There are three main indicators of a technically good video – light, stabilization and sound. And we will talk about the sound in this article and review Saramonic Blink500 Pro B2 wireless microphone kit. Not a single built-in microphone, be it a camera, camcorder or smartphone, can provide high-quality voice sound. There are many types of external microphones for this. Perhaps one of the most popular solutions for high quality voice recording is radio loops.
Saramonic has released the absolutely unique Blink500 Pro B2 wireless microphone kit. The manufacturer has done a lot of work on the bugs and let the system fully meet professional needs. Let’s figure it out.
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, which I discussed in detail in a separate review. 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 Blink500. And I can totally 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.
What Are the Disadvantages We Are Talking About?
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.
From the airport directly to the client office, the performance check of all equipment was already done in hotel (where I was staying). On the shooting half an hour. The time for preparation and installation of equipment took generally 5 minutes. And what my surprise was when I was completely confident in my equipment, 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 completely discharged within a few hours.
After that, for transportation, I "put on" a separate cardboard box, which almost completely excluded accidental inclusions, but sometimes they still happened. And hurray, the updated Saramonic Blink500 Pro system comes out, which comes with a special hard case. Apparently, this problem was not just me.
The case in the kit is not easily 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 maximum one, as in our review, and a set of one transmitter and receiver. The second set has a smaller case in size and a smaller built-in battery capacity - 1200mAh.
You can charge the docking station from a standard smartphone charger, from a computer, and even from a 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. This is another improvement over the first version.
Among other things, there are four LEDs that 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 having to open the lid.
The docking station is made of high-quality thick plastic. Plastic, I must say, 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 special case.
There are three compartments inside the docking station, each equipped with spring contacts for charging. It uses a smart magnetic system to detect the presence of a device in the compartment. Thus, when the receiver or transmitter is outside a compartment, no power is supplied to the contacts in that particular compartment.
Each compartment has its own LED informing about 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 Blink500 of the first version had to be charged individually for the transmitter and each transmitter, which was completely 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, definitely 10 points.
I pay so much attention to the docking station because this accessory drastically changes the experience with a microphone system. Makes work more reliable. In fact, 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. 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 the same. For visual distinction, there is an inscription on the body of the Transmitter (transmitter) or Receiver (receiver). The top panel now houses a large monochrome OLED information display. Compared to the first version, the system looks very modern and cool. On one side there is a power / mute button, on the other side there are two plus and minus buttons, which are 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 wider. 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. Now 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 the problem of signal failures when recording in a photo studio, where synchronizers with studio light work.
This concerns mainly all Profoto synchronizers, they are so powerful that sometimes at the moment of release (a split second) 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, then it is almost impossible to fix it in the audio editor. Since we often shoot lessons with studio light, we have already learned to that at the moment of pressing the shutter button the photographer should not speak.
However, you should understand that this is a very specific scenario. In other cases, no problem with signal transmission is observed. The transmitter is very sensitive to obstacles. The reason for the lack of a signal can be not only the wall, but also the trite back of the speaker, if he 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 Blink500 system, then 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 simply put in a pocket, because the dimensions are quite 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 and, 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 special grooves around the microphone.
At first, the solution seemed to me very practical, but the very first shooting outdoors and the windscreen was in a puddle in two minutes. So when using in 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 a cage or 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 important service information. The main part is occupied by a sound wave visualizer. 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 connected sound source is working or not.
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 is 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: Adjust 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 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 in English everything is pretty clear.
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 again by long pressing the SET button.
By the way, to turn on the transmitter, as well as the receiver, press and hold the MUTE key until SARAMONIC appears on the 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 to a camera hot shoe, to a cage, or even to a telephone. By the way, the fact that there is a clothespin here allows you to really mount the receiver where it is convenient, and 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. This was not in the first version. Why is this so important? Manufacturers are increasingly abandoning a separate headphone output in their compact cameras, and with this receiver the problem will be completely solved. Remember, monitoring is a very important 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 hear 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. This means the Blink500 Pro can be used even at events, not just for video recording. Just keep in mind one point that is 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 what level of microphone recording on a particular transmitter, whether the sound is turned off / on and what is the current charge level. This is incredibly convenient and allows the operator to constantly monitor the status of the transmitter. 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 signal 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. This greatly 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, then 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 the moment of 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, then you will have to use the appropriate adapter, which is transformed separately.
Saramonic Blink500 Pro Testing
I have done 5 shots using this system. The only drawback that I have already mentioned is the not very reliable fastening of the windscreen. After the first incident, I no longer used it. For all the time, I just forgot about the fact that I need to charge the microphones and they can unexpectedly discharge during the filming. If there is a short break and 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 completely discharged, this is more for safety reasons.
You may also like to read: Benro Connect Review: The Best Video Head Monopod.
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. 10 minutes of charging at a distance - 35 minutes of work. 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. It is very convenient that there is such fast charging here.
It will take approximately four hours to fully charge the transmitters and receiver in the docking station. The same amount is required to fully charge the battery of the docking station itself.
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. I must say that in general, the sound quality is excellent and it is better than that of the first version of the Blink500.
During my testing, the environment was much noisier, but there was no overloads or other artifacts. The voice was heard clearly and, again, there was no big 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 Blink500 Pro on Amazon - Purchase Link
Saramonic Blink500 Pro B2 meets all the requirements of a modern operator, and not only an amateur blogger, but also a professional. Dual-channel recording, line-in, dedicated headphone output in receiver, mute button, mixer connectivity makes the Blink500 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, despite the fact that there are a bunch of 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 absolutely safe.