Reading Time: 6 minutes
Scissortail's Learning Nest by Kayleen Holt
Product Review: Record High-Quality Audio Anywhere. Microphone on a desk.

Introduction

I have a confession to make. I’ve been recording audio for years with my iPhone and the Voice Memos app. Here’s what the process looked like: I’d print my script, shut off the central air, go into my walk-in closet, set up my script and phone on a shelf surrounded by sweaters (for echo reduction), and record. Then I’d use Camtasia’s Noise Removal effect to clean up the audio. A few years ago, I bought an inexpensive ZealSound microphone and pop filter to boost the sound quality.

eLearning Audio Sample: ZealSound Microphone in Closet

The result wasn’t terrible, but the process for recording and editing was a bit of a pain. I started leaving the microphone (with the pop filter and stand) in the closet, so I didn’t have to take it back and forth from my office every time I needed to record. That left me using my computer’s built-in microphone for virtual meetings. No one ever complained that they couldn’t hear me, so I thought it was fine.

But then, back in April, I had the privilege of participating in a Community Discussion for TLDCast, focused on what the pandemic has taught us about remote learning and working. When I listened to the recording later, I realized I needed to invest in a real microphone. After I started looking into my options, Facebook decided to help me in my search (as they do), and I saw an ad for the Tula Mic

Why I Love the Tula Mic

With its sleek retro design, the Tula Mic wowed me. Seriously, I’ve never swooned over a microphone before, but I did for this one. Just check out this sexy little thing.

It comes in red, black, cream, and seafoam green. At $199 when I purchased it, the Tula Mic (now $229) was more expensive than the Blue Yeti microphone I had been planning to buy (also a great choice at $129.99). Was it worth it? I didn’t want to pay more for “pretty,” so I did my homework. After comparing the features, I ordered the Tula Mic. Besides its stunning good looks, the features that set it apart and really sold me were:

  1. It is also a recorder. I can record anywhere with the touch of a button, without having to connect it to my phone or computer or use special software. The Tula Mic includes 8 GB of internal memory, and files can be moved onto your computer.
  2. It has built-in noise reduction. It has built-in noise reduction software that gets rid of room echo, making a normal room sound as good as a recording studio. No more going to my closet to record!

Like the Blue Yeti, the Tula Mic can record unidirectional or omnidirectional audio. The default unidirectional setting is great for recording myself. It doesn’t pick up noise from behind it (such as the hum of my computer when it’s on my desk). If I needed to record an in-person meeting, I could set it to omnidirectional and place it in the middle of the conference table, and it would pick up sound equally from all directions.

The Tula Mic also has gain control and a mute button (with a light to indicate when you’re muted). It exports audio recordings in .WAV format. When you turn on the noise reduction feature, it creates two files, one of which is the raw audio without noise reduction.

Hear the Difference for Yourself

Let me be clear: I’m not sponsored by Tula Microphones. I don’t receive anything from them for my recommendation. I’m just a fan, and I put together some demonstrations to show you why.

Demonstration 1: Airbnb

I went on vacation last week and took the Tula Mic with me. It’s about the size of a deck of cards, so it’s super portable.

If you’ve ever tried to record narration away from your home or office, you know it can be a challenge to find the right conditions. For this audio test, I didn’t even try for ideal conditions. Instead, I decided to test the noise reduction feature and see just how good it was.

I sat at the desk in the living room of my Airbnb and didn’t even bother to turn off the fans in the room, which were running on high speed. I was even washing a load of laundry in the next room. Every voiceover artist I know would cringe to know I was recording under such circumstances.

 

For comparison, I recorded with my iPhone and the Tula Mic simultaneously, and I didn’t do any edits later except for deleting short clips at the beginning and end. 

Desk with iPhone, MacBook computer, and a small portable microphone. An arrow pointing to the iPhone is labeled "Voice Memos App." Another arrow pointing to the portable microphone is labeled "Tula Mic."

Take a listen. (Word of caution: You may need to adjust your volume, as the iPhone sample is louder and has more noise.)

Airbnb Sample: iPhone with Voice Memos App
Airbnb Sample: Tula Mic with Noise Reduction

Demonstration 2: My Office (During a Hail Storm)

After I got back home, I decided to repeat the test in my office. In the middle of a thunderstorm. In the audio sample, I mention rain, but I learned later that it was actually hailing.

Office Sample (During a Hailstorm): iPhone with Voice Memos App
Office Sample (During a Hailstorm): Tula Mic with Noise Reduction

You’ll notice that the Tula Mic is not a complete miracle worker. It can’t get rid of loud noises like construction work, a dog barking, or hail hitting the window. But I’m still impressed.

Demonstration 3: My Office (Quiet)

If the Tula Mic performs this well in horrible recording conditions, imagine how good the quality will be when you’re recording in a quiet room (if you have such a thing). I tried it out in my office after the storm passed. Normally, I would have shut off the central air, but it’s not a problem with the Tula Mic.

Office Sample (Quiet): iPhone with Voice Memos App
Office Sample (Quiet): Tula Mic with Noise Reduction

You can read the transcripts for all recordings using the links below:

Hi, this is Kayleen Holt. I’m recording this audio test in an Airbnb while I’m on vacation. There are two ceiling fans on high right above me, there’s a washing machine going in the next room, being very loud, and there are birds chirping outside the window. How much of that can you hear? I don’t have any pop filters or anything else to soften the noise. What I do have, on the Tula Mic recording, is the Tula Mic’s noise cancellation feature, which is—I have to say—pretty darn cool.

In this test, I’m back in my home office. It’s storming outside today, as it often does in Oklahoma. There’s rain right outside the window, with some light rumbles of thunder, and occasionally, the wind causes a clanging sound inside the chimney for the fireplace in the room next to me.

This is a sample of recording in my home office when it’s fairly quiet. The only noise I can hear is my air conditioner running.

Summary

I’ve been using the Tula Mic for virtual meetings for about a month now, and even when my husband has the TV turned up in the next room next or my dog is snoring at my feet, no one in the meeting can hear it (I’ve asked). If you need a great microphone that gives you the flexibility to record high-quality audio anywhere, I highly recommend the Tula Mic. 

I still recommend hiring a professional voiceover artist whenever you can, especially when you’re recording character audio for scenarios. They have professional recording studios, and, as you might expect, are better voice actors than most instructional designers. But the Tula Mic is a champ if you need to record yourself and you don’t have a recording studio.

What microphone do you use for virtual meetings? If you record audio narration for your courses, what does your recording setup look like? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Links

If you want to purchase any of the microphones mentioned in this post, you can get them from Amazon at these links:

As an Amazon Affiliate, I receive a small amount if you purchase from the above links. You won’t pay any more for the product by using these links.

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Comments

  • This article is super informative and I enjoyed all your recording tests! I am not familiar with this brand of mic. It has a vintage look to me but I guess what is old is new again. Sounds like that back ground reduction is fairly effective.

    • Hi Lorraine! Thanks so much for commenting. I think Tula Mics are fairly new to the market (and this microphone/recorder is their debut product). The earliest reviews I found for it are from January of this year. I love the retro design, and the noise reduction is really cool!

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