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How do I get the acorn talking to the speaker?

Pairing: This is the "first date" between the acorn and speaker. The two devices exchange information and eventually start an extended "conversation" that results in you hearing your birds. Once the acorn is paired with the speaker, you should not have to perform this ritual again. The most common mistake made here is not holding the power button long enough. You have to hold it until it is flashing alternately blue and red, then let go. Details:

This entire process is shown (with ChirpSounds speakers) in the brief how-to videos here. There are specific videos for pairing and other topics of interest and watching them will let you know what you can to expect to see as you perform these steps:

  1. Your speaker MUST have volume controls. This is the only way to control the output volume, and we have found that speakers lacking this will not connect.

  2. Starting with your speaker turned off, press and hold the power button until you see the LED indicator flashing blue and red alternately and then let go (although some speakers only blink blue). The blue and red flashing should continue. Take this opportunity to turn the speaker all the way down (don’t skip this or you will get feedback when pairing completes). Don’t even look toward the acorn until this is done!

  3. While the speaker is flashing blue and red, do the same with the ChirpSounds TX1 (acorn). Press and hold the button until the LED flashes blue and red then let go. This should be at least 5 seconds. Some users have been releasing the button at the first flashes, which is a bit too soon. Hold through those first LED flashes and you’ll see the BLUE/RED pattern. The blue and red flashing should continue after you let go. If not, hold the button until the unit goes off (a few quick red flashes) and start over. 

  4. The units will begin a “conversation” with each other lasting 30-40 seconds, and the LED will respond with a series of flashes. When the process is complete, your speaker may sound a confirmation tone, but generally the LED will be just blue. If you forgot to turn the speaker down, do it now in a hurry! (That sound is called feedback). Don't press on the furry cover over the mic or you may damage it!

  5. If all went according to plan, the LED on the acorn is now flashing slowly. Cautiously turn the speaker up until you confirm that sound is coming through.

  6. Hang the unit outside and enjoy the sounds of your birds!    

What are the parts of the system?

Transmitter: The heart of the ChirpSounds experience, the TX1 transmitter, or as everyone calls it, "the acorn." Inside, the acorn has a mic, a custom circuit board with an amplifier and a wireless radio, and a high-capacity, rechargeable lithium-ion battery to power it. 

Receiver: This is the device you'll listen to the sounds through inside your house. It could be one of our speakers, your own Bluetooth speaker, AirPods, An Amazon Alexa, or even your hearing aids (if they're Bluetooth equipped). 

How do I charge the unit / how do know when the unit is fully charged?

When you bring the unit inside, turn it off by holding the button until the LED flashes red three or four few times. Plug the USB cable into the acorn and your wall charger, the LED turns RED. When the battery is full, the LED goes dark, or it may slowly flash blue if the unit was not turned off before charging. Note that if the unit is too cold to charge safely, it will delay the start of charging until it warms up. 

Where should I put the acorn to get the best results?

Placement: For the best sound, you want to hang it as close as possible to the sounds you want to hear. Hanging it close to your feeders will let you hear the softest sounds - seeds cracking, feet on perches, wing beats, soft vocalizations you could never get close enough to hear. You can also hang it near a window where you can easily reach it (handy when there's a lot of snow on the ground), from a bush, a tree, under the eaves of your house as I do at my office, or wherever you like.

What range can I expect?

Range: This is how far apart the acorn and speaker can be. It's affected by a few things, but two factors have an outsized impact on it - power and obstacles. The TX1 has enough power to transmit 328' (100m). If you could find a speaker that can respond to the transmitter over that same distance (and you can't - trust me, I've tried), you could put them that far apart, but since most speakers aren't used that way, they usually only have the power to work over about 33' (10m). The speakers we carry can go 3-4 times that far, so you can put the acorn and speaker 100-120' apart, IF you have the next biggest condition in order: perfect Line of Sight (LOS). This means that if you put your eye right next to the speaker where it will sit, you can see the acorn - with nothing in between. If you have even the thinnest branches swaying in that line of sight, you may not be able to maintain a good connection with the units that far apart. ANYTHING in the way can really cut the range. This includes putting the speaker deeper into the room. Through our years of extensive testing, we have found that the sweet spot is 25-50'. Beyond that, the connection can be spotty. You may have to experiment a bit, but given the sensitivity of the unit, you can really put it fairly close to your house and still pick up pretty much everything. And hey, you do want to be able to see your birds without binoculars, right? One user reports maintaining a good connection out to  150', but your mileage may vary.

How long will the battery last/Can the battery be replaced?  

