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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review Of The Batseeker 3 - Entry Level Bat Detector


An early version of The Batseeker 3. This is before the loop was added.

This review will deal with The Batseeker detectors (Versions 1 to 3) but be advised, that the latest version, The Batseeker 4 is the unit which is currently available.

The units are just over 14 cm in length, and are very light in weight. As can be seen on this video clip made by Batseeker.

The price of the unit, is it's most attractive feature: At only $44.99 with free shipping to the U.S. and Canada; it's the lowest cost bat detector currently available anywhere.

Back of the early Batseeker 3, speaker is visible.

The Batseekers are Frequency Division bat detectors, and are designed from lightweight black plastic.
These detectors are constantly being improved, in many different ways - Which is great news! 
For just one example - The latest Batseeker 4 is now constructed using higher quality PVB plastic.

The Batseeker 3 was very simple to use: It consists of just one On/Off switch!
In it's latest rendition, The Batseeker 4: There are convenient new buttons on the back, allowing a user to easily control speaker output volume. Another significant improvement, is the addition of a new amplifier stage.

A later version of The Batseeker 3. The case loop is just visible on the right.

The Batseeker is ideal for those wanting to try bat detecting, without investing too much money. I would recommend it for first-time buyers who are looking for the least expensive bat detector available. Also very good for children - with supervision - because the Batseeker(s) will get damaged if dropped on hard surfaces outdoors.

Back view of The Batseeker 3, showing open battery compartment.

The process of using it, consists of turning it on, and pointing the side with the microphone hole (now indicated by orange paint) towards the area of suspected bat activity.

Pros: 

  • It is the lowest cost bat detector currently available.

  • Small and slim in size, easily portable.

  • It may be powered with 2 standard AAA sized batteries. However, Sanyo eneloop rechargeable NimH are highly recommended for best performance.



Cons:

  • Lightweight plastic construction may be easily damaged (if dropped on a hard surface, etc.).
  • No algorithms in place to distinguish between biological and man-made sounds (all ultrasounds are detected).

The Batseeker 4 may be ordered from several sources:



The units are very quiet (practically zero background noise!), and well-suited to static / un-attended recording. Simply turn on, and point microphone side out (on a windowsill, for example). 
In the recent past, I've had fun using Batseekers to record bat sounds on (low-light) video clips. My attempts didn't produce great results, (I used a low-cost tablet, and a point & shoot camera at the time). When I edit the (fair quality) recording(s), I'll add them to this review.
This year, I'll have infrared camera(s) available, so watch this spot for updates... 

As the weather begins to warm here in New York, I'll have an opportunity to record some additional bat calls. Using an audio cable this time - All Batseeker detectors feature a (3.5mm [mono]) audio out jack; and I'll add the resulting recordings to this review.

So at a cost of only $44.99 U.S. dollars, you now have virtually no excuse not to try the awesome hobby of bat detecting!

And, finally - I've recently been informed, that I will have an opportunity to test and review the latest Batseeker 4 soon!

Happy bat detecting!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review of The SongMeter SM4BAT FS from Wildlife Acoustics

Review of The SM4BAT FS SongMeter from Wildlife Acoustics

Note: This review will be updated further, over the next few weeks (with extra details, spectrograms, etc.)

The SM4BAT is the latest SongMeter system, available in both full-spectrum and zero-crossing models, from Wildlife Acoustics. It is a ultrasonic bat recorder, designed to be used as a passive/unattended recording solution.

It's a single channel recording system, which is both lightweight and compact. And has the ability to be left unattended, for long periods of time (up to 45 days!).
A very concise overview of this new unit, may be seen on the manufacturer's page Here.

The SM4BAT arrives double-boxed and very well packaged. In other words, the product box is protected by air-filled cushions (as well as bubble wrap).

The unit's dimensions are as follows:
Height: 8.6" (218 mm)  Width: 6.0" (152 mm)  Depth: 3.1" (78 mm)
1.6 lbs / .7 kg without batteries, 2.9 lbs / 1.3 kg with batteries


I can also state, that no less than 9 of them will fit into an ordinary backpack.

As per Wildlife Acoustics' Web site:
"The new, low-power microprocessor, combined with 4 D-size batteries, enable the longest deployment times of any other bat recorder available. The SM4BAT FS has a recording run time of 250 to 450 hours (e.g. 25-45 10-hour nights) depending on bat activity and other factors."

