Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: The SSF BAT2 Part 2 Of 2

The layout of the unit is pretty straightforward:

On the upper left, we have the On/Off Button -
Below that, the Enter Button -
On the right, we have the Up/Down Buttons; which are used for Volume and other functions -

This detector is powered by 4 AA size batteries. Any chemistry type can be used (Alkaline, NiMH, etc.).
Frequency range is 15-130kHz, in steps of 1kHz
It is equipped with a front-mounted, 1.5W speaker
Backlight brightness is adjustable, and it features an Auto Shut-Off - Which is fully adjustable, from 1 minute to Infinity.

I like the overall design, my only wish would be to make it smaller (if possible). At the same time, it must be realized, that packing all of these features into a smaller device... would not be easy!

Alright! Let's discuss some of the helpful features (the features that I like) on the SSF BAT2 -
(I really enjoy using this unit!)

* The audio-out jack, referred to in the documentation as 'Earphone Access'. Since I like to do a lot of un-attended recording; this is an important feature for me. When in use (using a 3.5mm stereo cable) the speaker is disabled.

* The (always visible) battery status indicator. This battery icon displays 4 levels of battery condition.

* The volume setting display.

Uncommon features of this bat detector:

* The frequency button - Which (among other things) functions to instantly tune the (main) heterodyne portion of the detector to the (FD) detected/displayed frequency. Neat!

Since we're on the subject of the frequency button - It can also be used to select one of four fixed frequencies. 3 frequencies are programmed (from the factory). 20kHz, 40kHz and 45kHz. The fourth fixed frequency space is left blank (000); you program a frequency of your choosing.

* The bat spectrogram display! Cool!

The SSF BAT2 uses a special microphone element (see Page 10 of the User Manual) which has an enhanced frequency response. And, a special Pre-amp is utilized in the circuit. Very interesting.

I believe that pretty much sums it up, for now. I would highly recommend this unit, there's no denying that it is fun to use!

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wildlife Sound Recording Society - Autumn 2011 Journal

From England - The Autumn issue of The WSRS's Journal is out now. It is another feature-packed, fascinating issue.

This volume (Vol. 12 No. 2) includes great articles - Including my reviews of:
SeaWave Software (Page 7)
Dodotronic's Ultramic 200K (Page 12)
And a great article by Chris Scott, titled 'Sound Surveys Yield Secrets Of Bat Swarms'
(Page 38)

There really are lots of other great reviews & articles in this volume!

I'll admit, that the yearly Subscriptions/Membership fee is not cheap (for USA residents); but I can tell you - It is totally worth every penny!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Great Bat Conservation Site! - Bats Of Salamanca

Wanted to share this great bat site:

Bats Of Salamanca

Another "sub-link", from the site above; that features lots of goodies & info to download!

Bats Of Spain & Portugal - Translated Into English

Great info & pictures!

Happy bat detecting!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The SSF BAT2 Part 1 Of 2

The SSF BAT2, is manufactured by Microelectronic Volkman, and distributed by All About Bats  This bat detector has lots of awesome (and very useful) features!
I'll start at the beginning...
The review sample of the new SSF BAT2 detector arrived very well packaged; safe and sound to me here in the U.S. from Germany. 
The detector was very well protected. Multi-boxed, including a foam-lined inner section.  -See below:

The next item to catch my eye, was the beautiful carry case it comes with! Wow! Really nice, there is even a compartment in the front, that can hold an extra set of (4) AA-size batteries. It features a belt loop, and very secure Velcro flap. I like the case a lot!
For a while, All-About-Bats.net was offering the case free; with the purchase of an SSF BAT2 - So, hopefully some of you were lucky enough to order one while the special offer was in effect.
The unit is provided with: The attached, adjustable wrist strap; a full printed manual in German. I had printed out the English version of it (even before it arrived!)

Here are some Links, to get you started:

MEKV - In German

Links to the User Guide PDF, in both (Orig.) German; and English:

The SSF BAT2 - All About Bats (Original German)

The SSF BAT2 - All About Bats (English)

From the beginning, it's hard not to like this detector! Upon powering up and checking/testing this instrument: You will notice the incredible sensitivity and range; as well as the precision of it's Volume control. These are simply the two main features that I noticed first.