Battery: The battery should have enough power to get you started when you receive the unit, so go ahead and play, but do charge it fully before you hang it out for an extended time. The battery is as big as we can fit in the housing without going to a custom (expensive) shape. It has been designed to give you enough power to run 8 hours a day for a week before your have to recharge it. We suggest bringing it in when you're done using it on Sunday, letting it warm up a bit, and plugging it in overnight. Take it back outside Monday morning, power it up, and you're back in business. This long working time is possible because when you turn the speaker off, the unit drops into a very low power mode. Think of it like when your car goes up a hill (daytime) versus when it's rolling down a hill (nighttime). The engine is on at all times, but going uphill requires much more power. Very cold temperatures can reduce the length of time you can run the acorn, so if you use it where it's really cold, you may have to charge it more. Just don't charge it more than necessary, because that will definitely reduce the life of the battery…and it can't be replaced. If you charge it no more than weekly, the battery will easily last 6 years before losing any capacity, and will go much longer after it does start losing capacity. 

What temperature range is acceptable? 

The range of temperatures the unit can operate in is really governed by the battery, and that is governed by safety. Lithium-ion batteries can store an amazing amount of energy and work fairly well in the cold, but used improperly, they have a nasty history of failing in the most spectacular of ways. To keep things safe, the battery is limited to 4ºF to 104ºF, and the unit will shut itself down. We are working on ways to get more high end range without compromising safety, but the low end is limited by chemistry. In extreme cold, the reaction that produces the power just can't produce enough for our purposes. Feel free to try it in your environment, but just know that there are limits. In the heat, providing the unit shade is fairly effective. 

What's that noise?  

Noise: Sounds you don't want to hear are what we call noise. There are two approaches to minimizing these. One is the built-in filter, which knocks out sounds below 1000Hz. This is where you find traffic noise, some wind, humming AC units, some airplane and helicopter sounds, etc. The lowest bird calls most of us are likely to encounter are various doves, but these are not filtered out. The other approach is to slow the wind down in front of the mic. To help with this, we have included a small patch of fur, (horribly) called "dead cat." Also included are oval, double-sided tape pieces you can use to attach this little patch of fur over the mic. If you want to go hard-core with your wind reduction, you can buy a foam cover designed for Blue Yeti microphones. These are just the right size to pull up over the bottom of the acorn. They work well, but A) they're kind of ugly and hide the shape we worked so hard to bring you, and B) they break down when exposed to UV Light over a period of months. When this happens, you can extend their life for a while by using a thick rubber band around the acorn and then sliding the foam up over that. Ugly, but effective. We do have a small number of these for sale for $5 plus shipping. 

But those are just the obvious "noises." There were countless times during testing of prototypes when I thought the unit had something wrong with it. Countless thousands of dollars were spent having experts chase down and diagnose these "problems." In the end, what I found out was that I was hearing sounds that were so soft and faint that I didn't notice them with my unaided ear. One such noise turned out to be sounds from a highway far in the distance, just amplified many times to it was noticeable. My engineers said they finally tracked a noise down to an AC unit some distance away. The unit's sensitivity is really good news...but sometimes, bad news. 

Note: There's a round Teflon disc covering the hole where the mic sits. Do not remove this, as it's an important part of the weather-proofing system! If this ever gets damaged, please contact us for a replacement. 

Don't do these things:

  • Don't drop the unit. In our torture testing, the plastic housing survived being frozen and dropped, and shrugged off repeated blows from a hammer - when it was empty. Before you got it though, we stuffed it with delicate electronics. These may or not survive a fall. Let's not find out. Damage from this treatment is NOT covered by our one-year warranty.
  • Don't submerge the unit. Look, we've made every effort we can think of to ensure the unit operates in most weather conditions, including wind-driven rain. However, you should NOT consider it waterproof. If you hang it over your bird bath or other water feature, please check the leather hanging lace frequently or replace it with a hook to ensure the unit doesn't go for a swim after a fall. Again, it may survive this, but let's not find out.
  • Don't charge it immediately after you bring it in from the cold. There are some protections built into the battery and circuitry to keep charging from starting if the battery is below a safe temperature, but let's not tempt fate on this. It's always good practice to let the unit sit in a warm room for 30 minutes or more before plugging it into the charger.
  • Don't hang the unit in direct sunlight on hot days. There are safety cut-offs that prevent the battery from discharging when it gets too hot. These will protect the unit by shutting it down. If you want to use it on hot days, we suggest providing some shade. Hanging it up under an opaque squirrel baffle may work well if the sun is high.
  • Don't press on the white membrane under the furry patch. This is where the mic is, and you could push too much pressure up against it and cause damage.