If I had to sum up my thoughts, on The new Song Meter SM3BAT as briefly as possible - In one sentence, for instance - I would say: If you are a fan of The SM2BAT, then you will absolutely love The new SM3BAT! The fit and finish of this new Song Meter unit basically reminds me of The Terminator. I believe bullets might have a difficult time damaging this unit! It's nice to see an advanced, Hi-Tech bat recorder built into such a solid enclosure.
What may be an area of concern, for potential owners of this new unit, is it's price. Yes, the price for a new "Standard" SM3BAT is higher than it's predecessor. I've already read some of the rumblings via social media...However, I believe we should keep in mind, that what you are getting, is an entirely new and unique system. What you are also getting, is reliability - As well as an unprecedented, 3 Year Warranty.
As always, I believe we should look at this new offering objectively, with an open mind. If we simply examine the remarkable success of the original Song Meter Platform, it's easy to imagine how it's new big brother will fare.
The Song Meter SM3BAT is by far the most solidly built bat recorder I've ever seen. Which prompts me to imagine an SM3BAT, being passed on - For at least one Generation of Bat Working Professionals!
If a few, simple precautions are taken in the care of the microphones - I simply cannot see why It shouldn't last for many years. As technology progresses over the years, the features and abilities of the SM3 may be easily increased and/or added - Via simple Firmware updates.
So, for Professionals in Bat Research and performing surveys, this is something else to consider. And a good reason why the higher cost-per-unit, may very well pay-off in the end!
One can easily deduce, that this machine was designed from the ground-up, to compete directly with a lot of the other (similar) systems currently available. Recorders such as: The D500X, The ecoObs Batrecorder 2.0, and The Titley AnaBat SD2.
A chart will go a long way, towards giving you a "bigger picture" of the machines currently available. And how they stack-up in relation to The Song Meter platform. Click this Link, to see a chart from Wildlife Acoustics. But - Please keep in mind, that this particular chart still features the Original Song Meter (The SM2BAT+).
The reason why I believe this (older) chart is still very useful, is simply this: If the Original SM2BAT compared so favorably with the other machines in the past - Just imagine how much farther ahead of the pack this new advanced SM3 is!
Perhaps, with other bat recorders (from other manufacturers), there will come a point when the system will need to be sent back: For repairs, updates, etc. History has shown, this has in fact, been the case for more than one of the (other) units on the Chart. I do not anticipate this being the case with the new SM3 platform. So far, all of it's aspects have only proven themselves to be rugged - Both inside and out. This goes for the "brains" of the unit as well; Control Panel, programming, functions, and reliability in performing those programmed functions.
This machine is excellent for those who require multiple-channel recording. Several microphones may be attached, and deployed (using various lengths of optional heavy-duty cables). Each end of the specially-designed microphone cable has a twist-down collar. Now, twisting these collars down will lock the cable; and prevent it from detaching. However, I did not find them to twist down tightly enough, for my (fastidious) taste. I simply prefer things to be a lot more snug.
During this last week of testing, it has done almost nothing but rain in my area. I'm pleased to report, that not a drop of water was found to be anywhere where it shouldn't be.
Note: As with the set-up of all long-term monitoring solutions: One should always position the microphone(s) at a slight downward angle - To avoid the possibility of water directly bombarding the element inside.
In the past, some SM2 units did experience slight drop-offs in microphone sensitivity, after 2 or more years of being deployed in the field.
I do not see this happening with The SM3 platform. Since the new SM3BAT's standard ultrasonic microphone is built around a completely different core element.
I recommend having a look at the overview, beginning on Page 3 of the User Guide: "The SM3-U1 uses a high-quality FG microphone element." This microphone is manufactured by Knowles, the Worlds foremost manufacturer of advanced microphone elements.
You will be happy to learn that there's a Quick Start Guide, right on page 1 of the User's Manual! Also interesting (and recommended) is Page 4 - One-third of the way down "...Auto Set-Up allows you to..." Interesting reading!
Of course, I have a lot more to share, coming up in Part 2 of this review...
In an effort to help the Reader make a choice, for an unattended bat recording solution - I simply don't want to leave any stone unturned.
From what I can tell so far, I can't imagine the hardware itself ever needing further attention. Only the occasional Firmware update, which is easily performed by the User (via SD memory card).
In what some might consider a short time (less than a month) I have put this new machine through it's paces, both day and night. And in doing so, have become very familiar with it's operation and performance. As well as it's Pros and Cons, which will be listed in Part 2 of this review. And, will also include, amoung other topics: sonograms, recording performance, sensitivity, technical details, etc., etc.
Note: Directly after (the completion of) this Song Meter SM3 review, I'll be beginning the rigorous testing of the brand-new Echo Meter Touch on an iPad mini Retina! Immediately followed by my review of it! I'll be a busy bee...
Part 2 Of 2 Review Of SM3BAT
Happy bat detecting!