Wildlife Acoustics | Bioacoustic monitoring systems for research, science, industry and governments.

We do not support the use of Micro SD cards with our Song Meter recorders, even with the use of standard SD card-size adapters. Micro SD cards do not perform as reliably as standard size cards, and are more likely to experience file corruption.

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Our microphones are built specifically to work with our recorders, and vice-versa, and use a proprietary cable connection. We are unable to provide support for any use of our recorders with third-party microphones or vice-versa. Similarly, we do not support use of third-party external power cables.

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Our recorders and accessories are rated for use to -20 °C (-4 °F). Temperatures below this may damage the equipment. At temperatures below freezing you can expect the display to become sluggish, have low contrast or go out altogether. Batteries will have a greatly reduced life at colder temperatures; check the datasheet for the batteries you are using for an estimate of the magnitude of this reduction.

For terrestrial recorders, storing the unit in an insulated cooler or even burying it will help protect against short-term temperature swings, but not against sustained temperatures below -20 °C.

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When using a recorder with two microphones, recording from both microphones simultaneously means recording a single stereo file. A stereo file has two channels of audio data that can be played back simultaneously. In the case of recorded music, this would mean one channel being played in your left ear, one in your right ear.

After they are retrieved from your recorder, stereo files can be split into separate mono (single-channel) files using Kaleidoscope's free file conversion features. Under "OUTPUTS," simply check the box to include WAV files and select "Split channels" prior to processing your batch.

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For the best performance with SD cards, we recommend formatting your cards before each deployment. On SM3 and SM4 series recorders, this can be done directly from the recorder's Utilities menu. For SM2 recorders, we recommend instead using the SD Association's Formatter. Regularly formatting your cards can prevent glitches and dropped audio.

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Avoid mounting microphones on tall plastic masts (e.g. fiberglass, nylon, etc.) for deployments in dry conditions because a breeze flowing over the plastic can build up a sizeable electrical charge much like rubbing a balloon. Eventually, the electric charge will be strong enough to discharge with an attraction to the mass of metal in the mic cable, resulting in a spark that could damage the microphone or recorder. Instead, use wood or metal masts.

If electrical storm activity is a possibility, you need to protect the microphone and equipment from damage from electrical discharge. If the best path to ground is through the microphone and/or Song Meter, then the microphone and/or Song Meter can be severely damaged. To protect against this, like a lightning rod, you need to create a better and safer alternate path to ground. One way to do this is to use a pipe clamp to clamp a heavy gauge (18AWG) wire from the microphone to ground (e.g. by securing the other end of the wire to the metal frame of a grounded tower structure, or securing the wire to a metal pipe planted 2 meters into the earth). The connections must be electrically strong, with low resistance. A local electrician might be able to help you with a specific installation. Additionally, it is better to not ground the Song Meter or its power source so there is not a clear path to ground through the Song Meter.

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Non-Triggered Recordings

If you use Kaleidoscope to split stereo recordings into pairs of mono recordings, Kaleidoscope will add a channel indicator to the file names of the mono recordings. For example, the stereo file SN_DATE.wav will be split into the mono files SN_0_DATE.wav, from channel 0, and SN_1_DATE.wav, from channel 1.

Triggered Recordings

The recordings produced by your SM2Bat+ or SM3Bat are marked by what channel prompted the Song Meter to start recording. For example, SN_0_DATE.wav is a stereo recording that was triggered by a signal detected on channel 0. If you use Kaleidoscope to split this stereo recording into two mono recordings, it will add an additional indicator telling you which channel's data each recording represents. For example, the stereo file SN_0_DATE.wav will be split into the mono files SN_0_0_DATE.wav, from channel 0, and SN_0_1_DATE.wav, from channel 1.

SN_0+1_DATE.wav is a stereo recording that was triggered by signals detected on both channel 0 and channel 1. When this file is split into mono recordings, they will be labeled SN_0+1_0_DATE.wav and SN_0+1_1_DATE.wav.

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If you only need to use the GPS accessory to quickly set your recorder's clock and location, you can connect the GPS puck to the recorder until it finds a signal, then disconnect it, and your time and location settings will be saved. You can use a single GPS puck to quickly adjust these settings for multiple recorders.

If you want to use a GPS puck to record location data over the course of a moving transect, or you want to maintain synchronization between an SM3/SM3Bat and GPS time, the GPS puck will need to be attached and receiving a GPS signal for the full recording period.

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The storage space taken up by an uncompressed, full-spectrum audio recording is a product of four factors:

  1. The length of the recording, in seconds
  2. The sample rate of the recording, in samples per second or Hertz
  3. The bit depth of the recording, in bits per sample
  4. The number of recording channels

All of our recorders produce .wav files with a 16-bit depth, except for our marine units, which can optionally be configured to record with a 32-bit depth. The sample rate of our recorders is user-configurable.

