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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Review Of The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro Part 2 Of 2

Review Of The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro from Wildlife Acoustics - Part 2 Of 2

In Part 1 of this review, I covered the hardware and some of the basics of The Echo Meter Touch 2 (Pro). In this Post, there will be a lot more to cover!
As many of you are already aware of (by now) The Echo Meter Touch 2, is very commonly referred to as The EM Touch 2. And again, there is The Echo Meter Touch 2, and the Pro version available from Wildlife Acoustics.
The regular EM Touch 2 being an excellent choice for hobbyists & citizen scientists, while The EM Touch 2 Pro has more advanced features/settings, best suited for professionals.

A quick summary, of the EM Touch 2 devices, might read as follows:

The EM Touch 2:
  • Excellent for anyone with an interest in detecting (and identifying) bats.
  • Very intuitive to use.
  • Plenty of features and abilities, to keep a budding naturalist busy (and happy!)

The EM Touch 2 Pro:
  • Boasts enough (useful) features to enthuse even the most experienced professional.
  • Opportunities for customization also sure to inspire professionals.
  • High quality (up to 384k sample rate) recordings at 16 bits resolution.

Hobbyists and bat enthusiasts, while using the EM Touch 2, will likely find themselves saying things like "Wow" "Cool" and "Check this out" (possibly even out-loud)...

While professionals, using the EM Touch 2 Pro, will probably find themselves saying things like "Excellent" "That's great!" and "Well done!"... 

The factor which bat enthusiasts (amateur naturalists) will find most satisfying, will likely be the ease-of-use. As well as the aforementioned easy set-up (from box to bat detecting) and intuitive software App.

The key points which bat working professionals will find appealing, are likely to be the variable sample rate, adjustable gain, and level of ID accuracy.
The EM Touch 2 Pro is also the smallest bit of kit they have ever had to carry into the field for bat work. I'm sure Bat Researchers will find this refreshing.

If you are unsure, as to which EM Touch 2 version to choose, I urge you to visit Wildlife Acoustics' Specs Comparison page. All of the features of each version are well laid-out (and very easy to read/compare).
In use, The EM Touch 2 simplifies (nearly automates) the bat detecting portion of a Professional bat survey. It dutifully records, identifies, and logs the bats from the evening's outing.
I would also like to draw your attention to the List Of Compatible Devices for The EM Touch 2 (both iOS and Android devices covered).

The fact is, there's quite a bit more to cover about The EM Touch 2 - Including items of interest to those with a Techno-Geek side. Be that as it may, I've decided to post this Part 2 Of 2, and simply add to it (in the near future!)...

Firmware and software updates have already been made to The EM Touch 2. And even as I type,   further updates are in the works at Wildlife Acoustics. All with the aim of improving the performance of this bat detector. 
On a personal note, I've recently relocated to a rural area. There are lots of bats here, and having the opportunity to test The EM Touch 2 has really been a blast! Thank you, to Wildlife Acoustics, for the loan of the equipment. 

Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Review Of The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro Part 1 Of 2

Review Of The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro from Wildlife Acoustics Part 1 Of 2

The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro, is the latest Android/iPhone-based bat detector, from Wildlife Acoustics.

The EM Touch 2, is a cutting edge bat recording device, which enables the user to listen to, record, and automatically identify the calls of bats, right on your iPhone/iPad or Android device.
You simply download the free App (developed [and regularly updated] by Wildlife Acoustics) from either The iTunes, or Google Play Store(s) - Plug in the unit, and you're detecting bats!
While the App is running, a live, full-color sonogram display is actively monitoring the air space for bat calls - And displaying the activity on your screen.



The EM Touch 2 would be ideal for someone who would like to detect, identify, and record bats with ease and precision. The ability to install & use this bat detector on the ubiquitous cell phone and/or tablet makes it an attractive choice. 
The Echo Meter Touch 2, would be a good choice for non-Professional users. As well as anyone interested in bat detecting (and automatic identification of bats*). Basically, any Naturalist with a penchant for bats would be well pleased with an Echo Meter Touch 2 (regular or Pro edition). 

*More on this subject in Part 2 of this review...