There are several features which make this bat detecting system desirable:
  • It's particularly well-suited for those in need of unattended monitoring/recording of ultrasounds; especially bat activity. 
  • It is capable of recording an unprecedented number of bat passes - up to 45 nights! directly across multiple (up to 2) SD cards. 
  • It's very easy to use, and no PC is needed for the set-up, or actual recording.
The new SMM-U2 microphone's low noise and superior sensitivity, makes it an excellent addition to this Song Meter system. More on this Mic later...

The Song Meter SM4BAT is designed using very heavy-duty poly-carbonate, which is impervious to extreme weather conditions. It was definitely designed with the needs of Ecologists in mind.

As with it's predecessors (earlier Song Meter systems) it is very easy to set-up and use.

The SM4BAT FS may be purchased directly from The Wildlife Acoustics page Here.


As always, the Customer Service/Support aspect of Wildlife Acoustics: In a nutshell, their Technical Support is second to none.

This new SM4BAT FS has proven to be excellent for my nightly recordings.

Another neat attribute of the SM4BAT I like, is how the microphone units are protected.  Using a well-secured, dark gray foam. In the printed materials provided, Wildlife Acoustics explains just how waterproof their SM4BAT platforms are. As in the past, they also provide tips and best practices for outdoor deployment. 

The Song Meter SM4BAT has been designed with great pick-up range. There is a PCB mounted, 3.5mm earphone jack located inside the SM4BAT's enclosure. This is provided so that one can listen to the sound input while recording; this may be used for live monitoring, to check the status of microphone(s), perform test recordings, etc.

No tools are required to open the unit.
With the top cover snapped back on, in preparation for mounting/deployment - The green LED light will be visible to you, via a built-in diffuser. So that you can get feedback before, during, and after the unit is mounted:
- A steady, repeated blinking: Indicates the unit has started it's scheduled recording. This informs you that the system is awake, and is actively monitoring.



The installation and configuration of the SM4BAT is a very easy process.
Just install batteries - 4 D cells (Energizer brand recommended), a Class 4 SD memory card, and you're more than halfway done.  


Some of the other main features are: The LCD display - Which is easy to read, and will help you set all device options.
Among the main things you might want to do are:
- Set the Record Start and Stop times, set the internal clock.
- Adjust Sensitivity values which you can use to fine-tune the level for the triggering.
There are a few other things, which you will learn all about from the User Guide; which happens to be one of the best I've ever seen.

It has been a pleasure to use. And thanks to Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope software: The analysis of bat recordings has been a breeze ever since! I've got lots of recorded bat calls to listen to, and create various sonograms with.


The SM4BAT happens to be the approximate size of other comparable unattended recording solutions. In fact, it is a bit smaller than some. It is easily portable, fitting one (along with accessories, etc.) into a backpack is effortless. Without batteries installed, the unit is very light. 
As previously stated - The fact is, you can fit 9 of these units in a typical backpack (with room to spare).

Sensitivity and filtering are fully adjustable, across the spectrum of the unit's abilities.


The fact that the unit can be used as a "Set-and-forget" recorder (for up to 45 days) is a plus.
The unit is very economical; especially when compared to similar systems which are currently available.

The Kaleidoscope software, from Wildlife Acoustics is very versatile; and produces nice-looking (and informative) sonograms.

With the great help/suggestions and support I received from the Folks at Wildlife Acoustics, I ended up with a diverse collection of recordings. The nice thing about it, is that I was able to test a lot of different variations of settings. In a short period of time.  


You can basically go either way, in your approach to the use of this system: You may choose to rely mostly on the default settings - And take a more simple approach (which is exactly what I did in the beginning of the test period). Or, you may be the type who enjoys tinkering & experimenting. In which case, you'll find a fair number of combinations, for customizing preferences.

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: The M500 USB Ultrasound Microphone

Review of The M500 USB Microphone

The M500 Ultrasound Microphone, is an advanced USB device for detecting and recording the ultrasounds of bats.
It arrives from Pettersson Elektronik, doubled-boxed. The unit (and included accessories) come in a neat, white box. Along with a ZipLok-type bag, as seen in Pic below:

Also see my 'First Impressions' Post


The unit is intended to be used with a tablet PC (or equivalent) or a laptop computer.
I did a lot of testing of this unit on several types of devices; I preferred to use it with a laptop.
The newest version of this USB microphone, The M500-384 is very small and light - Yet, the M500 series is very strong at the same time (being constructed of sturdy Aluminum). 
As per Pettersson's Site, the dimensions are: "43 x 114 x 13 mm (incl microphone horn)"
To be clear, both The M500 and The M500-384 are now the same physical size.
You'll also find this unit's additional features listed on the link above.