This bat detector has quite a bit of "Wow factor" - Which is nice, at this price point. I really like it's features! This bat detector is very easy and fun to use!
I believe that a major reason for this, is that this unit is really two bat detectors-in-one. When switched on: The frequency division portion of the unit is always on, and "scanning" the air space in front of it -Constantly displaying the detected frequency. At any time, the heterodyne portion of the detector can be instantly tuned, to the frequency being displayed - Simply by pressing one button. Very cool!
Of course, you have full control of the heterodyne portion of the unit, at the same time. Most would say, the main category into which this detector fits, would be heterodyne. That is it's main mode of operation.
First impressions were great! The frequency range of this unit, is 15 to 130kHz. I really liked the sensitivity of the unit, and the audio output of the speaker is very good.
In Part 2 of this review: There will be more photos, and I'll cover more features and performance of this detector ...

Where to buy:

All About Bats


This Link (translated to English, by BabelFish) has enough free download-able goodies to keep you busy for a while! I like it!

SSF BAT2 Review Part 2 Of 2

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weather Conditions Conducive To Bat Detecting

It has been written in several books (and various other texts/scientific papers), that bats will not (or are very unlikely) to be detected if certain weather conditions exist. This seems to be especially likely, if the guide you are reading, is a bit outdated.

The typical generalizations (or guidelines) have stated, for instance: That bats will not take flight, or leave their temporary (or permanent) roosts, unless the outdoor temperature is at least 50 Deg. F. Those of you who (like me) read all the bat books, texts, and scientific papers that you can get your hands on; will have also read: That bats will not fly if it is too windy, or raining.
To put it nicely: Many of us have already discovered that these guidelines (or "Rules") are incorrect. The interesting thing, is that many modern documents also echo these guidelines.

I've found that a fascinating (and fun) activity, is to actually set-out to prove that these recommendations are incorrect. So, if possible - Place one of your detectors out if:
 Temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
 It's raining lightly - And you're able to do so without getting the unit wet - Please make sure that your detector's microphone element doesn't get wet!
 It's windy...Not too windy, mind you! Bats certainly will not fly if winds are over 15mph.
Remember to take notes! - Especially if you get any recordings of bats.

Together, we hobbyists will be able to prove a lot of those old texts wrong. And, be able to share new (and interesting) findings/updates. I keep a separate journal (notebook) especially for this purpose. I have already proven that the 50 Deg. F "rule" is not accurate : )

For intermediate or advanced hobbyists:
There is something else. Especially during this Winter - If you capture bat recordings at night, or at dusk/dawn; and it happens to be the "dead of Winter" - It would be good, to try to positively verify the species. This may be done, using the usual/conventional means: Studying various facets of the recordings, studying/comparing the resulting sonograms, etc.

If for instance, you determine that the species recorded; are of a type that should positively be hibernating at that date/time. There is a possibility, that you have picked up bats that are suffering from WNS. Of course, this is a very sad topic for most of us. Depending on your situation, location, (and perhaps other variables) you may be able to share your findings with your local Wildlife Authorities. You may even be instrumental in saving the lives of some bats.
Just keep in mind, that there are some bat species, which are known to be active (even in December) and it is not abnormal. You'll have to use your discretion.

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some Opinions & Info Recently Shared With Some Readers (Via e-mail)

I received a few questions recently, from some beginning Hobbyists; and others who are new to bat detecting equipment. So, I'm passing along some of the information I shared, and the suggestions I offered.

Detector Recommendations, Responses To E-Mails , And Other Tips:

The new SSF BAT2, is a fantastic detector, that has excellent sensitivity and range It's reasonably priced - And is a lot of fun to use! The review of this one, is still "in the works"...But will be posted up here soon. Have a look at this great unit (I love the display):

In regards to Dodotronic's Ultramics:

I believe that the Ultramic may be useful, for your application - For more info, in regards to the Ultramic, from Dodotronic:
You may also want to have a look at the Forum discussion that took place here: http://www.forumbretagne-vivante.org/t2751-micro-ultrasons-usb
A lot of the posts are in French - Just scroll down, until you see the post in English, written by Ivano of Dodotronic.
You'll have to disregard the mention of it's ability to do unattended recording - As this feature has not been implemented into the SeaWave software yet. In fact, that functionality may be added to the SeaPro software.
The Ultramics do need to be connected to a computing device of some sort. When hooked up to a laptop, netbook, or Tablet PC, the Ultramic works very well.
The way I see it, when it comes to the Ultramic - Is this: If you will be recording in a place where substantial numbers of bats are pretty much "guaranteed" (Pond, Lake or Stream/River) then; the Ultramic would be good. - But, it does pick up and record other ultrasounds as well. Any sound (or noise) that resonates in (or close to) the ultrasonic spectrum will be picked up.
It would not be my first choice for un-attended recording.

