Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bat Detecting Season 2015 Mini-Reviews Of 4 New Bat Detectors

Bat Detecting Season 2015: Mini-Reviews Of 4 Bat Detectors, And Other Updates

I'm faced with a unique situation this bat detecting season: I actually have bat detectors in queue to be reviewed.
More specifically: Several (brand new models) have arrived, for testing and review - I have had the opportunity to un-pack, and briefly test the various detectors, but haven't had the time to share my first impressions of them. And I've been very anxious to do so!

I have been keeping busy, monitoring weather conditions nightly (New York, USA)...Hoping for an occasional evening with conditions conducive to bat flight.
Since I prefer to monitor and record, on the nights which generate a steady stream of bat activity.

The Folks at Titley Scientific are very nice, and are allowing me to take more time to test the new Express. Thank you Titley! 

The four new ultrasonic devices are:  
...There is, in fact, a fifth ultrasonic device - And it seems to be very eagerly anticipated by all concerned (myself included). But, it hasn't been officially released yet -- And is not available for purchase at this time. So, it's not on this list yet...
It is The new AnaBat Walkabout from Titley Scientific. And, I'm very happy to report that I'm scheduled to receive a loaner unit to test, in the near future.

The AnaBat Walkabout, from Titley Scientific

I'm taking a brief moment away from my (ongoing) review (Part 1 Of 2) of The AnaBat Express, to share my opinions of these four new devices at this time.
I thought it would be a good idea to write a brief, conventional, "mini-review" of each. Similar to a review that one might write on The NHBS Site, for example.
My reviews will soon be featured by Wildlife & Countryside Services as well. Martin is currently working on a new Web page, dedicated to helping you choose the right detector for you. Link will be featured here on the Blog, as soon as it goes live.
I will be including The Anabat Express. I'd like to take this opportunity to provide a short, general overview of it as well - Even though the full (2-Part) version will be the next comprehensive review I post. 
Again, these will simply be very basic, and very short reviews.

While working on the Pros and Cons Lists, for the next two bat recorders -- I realized, that: Each Manufacturer has already put forth the effort, to create their own, respective 'Comparison Charts'. And, that any effort on my part, would prove (mostly) redundant at this time.
Instead, I shall post each of their charts below, followed by my observations, regarding any discrepancies. 
In addition, I do plan to publish my own Pros & Cons for each of these two; inside each of their respective full reviews. After a lot of careful contemplation... 

(click to enlarge)

As per line 14 in Wildlife Acoustic's SMZC chart above, the 'Red X' represents the lack of an 'Integrated Mounting Bracket' for The AnaBat Express. However there is, in fact, one available from Titley Scientific.

(Click to enlarge) 

As per line 9 in Titley's AnaBat Express chart above, we have a green 'Yes' for 'Detachable microphone for external mounting'. This is true, for the most part - The included microphone is detachable. However, in order to "externally mount it", a (fairly inexpensive) Microphone Extension Cable must be purchased separately. 

* The same comfortable (and successful) shape and design of it's predecessor; the original BatBox Baton - Simply a joy to use.
* Incredible sensitivity - Much more sensitive than the original Baton; bats will be hard-pressed to escape it's detection range. It's pick-up range spans far & wide.
* A dual detector - Frequency division and Time expansion; the lowest-cost (full-on) Time expansion bat detector available.
* Complete with accessories - Each new Baton XD includes useful accessories - High-quality (gold-plated) audio cables. Allowing you to plug-into any recording device, including iPhone and Android devices.
* Operation is very simple - It's easy to get used-to using this bat detector (in either mode).

* Retail price may be viewed as a bit high (depending on where you order) - Some may consider the initial investment expensive; however it truly isn't when you consider what you get with this kit.

Bottom Line: Aside from a price tag which some may consider a bit high, there isn't much to complain about with The Baton XD. I really like the unit overall, and honestly cannot bestow all of the accolades that I'd like to, inside this mini-review... It's definitely a bat detector that one can "grow with" (as one's recording skills increase, etc.). The box arrives packed with useful, little goodies; enabling the user to hit the ground running. The BatBox Baton arrives with the cables the user needs, for recording (to more than one device). A 9v (PP3) battery is included; and I also like the drawstring sack provided, for a bit of added protection.

