What is a Pop Filter, And When Do You Need One?

Martin Kristiansen
Posted by  Martin Kristiansen, on May 3, 2022 5:32:39 AM

 

Photo credit: arianagrande - Instagram

We usually see this round and black screen filter among singers, voice-over artists, and podcasters. What does it really do exactly? Can children use it too? Are they essential for you to succeed with your recordings?

Read on to learn more about pop filter shields!

 

Others: What Does a Pop Filter Do? | Home Studio Ideas

 

 

What is a Pop Filter?

microphone-recording-studio-music-sound-recording-and-reproduction-hemmastudio-microphone-598cc1d4b3a735a98c5ed648f92359eb

Let’s start with the basics. A pop shield is a circle of nylon or metallic mesh clipped onto the microphone stand, a few inches from the mic. The mesh reduces and eliminates popping sounds from plosives. 

The 8 Best Microphones for Vocals | Home Studio Ideas


  • So what are plosives?

Plosives occur naturally when we speak or sing harsh words. As an example, place your hand palm a couple of inches from your mouth, and say the word "plosives". Notice the blast of air hitting your hand palm?

The airblast is caused by the harsh word "p" and this is what we call "plosives". When the loud blast of air reaches the mic diaphragm, a large asymmetrical output signal will occur which overloads the microphone preamp. These popping noises are a nightmare to remove in the post-production process, and if you're not cautious you might end up with a useless recording.

 

  • 6 Plosive Consonants
  • Plosives

English pronunciation contains 6 plosive phonemes: "p", "b", "t", "d", "k", and "g". A pop filter's main job is to disperse the air coming from our mouth in different directions. Doing so will distribute the air blast into smaller ones, which a vocal microphone won't pick up.

A common misconception is that pop filters manipulate the vocal recordings. Truth be told, there is a bit of high-frequency reduction. However, it's barely noticeable and when it comes to using pop filters, there are far more wins than losses.  


  • Pop Filter prevents saliva to enter the microphone

Another secondary benefit of using pop filters is the fact that they also prevent saliva from getting into the microphone. This will make the mic last longer, as water can cause electrical shorts.

 

Do I need a pop filter?

A pop filter is essential if you're recording close-up vocals. This is especially true if you're working with inexperienced vocalists. Since plosives occur naturally when we speak, they are more or less inevitable.  Also, plosives sound way louder in a microphone than they do in the real world. This applies particularly when it comes to condenser microphones.

 

Do children need pop filters?

Yes, especially if the parent is serious with the recording. Children also have plosives at any age, so to have high-quality sound, they can also use pop filters. Children also usually blast saliva when talking and recording, so a pop filter is good to use. 

So what if I don't own a pop filter?

Well, you could try to position the mic a little off-axis to your mouth. Speaking somewhat sideways will prevent plosives from going straight into the capsule. On the other hand, you might sacrifice some clarity when not speaking directly on-axis.

It's also worth mentioning that experienced singers know how to control their voice and position themselves to prevent popping sounds. The key is to experiment with mic positioning. Record, listen and adjust until you're happy with the result.

 

Cheap Pop Filters

You should know that pop filters (especially those made of nylon) are very affordable and they offer a great return on investment. You can buy a professional pop filter for as little as $20 in your local music store.

READ MORE: Cheap Pop Filters for Microphones | American Songwriter

DIY Pop Filter

Featured-Sock

Do you lack the budget and want a DIY pop filter? Worry no more! With some creativity, you can even build your own pop filter using a pair of tights, pantyhose, or socks! 

READ MORE: Can You Use a Sock as a DIY Pop Filter? Let’s Find Out! | My E-Learning World

Conclusion

A pop filter is a shield of nylon or metallic mesh designed to prevent heavy airblasts from our speech to overload the microphone. When this occurs, you'll get a popping sound in your recordings which can be a nightmare to get rid of in post-production.

 

It's not mandatory to use a pop filter when recording vocals. However, it's an extremely affordable piece of recording equipment that will prevent unwanted popping sounds.

 

It makes everybody's life easier: Singers can fully focus on their performance, and sound engineers can focus on getting great sound and optimal levels.

 

 

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