Do you really need a pop filter for your recordings? Find out what it does and how it’s designed, and discover its many benefits.
So what is a pop filter? If you’re regularly using a microphone, then you need one. If you ever see videos of singers recording their songs in the studio, you’ve already seen one. It’s the screen you find hovering between the lips of the singer and the head of the microphone.
What Are Pop Filters Used For?
There are some very good reasons why pop filters are used, especially in recording studios. The main reason is that it makes your voice sound so much better in the recording. When you sing, the plosive “P” and “B” sounds can result in hard air called “puffs” that can reach the mike. These puffs can result in distortion, and they can really sound terrible.
The pop filter can also reduce the sibilance when you speak or sing a lot of “S” sounds. All these are issues that can be minimized, and that makes it easier to edit the takes you get from your recordings.
As a bonus, the pop filter also keeps your spit from reaching the mike. Without pop filters, the mikes can get absolutely nasty with spit, and there will be some hygiene issues especially with singers who tend to sing really close to the microphone.
Buying a Pop Filter
For some people at home, a sock over the microphone will do. That’s not exactly professional, however, and the effect isn’t as good as what you get from a real pop filter. So you need to buy one. Basically, you’ll first have to choose between 2 basic designs.
The first and most popular version is the nylon filter, which is also referred to by some as the “pantyhose” filter for obvious reasons. Some people prefer it because it’s much more affordable, and yet they work well enough if you get the best brands. You just attach the wire to the mike stand, and you can adjust its distance from the microphone head.
Some even offer dual layers of nylon for greater protection against the pop sounds. The first layer blocks as the air blasts from the plosive sounds, like a normal pop filter. Then the gap between the layers scatters any of the remaining air pressure. The second layer then deals with the remaining air blast more easily. The risk is that with a dual layer too much of the high-frequency detail may be lost so that it sounds muffled.
The other version is metal and curved to look like some sort of mask for the microphone. It promises to be more durable than the nylon, which can tear. Nylon is also not as easy to clean, while you can just wash the metal screen easily enough.
The metal screen is a bit more expensive, but not really by much. One problem with this material is that there may be a tendency for the sound to seem “tinny” as a result. Another problem is that you can’t adjust the distance of the screen from the mike.
Of course, there are those who say that these things aren’t really necessary, as you can just train your plosive enunciation and avoid directing your voice to the microphone. But then again, the professional singers all use it, so you should too!