If your budget allows, I would recommend the D240X. As it allows you to listen to the both the Heterodyne, and the TE activity that is going on at the same time (using any stereo earphones). You can hear the Heterodyne sounds in one ear and the TE activity in the other, simultaneously. With a digital stereo recorder, you'd be all set.
I was very fond of that unit during my testing and review period. One of the things that I noticed, was the noise-free recordings I got (using the D240X & a Zoom H1 Stereo recorder). The TE recordings were very clean (no background noise). Even the heterodyne recordings were clean.

The D240X on bat walks - The neat thing is, you can plug the recorder into the Tape jack, to capture (record) any triggered events; -and- listen to the heterodyne portion over the speaker at the same time.
Folks in attendance, will be able to hear the live bat activity (while you are recording it). The speaker Volume setting has no effect on the recordings. Excellent.
The only issue here, would be the higher cost...
As I mentioned on a previous post: The very lowest cost I've seen them for, (New) was $1499 US.

The Ciel CDB 305 Dual Bat Detector looks OK - It's not a terrible choice. However, relying on the printed knob tuning won't be extremely accurate.

Something with a digital readout would be ideal (and accurate).
A unit like the BatBox Duet would be excellent, but it is not cheap -http://batbox.com/duet.asp

Having said that; if cost is a major consideration - I would recommend the following unit:
The BatBox Baton (an outstanding performer - and cheap!).
In any case, with a simple digital recorder - It's very portable. Try to get the shortest stereo cable you can find (with 3.5mm plugs on each end). You'll be able to travel all over (and all night) making FD recordings.
A blog post, regarding cables and other small accessories will be coming up in the not-too-distant future.
The resulting frequency division recordings produced, will be a good starting point - In regards to analyzing the calls and creating sonograms. And, let's keep in mind that the Baton comes with a CD containing the Batscan software! Which I like very much, for creating sonograms, etc. As a side note: BatBox Ltd.'s Batscan software is very similar to the (no-longer-available) Spectrogram 16 software.

The resulting FD recordings will be useful. And you'll be able to analyze them, etc.

Well, I hope that helps. I'm probably forgetting something!
Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Serious Bat Call Analysis Software

Well, Folks, judging by some of the recent e-mails I've received - It looks like I'm going to need to focus my attention on bat call analysis software. I was actually planning to, but was going to wait until at least mid-Winter. As, I fully expected to have FUN recording quite a few more bats, especially Red Bats! And, perhaps even another "surprise" species or two?...

Let's see here - The software packages whose names kept "popping up" (mentioned by interested readers) so far, have been: BatSound, and SonoBat
Both are regarded as excellent software programs for Professionals, as well as dedicated Hobbyists. As with most things, the really good stuff isn't cheap.

In any case, after some recent correspondence with other Hobbyists - I'm beginning to realize that it is time for me to consider investing in a good analysis program.
Also, there are some interesting Free applications available, for Bio-acoustic analysis. I may look into a couple of them, test, and report my findings.

For the most part, I use Audacity (which is free) and Bat Scan, which is very reasonably-priced software, from BatBox, Ltd. in the UK.

While I'm on the subject...
I've been meaning to post some of my thoughts and ideas, on good activities for bat hobbyists; for the "dead of Winter" (as in, January, mainly). For the month of January, in the Northeastern United States for instance: We have pretty much zero bat activity : (
So, it's a good time to focus our attention on things like:

* Becoming well acquainted with, and experimenting with, bat call analysis software.
* Going through (sorting out) all of the recordings collected from earlier in the year.
* And, of course: Analyzing, organizing and archiving the recordings (and sonograms, etc.)

