Microphone Pop Filters and Why You Need Them

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A Microphone Pop Filter is an essential part of every home studio to make sure every voice recording comes out crystal clear!
Microphone Pop Filters and Why You Need Them

In almost every video about recording musicians and vocalists, you must have seen a small circular mesh looking object in front of the microphone. That small but crucial object is a Microphone Pop Filter.

Usually, when you must have heard an announcement over a microphone, you may have witnessed a loud popping or banging noise when a person speaks loudly. These sounds are termed as ‘plosive’ sounds, mostly these sounds are caused when uttering words that start with the letter B or P.

An easy way to test this is to light a candle and say words that start with these letters, you would notice that the flame would flicker more as you say those words compared to words with a sustained ‘Aah’ sound. This is mainly caused by the blast of air that you produce when you say the letter P or B.

Mostly all directional microphones suffer from the ‘proximity effect’ where the closer you are to the microphone, it becomes that much more sensitive to lower frequencies. The plosive sounds are essentially a blast of low-frequency sounds.

Condenser microphones which are typically used in studios are susceptible to popping sounds because of their construction and light diaphragms. Dynamic microphones, however, are slightly more tolerant because of their larger diaphragms. But neither are completely immune to this effect. You would hence see low cut switches/ toggles in some mid-range and high-end condenser microphones that help mitigate this effect to an extent.

In general practice, you would usually notice that most images or videos of condenser microphones have a pop filter and for good reason. If you want your recordings to sound clear and tight you would want to consider investing in a good pop filter.

There are two types of pop filters that you would come across in the market; nylon mesh and metal mesh pop filters. Both have their pros and cons and while metal mesh pop filters have a lesser effect on high frequencies they are considerably more expensive than the nylon mesh variety.

For a home studio environment and to get you started a nylon mesh pop filter would last you a long time and would give you a comparable performance.

SOME ADVANTAGES OF USING A MICROPHONE POP FILTER:

  • Essential and amazing for indoor use
  • Eliminate the popping sounds caused by the mechanical impact of fast-moving air on a diaphragm
  • They help minimize plosive and sibilance (hissing sounds that come from apparent S sounds)
  • They help keep moisture away from the microphone, which increases the longevity of your equipment
  • Nylon Mesh ones are usually inexpensive. So you don’t have to break the bank

WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A POP FILTER:

  • First and foremost is the size of the pop filter, make sure the diameter you select encompasses the size of your microphone and your style of recording
  • The shape is another factor to consider and this depends on your style of recording. If you move around a lot when recording then you should consider a curved filter as this would give you more flexibility. However curved pop filters would be more expensive than flat ones
  • Most pop filters come with a gooseneck mount that you could shape and adjust depending on your scenario however it would be pragmatic to check the length of the gooseneck to make sure it serves your purpose and fits your equipment.

SOME HACKS:

  • Speaking off-axis that is not directly facing the center of the microphone would help you to an extent
  • Using a pantyhose/ nylon stocking stretched over a cloth hanger would let you create a make-shift pop filter, but mounting becomes a problem in the long run
  • You could in a dire situation also use a kitchen sieve (yes the same kind you use to filter tea or juices) but imagine the plight if you have an external artist who comes over to collaborate with you in your studio

SOME AFFORDABLE MICROPHONE POP FILTERS

1. Hawk Proaudio PS02

2. Samson PS01

2. Kadence Professional Microphone Pop Filter

CONCLUSION

While getting a pop filter would help your recordings sound better and clearer, preparation and practice are key to get professional-sounding vocals. The fanciest looking building is bound to fall if its foundations are built on sand. So focus on the basics and prepare before you perform your final take. Here are some pop filters that would get you started and would pair well with our Top 4 Condenser microphones too!

Varun Sundaram
Varun Sundaram

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