There are three leading indicators of a technically good video – light, stabilization, and sound. So, we will talk about the sound in this article and review Saramonic Blink 500 Pro B2 wireless microphone kit. Saramonic has released the unique Blink 500 Pro B2 wireless microphone kit. The manufacturer has done a lot of work on the bugs and fully meets professional needs. Let’s figure it out.
Not a single built-in microphone can provide high-quality voice sound, be it a camera, camcorder, or smartphone. There are many types of external microphones for this. Perhaps one of the most popular solutions for high-quality voice recording is the Saramonic wireless microphone kit.
Saramonic is widely known among videographers and bloggers for its incredible variety of microphones and additional audio recording accessories. About a year ago, the manufacturer introduced a compact wireless system called the Blink500. It is a very versatile and easy-to-use radio system. Almost all the videos released on our YouTube channel this year were recorded using the Saramonic Blink 500. And I can say that this is a great solution that delivers great-sounding voices.
However, the first generation is not without drawbacks that make certain adjustments to the work process. The biggest drawback is the location of the power button on the top panel, which often becomes the reason for accidental activation. I encountered this disadvantage when we were recording an interview, which almost disrupted our filming.
My Story About Saramonic Blink 500
I was traveling from the airport directly to the client’s office, the performance check of all equipment was already done in the hotel (where I was staying). On the shooting half an hour. The time for preparation and installation of equipment generally took 5 minutes. And what my surprise was when I was completely confident in my kit, taking everything out of my backpack, and found that out of two transmitters and one receiver, only one transmitter was turned on. The reason is trivial; during transportation, the power buttons were accidentally pressed. As a result, the built-in batteries were discharged entirely within a few hours.
After that, I “put on” a separate cardboard box for transportation, which almost wholly excluded accidental inclusions, but sometimes they still happened. And soon, the updated Saramonic Blink 500 Pro system comes out with a tough case.
The Carry Case of Saramonic Blink 500 PRO
The case in the kit is not efficiently designed for safe storage – in essence; it is an integral part of the entire system; it is a docking station. The case is equipped with a built-in 2000mAh battery. That is, while the transmitters and the receiver are in the case, they are being charged. The case supports fast charging, by the way, as well as a receiver with transmitters.
It should be noted here that there are two sets – the big one, as in my review, and a set of one transmitter and receiver. The second set has a minor case in size and a smaller built-in battery capacity – 1200mAh.
You can charge the docking station from a standard smartphone charger, computer, and even power bank. For this, a USB Type-C connector is provided on the back. The case is fully charged in approximately 4 hours. And the case itself can charge a set of two transmitters and one receiver three times.
There is a button on the case for pairing the transmitters and the receiver, which, I must say, I have never used in a month of testing. You may need it in case of connection problems or if you suddenly decide to use a transmitter or receiver from a different set. In this case, the receiver and transmitters must be put in the case, and the Pair button on the docking station must be pressed for three seconds. Everything will happen automatically; no additional action is required. It is another improvement over the first version.
Among other things, four LEDs inform about the charge level of the built-in battery. The LEDs light up when the case cover is open. It would be wise to equip the case with an additional button to display the battery level without opening the lid.
The docking station is made of high-quality thick plastic. I must say, plastic is quite easily prone to scratches, which, with active use, will lead to a rapid loss of its ideal external state. But any professional tool has to look the part, so it’s inevitable for any accessory. However, this only applies to the docking station, and the transmitters, which will often fall into the frame, will always be in perfect shape – this is another plus of a particular case.
There are three compartments inside the docking station, each equipped with spring contacts for charging. It uses an intelligent magnetic system to detect the presence of a device in the compartment. Thus, when the receiver or transmitter is outside a container, no power is supplied to the contacts in that particular compartment.
Each compartment has it’s LED informing the charging process and the corresponding inscriptions TX (transmitter) and RX (receiver). By the way, the shape of the compartments for the transmitter and receiver is different, so you won’t be able to mix it up.
And another plus of the docking station – if the Blink 500 of the first version had to be charged individually for each transmitter. It was utterly inconvenient; now, three devices are simultaneously charged at once.
For safer storage of the transmitters and receiver in the docking station, foam rubber seals are provided on the lid. For the thoughtfulness of the design, I am giving it 10 points.