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Added A Section For Bat Organizations

Just a quick post, to let you know, that I've added a place (on the right-hand side of the main page) for Links to Bat organizations. I received a note from a reader recently, who made me aware of this organization; and their upcoming events: North American Society For Bat Research I've still got a lot more to add. There are so many great Bat Conservation Organizations...all over the world...
{Also, for those who might be interested, this blog (that is, Bat Detector Reviews) gets approximately 1,930 Visitors per month.}

Here is a site (from Sweden) that I've been getting some traffic from recently, so I thought I'd post it up here (for those who speak Swedish) - And for those (who, like me) enjoy poking around foreign sites: Here's the link I usually "click around" on: http://www.chiroptera.se/tips.html And, here is the Main page: chiroptera.se
Well, no, it's not very easy when you don't know the language...and when BabelFish (and other) services cannot translate for you... But: If it has anything to do with bat detecting, then I'm there!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Recent Visit To Bartow Pell Mansion - And, Other Miscellaneous Things...

What follows, is the "debriefing" of my recent visit to Bartow Pell Mansion:
Unfortunately, there weren't many bats recorded: We are getting pretty close, to the end of the season for the majority of our local bats here. I'm still sorting through the recordings made on The Griffin, so there is a chance that I did pick up (an unseen) bat... If so, I will add the sonogram(s) to this post.
-But- I did end up recording a nice assortment of singing insects. That was great!
Yes, one of my other major hobbies is recording singing insects - But - In the interest of those who are interested only in bats; I've kept the subject (and recordings) of insects, out of this blog. I'm sure most Folks prefer it that way. The subject of recording singing insects would definitely need it's own blog!

I can tell you, that The Batbox Griffin and the SSF2 BAT were a pleasure to use in the field!  Dodotronic's Ultramic200K was great, too! (set up on a tiny tripod)

For now, you can have a look at a short video I took of the area. This is behind the mansion. You can hear the water fountain (pond) in the background, among the sounds of singing insects:

Remember, The Griffin Review isn't finished yet...and the SSF2 BAT Review will be coming up soon...

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Next Detector To Be Reviewed: The SSF BAT2 Detector!

The next bat detector I'll be reviewing, will be The SSF BAT2. This detector is really neat!

Here is a quick snapshot I took, while on the trip to Bartow Pell Mansion. Pictured, from left to right, are: The SSF BAT2, The Batscanner from Elekon and the Griffin from BatBox (I apologize for the poor image quality):

Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Future Site Of Bat Detecting Adventure - Bartow Pell Mansion

I haven't been on a bat detecting field trip in quite a while. This will be the awesome place I'll be visiting:

Bartow Pell Mansion

It is my favorite place to go Birding, and to photograph wildlife; during the day. It is also a very safe place (when it comes to 2-legged "predators"), which is also a big plus. I like to be able to focus all my attention on the fauna & wildlife while walking through the woods - Not having to be concerned with my own safety as well.
So, I requested (and was graciously granted) permission to visit the premises at night. I'm bringing some of the latest bat detectors that are currently "on the test bench". There's nothing like bringing new, cutting edge bat detectors on an "expedition" like this!

Among the instruments I'll be bringing are:

The Griffin, from BatBox Ltd.

The SSF2 BAT2 from BUND

The Ultramic200K from Dodotronic

The D240X from Pettersson Elektronik

A full "Debreifing" is forthcoming...

Review: The BatBox Griffin From BatBox, Ltd. (UK) Part 3 Of 3

Review: The BatBox Griffin Part 3 Of 3

Of course, as many of you are aware, The Griffin from BatBox experienced some delays prior to it's actual release. This was a disappointment to many bat enthusiasts, and especially to bat working Professionals. Only because many Pros were very anxious to try The Griffin!
When I log my bat recordings, I generally like to record:
The location, the date & time, and the weather conditions; including temperature and the current wind speed. One of the reasons for this: Is that quite a few texts & books written on the subject of Bats, mention the importance, and impact of wind on the flight behavior of bats. With The Griffin, time & temperature are recorded for you.

Above: The unit is in heterodyne mode (indicated by the 'HET' at the top of the screen)

In a recent e-mail I received, someone inquired as to the sample rate of this unit. The Griffin uses a sample rate of 705.6 kHz to accomplish it's time expansion detecting. But, makes the actual recording at a sample rate of 44.1 kHz (16-bit PCM).
As mentioned, in Part 2 of this review: There are many great updates and changes planned for The BatBox Griffin - As soon as these additional improvements are made, they will be described here, in detail.

*Update* 11/11/2011 *

The latest news I'd like to share, regarding The Griffin; is that I've gone ahead and updated the firmware on the system. Twice. In order to get the system up to the latest firmware version (V.20).
These firmware packages can be downloaded from the BatBox - Griffin Web page.

