 
    I was pleased to see that Titley provides a printed Quickstart User Guide (right inside the box).
    A "whittled-down" re-cap of the steps, from The Quickstart User Guide:
    • Insert batteries
    • Set time zone (the built-in GPS will do the rest)
    • Connect microphone
    • Select recording mode (Zero Cross or Full Spectrum)
    • Select schedule 
    • Close-up unit, and deploy
    Again, what I've listed above, is the cliff notes version - Just to give the reader an idea of how easily the unit can be deployed. I urge you to take your time with the Quickstart Guide, since it provides some excellent tips!
     
    This passive bat detector/recorder, would be an excellent choice for anyone wishing to record bats in an unattended manner - And is ideally suited to those who work with bats in a professional capacity.
    The AnaBat Swift would be a good choice for anyone needing to deploy one or more passive bat recorders in the field, for extended periods of time. 
    Collecting your recordings is easy: Open the Swift, and either:
    • Tap on the SD card Eject symbol on the touch screen, status will read "Ejected".
    • Power off the unit, and then remove SD card.

    Listening to bats via the FD audio out port

    The User Manual, is concise and well laid out. It contains a wealth of information, and I urge you to have a look.

    During my test period (so far), I have found The AnaBat Swift to be accurate in it's recordings (in regard to other passive bat recorders I've tested). One of the things which struck me straight away, was how clean the resulting spectrograms appeared (both in FS and ZC mode). The ZC example below, was made by simply using the default settings of AnaBat Insight:

    ZC Recording of Lasionycteris Noctivagans (Silver-Haired Bat) As seen in AnaBat Insight

    Since using the latest versions, of both AnaBat Insight and BCID (Bat Call ID) Software - Something unexpected has happened:

    • I've discovered a new found interest in the Zero Crossing method. A rekindled admiration of it, one might say.
    If I had to choose just one method, I'd still choose Full Spectrum over ZC. But, lately, I've found myself using it more than any other method available. I will share some additional spectrograms (both Zero Crossing and Full Spectrum) in Part 2 of this review.

    Pros:
    •  Versatility of either Full Spectrum or Zero Cross recording.
    •  Choice of 4 or 8 batteries/Long battery life.
    •  Easy set-up/deployment.
    •  Anabat Insight software is free.

    Cons:
    • May be considered expensive
    • Microphone(s) must be purchased separately.

    There are 3 main locations of Titley Scientific (AU, UK, and US). And there are plenty of authorized distributors World-wide as well, NHBS in The UK being one:



    Things I liked: 
    •  Colour screen.
    •  The headphone output, for listening to bats in real time (frequency division).
    •  Super-easy to deploy.

    Things I didn't like:
    •  I found myself wishing that the battery connection points were just a tiny bit sturdier. Some may consider this to be "nitpicky" but there it is.

    For thoughts on:
    • The AnaBat Insight software, and spectrograms

    Please see Part 2 of 3 of this review 

    July 2019 - Update: This will need to be a 3 Part review; since I will be testing two additional microphones with this AnaBat Swift. Part 3 of 3 will be primarily focused on my assessment and findings while testing them. This will include:

    • The Directional Microphone vs. Omnidirectional
    • The new, improved, Omnidirectional Microphone (vs. the original Omni Mic)
    • The resulting spectrograms in regards to the above

    Happy bat detecting!