Full review forthcoming... 

This little detector, is by far, the most inexpensive unit you can buy - And it's ready-made, no assembly required. A simple design, using a good quality microphone. Add two AAA Size batteries, and enjoy!
I see that it has improved, since the original Batseeker 2
 Speaker on left-hand side / Battery compartment, upper right-hand side
On/Off switch seen on the far left-hand edge / Microphone hole, on right-hand side

* Very inexpensive - Currently the lowest-priced bat detector available.
* Super-simple to use - Basically, one On & Off switch.
* Very lightweight and portable -The only weight comes from the 2 AAA-sized batteries.
* Great for beginners - Frequency division detector, with no tuning required.

* Construction is not robust - Housing is made from fairly thin (black) plastic.
* Battery latch is not very strong - Battery door sometimes opens on it's own. 
* Short battery life - Battery consumption could stand some improvement. 
* No external jack - There isn't a (3.5mm) jack for audio output / recording.

Bottom Line: 
The new Batseeker 2 is the least-expensive route, for getting someone a working bat detector. It's operation is simple enough to allow practically anyone to use it; including youngsters. An excellent first detector. Obviously better than not having a bat detector at all.
With the addition of well-placed piece of adhesive tape (Masking tape, Scotch tape, etc.) to hold the battery door closed - You have a very lightweight, super-portable, FD detector; at a price that's hard-to-beat.

Full review forthcoming...

* The M500 is compact, very lightweight and portable; yet very well-built, with sturdy construction throughout.
* It features a 500kHz sample rate, 16 bit ADC resolution, an advanced electret Mic element and an 8-Pole Anti-aliasing filter. 
* May be used as omnidirectional or directional - Using the removable, plastic "horn" provided (seen attached, in Photo above).
* Complete with software and high-quality USB cables - Allowing you to connect to virtually any (MS Windows) tablet PC or laptop.

* Cannot be used without attachment to a computing device - Forgive me for stating the obvious, but several Folks have inquired.
* Overall performance of the system, is in direct proportion to the overall abilities (speed) of the PC system it's attached to.
* Will not work on Apple-based devices.
Bottom Line: First and foremost - Please keep in mind, that this (mini) review is based on one of the first Beta versions of The M500. Many changes have taken place, since I was issued this sample (one of the very first units). Batsound Touch software is all-new; and there have likely been some updates made to the actual hardware as well. 
Pettersson's new M500, is a USB-based ultrasonic microphone, providing great overall performance. When considering a USB Mic in it's price bracket or below: It is the clear choice. Each unit will be provided with a light version of the brand-new BatSound Touch software, and (gold-plated) USB cables. The M500 USB Mic performs best on a fast computer; if you have a slow tablet or PC, you may want to consider getting an upgrade.
I happen to like it very much; and find it aesthetically pleasing as well. I found it to out-perform all USB-based microphones in it's price-class (and lower). 
Note that The BAT MiniMic still reigns supreme in the $695 (and higher) category.

Happy bat detecting!

An Interesting Update - For Owners Of The BatBox Baton XD

Just a temporary update post, (an FYI) for owners of The new Baton XD from BatBox. This reminds me of a "Technical Bulletin" commonly issued to Service Departments of computer hardware systems...

A recent post, from BatBox Ltd. --

"Anyone using the Baton XD bat detector may be interested to know that last night whilst using it I discovered an additional unplanned feature. I'd left the connecting lead in the car but remembered the smartphone. When I opened one of the Spectrogram apps, Spectral Pro, it picked up the expanded bat calls from the XD speaker through the phone mic. and displayed them quite clearly on the Android screen. Although phone screens are relatively small, it is quite possible to distinguish the call traces of all three pip species, plus noctule, serotine and myotis (not to species level) without the connecting lead. Of course this requires a fairly quiet background. I know the mics on phones, these days, are easily capable of covering a range of 12kHz so, theoretically, should be able to handle time expanded calls of all British bats."

There you have it, something new to experiment with!

Happy bat detecting!

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