I was given the opportunity to test and review The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro. And quickly realized why this particular unit is so popular with Bat Professionals the world over. 
Well, the proper In's & Out's of Wildlife Acoustics' Auto ID App, as well as additional details, etc., will be covered in Part 2 of this review.
I've recently relocated, to a more rural area. I'm very happy to report, that the area is lousy with bats! And The EM Touch 2 Pro is a very welcomed companion!


The unit itself is very small. However, it arrives very well packaged. After opening the small cardboard box, and removing the packing materials/bubble wrap - I opened the (white) Wildlife Acoustics box (shown). This box contained the custom neoprene case, within which I found The EM Touch 2 Pro:


The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro (United States 25 cent piece shown for scale)
 

As for overall design - In addition to being small in size, The EM Touch 2's are also very light. Being constructed of ABS/Polycarbonate plastic, and weighing less than an ounce, are ideal attributes for something meant to reside on the end of your cell phone (or tablet). These are not prone to falling out/off, etc. So you can plug-in and use with confidence.
Bravo!


The Echo Meter Touch 2 modules utilize cutting edge microphone technology. Wildlife Acoustics chose a new microphone element, which happens to have very good specifications - Which, in turn, has a lot to do with the excellent performance which these modules exhibit. I hope to add a few more details re: this new mic element, in Part 2 of the review - Or in an additional update.

In use, one will become familiar with the overall performance & characteristics of the microphone. I've been very pleased with the overall behavior and character of the microphone. So far, it hasn't broken any "distance records", as in how far away it will pick-up bat calls. But it seems to be performing as well as most other Pro-level detectors I've tested.
Regular readers of this blog may remember, that the distance at which a given detector can pick-up/record bats has always been important to me.

Generally speaking, the Echo Meter Touch App is very intuitive to use. And the transition from: Opening the box -to- installing the (free) App -to- plugging-in (and using) the EM Touch module is a remarkably smooth process.
Another interesting factor to note, is that Wildlife Acoustics are making improvements & adding features to this system - Via firmware and software updates. Something which I can't help but find impressive, and I'm sure will appeal to those considering a purchase.


Several improvements and additions have already been made; and several more are on the way! I will cover these dynamic updates and added features, in Part 2 of this review.

Let's discuss The regular EM Touch 2 first.

The unit itself, is neatly designed (in ABS/Polycarbonate material) and incorporates an integrated acoustic horn:


The EM Touch 2 is a very good choice of bat detector for beginners and casual hobbyists who would like to invest in a quality product.
But there is bit more to it than that:
  • To start with, referring to the Echo Meter Touch 2 as simply a bat detector, seems to be a disservice - Because it gives a user the feeling that they have a mini bioacoustics lab in their hand.
  • If anything, even the regular EM Touch 2 provides a lot of capability for the price.         

The Echo Meter Touch 2 really shines, when it comes to installing and using the device. It is a remarkably smooth and pleasant process. It really impressed me - It seems that Wildlife Acoustics went to great lengths to insure that the entire set-up, from box -to- bat detecting/recording is practically seamless. Once again, smooth is the word that comes to mind. 

  • Install the (free) App on your (Android or iOS) device.
  • Plug in The Echo Meter Touch 2.
  • Launch App / Select your location.
  • Start listening to, and recording bats!

In regards to The EM Touch 2 Pro:

To start with, I found it to be very accurate when providing the auto identification of detected bat species. This was confirmed by cross-referencing the App's findings with "manual" analysis of selected bat calls.
And, it is at precisely this point in my review, where the (usual) detractors of Wildlife Acoustics' auto ID software might begin getting riled up.
Yes. There are about a handful of them. And, as luck would have it, they happen to be the designers, producers, and/or purveyors of what might be considered the competing auto ID software.
For now, I'd like to point-out that many Bat Research Professionals around the world have taken quite a liking to the new EM Touch 2 Pro's and The Auto ID App.

Keep in mind, that The Auto ID App has been developed from Wildlife Acoustics' powerful Kaleidoscope software. A well-known, and robust application with a history of competence, and use, by Professionals worldwide.


Pros:
  • A very good value-to-price-point ratio - You're getting a very capable and advanced device for your $179.
  • Very accurate Auto ID App for determination of the bat species detected.
  • Units utilize cutting edge microphone technology.
  • Small, convenient, portable.
Cons:
  • Your device (phone or tablet) must be fully charged before beginning an evening of bat detecting.
  • Only compatible with a certain number of Android-based devices.