I pay so much attention to the docking station because this accessory drastically changes the experience with a microphone system. It makes work more reliable. I’ve forgotten that the transmitters can accidentally turn on and suddenly run out of power or run out of power while shooting because they are always 100 percent charged at the start of a shift.
Design & Features of Transmitter and Receiver
But to overcome my love for the docking station, let’s talk about the transmitter and the receiver. And here, too, there is something to tell.
The transmitter and receiver have received a completely new housing and design; now, they look almost identical. For visual distinction, there is an inscription on the body of the transmitter (transmitter) or receiver (receiver).
The top panel now houses a sizeable monochrome OLED information display. Compared to the first version, the system looks very modern and cool.
There is a power/mute button; on the other side, there are two plus and minus buttons responsible for adjusting the recording level and navigating through the menu.
The transmitter body has become smaller and lighter, the build quality and materials are noticeably higher. But these are not all changes. The functionality of the system has become much broader. But first, let’s take a look at the main specifications and compare them with the first version.
Blink500 Pro TX Transmitter
|Blink500 Pro TX||Blink500 TX|
|Signal Transmission||2.4 GHz digital carrier||2.4 GHz digital carrier|
|Range||100 meters||50 meters|
|Charging||Micro USB power supply 5V or docking station||USB Type-C power supply 5V|
|RF Output Power||10 mW||10 mW|
|Microphone Frequency Range||50Hz-18KHz (built-in and external microphone)||50Hz-18KHz (built-in and external microphone)|
|Maximum Sound Pressure Level||120 dB (built-in microphone), 110 dB (external microphone)||120 dB (built-in microphone), 110 dB (external microphone)|
|Microphone Sensitivity||Built-in microphone: -39dB|
External microphone: -39dB
|Built-in microphone: -42dB|
External microphone: -39dB
|Signal to Noise Ratio||＞ 78dB||＞ 78dB|
|Operating Time on One Charge||Up to 8 hours||Up to 6 hours|
|Audio Input||3.5mm TRS input for external microphone / Line in||3.5mm TRS input for external microphone|
|Weight||32 g||34 g|
|Dimensions||56.5 × 38 × 26.1mm||63 x 43 x 16.5 mm|
Blink500 Pro RX Receiver
|Blink500 Pro RX||Blink500 RX|
|Signal Transmission||2.4 GHz digital carrier||2.4 GHz digital carrier|
|Working Distance||100 m||50 m|
|Audio output||3.5mm jack||3.5mm jack|
|Charging||Micro USB power supply 5V or docking station||USB Type-C power supply 5V|
|Operating time on one charge||Up to 8 hours||Up to 6 hours|
|Weight||32 g||26.5 g|
|Dimensions||56 × 38 × 29.4 mm||62 × 33 × 15.5 mm|
So, the basis is the same. It is a 2.4GHz wireless digital system. But along with this, the transmission algorithms have improved, which affected the range of operation. The distance between transmitter and receiver can be up to 100 meters, which is twice as much as in the first version. However, this does not solve signal failures when recording in a photo studio, where synchronizers with studio light work.
All Profoto synchronizers are so powerful that sometimes at the moment of release, the 2.4GHz channel completely takes up the signal from the synchronizer. As a result, we get a vacuum on the audio track, and if it does not fall into a pause between words, it is almost impossible to fix it in the audio editor. Since we often shoot lessons with studio light, we have already learned that when pressing the shutter button, the photographer should not speak.
However, you should understand that this is a particular scenario. In other cases, no problem with signal transmission is observed. The transmitter is very sensitive to obstacles. The lack of a signal could be the wall and the trite back of the speaker if that turned away from the camera. It should be noted that, as with the Profoto synchronizer, signal dropout when the speaker is turned away is very rare. Of all the filming, this is probably the only case when the signal disappeared.
Nevertheless, I will not call it a minus. We are still talking about a mobile radio system, which does not have large antennas, and the overall weight is significantly less. If you need more freedom of movement, then there is the long-proven Saramonic UWMic9 system.
