Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review Of The SongMeter SM4BAT FS From Wildlife Acoustics

Review of The SM4BAT FS SongMeter from Wildlife Acoustics

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.
A very concise overview of this new unit, may be seen on the manufacturer's page Here.

I can also tell you, 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.
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 SongMeter SM4 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 the similar systems that 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. 

Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Current Events - Awesome Learning Opportunities!

There are a few scheduled events coming-up which you should seriously consider attending.
I will be listing them here... The very latest to be announced, is this onefrom Wildlife Acoustics.

And be sure to Check-out this 2017 Event! - The list of Speakers is virtually a "Who's who" in the world of bat detecting! Wow! Not to be missed!


Have a look at the Agenda PDF

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:

See my 'First Impressions' Post, for more photos.

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 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.

  •  Front-facing, high-quality sensor (microphone element)
  •  Simple device, robust: virtually nothing to break-off or get physically damaged.
  •  No batteries to worry about.
  • 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:  (
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

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.


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!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Review: Baton XD From BatBox Ltd. Part 2 Of 2

Review: Baton XD From BatBox Ltd. Part 2 Of 2

As for the process of using it, it just doesn't get much easier - The Baton XD may still have just the one button. However, for those even vaguely familiar with the (simple) instructions: It's a piece of cake, really.
For instance, I would direct the reader, to Page 2 of The Quick Start Guide
The operation of the Baton XD is very straightforward. So much so, that an attempt to describe the graphical instructions, seems redundant. 

The unit is very accurate. As for the resulting spectrograms: They are simply lovely. And by that, I mean not only aesthetically pleasing, but very accurate as well. While testing the last few bat recording units, I have accumulated a lot of data... As a result, while testing bat detectors these days, I find myself deleting the majority of recordings - Including spectrograms. So, please bear with me, while I collect some (using The Baton XD) to post directly into this review. 

The weather here in New York, USA - Has just now become conducive to bat flight/activity. And I hope to have some spectrograms pasted here very soon...Along with other data. However, I would like to do more than just post spectrograms, as I've done in the past.

This year, I thought it would be nice, to provide night vision videos of the bats; as they are being recorded: Essentially giving Visitors a more accurate experience of each individual bat detector, while in use. It is also a lot easier to include video recordings of the bats in flight, than to include audio clips only.
Well, more on this later... 

Back to the subject at hand: The new BatBox Baton XD

What can I say about this new Baton XD? In my experience, it's proven to be every bit of a workhorse as it's predecessor. That being the original BatBox Baton; which I've owned and used, for years. Although, this unit is even more capable and versatile. When you're in a hurry: It's nice to have a (good quality) bat detector, which you may count on, on your way out the door. 
It's the type of unit, which is simply there when you need it.

As an analogy: It's very similar to the compact pair of binoculars, which a Birder "usually grabs on their way out the door". As you may know, avid Birders usually own quite a few pairs of binoculars. But, many of them come to realize (in time) that there seems to be one pair, which they always reach for - At a moment's notice. That is how I would describe The BatBox Baton XD.
A Hobbyist, and especially a Pro Bat Worker, is also likely to have many bat detectors at their disposal. Now, depending on exactly which, and how many they have available - Chances are, if they are in a rush, The Baton XD would be the one chosen.

Having made that statement, I shall go directly into The Pros & Cons of the unit:

  • Simplicity - It may be operated without even thinking about it.
  • Small / Self-contained - Relatively easy to slip into a (large) pocket (if need be).
  • Sensitive / Accurate - It's general performance, is in a word: Impressive!
  • Great battery life.
  • Features ("real") Time Expansion mode.
  • Attaches to a cell phone / smartphone for recording, live spectrograms & advanced features.  
  • Recording is not built in - An external device of some type must be attached.
  • The unit is somewhat directional, by design - Microphone cannot be expected to be effective at more than 180 degrees.
  • Microphone sensitivity not adjustable - Professionals may desire this feature.
In summary: I'll go ahead and state it - Many of you may already be thinking it: The Cons listed above, may seem a bit "nit picky" to some. Fair enough.
The fact is, I've had a relatively difficult time providing substantial Cons.
For example: The two settings for the volume (in FD mode) have proven satisfactory during my tests.
I happen to like the fact, that the microphone element is protected - Recessed into the built-in "horn" in front.
As previously stated, this (Part 2) component of the Baton XD review, will be updated. Spectrograms, etc., will be added soon.
In the meantime, as always, please feel free to leave Comments (or questions) regarding The Baton XD.
Happy bat detecting! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Baton XD From BatBox Ltd. Part 1 Of 2

Review: The Baton XD bat detector from Batbox Ltd. Part 1 Of 2

The BatBox Baton XD is a new, dual technology bat detector, from BatBox Ltd. UK

I suppose, that after having tested and reviewed almost 40 different bat detectors, I must have developed the ability to discern a bat detector's ability right away
These days, I can practically tell how effective (sensitive) a bat detector is likely to be - Simply by powering it on...Indoors.

