Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 2 Of 3

Review: The MiniMIC From Binary Acoustic Technology Part 2 Of 3

When I was a young Lad attending one of my first (private) schools, for those wanting to become Computer Technicians...
The very first thing they taught us was: "Hardware needs software...and software needs hardware." Meaning that each needs the other, in order to function. 
Something for the Novice to keep in mind; simple, but true.

In light of the small "herd" of computer-based bat recorders, which have started to find their way here (to me, for review) - Perhaps this saying bears repeating. At the very least, for the sake of any Beginners, who may be considering the purchase of such devices.
Because - These bat recorders are basically, hardware devices, which do require software.
In the case of these ultrasound recorders, the "software section" is being provided by your computer (in simplest terms).

Several of these types of bat recorders have already been reviewed here. Including, in fact, another great detector from Binary Acoustic Technology: The AR125 
You can see my Review of it here: Part 1, Part 2
I have also reviewed devices here from: Avisoft, Wildlife Acoustics, Dodotronic - Several more are currently in progress (This BAT MiniMIC, The M500) - And there are a couple more, still in development...

...Back to The MiniMIC USB Microphone, from Binary Acoustic Technology. And, the software which comes bundled with it - A full-licensed copy of SPECT'R III and a "limited" copy of SCAN'R; along with device drivers, etc. All located on the included CD ROM.

A screen-capture of SPECT'R, Window maximized while running

Note: When using SPECT'R, with it's default Contrast & Brightness settings: The (scrolling) live display (spectrogram) window always looks best when it isn't maximized. If you choose to use it maximized, then some minor adjustments to those two controls, will yield a better-looking display.
As you may have seen, in my First Impressions post, and Part 1 of this Review: The BAT MiniMIC kit has a very neat and simple appearance. Again, it is of a nice compact size and weight. Also, this MiniMIC is not a brand-new product. It has been available for over a year now.

After more than a month of testing, comparing, and (sometimes) simply using The MiniMIC: I've become very familiar with it's capabilities. Within this time, The MiniMIC microphone and SPECT'R III software has never let me down. The software never "froze" or crashed.
Something else to note, is that unlike several other (similar) microphone control applications: SPECT'R will allow you to launch it, without a device attached. It may seem minor to some, but I found this to be a plus.

SCAN'R - Automated Call Analysis Processor, is described very well by Binary Acoustic Technology, on their Website: 

"SCAN'R is a post collection processing tool.  It automatically scans files and file directories searching for recordings with bat calls.  It generates either SonoBat or Anabat compatible parameter sets.  It also runs on Windows XP/Vista/7/8. "

Now, I know of some Professionals, who shun computer-based recorders. Apparently, they have their reasons...None that I happen to agree with (for the most part).

The way I feel about this subject, can be summed-up as follows: "Injecting" the detected ultrasound directly into your computer, (creating a recording) removes an extra step: 
You don't need to remove, and (physically) transport an SD Memory card (from the recorder, to the computer). Then, copy the recordings (typically .wav files) over to the PC where you'll analyze them. Many of you are probably thinking "It's not that big a deal in the first place, really". And, I might have even agreed with you! But, I've grown rather accustomed to this arrangement lately...

Well, on the topic of computer-connected ultrasound recorders, a few have shared their dislikes with me.

I have read quite a few complaints in the past (again, mostly from Professionals). Among the ones that I do recall (at the moment) are:
  • They would rather not be tethered to a laptop.
  • They would rather have a device with batteries, replaceable in the field.
  • They would rather not have a bright laptop screen to look at (ruining their dark-adapted eyesight)
And, some of us might agree with some (or all) of these Cons.

I enjoy doing passive recording, so I don't mind being connected to a computer.
Laptop batteries although expensive, are not un-obtainable. I will admit, that they'll add considerable weight and bulk, to your kit (bag).
I can certainly understand the concern over a laptop screen ruining one's night-adapted vision. It is a legitimate concern. The only thing I can add here, is that I almost always keep my LCD display(s) at their lowest/darkest setting. While in use, in the field, my thinking was: "I know it's recording, so there's no need to keep looking at it"
Again, I will point out the increasing popularity of Palmtop/Handtop computers (although I don't own one myself).

