As children, we are told to not judge a book by its cover. So as adults, when something arrives in the mail packaged in a cool little box with a trendy logo, we are conditioned to pass it off as nothing more than a slick marketing technique.
There are a few occasions, however, when a cool little box with a trendy logo contains an awfully nifty item.
The item in this case is the Tula Mic, from Tula Microphones, a combination microphone and handheld digital recorder.
It fortunately arrived when mobile/remote voice recording hit an all-time peak recently. Radio professionals and podcasters alike find themselves in places nobody ever assumed would become recording studios.
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The Tula Mic boasts a throwback design that is, simply, fun to look at and use.
“Tula” is Sanskrit for “balance,” which speaks to the technological advances that are shrouded in its nostalgic design. Specifically, Tula uses Burr-Brown op-amp circuitry and noise reduction technology from Swedish software designer Klevgrand.
Klevgrand’s “Brusfri” noise reduction plug-in is built into Tula for learning and eliminating environmental noise characteristics.
From a basic design interest, Tula’s lithium ion battery charges via USB. The internal battery charge lasts about 12 hours.
A classy, foldable desk stand allows Tula to sit comfortably on a desk. The desk stand removes easily, and a mic stand adapter can be snapped on for more detailed and critical mic placement.
Tula is equipped with cardioid and omnidirectional capsules. The two polar patterns accommodate a single voice session or use with several voices in a group or interview setting.
Via its USB-C cable, Tula can be used as a USB mic for real-time miking and will work properly with any DAW running on Mac or Windows.
Familiar transport, control and volume buttons are situated on the sides of the mic along with a 3.5 mm TRRS jack that doubles as a headphone output or input for another source, such as a lapel mic.
Functionally, Tula is hardly a complicated tool, but it packs a punch under the hood.
Pressing record does what you’d expect. Plug in headphones and adjust the volume to monitor real-time recording or file playback.
Two LEDs on the front indicate input gain levels and record mode. Use the USB connection to move Tula’s files to a computer or use Tula as an audio I/O device. Pretty simple!
The ultimate Tula “cool” factor is found in its noise reduction function.
When in NC (noise cancellation) mode, Tula records two simultaneous versions of the audio file. One version is raw, with no noise reduction. The other version is recorded with the Klevgrand Brusfri noise reduction plug-in applied.
Brusfri reduces constant noises like HVAC system noise and functions quite well. I found the room noise had completely disappeared and the voice content was kept pristine with no additional artifacts or degradation. The Brusfri noise reduction even eliminated the drone of an airplane that was audible in the studio.
The NC feature works in real time when Tula is used as an I/O device as well.
Tula’s Art-Deco-ish form factor is fashionable and unique, and it travels well. Given that it serves as a portable recorder and a USB microphone, Tula should feel at home with anyone who is on the go and needs to grab audio on the fly or is in the studio and needs to record a quick VO. It records standard 16-bit/48 kHz WAV files.
There was some noticeable handling noise sensitivities, and I detected some “not-quite-large-diaphragm” coloration on vocal reproduction. But Tula offers a clean and bright overall vocal response.
A windscreen or “dead cat” might be needed, as Tula is sensitive to plosives and wind. Tula explains that windscreens that fit a Blue Yeti will also fit the square Tula.
The steel construction is robust and prepared for the bustle and abuse of field reporting or comfortable studio work. Eight GB of internal memory and the lithium ion battery guarantee 12 hours of continuous recording.
Tula is a stylish little device that until you use it for yourself, you didn’t know you wanted.
The author is the owner of production firm Audio Concepts and a Radio World contributor.
Thumbs Up: Cool design; built-in digital recorder; built-in noise reduction processing; interfaces with computer DAWs; solid construction
Thumbs Down: Susceptible to handling noise; not compatible with standard microphone windscreens
Info: Tula Microphones at www.tulamics.com.
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