The Echo Meter Touch 2 (either version) may be ordered directly from Wildlife Acoustics, or from Amazon, if that is more convenient.

At the time of this writing, the regular Echo Meter Touch 2 retails for $179 U.S. dollars. And the Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro version for $349 (remember to specify either Android-based or iOS-based device when ordering).
 
To summarize - The Echo Meter Touch 2 detectors make sensitive and accurate bat detecting available to Citizen Scientists, and Bat Researchers alike. Via the affordable EM Touch 2, and EM Touch 2 Pro.

This (Part 1 Of 2) review may get additional updates, in time. 

Part 2 (currently in progress) will address software, recordings, and Auto ID. As well as other factors.

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Temporary Post - Night Vision Devices

This is only a temporary post - I just wanted to announce, that I'll (finally!) be reviewing a Night Vision device here in the near future.

I reached-out to several manufacturers (Bushnell, et al)...But only one Vendor among them, were kind enough to send me a loaner unit, to test and review here. It is The Omegon Alpheon+ NV 4.5x40.
Further details about the specific device may also be seen right on Amazon (direct link).

Omegon Night vision device Alpheon+ NV 4.5x40

 
I will continue my efforts, to acquire (loaner) Night Vision optics to review here, for the benefit of everyone who detects/records bats.
At this point in time, I won't go into all of the (obvious) reasons why Night Vision devices would be very useful for Bat Workers, those involved in Bat Research, et al... There are a myriad of uses for optics of this kind, even for hobbyists. This has been made possible by the affordability of many of the Night Vision units available today.

If anyone has a Night Vision device which they would like me to review, you may contact me via email at: batdetectors -at- gmail.com.

Part 2 Of 2 of The Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro review is in progress...Stay tuned.

Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Review Of The Batseeker 4

The Batseeker 4, is the very latest bat detector from Batseeker.


As many of you may have seen in my recent Batseeker-related posts (featuring many photos) it is a very simple bat detector. The unit arrives (from Canada) in a small padded envelope. Without batteries installed, it's a very lightweight little unit.
Retailing for only $45 U.S. Dollars, it is the least expensive bat detector on the market today. And again, it may also be ordered right from Amazon, if that happens to be more convenient.
Fans of The Batseeker detectors will notice, that this very latest version, has all of the features of previous versions combined. Using the unit could not be any more straightforward: Power on switch on one end, and volume up/down controls near the battery compartment door.

This unit would be ideal for someone wanting to try bat detecting. Or listening to other ultrasonic sounds, for that matter. It is very well suited (and recommended!) for beginners to this great hobby. The Batseeker 4 retains the sleek appearance of it's most recent predecessors (the 2, and 3).

In addition to quick checks of backyard airspace, I've also used The Batseeker 4 for unattended recording, with good results. The Batseeker 4 has plenty of sensitivity. I hope to add some sonograms to this post soon...

Pros:
  • Very inexpensive.
Cons:
  • Must exercise caution when using, lightweight plastic may not withstand being dropped, etc.
It is a frequency division detector, which for beginners translates to: No knobs or buttons to worry about. In other words, no tuning required (as with a heterodyne detector). To summarize, the Batseeker 4 is the perfect entry-level bat detector. If you've always wanted to hear what your backyard bats sound like through a bat detector - The Batseeker 4 is your ticket.
"Buy the ticket, take the ride"

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Short Update - Unexpected Level Of Bat Activity Tonight

ser·en·dip·i·ty
ˌserənˈdipədē/
noun
noun: serendipity; plural noun: serendipities
The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Tonight (June 27th, a bit past midnight) I'm looking out one of my back windows... I was just taking one last look at the sky conditions, to confirm that there would be no possibility of Astrophotography tonight...
I'd also noticed the fireflies, for the first time this year. I even entertained the idea, that I might have seen a Glowworm (female Firefly, of course) but could not confirm.
A neat project which I've been meaning to try, is to get some long exposure photos of large numbers of fireflies in flight. I've seen the wonderful results obtained by other photographers - They look almost ethereal...but I digress.

