It seems that every voice actor is on a never-ending quest for the next best travel microphone. Some microphones sound great but aren’t very portable. Some microphones are portable but have less than desired audio quality. Some require cables and interfaces and special hook-ups that are a pain to carry around. While I wasn't in the market for a travel mic (Most of the time I will bring my trusty 416 when I travel), I wanted a quality microphone that I could use oń my iPhone for moderating the weekly Voices in Podcasting Room on Clubhouse with my awesome colleagues Jodi Krangle and Cheryl Holling. I also wanted something small that would sound great for my new portable rolling video rig. The brand-new Tula mic seemed like a great fit that just might check all the boxes. Plus it looked REALLY cool.
SQUEE! Just LOOK at it.
I know I should be starting off this review by talking about mic quality, but Ohmygosh, will you just LOOK at it? I. can't. EVEN. It's adorable! It comes in four colors: black, cream, red, and seafoam. It's got a super retro vibe and fits into the palm of my hand! Out of the gate, the mic has a bunch of super features: it has built-in smart recording, onboard storage, and a battery that helps it serve as a completely portable microphone (up to 14 hours on one charge!) Or you can use it as a USB microphone as well. It features dedicated cardioid and omnidirectional ECM capsules and an onboard optional noise reduction. The 3.5 mm jack allows you to use it as a headphone jack as well as an input for a lav mic. (wow) Also, you can use the stand that comes with it, or it also comes with an adapter that you can use to mount it to a standard mic stand.
Such a cute name.
The Tula mic was developed by a musician, engineer, and entrepreneur by the name of David Brown. David Brown founded the high-quality microphone company Soyuz. Soyuz microphones are known for their high quality. Based in a little town about an hour south of Moscow, the Soyuz microphone plant was once a factory for the Kalashnikov machine gun. (which may explain why the Soyuz microphones look like they do) The town that makes the Soyuz microphones, is called Tula. And there you have it.
What about the buttons?
But enough about the cute name, let’s get into the Tula mic functionality. The first thing you’ll notice is its unique design. All at once, compact, retro, and modern, the Tula Mic is comfortable to hold and pretty to look at. In the box, you’ll get a USBC to USB cable and a mic stand adaptor. Along the sides of the microphone are the controls. On the right side, you’ll find a headphone output that doubles as a Lavalier input, the volume controls for monitoring, the record button, playback start and stop buttons, and the power button. While learning the ropes with this little guy, I was again reminded about how COOL it is that this is truly a standalone recorder! I had inadvertently recorded a bunch of my own dialog and awkward breathing (I know, I am so elegant) while pushing the buttons that I was able to retrieve as a wav file once I plugged it into the USB port on my computer. The Tula acts as a drive in this instance. Mind blown.
On the other side of the mic, you’ll find the gain controls, the playback forward and back buttons, microphone mute, noise cancellation, and pick-up pattern selection switch. On the front of the mic are two lights, the activated indicator light, and the gain monitor light. The Tula defaults to unidirectional but can be switched to omnidirectional. If you hold the pattern button down until it blinks, it will activate the lavaliere input. One note about the Lavalier Jack, you need to make sure that you have a TRRS Lavalier- otherwise, it won’t work.
This versatile microphone isn’t without its quirks. Let’s start with the cable. On the back of the microphone, you will find a USB-C port. For Android devices, it’s as simple as buying a USB-C to Android plug cable. But for iOS devices, it’s a little more complicated. In order to hook up your iOS device to this microphone, you must have an Apple brand media adapter. You’ll know it’s a media adapter officially from Apple if it has this little graphic of a camera on it. For iOS devices this is the only adapter that will allow you to hook up your Tula mic to your iOS device. You’ll then find that the only cable that will allow you to hook up your Tula to your iOS device after the adapter is the USBC to USB cable that is included with the Tula so don’t lose it! Many other USB cables that should work don’t. If you want to use the Tula straight into your computer any USB-C to USB cable should do the trick. When you hook up your Tula microphone to your computer it will look like any other external drive. Any files that have been recorded using the internal 8 GB recorder should be available to you to drag and drop to your desktop.