Very easy, and straightforward; each downloaded (zipped) package includes a Word (Text) document, which guides you through the process.

As with many computer-based instruments (as well as many PC systems themselves) the instrument must be updated in a progressive order. So, to get to Ver. 20, you must first successfully update to Ver. 18. (Ver. 19 did exist, but was for testing purposes only).
So, firmware version 18 was unzipped, and installed as per BatBox's instructions. The firmware upgrade process has The Griffin behaving just like a PC. The removable memory card is used to perform the upgrade. The process was finished in less than the 10 minutes stated in the accompanying instructions.

After completion, the unit reboots itself - The screen displays: A blinking cursor, followed by "Upgrade finished", and "Starting Griffin"
Although I knew that I'd be following up, right away, with the next firmware update: I wanted to do a bit of testing, following this upgrade. - As with most firmware updates - The issues addressed, improved features, and/or changes are listed by the manufacturer. What I found, in addition to these - was that the unit was even more sensitive than before! Awesome!
Next, was firmware version 20. All went smoothly, as above. This time, what I found, in addition - was that the unit was more responsive to input (such as pressing buttons, making selections, launching modes, etc.).
I was pleasantly surprised, and well-pleased. The Griffin from BatBox Ltd. is truly a brilliant machine.

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: The BatBox Griffin, From BatBox, Ltd. (UK) Part 2 Of 3

Review: The BatBox Griffin Part 2 Of 3

Aside from the fact, that that The Griffin is an advanced instrument for bat detecting - I feel compelled to mention, that it is somewhat of a conversation piece as well! You may think that I've "lost it" this time...but, it's true! And, I just had to mention it - Although it may seem trivial to some...I find it to be a nice advantage.
You take this beautiful, blue display for instance:

It's a back-lit, LCD/negative blue display (128x64). And, it's simply a joy to behold, most of my pictures do not do it justice - Complete with very cute splash screens at boot-up and shut down! - I do have pics of said cute splash screens, but won't post them up. They will be a neat surprise to new owners of this unit.
Well, these are the kinds of things that even the layperson (even one who has no interest in bat detectors) can appreciate.

OK, this is a serious bat detector - So let's get back to a serious review...

In general, the layout on The Griffin, is very straight-forward and simple. I like the front-mounted, diffused, LED indicator. It's a bi-color LED, and provides a soft, intermittent flashing: Green: to indicate Normal/On operation. And Red: to inform the user that a program has been stored, and will execute. It serves to assure the user, that although the unit is in a powered-off state; it will be turning on/recording later.

Below, is an example of what a typical triggered recording looks like; in Audacity (free program). In this example, upon first opening the file, Audacity "decided" to use 44.1kHz & 32-bit. The machine actually makes the recording at PCM 16-bit 44.1kHz quality. Which, as many of you are aware, is substantial. You can see the dialog box where I chose to specify 70560, as the sampling rate:

By specifying 70560, you are reducing the original 705.6kHz sample rate of the recording by a factor of 10.
This is simply one random experiment. There are almost countless combinations, and opportunities to experiment further. The example above, contains calls from my local Katydids (@ ~40+ Meters distant) and a couple of bat calls.

Below, is an example of what a single, isolated bat call looks like, when using Audacity:

This is an example of what Katydid calls & Bat calls look like, when using Audacity -
As far as I can tell, (and after listening to the recording numerous times) the first 2 are insect calls, the rest are Bat calls):

Here is a sample section, of the recording above, using BatScan Ver. 9 software (from BatBox, Ltd.):

The Time Expansion option was selected in Batscan, when analyzing the file above. This particular example appears to be of a bat that was recorded at a fair distance. I will be posting a few more examples in the future.

Here is a look at what the additional, detailed Info, (in raw format) that was recorded by The Griffin:

<record_time>00h 00m 48.02s</record_time>

This information, can be viewed in a much neater format, by using an application that reads .HTML or .XML files.

And this is the other data file, that is automatically created, with each recorded event:
This was simply opened with Notepad, but can opened using various text editors (The data looks the same when using MS Word to view):

rec_time=00h 00m 3.00s

I find it to be a nice plus. And, for those who are really into spreadsheets, applications and databases: There are numerous possibilities.
These are all just some minor details, which you will discover on your own. Advanced (experienced) users of bat detectors, will be able to just "take the ball and run with it" (as they say).