When seemingly out of nowhere: I glimpsed a bat, foraging; right near the (now massive) entanglement of Porcelain Berry, which has overtaken the Red Cedar trees in my neighbor's yard.
Then another...I grabbed a Batseeker 4 bat detector and placed it on the window sill. Now another fly-by, followed by another...
I really enjoyed listening to their navigating clicks, as well as several feeding buzzes. It was an awesome, and unexpected surprise.
In all of my (many) years of bat detecting here at home, it's always been pretty rare to spot this much bat activity (especially such great visuals!).

Happy bat detecting! 





                                                                                             

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review Of The Batseeker 3 - Entry Level Bat Detector


An early version of The Batseeker 3. This is before the loop was added.

This review will deal with The Batseeker detectors (Versions 1 to 3) but be advised, that the latest version, The Batseeker 4 is the unit which is currently available.

The units are just over 14 cm in length, and are very light in weight. As can be seen on this video clip made by Batseeker.

The price of the unit, is it's most attractive feature: At only $44.99 with free shipping to the U.S. and Canada; it's the lowest cost bat detector currently available anywhere.

Back of the early Batseeker 3, speaker is visible.

The Batseekers are Frequency Division bat detectors, and are designed from lightweight black plastic.
These detectors are constantly being improved, in many different ways - Which is great news! 
For just one example - The latest Batseeker 4 is now constructed using higher quality PVB plastic.

The Batseeker 3 was very simple to use: It consists of just one On/Off switch!
In it's latest rendition, The Batseeker 4: There are convenient new buttons on the back, allowing a user to easily control speaker output volume. Another significant improvement, is the addition of a new amplifier stage.

A later version of The Batseeker 3. The case loop is just visible on the right.

The Batseeker is ideal for those wanting to try bat detecting, without investing too much money. I would recommend it for first-time buyers who are looking for the least expensive bat detector available. Also very good for children - with supervision - because the Batseeker(s) will get damaged if dropped on hard surfaces outdoors.

Back view of The Batseeker 3, showing open battery compartment.

The process of using it, consists of turning it on, and pointing the side with the microphone hole (now indicated by orange paint) towards the area of suspected bat activity.

Pros: 

  • It is the lowest cost bat detector currently available.

  • Small and slim in size, easily portable.

  • It may be powered with 2 standard AAA sized batteries. However, Sanyo eneloop rechargeable NimH are highly recommended for best performance.



Cons:

  • Lightweight plastic construction may be easily damaged (if dropped on a hard surface, etc.).
  • No algorithms in place to distinguish between biological and man-made sounds (all ultrasounds are detected).

The Batseeker 4 may be ordered from several sources:



The units are very quiet (practically zero background noise!), and well-suited to static / un-attended recording. Simply turn on, and point microphone side out (on a windowsill, for example). 
In the recent past, I've had fun using Batseekers to record bat sounds on (low-light) video clips. My attempts didn't produce great results, (I used a low-cost tablet, and a point & shoot camera at the time). When I edit the (fair quality) recording(s), I'll add them to this review.
This year, I'll have infrared camera(s) available, so watch this spot for updates... 

As the weather begins to warm here in New York, I'll have an opportunity to record some additional bat calls. Using an audio cable this time - All Batseeker detectors feature a (3.5mm [mono]) audio out jack; and I'll add the resulting recordings to this review.

So at a cost of only $44.99 U.S. dollars, you now have virtually no excuse not to try the awesome hobby of bat detecting!

And, finally - I've recently been informed, that I will have an opportunity to test and review the latest Batseeker 4 soon!

Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review of The SongMeter SM4BAT FS from Wildlife Acoustics

Review of The SM4BAT FS SongMeter from Wildlife Acoustics

Note: This review will be updated further, over the next few weeks (with extra details, spectrograms, etc.)

The SM4BAT is the latest SongMeter system, available in both full-spectrum and zero-crossing models, from Wildlife Acoustics. It is a ultrasonic bat recorder, designed to be used as a passive/unattended recording solution.

It's a single channel recording system, which is both lightweight and compact. And has the ability to be left unattended, for long periods of time (up to 45 days!).

A very concise overview of this new unit, may be seen on the manufacturer's page Here.

The SM4BAT arrives double-boxed and very well packaged. In other words, the product box is protected by air-filled cushions (as well as bubble wrap).