The M500 Unboxed
 
The instrument's very small size, allows it to be quite flexible, in terms of which devices it may be attached to. 
It may even be used on devices as small as a cell phone. And anyone with prior experience with similar equipment, will find the unit easy to use.

I was excited about this new USB-based detector when it was first announced. I'll state, right from the start - that I really like the way it looked. I like the idea/design of the hardware itself - More specifically, the layout/design of the indicator lights (more on that later). 
And as always, I'm interested in an ultrasound recorder which can be used for both unattended, and field recording of bats.

Of course, it may also be used to record other animals / ultrasounds as well. The other pleasant surprise, is it's price: Now you'll find substantial differences in price, depending on where in the World you're located, etc. But, I've seen prices from under $400 US Dollars -to- around £465 in the UK. So, it's not as expensive as some other solutions. As always, I advise you to shop around for the best price. Check-out:
Wildlife & Countryside Services

An overview, of the very latest version of their Batsound Touch software, may be seen here.
The newly released, free version of the software has been designed to run The M500 smoothly, on almost all Windows tablets. And the M500-384, is even more flexible: It may be used on Windows an well as Linux platforms. And with different ultrasound recording software. The M500 is an ideal choice for someone who enjoys trying-out the various software packages available.

When considering the hardware which will be used with The M500: At the risk of stating the obvious, I would recommend using one with a high-power CPU, for best results.
The Batsound Touch software is very versatile, with lots of features; so there are quite a few ways in which to record sounds. More details to be added here, in the near future...

I've completed some tests and comparisons on one of the first prototypes of this unique microphone. Recording tests of The M500 revealed a very capable piece of equipment.

The M500 is lightweight and very compact. Upon plugging it in to my laptops (one running Windows 7, the other Windows 8) via USB cable, It was always recognized straight away.

I'm happy to report that The M500 can pick up bats at almost the same distances as my other top bat detectors. Some of which, have higher price tags than The M500.
And overall, it performed very well indeed! The sensitivity of this mic is wonderful!


The M500 is easy to hold and position, due to the durable & flexible USB cords that come provided.
Installation is easy, and it's easy to set-up and use: One end of the USB cable gets plugged into the M500 and the other end is plugged into your computing device.

The majority of (most commonly used) features, present themselves on your computer's screen, via The Batsound Touch interface.
The M500 (and M500-384) would be ideal units for those interested in:
Transects (esp. mobile/from a vehicle, or other forms of transport)
Unattended recording, as well as live recording (using a Netbook/small laptop PC).

When you are ready to record some bats - 
  • Plug one end of the (provided) USB cable into the back of the unit 
  • Plug the other end into an available USB port on your computing device 
  • Launch The Batsound Touch software 
  • Check the software's settings (which will be set the same as you left them) 
  • Click 'Record'
After setting up the M500 on my Asus Netbook (mini-laptop) for an evening of bat recording - I got into the habit of turning off the WLAN (and Bluetooth). The initial idea, was simply to have one less device using the resources of my wireless router (overnight).
Even though, I realize that the the impact is minimal (to say the least). It seems to not only free up more PC resources (making the Batsound software scroll even faster), but also quiets background hiss even further. This may be a helpful "trick" to try, if you're using a low-end Netbook/laptop like mine.
For example, low-end notebooks will typically have suboptimal RF shielding. 

So it appears that this is another case where the more I use this bat detector, the more I like it.

Pros:
  •  Front-facing, high-quality sensor (microphone element)
  •  Simple device, robust: virtually nothing to break-off or get physically damaged.
  •  No batteries to worry about.
Cons:
  • Not weather-proof.

After a very straightforward software installation; using the device is simple:
  • Customize the various recording Settings, as per your preference.
  • Click the "Record" button, and you will observe the live spectrogram display and may adjust volume, etc.
The current price of an M500 directly from Pettersson Elektronik is just under $400 (US Dollars). Price is subject to change. 
It may be ordered directly from Pettersson Elektronik; here -or- by e-mailing:  (info@batsound.com)
You may also browse their full Product List by visiting their homepage.

The simple fact is, this device can detect, and make useful (accurate) recordings of bats in flight - at impressive distances.
During my various tests, I also discovered that the recordings created by The M500 were of such high quality, that they enabled Auto ID software packages (such as Kaleidoscope) to produce more accurate identifications!
More accurate identifications, as compared to recordings from the other, high-end detectors.

