Since 1971, Extech Instruments has focused on Test and Measurement tools for a variety of industries. They have a large range of products from moisture meters right through to gas detectors. In 2007, Extech was acquired by FLIR Systems bringing this company under the FLIR umbrella.
In this review I will be looking at the Extech 407760 Type 2 USB Sound Level Datalogger. There are many reasons that a sound level data logger may come in use within the social housing context. It might be to monitor noise levels of plant and equipment in large buildings or other noise related issues in smaller domestic properties.
What attracted me to this logger initially was the large storage capacity of the device along with its simple but familiar design. I have reviewed a number of dataloggers so straight away the similarity of the design appealed to me.
The Extech USB Sound Level Datalogger comes with the following:
- Datalogger with Foam Windscreen
- Compact Stand
- User Guide
- Windows Compatible Software CD
- USB Extension Cable
- 6V Lithium Battery
In the same vein as some of the Lascar dataloggers, this device uses a non-rechargeable 1/2 AA lithium battery. The batteries are replaced in the same way as the Lascar loggers as well by pushing in a button under where the lid sits which allows you to open up the device. I found the first logger a bit stiff to open up so if you push lightly on the microphone end it then releases okay.
The lid on the USB logger was very easy to remove and place back on. Unlike the humidity dataloggers there is not the same need for a really tight fitting lid.
The compact aluminium stand seems very sturdy and robust. There are two screw holes on the bottom of the stand if you need to fix it in place although for most applications that I will be using it this will not be required. You can adjust the stand to move the logger into the desired position. The stand can also double up as a mini mobile phone stand with the right attachment, but I digress.
The logger has a reading range from 30 to 130dB with a 1.4dB accuracy which is a fairly standard range for sound level meters. The price point for the unit was £187.44 at the time of this review.
After installing the software through the CD provided you are then ready to set up the logger. The software is very basic looking but also very simple to use. I had the logger set up within seconds via the PC. The logger can be set up for a manual (delayed start) or to start immediately.
I used the USB extension cable when setting the logger as I had already attached the logger to the stand so this meant I did not need to remove it to insert the logger directly into my PC. The loggers are a touch top heavy which is probably why the extension cable is bundled in.
There are various selectable data sampling rates which range from 50 milliseconds to 60 seconds per sample. The software would benefit from being a little bit more clear on what the set up options actually mean without the need for the user to read through the help section.
After the logging session it is very simple to download the data through the software. You can view the information as a list on in a graph format. There are options to change the colour set up, my preference if to have a white background with red or blue lines for the sound levels. The software lays out the data in an easy to understand way and is quite reminiscent of the EasyLog software for the Lascar data loggers.
Unfortunately the software is not as good as the EasyLog software both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. The look is very dated which I would not consider much of an issue if it had good reporting functionality.
You can print off the graph or list which does give you all the basic info but does not look very professional. There is no option to export to CSV, EXCEL, PDF, JPEG etc which would have been useful ways to manage the data. It is easy enough to screen grab and place into a word document but an option to create a professional looking summary report seems like a missed opportunity.
The logger does not clear the data from the device when you download it on to the PC. It holds on to the data until you set up a new session. I found this confusing as it left me looking for a way to delete the previous session until I realised it done this automatically after a new session has been set up. There should really be a way to delete the data on the device through the software as well as viewing how much battery is left.
The final point I would make is that the two loggers I purchased ended up being faulty after a couple of tests. This is by no means indicative of the overall brand but I would feel remiss if I never mentioned this.
The Extech data logger when fully operational is a good device to monitor sound levels. It is lightning fast to set up and has a excellent storage capacity. The accompanying stand is sturdy and will allow for precise positioning of the device. Having the USB extension cable bundled in is also a great touch.
The software is competent in setting up the loggers and retrieving the data but leaves allot to be desired on the reporting side. The old fashioned aesthetic and lack of functionality of the software is a big let down. The software provided from likes of Tramex and Lascar proves that compelling and modern software is feasible.
On paper this logger should be one of the best in its class but it simply never lived up to my hopes and expectations.