If you are new to the first Blink 500 system, you need to know that the transmitter has a built-in microphone, and you can also connect the Saramonic SR-M1 lavalier microphone that comes with the kit. Thus, the transmitter can be used as a classic lavalier system, fastening it to the speaker’s belt using a clothespin on the body, or put in a pocket, because the dimensions are pretty compact.
The transmitter has become much smaller and only two grams lighter (which is also good). The reduced dimensions have a positive effect on the user experience. The transmitter is now much easier to attach to the shirt and less visible.
And here’s another plus – the display can turn off after a few seconds (10, 30, 60 seconds), which not only saves energy but also makes the transmitter less visible in the frame. The first version had an LED indicator that could not be turned off.
The microphone built into the transmitter has received a redesigned design. Most importantly, it has become more sensitive, at the level of the wired lavalier that comes with the kit. Thanks to the new design, it became possible to mount a windscreen for outdoor photography.
The kit includes one windscreen for each transmitter. It is attached to unique grooves around the microphone.
At first, the solution seemed very practical, but the first shooting outdoors and the windscreen was in a puddle in two minutes. So when using strong wind or active movement of the speaker, you should be careful, or even better, use the supplied lavalier microphone, which is also equipped with a windscreen.
The transmitter, like the receiver, has a Micro USB connector for charging the battery. I am glad that we still retained the connector and made it possible to charge separately outside the docking station. For example, when working on Steadicam, the receiver can be connected to a power bank or directly to the Steadicam.
The transmitter in your pocket can also be plugged into a small power bank for extended battery life. These are extreme scenarios, but what does not happen on the set.
The receiver displays essential service information. A sound wave visualizer occupies the central part. On the one hand, you might think that this is done for a spectacular appearance. However, this is an important indicator when suddenly there are some problems with the connection. We can see whether the sound is going to the transmitter or not, whether the corresponding sound source is working.
In addition, the top line shows the signal level and connection, battery charge, and the inscription TX, informing that this is a transmitter (this inscription could have been dispensed with).
On the bottom line are the operating mode (microphone/line-in) and sound level.
Yes! Now the mic input can be used as a line-in, which explains a lot about the Pro in the name! This parameter is configured in the menu.
To enter the menu, you must press either the plus or minus and switch to the appropriate item.
Mic Gain: Adjusting the Sound Level
Input Mode: Microphone/Line Mode
Backlight Mode – Setting the backlight timer (always on, 10, 30, 60 seconds). I recommend that you set this setting for 30 seconds – it saves energy, and nothing extra glows in the frame.
Mute Key – Enable/disable the Mute button, which mutes the sound. If you neglect to monitor while recording, it is best to disable this button to avoid an accidental mute. In principle, this feature is not so often needed, so in 90 percent of cases, it is better to disable it.
Language – English/Chinese – no more languages yet, but everything is pretty clear in English.
Restore – If you suddenly somehow managed to “trick” in the settings and do not understand what happened, but it does not work, then you are here. This item will reset all settings to factory defaults.
Version – Purely informational item, shows the current firmware version.
To configure a specific item from the above, you must select the desired item and then press and hold the SET button (plus sign). Next, select the required value with the plus/minus keys and confirm by long-pressing the SET button.
By the way, to turn on the transmitter and the receiver, press and hold the MUTE Key until SARAMONIC appears on display. To turn off, respectively, also hold down the MUTE Key.
Please note that if you put the transmitter and receiver in the docking station turned on and closed the lid, this does not mean that the devices have turned off; they will still work until they drain the entire battery charge. So be careful.
The design of the receiver is almost the same as that of the transmitter. However, there is a tighter mechanism for the built-in clothespin. And this is correct since the receiver is no longer attached to clothes but a camera, hot shoe, a cage, or telephone. By the way, there is a clothespin here that allows you to mount the receiver where it is convenient, not just in the hot shoe. For example, I attach the receiver to the bottom of the DJI Osmo Mobile 2. Thus, it is easier to balance the camera on the gimbal, and nothing extra is installed on the camera during operation.
The main advantage of the new receiver is a separate headphone output. It was not in the first version. Why is this so important? Manufacturers are increasingly abandoning a different headphone output in their compact cameras, and with this receiver, the problem will be solved entirely.
