Saramonic recently announced the new Saramonic BlinkMe (buy here) wireless microphone system. Like many small wireless microphone systems before it, it operates on public 2.4 GHz frequencies, and is designed to attach to clothing to pick up your voice and send it to a camera or other recording device.
Saramonic BlinkMe has a trick or two up its sleeve, though, with a couple of nice features that the competition are lacking. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s the first wireless microphone I’ve seen in a long time that showed any kind of original thinking. I’ve had one for a couple of weeks now, so let’s take a look at it in more detail and hear how it sounds.
Inside the box
I’ve yet to receive clarification from Saramonic if this is the retail packaging or not (I suspect not), but the microphone I received turned up inside a Pelican-style case with pre-cut foam for all of the microphone’s components. I don’t think this microphone will come as standard in this hard case, as it’s not mentioned in any pre-order listings.
Inside the case, I’m confronted with the three main components of the system across the bottom. The receiver sits in the middle, flanked by the two transmitters. Across the top is a white box that contains a number of cables and bits, along with a bag to store everything in when you’re out and about.
This is where the first useful feature of the Saramonic BlinkMe hit me. When I saw that there was only a single USB-C charging cable, I got a little disappointed. As has been the case with some other systems in the past, where they expect you to charge all three devices up one after the other with a single cable.
But no, here, things are a little different. There are no USB sockets on the transmitters. Instead, they magnetically “dock” into the receiver. The receiver does feature a USB-C socket and it lets you charge up all three devices simultaneously from the single cable.
As far as first impressions go, BlinkMe’s already made a good one before I’ve even turned it on.
Besides the USB-C cable, there’s also a TRRS to TRRS cable. Saramonic says that the microphone is auto-sensing. That is to say, if you plug this cable into your camera that uses a TRS socket, it will automatically detect that it’s a camera and not the TRRS socket of a smartphone or laptop and send out the appropriate signal accordingly.
As you’ll see later, this isn’t necessarily the case in reality.
One slightly disappointing feature is that the transmitters have no 3.5mm TRS or TRRS sockets. This means you cannot use them with traditional lavalier microphones like many other wireless microphone systems.
For most people, this probably won’t be an issue, but if you’d like your microphone to be a little more subtle and hidden from the camera’s view and want to use a lav, you’re out of luck with the BlinkMe. So, it is something to bear in mind.
The good news, though, is that Saramonic has included a couple of windshields that clip over the built-in microphone on the BlinkMe transmitters. So, as long as you don’t mind seeing the microphones in your shot, you can use them outdoors in a bit of wind without them clipping.
An overview of its features
Touchscreen OLED displays
Each of the transmitters features a large round OLED display that covers almost the entirety of its outward surface. Pulling a transmitter away from the receiver, it looks and feels kind of like a big chunky Apple Watch. It has a similar interface, too. The screen isn’t quite as fluid and responsive as an Apple Watch, but it has a similar level of sensitivity and responsiveness comparable to devices like the various cameras from Insta360. It’s certainly not substandard and is as responsive as it needs to be, given that you probably won’t need to use it all that much.
The display provides some valuable information to the user, such as whether it’s Tx1 or Tx2, along with a loudness indicator, battery meter, wireless connection strength indicator and how much gain is currently being applied to that microphone. Along with changing the background, you’re also able to change the way this information is displayed. There are a number of pre-set layouts that you can select along with your chosen background. There are a number of backgrounds included on the transmitter, although you are able to upload and set your own custom image.
This can be quite handy for those using the microphone on-camera. If you’re making a bunch of videos demonstrating the products your company makes, for example, you can customise the microphone to show your company’s logo instead of just a generic image or – as is the case with some companies – a giant white manufacturer’s logo drawing your attention.
Around the edge of the transmitter, we have the microphone itself, the power button and a yellow button that – for some reason – enables or disables noise reduction. I think this button would be better served as a mute button, although perhaps we may see this become customisable in a future update.
One of the great things about the BlinkMe is the ease with which it attaches to both your camera and your subject.