Suffice it to say, that programming the unit (for automated operation, etc.) is not difficult in the least.
Which reminds me: I've found it easy to become accustomed to using The Griffin. After only reading through the User Manual once. This is not the case with all advanced bat detectors, by the way. With other high-end detectors, you need to practically study the manual...So, I believe this is important to note.
As far as one-handed operation: Although it is possible, I much rather use both hands when operating the unit.

I happen to like the way it instantly switches (or toggles) between each of it's operating modes - With a press of the 'H' key. Each push will scroll through: Heterodyne, Frequency Division, Binaural, and Silent (recording) mode.
Another advantage, is that your recording time, is only limited by the size of your CF memory card. It's basically the kind of instrument you can take on a bat survey or exploration, without the need for any additional equipment. This is not to say that you cannot bring additional recorders, etc. if you so choose. As some users, may want to do just that. The usual (lossless) direct-to-card recording is not the only way to record. There happens to be a perfectly serviceable Headphone Jack provided. This can be used for recording either a heterodyne, frequency division, or Binaural output - to any suitable recorder.

For example: I tried a few further tests myself, this evening. And the results were great, just as I expected - Like having 3 different detectors available, all in the same box.
So you see, you do get a lot of bat detector for your money. If your an advanced Hobbyist: You'll have enough variations to experiment with (to keep you busy for a while).

But again, the point of this system; one of it's main advantages, is that you can just grab it and go. Battery life is great - A set of 4 AA-size, fully charged (NimH), or fresh alkaline batteries - will last you all evening, and well into the dawn hours. This has always been the case for me (regardless of the type of batteries I've employed).
I have come to realize, that an important facet, of the overall value of a bat detector - Is how easy it is to use. A bat detecting system that is easy to set-up and use, is likely to be one that you use more often. As opposed, to one that needs a bit more set-up time, accessories, and sometimes: A bit of a hassle.
In other words: How is the detector for daily use? Well, at this price-point; you get an advanced system that also happens to be very easy to use. When you become familiar with it: It can go from 'Off' to 'Listening' (recording) in under ~20 seconds.

Things I like: 
The display! Plus it's ability to automatically or manually (10 levels) adjust LCD brightness.
The external power option - Makes stationary recording free of the hassle of battery changing.
The internal (electronic) design of the unit - Such as limiting the AGC to be employed for speaker or headphones only.

Things I don't like: 
I would like to see a slightly more protected microphone: Something to provide a bit of protection of the mic element. This appears to be the only (external) design weakness I could find. I realize I may be "nit-picking" here... Let me be a bit more clear on this: The housing itself is OK, and in general, seems to be sturdy enough. What I'd like to see, for example - Would be perhaps a fine (translucent), or black nylon (fibrous) material in front of the element. I think I would just feel a bit better. The reason for this, is - The Griffin is such a high-end and capable system, I would prefer to have the "business end" of it kept safe.

More to follow - I hope to add more images to this post in the future (sonograms, etc.)

Stay-tuned for the upcoming Part 3 Of 3 of this review...
*Note* Part 3 of this review, will cover all of the latest updates and new features. As I type this, new firmware-based features are in the works for this unit! There will be quite a few very interesting updates and improvements made to The Griffin, in the very near future...

Link to Part 3 Of 3

Until then, Happy bat detecting!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: The BatBox Griffin, From BatBox, Ltd. (UK) Part 1 Of 3

The Amazing BatBox Griffin, From BatBox, Ltd. (UK) Part 1 Of 3

I was very pleasantly surprised, to have the opportunity to review the formidable Griffin (multiple technology) bat detector; from BatBox Ltd. in England. This is their top-of-the-range model, aimed at Professionals; and advanced hobbyists. For those who are not already familiar with this unit, I urge you to visit the BatBox Web site. And, for anyone wanting more detailed information and specifications, etc.; I would strongly recommend that you download & read the User Guide. Not only will it describe the system in detail; but it also provides great recording tips, which includes specific battery recommendations. And, it basically gives you an idea of what a high-end (Top-of-the-range) bat detector is made of.

