External microphones used to be a gadget with a fairly niche appeal, but now that most of us are doing approximately 20 times more video chats than we used to, it's a piece of kit you might want to upgrade. For my part, I've been using the new Tula Mic as an upgrade to my home office in form and function, and it's been fantastic.
The Tula Mic is the first product from a San Francisco-based company of the same name, started by David Brown of Soyuz Microphones. Those handmade, beautifully retro-looking and very expensive microphones are used by some of the biggest names in the music industry, like Paul McCartney, Adele and Ariana Grande. And while the Tula Mic shares that vintage flair, which is definitely party of its appeal, it's also far more affordable than high-end professional models, but more pricey than budget alternatives at $199.
Until now, my mainstay has been a Blue Snowball from Gear Patrol for work projects like our upcoming podcast. At just shy of $50, it's not crazy expensive but it does a better job than whatever is attached to your laptop. And its huge bulbous shape does make me feel a little like Howard Stern, which I liked a little too much, I think.
Having both on my desk has allowed me to enlist my coworkers for blind tests, forcing stay late after meetings and listen to me toggle between both. Almost every time, they singled out the Tula Mic as having the better sound quality. I was impressed at how uniform the opinion was! Listening back on recordings, I can hear the difference too. It's not isn't huge, granted, but it's definitely there. The Tula just sounds warmer and closer, like your voice is coming from across the table instead of from across the room.
The Tula Mic is also way more versatile than most other desktop mics. It's also a full-fledged portable digital recorder that can work with no computer required, for recording podcasts on the go, interviews, or whatever else you need. It has a 14-hour battery, 8GB of built-in memory and a built-in headphone jack so you can listen straight from the device.
It's a handy feature but there's definitely a learning curve. There isn't a display or interface on the actual microphone, and the buttons on the side (there are bunch) aren't labeled so you're going to have to keep the instruction manual nearby until muscle memory can take over.
But of course, that's not it's main use case. I suspect the appeal for most people is the same as it is for me: an external microphone that's a huge upgrade over the built-in mic on my laptop that looks better than pretty every other desktop mic you can buy. The black version looks absolutely fantastic with my other black and space gray desktop accoutrements, and makes hopping on a video call just slightly more fun.