One of the fantastic features of the standalone recorder capability of the Tula microphone is its noise cancellation feature. The software was developed by a Swedish company by the name of Klevgrand. When you use the noise cancellation feature on your microphone the Tula actually saves two different files of the same recording! Bonus! One with the noise cancellation feature on, and one without. This is very handy when it comes to assessing the quality of your files at a later time. If for some reason your noise cancellation had some sort of strange artifact or you didn’t like the way your recording sounded, you’re able to have the original file without any artifacts or noise cancellation whatsoever. And then you can edit as you normally would.
What about Clubhouse?
Many content creators are looking for a high-quality USB microphone for the new Clubhouse application. I’m sad to say that if you’re using your iOS device to engage with Clubhouse, the Tula mic won’t work. Even though the Tula mic comes on when you plug it in and turn on the clubhouse application, whenever you are invited to speak on the platform, the microphone mysteriously deactivates. Your iPhone mic will switch on and override the Tula. However, if you’re going to use Clubdeck app on your PC then the Tula mic hooked up USB to your computer - functions just fine. The bottom line is that you need to monitor the "active" light on the front of the Tula whenever you're using it.
Plays well with others
There are many other applications that the Tula mic works with really well. For example, Twisted Wave, a voice actor staple, plays very well with the Tula mic. It works great with Zoom on your mobile device as well. Other applications like voice memos work just fine. One last quirk about the microphone. When you connect the cable to your iOS device the power light comes on and the microphone powers up. However, when you disconnect the cable, the power stays on. You have to remember to manually turn off the mic or you will run out of precious battery power.
I have decided that I am going to use the Tula mic as a USB mic for my laptop with my rolling video rig that I will be using to create videos for my Teachable Moments YouTube channel. I'm super excited to be able to be mobile and have different sets with great sound from the Tula mic! Stay tuned as I will be blogging about this mobile setup as well, as soon s it's fine-tuned for my environment.
But how does it sound?
And lastly, I’d like to talk a little bit about the audio quality of the Tula. Even though the microphone comes with its own flip-out desktop stand I don’t recommend using the microphone that far away from your mouth. The microphone sounds best when it’s 6 to 12 inches away from your mouth. It is very sensitive to plosives so good microphone technique is essential. I would describe this microphone as being very neutral. It's not too bass-heavy at all - for my bright voice, I would have loved a bit more bass for warmth - but hey I have my 416 for that :) - it's not too sibilant, not too mid-forward but extremely neutral.
Here's a sample below in a quiet area of my home outside of the studio:
Here are two quick samples both with and without the noise cancellation feature. Note that for both, I am sitting outside of my studio in my office with an open window to my left, and another fan running behind me in the background since I wanted to really test out the noise cancellation feature. There is a definite difference with noise cancellation on as you can hear and see, but it's not completely eliminated. As always your best bet is to try and find your quiet area to record. Here is the sample below without noise cancellation:
Here is the same exact sample with noise reduction. There is a definite change in the audio. Notice the difference in the waveform - I left the dB levels meter on the left so you can compare the two.
If you want more in-depth examples of the Tula sound, The Voiceover Village Channel by Rick MacIvor did a great review here: https://youtu.be/NplQ6xbFl20 , and you can hear a lot more on the detail of the Brusfi noise cancellation feature.
For voice actors, this is a super cool and versatile piece of gear. Especially for its price point. The Tula microphone is compact and sounds great. I LOVE the standalone recording feature. No need to bring your computer into the pillow fort! The audio quality really is the key here. All these features don’t do you any favors if the mic sounds like you’re talking in a tin can. Thankfully, the Tula mic delivers on all fronts. Thanks for reading my review - Happy voicing!
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.
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