You can use our free Song Meter Configurator software to estimate when SD cards of any size will fill up based on your recording schedule and audio settings.

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According to the sampling theorem, it is impossible for a digital recorder to properly record any frequency higher than half of the recorder's sampling frequency (called the Nyquist frequency). Any information above the Nyquist frequency is therefore removed in the process of recording.

Note that the file size of recordings scales directly with sampling rate, so it's not necessarily a good idea to choose the highest sampling rate available on your recorder. Determine the highest frequency you are interested in among your species of interest, including harmonics, and choose the lowest sampling rate greater than twice that frequency in order to save on storage space.

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The SM3 and SM4 configurators can estimate how long your recorder will last based on your settings and schedule, as well as the energy capacity of the batteries you will be using. Under "Deployment Scenario," you can enter the energy capacity of the power source you will be using to get a rough idea of when the recorder will run out of battery.

To calculate the energy capacity in Watt-hours, you need to know the battery's voltage, measured in Volts, and its charge capacity, measured in amp-hours or milliamp-hours (1000 mAh = 1 Ah). These figures can typically found on any battery's data sheet. Note that charge capacity typically decreases as more power is drawn from them. The typical power draw level for your recorder can be found in its user guide.

If we are powering an SM4 using an external golf cart battery that has a voltage of 6 V and a charge capacity of 215 Ah when enough power is drawn from it to completely discharge it in 20 hours. The SM4 uses much less power than that, so the figure of 215 amp-hours should be a safe, rough estimate. Therefore, our estimated energy capacity would be 6 V x 215 Ah = 1290 Wh.

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The SM4 family of recorders are designed with all kinds of weather in mind, and will not let in any water under normal circumstances. However, there are a few routine checks that should be done to make sure that your recorder is as weatherproof as it was when you received it:

  • Examine the black rubber gaskets around the edge of the front and back of the control panel. The gasket should be free of debris and tears. Note that exposure to unusually high levels of UV can soften or degrade the rubber, and DEET, a common ingredient in insect repellant, is known to degrade the plastic used in the SM4's enclosure. Some plant oils may also soften the SM4's rubber gasket over extended periods of exposure. When possible, avoid contact with insect repellants, and in very sunny areas, consider covering the SM4's gasket with some opaque tape or cloth. Replacement gaskets are easy to install and can be ordered by contacting our sales team.
  • Avoid putting strain on the SM4's case by mounting it too tightly. This can create torque that causes the SM4's case to open slightly. Note that trees can sometimes grow rapidly enough to cause further strain on equipment that has been mounted on them.
  • Ensure the hexagonal pressure vent on the right side of the recorder and the nuts holding the microphones in place are hand-tightened and undamaged. Pressure vents can be purchased from our sales team. To get any damaged microphone ports repaired, please contact our support team.
  • Ensure that the built-in microphones on a (non-bat, non-ultrasonic) SM4 are hand-tightened and that the wires connecting these microphones to the SM4's motherboard are tucked into place so they won't get wedged in between two sections of the SM4 housing. This is particularly important to keep in mind when installing replacement microphones on an SM4.

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If you use rechargeable batteries, this may be due to the tendency of rechargeable batteries to lose their energy capacity over their lifetimes. Alkaline batteries from a reputable manufacturer will consistently allow longer deployments than standard rechargeable batteries, even brand new ones. If you do use rechargeable batteries, please refer to the manufacturer of the batteries for the best way to extend their lifespan.

Also keep in mind that different brands or even batches of batteries may perform differently, and temperature differences have major effects on battery efficiency. If you are planning for a deployment in a very hot or cold climate, check the data sheet for your batteries to see how their capacity changes with temperature.

There can also be some variability in how much power SD cards draw, between among different brands or even among different individual cards. For the SM4 series, in which power drawn by SD cards represents a significant fraction of the total power consumption, this can be more noticeable than on other recorders. In our experience, SanDisk cards show the most consistent power usage among different cards.

If you see any white, powdery residue inside your recorders, or a brand new set of batteries or SD cards does not correct the problem, please contact Wildlife Acoustics support.

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If you have any product in the SM3 or SM4 line and it will not turn on, please check/try the following:

  • Install brand new alkaline D batteries.
  • Make sure the power switch is in the correct position (down for internal power).
  • Press and hold the "Stop Program" button for a couple of seconds.

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In order to maximize battery life, our recorders go to sleep after each recording period and wake up some time (30 seconds for terrestrial units, 3.5 minutes for marine units) prior to the next recording period in order to prepare for recording. Additionally, our recorders will not sleep for periods of 30 seconds or less.

It is important to keep this in mind when scheduling on/off recording cycles. The more on cycles the recorder has in a given day, the more times it will have to wake up prior to recording, adding additional "active" time that drains the batteries more than sleep does. It is possible to schedule recordings in such a way that the recorder does not sleep at all, even when not recording.