The microphone transmitters are magnetic, allowing them to easily be attached to clothing in more natural positions that don’t twist and distort your shirt – the way clip-on mics often can.
While there are two microphones in the kit, you are supplied with four small magnetic disks. The disk goes underneath your clothing and is attracted to the magnet in the microphone on the other side, holding them firmly against your clothes.
For those who do prefer the clip, there are also two magnetic clip mounts that work in the same way as the magnetic disks above, attaching to the back of the microphone, but with a clip that lets you attach it to clothing that is perhaps a little too thick for the magnets to get a good hold.
The receiver isn’t magnetic, although it must include some metal inside it for magnets to attach to as the magnetic transmitters lock into the receiver for storage when not in use and for file transfer to your computer over USB.
The receiver also mounts to your camera using a magnetic cold shoe adapter. This makes it very easy to attach and remove the receiver to and from your camera when recording and copying files to your computer. On one side of the receiver we have the power button, along with output gain + and – buttons. On the other side we have the USB-C socket for charging, along with an output to go into your camera and a headphone output for monitoring.
As with the transmitters, the receiver is configured and adjusted through a touchscreen interface. The display also shows your current settings, battery levels for the receiver and both transmitters, gain adjustments, and other information.
The Saramonic BlinkMe has a pretty respectable feature set, offering at least one of the things that I believe is essential in small wireless microphone systems like this. That feature is its ability to record in each of the two transmitters independently.
In fact, the Saramonic actually has the Rode Wireless GO II beat here. As with most other microphones that feature internal recording, when you plug the BlinkMe into your computer, you see the two transmitters as separate storage devices (like a portable SSD, USB stick or memory card) with wav files recorded directly to it. From there, you can drag them to where you want to copy them as you would with any other file. For some reason, one of them showed up as an SDHC card while the other appeared as a USB drive.
There are no apps to deal with, no proprietary files to copy, then convert and export to wav. Just regular wav files, straight from the device itself.
When you’re dealing with a lot of clips and a lot of audio recordings, this makes life so much easier.
Sure, the Rode software does now let you batch convert and export all your files at once now – and a new beta firmware actually allows the Wireless GO II to save wav natively, although you still need to load the Rode Connect app for your computer to recognise the devices – but not having to convert them at all does speed up the workflow.
First impressions on powering up
One of the immediate things you notice about the Saramonic BlinkMe is that massive touchscreen display covering the entire front surface of each transmitter. Besides the display, there are also two buttons. One lets you power the device on and off, while the other enables or disables the noise-reduction feature of the microphone.
On turning them on, the displays do look very impressive. They have a slick-looking design to the interface, too. But what’s best is that you can change it if you don’t like it. Saramonic has pre-installed a number of backgrounds for you to choose from, and you can install your own custom images through the smartphone app.
Note: The customised backgrounds didn’t fully work yet at the time of testing. I’m assuming this is because it’s a pre-release firmware and beta app that aren’t fully compatible with each other yet. It sort of works. It tries to update the transmitter to upload and show the custom image (which are the screenshots above), but it doesn’t actually manage to achieve it. I expect this will be working by the time it hits the stores.
The receiver also features a smaller touchscreen display, but it’s fairly limited in looks and functionality compared to the transmitters due to its small size. But swiping down allows you to reconfigure some options on the receiver, such as adjusting the gain, switching between stereo and mono, or using a safety track going out to your camera.
Swiping up from either the left or right side of the receiver’s display lets you bring up remote settings for Tx1 or Tx2, respectively. You’re not able to do much from here, but you can start and stop internal recording. You can also mute the microphone, as well as check how much storage is left or format the storage if necessary.
After charging and checking everything turned on, I wanted to get straight to it, connecting it to a camera, and doing some test recordings and hearing how it sounds. So, that’s what I did.
But first, a slight problem. You know that “autosensing” TRRS cable up top? Well, it turned out that it doesn’t autosense the Panasonic GH5’s TRS socket. The good news was that using a standard TRS to TRS cable (I used the one that comes with the Rode Wireless GO II) makes it work just fine with my GH5. The TRRS socket may autodetect what it’s plugged into, although the TRRS cable does not. It would be nice to see a TRS to TRS cable included in the box for those of us who won’t be plugging into the TRRS socket of a smartphone or laptop.
