The Amazing BatBox Griffin, From BatBox, Ltd. (UK) Part 1 Of 3
I was very pleasantly surprised, to have the opportunity to review the formidable Griffin (multiple technology) bat detector; from BatBox Ltd. in England. This is their top-of-the-range model, aimed at Professionals; and advanced hobbyists.
For anyone wanting more detailed information and specifications, etc.; I would strongly recommend that you download & read the User Guide. Not only will it describe the system in detail; but it also provides great recording tips, which includes specific battery recommendations. And, it basically gives you an idea of what a high-end (Top-of-the-range) bat detector is made of.
The Griffin - BatBox Ltd.'s flagship bat detecting system, is an impressive unit to behold. In the hand, you are able to perceive a bit of heft to it - But not too much. Especially when you consider what this unit offers: An advanced, self-contained bat detecting system; which automatically records to CF memory cards. In addition, it's loaded with useful features. This is not just another high-performance bat detector - It is a complete system: Which allows automatic/unattended and scheduled (timed) recordings - Where recording start & stop times are specified by the user.
First things first: This unit is 3 complete bat detectors, in one hand-held package. Remarkable. I've got to tell you, for starters - I've determined that the unit is very sensitive, in each of the three modes! Also, being able to easily toggle, through each of the modes (with a simple push of the 'H' button) is really nice.
The frequency division mode is excellent, just as sensitive as their Baton model - Which, as some readers may remember: I have always praised very highly! (and still do). It appears that BatBox really knows how to make a good FD system!
The heterodyne setting is nice and sensitive, the volume may be set quite high if desired (without distortion).
The time expansion system is excellent - Providing an awesome sampling rate of 705.6 kHzAnd, the mixed / Binaural setting works a treat! Very nice.
Another prominent feature: Is the large blue display. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Frankly, it is the loveliest display I've ever seen on a bat detector.
Some More Initial Impressions:There is something a little different, and a bit interesting about this instrument: In that the more you use it, the more you come to appreciate it - Especially, it's features. Things like: Being able to see your remaining battery life at a glance (displayed right on screen), having a graphical representation of your sensitivity setting (Trigger Level for recording), Real-time display of ambient light and current temperature. I happen to really like the (dynamic) bar indicator, which also indicates the point at which recording will be triggered. It reminds me of the types you see on most modern sound recorders these days.
Another one of the features that you must actually use to truly appreciate, is how a you can see just how many triggered events have occurred - By taking a glance at the display. I've found this to be a great plus. It is akin to having a live gauge of your recording progress.In an area well populated by bats, or where bats are seen in flight: You can see a numerical representation of your recording progress.As another example: Imagine you are using the system in it's Silent Mode (another great feature!). Whether in a static location, using it for unattended monitoring, or even walking along wooded areas in the field: The Griffin's display, will indicate the number of recordings (triggered events) that have been made. It can help you decide, if you've collected a sufficient number of recordings for the night.
The front-mounted speaker produces excellent-quality sound, which can be adjusted in fine increments, using the encoder knob. Instant playback of recordings (in the field) is yet another uncommon luxury. There are also various options available, which allow a user to configure several different methods of unattended recording.
All-in-all, a very convenient system - It's very easy to use!
Stay tuned for Part 2 Of 3 of this review (below) - Which will include: A lot more info, performance observations.
The BatBox Griffin Part 2 Of 3
Aside from the fact, that that The Griffin is an advanced instrument for bat detecting - I feel compelled to mention, that it is somewhat of a conversation piece as well! You may think that I've "lost it" this time...but, it's true! And, I just had to mention it - Although it may seem trivial to some...I find it to be a nice advantage.You take this beautiful, blue display for instance:
It's a back-lit, LCD/negative blue display (128x64). And, it's simply a joy to behold - Complete with very cute splash screens at boot-up and shut down! They will be a neat surprise to new owners of this unit. Well, these are the kinds of things that even the layperson (even one who has no interest in bat detectors) can appreciate.
OK, this is a serious bat detector - So let's get back to a serious review...In general, the layout on The Griffin, is very straight-forward and simple. I like the front-mounted, diffused, LED indicator. It's a bi-color LED, and provides a soft, intermittent flashing: Green: to indicate Normal/On operation. And Red: to inform the user that a program has been stored, and will execute. It serves to assure the user, that although the unit is in a powered-off state; it will be turning on/recording later.
Advanced (experienced) users of bat detectors, will be able to just "take the ball and run with it" (as they say).Suffice it to say, that programming the unit (for automated operation, etc.) is not difficult in the least. Which reminds me: I've found it easy to become accustomed to using The Griffin. After only reading through the User Manual once. This is not the case with all advanced bat detectors, by the way. With other high-end detectors, you need to practically study the manual...So, I believe this is important to note.
As far as one-handed operation: Although it is possible, I much rather use both hands when operating the unit. I happen to like the way it instantly switches (or toggles) between each of it's operating modes - With a press of the 'H' key. Each push will scroll through: Heterodyne, Frequency Division, Binaural, and Silent (recording) mode.
Another advantage, is that your recording time, is only limited by the size of your CF memory card. It's basically the kind of instrument you can take on a bat survey or exploration, without the need for any additional equipment. This is not to say that you cannot bring additional recorders, etc. if you so choose. As some users, may want to do just that.
The usual (lossless) direct-to-card recording is not the only way to record. There happens to be a perfectly serviceable Headphone Jack provided. This can be used for recording either a heterodyne, frequency division, or Binaural output - to any suitable recorder. For example: I tried a few further tests myself, this evening. And the results were great, just as I expected - Like having 3 different detectors available, all in the same box.
So you see, you do get a lot of bat detector for your money. If you're an advanced Hobbyist: You'll have enough variations to experiment with (to keep you busy for a while). But again, the point of this system; one of it's main advantages, is that you can just grab it and go.
Battery life is great - A set of 4 AA-size, fully charged (NimH), or fresh alkaline batteries - will last you all evening, and well into the dawn hours. This has always been the case for me (regardless of the type of batteries I've employed).
I have come to realize, that an important facet, of the overall value of a bat detector - Is how easy it is to use. A bat detecting system that is easy to set-up and use, is likely to be one that you use more often. As opposed, to one that needs a bit more set-up time, accessories, and sometimes: A bit of a hassle.
In other words: How is the detector for daily use? Well, at this price-point; you get an advanced system that also happens to be very easy to use. When you become familiar with it: It can go from 'Off' to 'Listening' (recording) in under ~20 seconds.
Things I like: The display! Plus it's ability to automatically or manually (10 levels) adjust LCD brightness.The external power option - Makes stationary recording free of the hassle of battery changing.The internal (electronic) design of the unit - Such as limiting the AGC to be employed for speaker or headphones only.
Things I don't like: I would like to see a slightly more protected microphone: Something to provide a bit of protection of the mic element. This appears to be the only (external) design weakness I could find. I realize I may be "nit-picking" here... Let me be a bit more clear on this: The housing itself is OK, and in general, seems to be sturdy enough. What I'd like to see, for example - Would be perhaps a fine (translucent), or black nylon (fibrous) material in front of the element. I think I would just feel a bit better. The reason for this, is - The Griffin is such a high-end and capable system, I would prefer to have the "business end" of it kept safe.
More to follow - Stay-tuned for the upcoming Part 3 Of 3 of this review...