{For those who might be wondering: I use the term computer, because the term PC (Personal Computer) is generally used to represent Windows-based devices. And, The Echo Meter Touch only connects to iOS (Apple) devices}

What I'd simply like to establish here, is the general ability and performance of The BAT MiniMIC. 
I have performed comparisons and "Shoot-outs" against other bat recorders; practically to the point of exhaustion! I should remind the Reader, that I'm just a "one-man-show" here...
And, what I've found - Is that it's ability, is amazing!
Whenever I wanted to record every, single, last, bat in the area - The MiniMIC was the recorder to reach for. While it is turned on, bats will be hard pressed to "sneak through" your airspace undetected.
This brings us to the next point: What if you require (or simply prefer) to use a hand-held bat recording solution? Such as: An AnaBat SD2, an EM3, a Batlogger M, etc.
Well, then by all means, there is no reason why you should not equip yourself with one!
But, some bats will be missed. If you can accept that reality, then all is well.
I can accept it pretty easily, since I'm just a Hobbyist. Others may not... 

As I've mentioned in a related post: Whenever I test any bat-related product, which runs on a PC: I test it on several different laptops, to monitor it's behaviour, etc.
I noticed something, when putting SPECT'R III "through it's paces": It never had an issue, no matter how old or slow a laptop I ran it on. It always performed without problems.

The SPECT'R III application is used to control and operate the MiniMIC (or other BAT ultrasonic receivers) via a standard USB cable. It basically transforms your laptop/palmtop, into a hard disk drive-based ultrasound recorder. 
It runs smoothly, on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8.

It is one of (the two) software applications which will be covered in further detail, in Part 3 of this review.

Until then,

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Results Of Friday Night's Field Trip...

My Brother-in-law, Nelson, took me for a drive last Friday night; up to a woodland area - So that I could do some serious bat recording. We had fun!

I got an excellent assortment of bat species, and numbers of recordings, for the short time we stayed. The moths were also plentiful, and very cool! I spotted at least one Underwing (Catocala Sp.) - Among my favorites! 
Below, are the results from the "shoot-out". I've included Wiki-Links to the bats.
I'm not prepared to list the main competitors from the "shoot-out" at this time. For now, they will only be known as Detector A & Detector B. 

The identifications of bat species, from the various (.wav file) recordings, was made possible by the "Magic" of Kaleidoscope software, from Wildlife Acoustics. I don't know what I would do without it!

From Detector A: ...OK, the "identity" of Detector A is not important; and shall remain unknown... Suffice to say, that it was a high-end detector, which was held in the hand during testing.

Total: 42 Bat passes

35 - Evening Bats

3  -  Eastern Red Bats

2  -  Big Brown Bats

1  -  Silver-Haired Bat

1  -  Hoary Bat


From Detector B: Detector B...Was The MiniMIC from Binary Acoustic Technology

Total: 96 Bat passes

66 - Evening Bats

17 - Eastern Red Bats

4   - Big Brown Bats

9  -  Silver-Haired Bats

0  -  Hoary Bat  ...Zero Hoary Bats, but Detector A confirmed one...Interesting...

The MiniMIC produced excellent results - even when placed in less-than-ideal positions...

​Well, next up, will be Part 2 Of 2 of my BAT MiniMIC, from Binary Acoustic Technology. Which will address the typical use of the MiniMIC, as well as my thoughts on the unique software applications. There is still so much more to cover/discuss in regards to The MiniMIC...Again, it also needs to go back to Binary Acoustic Technology very soon... 

Some unexpected results of last night's (short) "Shoot-out":
SM3BAT - 5 Bats confirmed (ID'd) 
MiniMIC  - 6 Bats confirmed (ID'd)  
{The SM3BAT was being used in Zero-Crossing mode, as an experiment}

I've also been testing one of the first prototypes, of a brand-new, top secret bat detector. It's output is heterodyne; and it performs wonderfully in the field. I love it :) Due to be released ~ September of this year. I'm sorry that is all I can say for now.
In other news...A brand new (large) software update will be released very soon for The Echo Meter Touch.
Also, a wonderful, new passive monitoring solution is in the works (from another company). It is also currently confidential. It brings me lots of joy, knowing that manufacturers are hard-at-work to bring us wonderful new bat detectors!
I'm also proud to say, that many of them ask me to share my thoughts on their designs, and how I believe they may be improved.

Happy bat detecting!

Bat détection heureux! 

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