Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: The micro trio From Ciel (New X05 Series)

Review: The micro trio From Ciel EaM

The brand-new micro trio bat detector from Ciel is three bat detectors in one. It is capable of operating as a heterodyne, frequency division, and (briefly) as a time-expansion detector! 

It is the latest offering from Ciel in Germany; and is part of their brand-new X05 Series of bat detectors. What makes this bat detector stand-out from the rest, is that it is the first low-cost time-expansion unit made. This is definitely something that many bat detecting hobbyists have been waiting for! 
However, before we all get too excited - I must point out, that this unit will only allow you to make one TE recording at a time.
Be that as it may, I believe it will still be attractive to many beginners; who would love the opportunity to have their very own time-expansion bat detector. 

As the saying goes "We were all beginners once"
Thinking back, to the time when I was a beginner: I know, that I would have gladly welcomed the opportunity; to get a detector which actually featured time-expansion (no matter how limited). 
Had this micro trio been available back then, I would have definitely set my sights on one. Because being able to make TE recordings of your local bats (even if it's one-recording-at-a-time) would've still been an attractive feature.

The current price, of the micro trio is: 199.00 Euros / 270 U.S. Dollars / 162 GB Pounds
(Price includes VAT & Delivery in Europe)

The (single) TE recordings, may be transferred to the recording device of your choosing - Including, of course, your PC (or other computing device) via a stereo patch cable.
This is done simply by playing the recording back (red button), while the micro trio is connected to a recording device. 
Again, this is accomplished via it's (3.5mm) Headphone jack. With the micro trio, you also have the ability to record a bat pass in HD (heterodyne) mode. A full 3 seconds of recording time, in HD Mode. It may not seem like much, to some - But, in practice, it works out just fine. The heterodyne recording is done in real time; whilst the TE recording is slowed down 10x upon playback.

The full product description, may be viewed on Ciel's Website. Their Brief Manual, for the micro trio, may be viewed and downloaded Here
In addition, the full Instruction Manual has also been made available Here. This recently released, 12-page Instruction Manual contains a lot of excellent information regarding the use of the micro trio - And I highly recommend it!

The micro trio fits fairly comfortably in the hand. Those with smaller hands may find it to be a little large for their taste. Especially if you're on a particularly long bat walk. The fact that the unit is very light (with 9v battery installed) helps compensate for this.

With all those stories of detectors falling into streams...I was happy to see an adjustable nylon wrist loop included. 
Insert wrist - adjust for a snug fit - and presto! Bat detector is secured. 
It's like being handcuffed to a briefcase (like in the movies!) - No worries of losing it - Neat!

The shape and design of the X05 Series is totally new, and nothing like Ciel's previous model bat detectors.
The electret-type microphone element is located on the front, right-hand-side of the unit. HD mode operates as you might expect: Frequency is adjusted (tuned) via a conveniently-positioned thumb-wheel. Same goes for tuning in TE mode - One-hand-operation for both. FD mode requires no tuning, of course. You may toggle between modes with the momentary press of a single button. So, it's very easy to use.

As with several of Ciel's bat detectors, the X05 Series of units are best suited for the hobbyist. 
The TE recording feature is activated, by pressing the red 'Rec' button. Best results would be obtained, while observing multiple (or swarming) bats. To further ensure that bat calls are not missed. With a little practice, capturing individual bat calls (recordings) will be easy.

  • Time-expansion mode! (and recording).
  • Three detector technologies in one device.
  • Ability to record in both HD & TE modes, with built-in memory.
  • Relatively low-cost.
  •  9v batteries do not last more than 12 hours of continuous use.

* The reason for this statement "May exhibit a minor background hum" - Is because my test unit did exhibit some background hum/hiss when set at high volume levels. However: My test unit was a prototype, which was partially assembled by hand, etc. I've been informed, that the full production units have had this (and other) minor issue(s) corrected. Hence, the reason for the asterisk *

As with many bat detectors in this price-range, a small amount of background noise may be heard. I've found that it may be controlled very well (greatly reduced), simply by lowering the volume. 
The background "hiss" may even be eliminated - By lowering the volume setting -and- using earphones (headphones).

As always, the majority of my bat detecting is done via passive monitoring (overnight recording). In the case of the micro trio, I do this using the FD mode. A rechargeable (NiMH) 9v battery lasts for one overnight recording session - From Dusk until Dawn. Currently (in my case) this amounts to less than 12 hours.
High quality / heavy-duty alkaline batteries lasted longer in my tests. And, they also seemed to produce better overall performance. The micro trio displays a "Lbat" indication when the battery must be replaced.

The micro trio has worked well for me, for overnight recording; hooked-up to a Tascam DR-08 digital recorder. Of course, various other digital recorders may be used. Again, make sure that you use a good-quality, shielded stereo cable for connection. This will help avoid local interference from other sources in the area.
As for your recorder, one of the lower quality settings (i.e. 16-bit/44.1kHz) is all that is needed. And, will provide even better results in some cases than higher quality settings. This is also true, when using lower-quality (inexpensive) digital voice recorders. However, you should feel free to experiment. As you can see on the specification section (under 'Technical Data'), The micro trio's FD mode is of the type which retains amplitude. This is a plus.

The (FD) recordings may be used for playback and analysis: 

FD recording made with micro trio - Displayed (and zoomed) using BatScan 9 
(Bat hasn't been positively identified yet)

The same FD recording - Displayed (and zoomed) using (free) BatExplorer

The new X05 Series of bat detectors, which also includes The BATz 2.0 HD detector (for young Naturalists), The micro duo HD & FD (w/ record memory) may be ordered directly from Ciel Electronique's online shop

These detectors have a range of 18-130kHz; which means that many North American (and European) singing insects will not be detectable. This, of course is a blessing to most!

After testing and using the micro trio a bit longer, and at different (field) locations - I've found it to be a very nice detector overall. 
I also tested the unit with several 8 Ohm speakers - And it was able to drive them nicely, without any issues. Standard, Mono speakers were tested. This would be of interest to those who enjoy passive monitoring. 

These simple speakers also worked well when plugged into the 'Line-Out' of the digital recorder(s) while in use (with The micro mini).
This would enable you to listen/monitor bat passes while recording. Please note, that having a small digital recorder also driving a speaker, will drain additional power from the batteries. As previously stated, the same may be accomplished using (stereo) earphones/headphones. Compared to a full-sized speaker - Small earphones would place slightly lower additional power demands on the recorder's batteries.  

I found each of the three operating modes to exhibit excellent sensitivity. This fact became evident, when the background noise, which was heard while indoors, etc. - Was reduced to practically nil when used out in the field (away from sources of EMI, etc.). Very nice!

The maximum pick-up range (distance at which a bat may be recorded) is still TBD. I will publish any further findings in an up-coming "revisit" post.
At this price point, you shouldn't expect Professional-level performance. However, I believe it is an excellent choice for many bat detecting hobbyists.

As always, I may revisit the micro trio, in a future post.

Happy bat detecting!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Al,

    I've just bought one of these Micro Trios but I've been very disappointed by the amount of background hiss in HD and TE modes. FD seems very good, with hardly any background noise, but I'd be interested to know what your personal experience with HD/TE on this detector was?

    With the volume turned right down (or with headphones plugged in), there's a loud 'electrical hum' coming from the detector body which is still audible several metres away in a quiet room - I think it's this that is causing the hiss at higher volume levels.

    You put up a FD recording in your review which looks very clean in Bat Explorer - do you have any HD/TE recordings for comparison?


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