For example, an SM3M unit with a 2 minutes on/4 minutes off duty cycle will never go to sleep. Marine units must wake up 3 minutes and 30 seconds prior to the next recording period in order to "warm up" their hydrophones, and the recorder will not bother falling asleep for 30 seconds or less. To keep the same ratio of recorded time to unrecorded time while improving battery life, use a longer cycle, such as 10 minutes on/20 minutes off.

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If an SM3 or SM4 series recorder detects a problem with an SD card, it will mark the card as "Dirty" and no longer use that card, to avoid corrupting any further data. This can happen if a recorder momentarily loses power in the middle of writing a file. When it wakes back up and sees a half-written audio file, it suspects that the SD card may be corrupted, so it will mark the card as "Dirty."

Dirty cards can be used again after they are formatted, either using the Format Cards utility on the SM3 or SM4, or by using the SD Association Formatter.

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Performing triangulation of sound sources based on time-of-arrival distances requires multiple recorders precisely synchronized to the same clock, as small differences in time can translate to large inaccuracies in distance. The SM2, SM2Bat, SM3, and SM3Bat all contain hardware that, when paired with an external GPS accessory, allow them to maintain synchronicity with GPS time to within 1 millisecond, making them suitable for this kind of work.

The SM4 and SM4Bat FS/ZC do not have the hardware necessary for continual synchronization with GPS time and therefore cannot be used for triangulation.

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A channel is a representation of sound coming from or going to a single point. A single microphone can produce one channel of audio, and a single speaker can accept one channel of audio, for example.

A digital audio file can contain multiple channels of data. Music that is mixed for headphone listening is saved as a file with two channels - one sent to the left ear, one sent to the right, while surround-sound movie audio is often mixed for 6 channels.

What does this have to do with my recorders?

Many of our recorders have the ability to record on two separate channels, including all SM2s, all SM3s, and the SM4 (non-ultrasonic). These channels are marked as channel 0, or the left channel, and channel 1, or right. When you configure these units to record in stereo, the recordings it saves will contain two channels. If you listen to these files in a conventional audio player, you will hear both channels simultaneously from your left and right speakers. If you open the files in Kaleidoscope, you can switch between viewing and hearing the left and right channels. Using Kaleidoscope, you can also split these stereo files into two mono, single-channel files.

Because the Song Meters listed above can only record on two channels maximum, plugging in an external microphone will override one of the internal microphones on an SM3 or SM4. If you plug one SMM-A2 into channel 0 of an SM4, the left channel will be recorded from that SMM-A2, and the right channel will be recorded from the right-hand built-in microphone if the recorder is configured for stereo recording.

The following recorders only have one recording channel, and will always produce mono files: SM4Bat FS, SM4Bat ZC, Echo Meter Touch, Echo Meter EM3, SMZC.

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This is a very difficult question to answer. It can vary widely depending on the volume and direction of the source, the humidity, foliage, and other factors. You may be able to hear an owl from half a mile away, but not be able to hear a mouse from a distance of fifty feet. As a rule of thumb, if you can hear it with your ears, the microphone will also hear it.

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All recorders

All cards should have a speed class of 4 or higher, and we strongly recommend SanDisk cards, though PNY and Kingston cards will also work.

SM2 Series

The SM2 series of recorders was produced prior to the introduction of the SDXC card standard, which raised the maximum size of an SD Card from 32 GB to 2048 GB. Using SDHC cards, with a maximum size of 32 GB, is the most reliable option when using an SM2, as using SDXC cards can lead to dropped audio and unreliable file transference.

SM3 & SM4 Series

The SM3 and SM4 lines of recorders support both the SDHC and SDXC card standards, meaning they can use cards up to 2048 GB in size.

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When batteries start to die, a recorder might lose and regain power multiple times before finally shutting off. When this happens, the recorder detects something is wrong and writes dump files to aid with later troubleshooting. In most cases, this is simply a sign that you need to replace your batteries.

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As the batteries in an SM4 series recorder die, the hardware can start acting incorrectly. One symptom of this is seeing the message "Fatal Clock Error" when you try to turn the recorder on. This can commonly be resolved by one of two methods:

  • Turn the SM4 off and replace the batteries with brand new alkaline cells (Energizer brand recommended). Wait at least 30 seconds, then turn the SM4 back on. Repeat the cycle of turning the recorder off and on 5 more times if necessary, letting the unit remain off for 30 seconds each time.
  • Load a new SM4 firmware file onto an empty SD card and insert it into slot A of the SM4. Make sure the SM4 has brand new alkaline batteries installed. Then, while holding the UP arrow, turn the SM4 on. This will reinstall the recorder's firmware and restore it to working order.

If neither of these methods resolves the issue, please contact Wildlife Acoustics support.

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