As the debut product from Tula Mics, the appropriately named Tula Microphone is pretty unique, and not just because of its lustrous exterior. Instead of being another pocket-sized recorder that can double as a USB mic, the Tula is a pocket-sized USB mic that can double as a recorder. That may sound like splitting hairs, but it’s indicative of where the mic and the company behind it are coming from, rethinking the familiar from a different vantage point.
Roughly the size of a deck of cards, the Tula Mic is a stylish prosumer microphone designed for use in podcasting, content creation, the work-from-home world and so on, and it has a price tag to match at $199. Housed in the Tula’s solid metal/plastic case—available in black, red and cream—are cardioid and omnidirectional capsules, Burr Brown op amps, a Texas Instruments audio codec and a custom iteration of Swedish music software company Klevgrand’s Brusfri noise reduction algorithm. The mic connects to computers and devices via a USB-C port on back, and comes packaged with a USB-C to USB-A cable, a built-in (but removable) stand, and a universal threaded mic stand adaptor.
For those who use the Tula as a recorder, there’s 8 GB of internal memory (no SD or MicroSD cards here) which can hold up to 14 hours of recordings captured in .WAV format. When used on its own without a computer, the Tula is powered by a rechargable internal 3.7 V 700 mAh lithium ion battery that can hold enough power to record continuously for 10-12 hours with noise cancelation on, and 14 hours without. The Tula recharges via the USB-C cable, and when plugged into a computer, it appears on the desktop as a USB drive, allowing users to copy audio files to their machine.
Sporting a retro-futuristic look that vaguely recalls the Star Trek communicators of yore, the Tula has a minimalist design that underscores the usually intuitive controls on the mic. Aside from the detachable built-in stand, there are no moving parts on the Tula. All the control buttons run up each side of the mic and are under pressable mesh; notably, there is no screen on the Tula to convey information like settings, gain and so on, so crucial info is instead provided through two LEDs on the front face. Thanks to that minimalism, the mic may have a timeless look but there’s also far fewer parts to potentially break—a crucial factor for a mic that is likely to get tossed in backpacks and the like.
When used strictly as a USB mic, the Tula is pretty straightforward; it gets power from the USB-C cable in the back, but still requires the user to hit the On/Off button to activate it. The Tula defaults to the cardioid capsule, but a short tap of the Mic Select button switches to the Omni, and a long tap activates the Tula’s 3.5 mm lav mic input, which doubles as a headphone jack for playback.
Perhaps the Tula’s strongest selling point is its noise cancellation, because the onboard Klevgrand Brusfri algorithm gets the job done. In testing, I unfairly placed the Tula just six inches from a loud space-heater blasting right at the mic, started talking and hit the NC button halfway through recording. Upon playback, I found the algorithm had ripped that noisy heater out of the recording, leaving my voice very clear and usable, if unsurprisingly missing some low end. Lest that scare you off using the NC button, don’t fret; the Tula automatically records two copies of your audio file—one with noise cancellation and one without—so that you have options come edit time. Still, the noise cancellation is a real problem-solver, if not a miracle worker. It’s not supposed to offer the scalpel-like precision of your favorite audio repair plug-in, but it does an impressive job on the fly of creating more than passable audio in less than ideal circumstances; in those instances, the Tula’s noise cancellation really shines.
Used as a stand-alone recorder, the Tula is slightly less impressive—it records well, but is somewhat hindered by the device’s sleek minimalism. Most of the buttons’ functions are relatively clear, labeled with familiar universal icons for ‘record,’ ‘stop’ and the like. Confusingly, however, there are two Playback Volume buttons and two Gain Level buttons, and both sets are labeled with identical +/- symbols. That aggravation aside, the Gain Level buttons work well (once you remember which are which); adjusting in 5 dB increments, they affect an LED light on the front that alternately flashes green, yellow and red to help gauge the right level.
In all, the Tula offers a unique sense of style and design for its intended audience of content-creators—a market where, once video comes into play, a mic’s looks can be as important as its sound. The cleverly designed controls can be a little too clever at times, but the surprisingly robust on-board noise cancellation is impressive and will come in handy, especially for users who take the Tula out into the real world. The Tula Mic marks a solid debut for its namesake company.
Tula Mics • www.tulamics.com