Case-in-point, the new Baton XD detector, from BatBox Ltd. A perfect example.
As soon as I un-boxed it, and powered it on: I could sense right-away, that an "ultrasonic mist net" had just been deployed. It could hear the faintest high frequency sounds within many meters, in any direction. It didn't take very long to realize that this one's a keeper!

It features two principal modes of detection: High-quality Frequency Division and Time-expansion (10x). This unit boasts a frequency response better than 18kHz to 120kHz.
Particularly note-worthy, is that time-expansion is among the methods of detection which this portable unit is capable of. We ought to keep in mind, that time-expansion is a technology, which has only recently been made affordable. Most especially, to the average Hobbyist. 
If you were among those bat detecting Hobbyists, who longed to have a TE detector - But could not afford one, then this Baton XD is (still) a "Big deal" for you. 
For a long time, I was among the many Hobbyists who hoped to own a detector with the ability to record in time-expansion. And I could not afford one either...

This is not to insinuate that time-expanded recordings are necessarily the "best", or most desirable of methods for recording and/or analysis -- Only that, until recently, it was simply out-of-reach for most. Including some Ecologists, in fact! Now that I think of it...
It wasn't too long ago, that the lowest-cost TE-capable unit, was selling for $1,500 U.S. Dollars. Two units in particular, come immediately to mind, in fact. 

With the release of the Baton XD from BatBox -- We now have a very capable -and- affordable unit; with which to make time-expanded recordings of echolocating bats.
The Reader may notice, that I've used the words "very capable". This is because The XD from BatBox Ltd. is the first of it's kind, to allow continuous / unattended recording (of TE calls). A rather important distinction, when one looks at the available prospects on the market today. Especially in this price range.

It may also be noted, that BatBox was not the first manufacturer to offer a TE-capable unit, in recent years. One that was affordable, that is.
The X05 Series from Ciel comes to mind. My full review of it, may be found Here.
However, this new Baton XD from BatBox, brings us to another level of (TE) recording ability. As well as the ability to choose a Professional quality, Frequency Divided output.

It's size and weight are very similar to the original Baton (which I've written about / Reviewed Here).
Some current retail prices for a Baton XD, range between about $362 (directly from BatBox Ltd.) to $436 (from NHBS); U.S. Dollars. And, of course, there are other online sources to order from as well. Wildlife & Countryside Services has it for £295 including
UK delivery and VAT.
I would encourage you to shop around for the best price

A very effective way to become familiar with it's features, is to to take a look through the free-to-download Quick Start Guide (direct PDF download Here).

As for the design, it is very similar to the original BatBox Baton; which I'm sure many are at least somewhat familiar with.

This advanced technology Baton XD still retains the ease-of-use of the original. This will be a comfort to those who have owned a Baton before. I found it to be so.

The Baton XD would be an ideal choice, for both beginning and advanced Hobbyists. 
With it's ability to connect to many smartphones: For live analysis, or recording, directly to a smartphone - Many Professionals will find it to be a valuable bit of kit. 
For instance, on Page 1 of The Quick Guide -- The Baton XD is indicated for transects:

"Baton XD is available with built-in strong magnets which will enable the unit to be attached to the exterior of most cars for mobile transect road surveys." 

In the past, I've referred to (the original) BatBox Baton as a "workhorse" of a bat detector. This new Baton XD, is an innovative new bat detector; which is sure to become the new high-tech "workhorse" detector, for many. Especially die hard Fans of the original Baton.   

The Baton XD allows the (headphone-equipped) user, to listen to both the TE (AKA 'TX') and FD audio at the same time. With the push of a button, the user may choose to listen to the TE sounds in the left side, and the FD in the right side; of the headphones -- Or, the other way around, if preferred.
Again, a brief glance at Page 1, of The Quick Start Guide will illustrate all...And of course, the ability to record to your smartphone is also an attractive prospect.

 Part 2 Of 2 of this Review will cover the following material and topics:
  • A description of the process of using it.
  • Photos
  • Accuracy and resulting Spectrograms  
  • Pros and Cons  
  • Summary
The bats are hibernating for the Winter (for the most part), here in New York USA. The BatBox Baton XD and The M500 USB Microphone (from Pettersson) were the two detectors which I finished the season with.

Part 2 of this Review, will be followed by the (long-overdue) Review of the new M500 USB Microphone from Pettersson. There are several exciting developments there as well!

Happy bat detecting!
(to those South of the Equator!)