The spectrograms produced are lovely. They will be added to this review, in the near future...

The M500 USB Microphone would be ideal for anyone performing passive (stationary) recordings of bats. It may also perform very well for driven transects; where the use of a laptop isn't a hindrance. 
If the computing device used is very small, and light (cell phone) - I can see The M500 being a wonderful candidate for walking transects. It would be perfect for someone recording bats from inside a home. I've tested it in this way many times, using various laptops. It's very convenient to set-up. The Aluminum enclosure is secured outside, pointing in the general direction of expected bat activity. 
You may even perform work on your laptop, while detection is in progress.

With The M500, we now have another, USB-based microphone for ultrasound recording; and it may be used across several devices. This review, is actually still a work-in-progress; and more Info and Pics will be added soon.

I'm happy to see, that there are quite a few USB-based bat recording solutions available to us now. Dodotronic has also released a new version of their Ultramic; which I am to be testing and reviewing soon.

Still to come, are reviews of The SM4BAT FS from Wildlife Acoustics, and The Batseeker 3.

Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Useful Information, And Some Links Re: Batscan Software

Just a temporary Post - A couple of resources of information on Batscan software, from BatBox Ltd., which will be useful to some (especially beginners).

Batscan software tutorial:




Great Guide to Batscan - PDF from www.bats.org.uk

Batscan Software 

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Update Post - Priliminary Information

I've just been informed, of this remarkable paper - Written about the bats which are practically in my "backyard" - I am thrilled! It's outstanding, and I simply had to share it here. 

I'm paraphrasing here, and I don't remember who said it. But, it's been said, that when you're a Naturalist - the study/appreciation of one facet of nature often leads you to the study of another, etc.

So, here's a link to a great paper on Coyotes in NYC, for those who might be interested.


Just about anyplace in Westchester County is great for bat detecting. Many areas of Yonkers, NY in particular, have excellent populations (and diversity) of bat species. And I love bat detecting there!

The two bat detectors which have been getting the most use (lately) are:

The very affordable Batseeker 3 from Batseeker.

-And-

The very advanced SM4BAT FS from Wildlife Acoustics.

I must apologize for the delay, in getting the full reviews of these two units posted. I've been dealing with (the additional) nerve pain of "Sciatica" for the past 5 months. I will publish reviews of the three detectors (The M500 also), which are under test very soon!
Even if they have to be outlines of a review, until they can be fully fleshed-out.

Check-out what my friend Frank has been up to Here



*Note: I had to enable Comment Moderation - Due to the increase of spam-related comments. Everything else remains the same. You can still comment anonymously. I now decide which comments will be posted. 

Happy bat detecting!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Update Post - Current Happenings And News For Early May 2016

Just a quick update Post, to convey current events - As well as some protracted hopes...

Where to begin? Well, the short list, of new bat detectors is as follows - In approximate chronological order of their arrival:
All three of these detectors have been under test, since their arrival. And each will be dealt with, via a detailed review.

So far:
The Batseeker 3, has been working out well; and has been my go-to detector when I'm in a hurry. It's great for placing on a windowsill. I tried connecting a small amplified speaker (to it's 3.5mm output jack) and it works wonderfully.
The (9v/PP3 battery powered) speaker I use, was purchased at RadioShack. However, I'm sure any simple, amplified speaker would work as well.
 
Back when I first learned, that I'd have the opportunity to test & review an M500 USB Mic from Pettersson: I went ahead and purchased a tablet, just for the occasion.
At the time, the developers of SoundChaser software, had been using (recommending?) the Acer Iconia W4 tablet; so that's what I got.
I'm in the process of re-imaging it, to free-up resources - So that BatMicRecorder / Batsound software will run faster, etc. I have run the M500 USB Mic on this Acer tablet before, and it worked fine.

Just recently, Part 2 Of 2 of the BatBox Baton XD review was completed; and posted.
I feel that it gives a good, general idea of the new Baton XD - But, I believe it could use some work: More details, more time devoted to it's unique features, etc. The Baton XD works very well with (Android-based) Cell phones. Once connected (via cable provided) many advanced features become available.

I hope to begin work on a re-write very soon. The currently published review, shall remain (for now). And will be removed/replaced; as soon as I have the new, more detailed Parts 1 & 2 ready. In the meantime, I'll be adding a few Pics - Illustrating what you get in the box, when you order one, etc.

The next full review, will be of The M500 USB Mic from Pettersson. Followed by, The SM4BAT from Wildlife Acoustics, and The BatSeeker3. 

Happy bat detecting!