Remember, monitoring is a significant part of the filming process. There are different situations and reasons why the sound suddenly disappears. And if you didn’t hear it during the shooting, you will listen to it during the editing, and then the situation cannot be corrected. Therefore, it is better to detect this immediately on the site and immediately reshoot, ask the speaker to talk.
The line-out on the receiver allows you to output sound even to an audio system, for example, through a mixing console. It means the Blink 500 Pro can be used even at events, not just for video recording.
Keep in mind one point characteristic of any microphone – when connecting to an audio system, you must first turn off the sound. And also, in such a scenario of use, you cannot connect headphones to the receiver.
The receiver displays significantly more information. Firstly, this is information about the connected transmitters and the level of the radio signal. Secondly, it shows information about the microphone recording level on a particular transmitter, whether the sound is turned off/on, and the current charge level.
It is incredibly convenient and allows the operator to monitor the status of the transmitter constantly. In addition, the bottom line contains service information of the transmitter – headphone volume, mono/stereo mode, and battery level.
And now we come to another significant plus that makes this system professional. The receiver can now record not only a mono signal, as it was in the first version. Blink500 Pro can record stereo signals when two transmitters are connected.
Thus, the signal from one transmitter is recorded on one channel, from the second transmitter on the second channel. This functionality is only found in professional radio microphone systems. It dramatically expands the installation options.
The receiver’s menu is almost the same as that of the transmitter. There is only one exception. Instead of Input Mode, here is Output Mode – Mono/Stereo.
It should be understood here that if you are using one microphone, you must turn on the Mono mode; otherwise, a stereo track will be recorded, on which one channel will be with sound and the other empty. Although this is a small problem in editing, it nevertheless entails additional manipulations that can be avoided even at filming.
The receiver can be connected not only to the camera but also to the smartphone. The kit contains two cables – standard TRS and TRRS for connecting to a smartphone. If you have a smartphone only with USB Type-C or Lightning, you will have to use the appropriate adapter, which is transformed separately.
Saramonic Blink 500 PRO Ground Testing
I have done five shots using this system. The only drawback that I have already mentioned in the not very reliable fastening of the windscreen. After the first incident, I no longer used it. I just forgot that I need to charge the microphones, and they can unexpectedly discharge during the filming. If there is a short break, I immediately put the devices in the docking station, and they are charged.
I contaminated the docking station every two shots. And then, this does not mean that after the second shooting, the batteries were discharged entirely; this is more for safety reasons.
The receiver works on a single charge for less than 6 hours and 20 minutes. Microphones work longer – 7 hours 40 minutes. When the receiver or transmitter is almost discharged, the battery icon starts blinking – this means that you have about 10-12 minutes left, and the device will turn off.
A five-minute charge in the docking station gives 20 minutes of work. After 10 minutes of charging at a distance – it can work 35 minutes. That is, if suddenly, in the process of shooting, your transmitter or receiver is discharged, we take a 5-minute break, rest, and quickly charge the device that has sat down. Conveniently, there is such fast charging here.
It will take approximately four hours to charge the transmitters and receiver in the docking station fully. The exact amount is required to charge the battery of the docking station itself fully.
You may also like to read: Benro Connect Review: The Best Video Head Monopod.
In ideal conditions, the complete absence of extraneous noise and wind, regardless of which microphone is recording, whether the windscreen is installed, the overall sound quality is the same. In general, the sound quality is excellent, and it is better than that of the first version of the Blink 500.
During my testing, the environment was much noisier, but there were no overloads or other artifacts. Again, the voice was heard, and there was no significant difference from which microphone is recording. By the way, the sound recording quality on the transmitters of the first version was worse than on the lapel pin. This effect is not noticeable here.
Get Saramonic Blink 500 Pro on Amazon – Purchase Link
Saramonic Blink 500 PRO B2 meets all the requirements of a modern operator, an amateur blogger, and a professional. Dual-channel recording, line-in, dedicated headphone output in receiver, mute button, mixer connectivity makes the Blink 500 Pro system suitable for professional work. And the ability to “turn it on and everything works” makes it an excellent choice for an amateur who needs high-quality sound but has no desire to figure out what’s what.
Yes, even though there are many additional settings, everything works right away, without any manipulations and studying the instructions. And, of course, the icing on the cake – a docking station that keeps your microphones ready at all times and makes transport safe.