The unit's dimensions are as follows:

Height: 8.6" (218 mm)  Width: 6.0" (152 mm)  Depth: 3.1" (78 mm)
1.6 lbs / .7 kg without batteries, 2.9 lbs / 1.3 kg with batteries


I can also state, that no less than 9 of them will fit into an ordinary backpack.

As per Wildlife Acoustics' Web site:

"The new, low-power microprocessor, combined with 4 D-size batteries, enable the longest deployment times of any other bat recorder available. The SM4BAT FS has a recording run time of 250 to 450 hours (e.g. 25-45 10-hour nights) depending on bat activity and other factors."

There are several features which make this bat detecting system desirable:

  • It's particularly well-suited for those in need of unattended monitoring/recording of ultrasounds; especially bat activity. 
  • It is capable of recording an unprecedented number of bat passes - up to 45 nights! directly across multiple (up to 2) SD cards. 
  • It's very easy to use, and no PC is needed for the set-up, or actual recording.
The new SMM-U2 microphone's low noise and superior sensitivity, makes it an excellent addition to this Song Meter system. More on this Mic later...

The Song Meter SM4BAT is designed using very heavy-duty poly-carbonate, which is impervious to extreme weather conditions. It was definitely designed with the needs of Ecologists in mind.


As with it's predecessors (earlier Song Meter systems) it is very easy to set-up and use.


The SM4BAT FS may be purchased directly from The Wildlife Acoustics page Here.


As always, the Customer Service/Support aspect of Wildlife Acoustics: In a nutshell, their Technical Support is second to none.


This new SM4BAT FS has proven to be excellent for my nightly recordings.


Another neat attribute of the SM4BAT I like, is how the microphone units are protected.  Using a well-secured, dark gray foam. In the printed materials provided, Wildlife Acoustics explains just how waterproof their SM4BAT platforms are. As in the past, they also provide tips and best practices for outdoor deployment. 

The Song Meter SM4BAT has been designed with great pick-up range. There is a PCB mounted, 3.5mm earphone jack located inside the SM4BAT's enclosure. This is provided so that one can listen to the sound input while recording; this may be used for live monitoring, to check the status of microphone(s), perform test recordings, etc.

No tools are required to open the unit.
With the top cover snapped back on, in preparation for mounting/deployment - The green LED light will be visible to you, via a built-in diffuser. So that you can get feedback before, during, and after the unit is mounted:
- A steady, repeated blinking: Indicates the unit has started it's scheduled recording. This informs you that the system is awake, and is actively monitoring.



The installation and configuration of the SM4BAT is a very easy process.
Just install batteries - 4 D cells (Energizer brand recommended), a Class 4 SD memory card, and you're more than halfway done.  


Some of the other main features are: The LCD display - Which is easy to read, and will help you set all device options.
Among the main things you might want to do are:
- Set the Record Start and Stop times, set the internal clock.
- Adjust Sensitivity values which you can use to fine-tune the level for the triggering.
There are a few other things, which you will learn all about from the User Guide; which happens to be one of the best I've ever seen.

It has been a pleasure to use. And thanks to Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope software: The analysis of bat recordings has been a breeze ever since! I've got lots of recorded bat calls to listen to, and create various sonograms with.


The SM4BAT happens to be the approximate size of other comparable unattended recording solutions. In fact, it is a bit smaller than some. It is easily portable, fitting one (along with accessories, etc.) into a backpack is effortless. Without batteries installed, the unit is very light. 
As previously stated - The fact is, you can fit 9 of these units in a typical backpack (with room to spare).

Sensitivity and filtering are fully adjustable, across the spectrum of the unit's abilities.


The fact that the unit can be used as a "Set-and-forget" recorder (for up to 45 days) is a plus.
The unit is very economical; especially when compared to similar systems which are currently available.

The Kaleidoscope software, from Wildlife Acoustics is very versatile; and produces nice-looking (and informative) sonograms.

With the great help/suggestions and support I received from the Folks at Wildlife Acoustics, I ended up with a diverse collection of recordings. The nice thing about it, is that I was able to test a lot of different variations of settings. In a short period of time.  


You can basically go either way, in your approach to the use of this system: You may choose to rely mostly on the default settings - And take a more simple approach (which is exactly what I did in the beginning of the test period). Or, you may be the type who enjoys tinkering & experimenting. In which case, you'll find a fair number of combinations, for customizing preferences.


Happy bat detecting!