How does it sound?
The quality of the audio from the Saramonic BlinkMe impressed me. It doesn’t seem to capture as much of the lower frequency sounds as the Rode Wireless GO II, but those are easily compensated for in post. No matter what microphone you use, you’ll always get the best results with a little compression and EQ anyway, so it’s not a massive problem.
Transmitting to the Panasonic GH5 and recording that signal in the camera sounds almost identical to the recording directly in the transmitter. So, if you do happen to lose signal or get some interference, the internal recording will fill in those gaps quite nicely without a noticeable jump in quality between what it captures and what it sends to your camera.
There is one problem with the recording in the transmitter, though. It drifts. At least, it drifts compared to the recording in my Panasonic GH5 and the Wireless GO II – which both sync up with each other perfectly.
If you align a transmitter recording with a camera recording at the very beginning, within a couple of minutes, you’re already hearing a slight difference between the timing of the two recordings. And after 10-15 minutes, the difference is quite significant and noticeable.
The transmitters record at 48kHz, same as the GH5 and the Wireless GO II, and DaVinci Resolves sees all three recordings as 48kHz and not 44.1kHz. The project timeline is also 48kHz, so it’s not a frequency mismatch. The BlinkMe transmitters are just… off.
I haven’t sat down to calculate the exact speed discrepency, but hopefully, this is something Saramonic will be able to fix with a firmware update at some point.
As you can see from the video, I tested the range of the Saramonic BlinkMe at the same location I tested the range of the Rode Wireless ME (buy here).
At this location, I’m able to get about 150ft from the receiver before being forced to follow the path around a corner, where the incline of a hill blocks line of sight.
Before hitting that 150ft distance, there were no problems whatsoever, even when facing away from the camera with my body between the transmitter and receiver. As soon as I walked around that corner, though, as with the Wireless ME, the signal almost instantly cut out.
Unlike the Wireless ME, though, the BlinkMe records internally. And while there are drifting issues, if you only need to recover a small sample of the recording, it’s easy enough to cut a small segment of the audio and line it up with your camera’s recording.
While Saramonic boasts a range of more than twice what I was able to achieve – assuming flat ground and a clear line of sight with zero interference – 150ft is going to be more than plenty for most people. Sure, there will be occasional exceptions, but for 99% of shooters, 99% of the time, your subject won’t be that far from the camera. I certainly can’t recall a time when I’ve ever needed the subject to be that far from the camera.
Thoughts and Conclusions
Since Rode initially launched the Rode Wireless GO back in 2019, a lot of companies have tried to imitate it. It seems these days that you can’t look at a company in the photo or video industry that doesn’t have a microphone system of its own, even though they’re not a microphone company. For example, DJI, Godox, and Hollyland are all companies that don’t have microphones as a primary product line. Yet, they all have a tiny wireless clip-on mic system with their name on it.
The one problem that most of the third-party microphones have, though, is that very few of them really innovate. They’re all trying to live up to the standards and features set by Rode, first with the Wireless GO and now the Wireless GO II. Of course, they often lose a feature here and there in order to keep the prices competitive.
Saramonic, though, has definitely innovated here with BlinkMe. The touchscreen is a fantastic feature for the transmitter, allowing easy configuration of settings and features. It also allows you to set up a custom image for display on the transmitter while you’re recording – which can be great for on-camera branding or just hiding the fact that it’s a microphone.
I think a touchscreen display could potentially become the next must-have feature for easy interface control on small wireless microphone systems. We may see this trend more often over the next year or two as competitors release new microphones.
Overall, it’s a great system, let down by only one real issue. Audio drifting. If Saramonic can fix this, I think they’re onto a winner with the BlinkMe.
Price and availability
The Saramonic BlinkMe is available to pre-order now for $249 and is expected to start shipping in the coming weeks.