The Griffin - BatBox Ltd.'s flagship bat detecting system, is an impressive unit to behold. In the hand, you are able to perceive a bit of heft to it - But not too much. Especially when you consider what this unit offers: An advanced, self-contained bat detecting system; which automatically records to CF memory cards. In addition, it's loaded with useful features. This is not just another high-performance bat detector - It is a complete system: Which allows automatic/unattended and scheduled (timed) recordings - Where recording start & stop times are specified by the user. 

First things first: This unit is 3 complete bat detectors, in one hand-held package. Remarkable.
I've got to tell you, for starters - I've determined that the unit is very sensitive, in each of the three modes! Also, being able to easily toggle, through each of the modes (with a simple push of the 'H' button) is really nice.
The frequency division mode is excellent, just as sensitive as their Baton model - Which, as some readers may remember: I have always praised very highly! (and still do). It appears that BatBox really knows how to make a good FD system!
The heterodyne setting is nice and sensitive, the volume may be set quite high if desired (without distortion).
The time expansion system is excellent - Providing an awesome sampling rate of 705.6 kHz
And, the mixed / Binaural setting works a treat! Very nice.

Another prominent feature: Is the large blue display. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Frankly, it is the loveliest display I've ever seen on a bat detector.

Some More Initial Impressions:
There is something a little different, and a bit interesting about this instrument: In that the more you use it, the more you come to appreciate it - Especially, it's features.

Things like: Being able to see your remaining battery life at a glance (displayed right on screen), having a graphical representation of your sensitivity setting (Trigger Level for recording), Real-time display of ambient light and current temperature. I happen to really like the (dynamic) bar indicator, which also indicates the point at which recording will be triggered. It reminds me of the types you see on most modern sound recorders these days.
Another one of the features that you must actually use to truly appreciate, is how a you can see just how many triggered events have occurred - By taking a glance at the display. I've found this to be a great plus. It is akin to having a live gauge of your recording progress.
In an area well populated by bats, or where bats are seen in flight: You can see a numerical representation of your recording progress.
As another example: Imagine you are using the system in it's Silent Mode (another great feature!). Whether in a static location, using it for unattended monitoring, or even walking along wooded areas in the field: The Griffin's display, will indicate the number of recordings (triggered events) that have been made. It can help you decide, if you've collected a sufficient number of recordings for the night.

The front-mounted speaker produces excellent-quality sound, which can be adjusted in fine increments, using the encoder knob. Instant playback of recordings (in the field) is yet another uncommon luxury. There are also various options available, which allow a user to configure several different methods of unattended recording.

All-in-all, a very convenient system - It's very easy to use!

Stayed tuned for Part 2 Of 3 of this review - Which will include: A lot more info, performance observations, and some sonograms.

Click here for Part 2 Of 3 of this review

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Next Bat Detector To Be Reviewed: The Griffin From BatBox, Ltd. UK

Just a very quick "Heads-up" - To let you know, that the next bat detector I'll be testing and reviewing will be  The Griffin, from BatBox Ltd.

Have a look at this machine!
 ---------Display, outdoors, In the dark (Listening) Enhanced to compensate for Camera ------

Happy bat detecting!

Typical Recorders Used For Recording Bats

When using the typical, hand-held bat detectors - The ones we all know & love so much : ) A couple of items are needed, if one intends to record bats. First, of course, is a digital recorder.
The fact is, just about any device that can record sound can be used; including your laptop PC. Anything from a $15 tape recorder from RadioShack, to a top-of-the-line Sound Devices 7xx series can be used.
What I would like to share, are some recommendations that I've received, directly from a couple of bat detector Manufacturers. I love it! What could be better?!?
OK, first up, is the well known Pettersson D240X. If you just think about it for a moment... Many of you will probably remember which recorder has always been recommended (and, many times pictured with) this detector...
Yes, it is the Zoom H2 Digital Recorder! OK, that was an easy one! The D240X is pictured with the Zoom H2 recorder on a few different Web sites (in several languages!).

Next up, the BatBox Baton (from BatBox Ltd.). Here are the recommended recorders:

The Yamaha Pocketrak 2G, was initially recommended by BatBox. It's cost, was around
£175.00. (Details on the following link
But, it has been discontinued. Yamaha now has this model available: The Yamaha Pocketrak C24, which costs a bit more (at ~ $199.99 US dollars)

The Transcend MP33- 4GB USB (MP3 Player)
It costs only £35.00. Details on the following link
There's also the Transcend MP330 8BG USB (MP3 Player)
*Note:It doesn't record .wav files, but you can
convert from mp3's. It should suit both the Baton and the Duet.

