The Tula Mic's Design Journey
My name is David Brown and I'm the founder of Tula Mics. I'm a Los Angeles native but for the past twenty years I've been living in in Barcelona. I'm a lifelong musician and recording artist and leader of the band Brazzaville. In 2013 I got the idea to found a high-end microphone company called Soyuz Microphones. It turned out that I had a real passion for industrial design and have acted as the principal designer for the company since its inception.
Around 2016, I was in a Best Buy back in California and I was looking at their selection of USB microphones. I found the selection they had to be bulky, mostly black and not very attractive. I decided to try to design a mic that would allow non professionals to achieve good quality sound. I wanted it to be more beautiful, portable and functional than what was currently available on the market.
THE GOLDEN RATIO
Sometime back in the 2000s when my kids were still small, I took them to a science museum here in Barcelona called Cosmo Caixa. There was an exhibit going on that was dedicated to the Golden Ratio. Being a highly undereducated person, I'd never heard of it before. I was fascinates by the fact that there was a ratio (1 x 1.618) that human beings found irresistibly attractive. Apparently, when we find a person beautiful, it's because we're seeing Golden Ratios in their physical appearance (distance between eyes and nose etc). There were also many examples of how the Golden Ratio had been used extensively in design. Everything from credit cards to wide screen TVs seemed to use them.
When I first sat down to design the flagship Soyuz microphone (then called the SU-017 since renamed the 017 TUBE) I was struggling to come up with a design that felt "right". One day when I was working on it, I remembered the Golden Ratio exhibit I had visited years earlier and decided to try applying it to my design. The results were amazing. There was suddenly a solidity and "weight" to the design that I hadn't been able to achieve up until then.
Since then I've designed many more mics as well as other products for Soyuz. In all of them, I've applied the Golden Ratio in various ways.
From the beginning of the Tula project, I envisioned the Tula as some form of rectangular shaped microphone. I wanted it to easily fit in a person's pocket so that felt like it would be the most natural shape. Of course, there was no question that I was going to make the rectangle a Golden Ratio, it was just a matter of deciding on the exact dimensions.
One day while working on sketches of the Tula, an idea occurred to me. I remembered reading once that a traditional pack of cigarettes was a Golden Ratio. I ran to the store and bought (ex smoker) and measured it. Lo and behold, it was an EXACT Golden Ratio to the millimeter. I figured that tobacco companies must have spent millions figuring out the best size Golden Ratio to fit into a human hand, so I copied their dimensions exactly. Here's a photo showing the progression of Tula prototype models beginning with a modified pack of cigarettes wrapped in tin foil, through various 3D printed models and ending with several very rough early mechanical prototypes.
When the Tula was finally released in 2021, somebody left a comment on our Instagram mentioning Dieter Rams. I had no idea who that was. I looked him up and fell deeply in love with his work. He had designed many of Braun's most iconic products (including the portable shaver that the Tula so strongly resembles).
It was important to me that the Tula Mic be solely about audio. To that end, I didn't want it to have a screen. I wanted to see if I could blend the elegance of retro design on the outside with cutting edge tech on the inside. I felt that the sides of the mic would be the most intuitive place to have the control buttons and that, if placed in the correct way, could still provide a relatively user friendly experience.
RIGHT TO REPAIR
As with Soyuz mics, I wanted the Tula to "feel" high-quality. I wanted people to have a connection with it by just holding it in their hand, even before they necessarily knew what its function was. To that end, I chose the materials carefully. It had to have a decent amount of metal. It had to be balanced. It had to feel like it wouldn't be damaged by carrying it around in your pocket.
During the early stages of the development process I read an article about the Right to Repair movement. One of Dieter Rams pet peeves was built in obsolescence. He believed, as I do, that products should be built to last and that the culture of throw away consumer goods was dangerous for both our planet and our psyches. So we decided that the Tula would be entirely screwed and snapped together. It would be easy to repair and if and when it finally gave up the ghost, it could be disassembled into its component parts and recycled properly.
I hope that you have as much fun using the Tula as my team and I had creating it.
March 11th, 2023