- ✓Audio quality
- ✓Long battery life
- ✓Onboard storage
- ✕Noise cancelation doesn’t remove everything, but it’s still impressive
Tula Microphones may not be a common name when it comes to USB microphones, but I have a feeling that will start to change. The $199 Tula Mic was announced in early January, and I've been testing a review sample for a few weeks now.
There's a strong 1950s vibe to the Tula Mic. However, it's anything but a retro microphone. It has built-in smarts, onboard storage, and a battery that helps it serve as a completely portable microphone. Or, if you'd rather, you can use it as a USB microphone to improve the quality of your personal podcast or video calls.
The first thing you'll notice after unboxing the Tula is its size. It's small, measuring 98mm x 63mm x 25mm, or roughly the same size and shape as a pack of cigarettes. There's a built-in stand that connects to the bottom of the microphone. When you rotate the stand out, it places the microphone at an angle that allows it to pick up audio with you sitting directly in front of it.
The stand can be removed, and you can use the included adapter if you have a standard microphone mount you prefer. If not, the stand folds back in place, with magnets holding it in place when it's closed.
There are two LED lights on the front of the mic. The light on the left turns red when the mic is in use, while the right LED is a gain meter, lighting up green as it detects audio. When the light turns yellow, you know your gain is too high and you need to lower it.
Controlling settings like gain is done using a series of buttons that line either side of the Tula. On the left side, from top to bottom, are buttons to raise or lower the gain, skip forward, or skip back when listening to a recorded track, mute the mic, turn on noise-canceling, and, finally, switch between cardioid or omnidirectional recording.
Cardioid is the default setting, with the mic only recording what's directly in front of it. Omni opens up the recording area to the full area surrounding the Tula, a helpful feature if you're recording a group podcast.
On the right side are more buttons. Going again from top to bottom, you'll find a 3.5mm audio in/out jack, volume up, volume down, record, stop, play/pause, and the on/off buttons.
Some buttons, like the power, noise cancellation, and record light up to let you know when they're active. It took me several recording sessions to get familiar with which button does with, especially with the gain and volume buttons found near the top of either side, using the same + and - icons. But once you memorize the layout, it's a seamless process to quickly make adjustments.
The backside of the Tula has a USB-C port that you can use with the included USB-A-to-USB-C cable to sync your files or connect to a computer for use as a dedicated microphone.
The Tula Mic is one of the best looking microphones I've used. It's small enough to fit in a backpack or even a pocket to take with you on the road. I can see myself taking this to my next tech event (whenever that may be) and recording a podcast or video from my hotel room, improving the overall audio quality without weighing my bag down.
Over the course of the last few weeks, I've recorded two episodes of ZDNet's Jason Squared weekly video and podcast series.
Here's the first episode:
Here's the second episode:
Other than some echo that's almost always present in my recordings, I don't have any issues with the audio quality. I had accidentally increased the gain on the mic before recording as I was trying to figure out which button did what (part of that learning process I mentioned), so the audio was high, but our invaluable producer was able to mostly correct it in editing.
The second episode was more in line with the normal audio I get from the Elgato Wave 3 microphone.
I also did some testing, recording myself on my own, and in conversations with my family. The cool part about using the built-in noise cancellation feature is that two versions of your recording are stored on the 8GB of internal memory. One recording is a standard audio file, without any sort of noise control. The other file is with reduced background noise.
That way you can pick which file sounds better.
Most of the time, the noise-reduced file sounded better. It's not as aggressive as, say, Krisp or even Nvidia's RTX Voice feature, but it does a good job at removing some -- not all --of the noise my office heater makes. It won't get rid of taps on the desk or clicking of a keyboard next to the mic, but it does lower their overall impact.
The battery is good for 14 hours, and the full 8GB of storage should net you the same amount of audio.
I like the Tula Mic. It's a reliable mobile recorder that doubles as a USB microphone with built-in storage so you don't have to fuss with memory cards. The audio quality is good enough for my liking, and the noise cancelation feature is a nice touch that should help reduce some, but not all, background noise.
I have no qualms recommending the Tula Mic to those who need something lightweight, portable, and easy to use. At $199, it's priced higher than competing USB microphones, but the added versatility and portability increases its overall value.