Another well priced model that was recommended, is from American Audio,
called Pocket Record. It is available from CPC (code DP3028605)
at 75.00 + VAT. Details at this link. However, you will need to purchase a lead with a stereo
3.5mm plug at one end and two mono 1/4 inch jack plugs at the other end,
in order to connect it to a Baton, Duet, etc..

And, lastly, I found this "Alternative" recorder - Similar to the above. Details on the following link.

Next post, I will cover some of my digital recorder recommendations; as well as Cables, etc.

Happy bat detecting! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review of The SM2BAT System From Wildlife Acoustics Part 3 Of 3

Review of The SM2BAT system from Wildlife Acoustics Part 3 Of 3

Here is where I would like to share some miscellaneous sonograms and screenshots.

My usual workflow, is to:
Remove the SD card from the SM2 and check it (on PC) for recordings from the night before.
I select one WAC file at a time - Working from the largest (WAC) file to the smallest.
Convert the WAC file to WAV format using the (free) WAC2WAV converter application. The WAC2WAV software allows for a few options & variables. One of the options, is to choose (check-box to tick) is the 'Divide Output By 10' which I normally use. This provides you with wav files that are slowed down by a factor of 10. So, for example, if you were to analyze the files later with BatBox's Batscan SW- You don't have to select anything for 'Frequency and Time Conversion' - It should be left 'Off' which is the default.
Typically, the conversion will produce a lot of individual files. So, I go through each of them, using the same method above.
Recently, I've been using Audacity, to open each Wav file. It's very convenient, because it gives you a visual representation of the audio file very quickly. You can see if there are any bat calls, mixed in among the insect calls. My trees are all occupied by Katydids, etc. - I'm not complaining ('cause I like recording them also!). But, when you're focusing on bat recordings, you have to "weed them out" of course.
Since it's now mid-Summer, I usually find an abundance of my triggered recordings to be entirely of Katydids (for instance). And, I simply delete those and check the next file.
Again, using Audacity (or another audio app) which displays the 'Project' (audio track) conveniently:
What I do, is 'Select All', Amplify' and look at the recording closely, to find any area that looks like a bat call.
I also find myself listening to certain areas of the recording sometimes, just to be sure.

Adhering to the chronological order of a typical workflow, we have:
A typical wav recording (for me), displayed in Audacity:
The above shows a recording with nothing but a Katydid calling. This gives you an idea of what a recording without bats on it looks like.
I've also found, that if you're in a hurry: You can open multiple (wav) files at the same time; and just glance at each one (before closing/deleting) and you can see the bat calls (if they are present) right away. Without even having to 'Select All' and 'Amplify' for instance. It all depends on how much time you have.

This next image, below - gives you an idea of what a recording with bats looks like:
The bat calls, are represented by the "long spikes" on the right-hand-side of the spectrogram. So, as you can see, it's very easy to tell which recordings picked up bat calls - And, which didn't.
Most times, I like to select the area containing bat calls; and cut/paste/save into a new wav file. Which would look like this:
And then, you can look at/analyze the (wav) file, using the application of your choosing. Such as BatBox's Batscan software. Which will produce a sonogram like this quite easily:
BatScan just happens to be the application I go to (these days) - But again, any suitable app of your choosing may be used. For instance, the image above was made quickly, using just the default settings. But, it can be: Enlarged/zoomed-in on, to create an even more prominent "hockey stick" look to the calls.
The kHz settings can be changed, for a more accurate display and analysis.
And, (for a quick "trick") if you do select 'Time Expansion' it will automatically produce a more accurate analysis - Where you can see the calls were actually made between 40-50kHz (Big Brown Bats typically echo-locate between 25-51kHz) see below:
In the above example, you can also see a few Katydid chirps, on the lower left.
The recordings produced, using the SM2BAT are very high-quality. The 192kHz sampling rate is very nice - Crisp & clear. My next post(s) will feature some audio files you may listen to, made by the SM2BAT. And, probably some made by the Pettersson D240X; since I am still very fond of the TE recordings produced by that unit as well.
I hope that you've found this (3-Part) review of the SM2BAT informative (and hopefully, interesting as well).

Happy bat detecting!

General Thoughts About Active (handheld) Bat Detectors Part 2 of 2

General thoughts & Considerations About Bat Detectors Part 2 of 2 "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's...