“What Is a Pop Filter?” A Beginner’s Guide to Pop Filters

All of Your Questions About Pop Filters Answered

You’ve seen pop filters in tons of YouTube videos, the big black circles in front of microphones in studios.  You’re not exactly sure what they do, if you need one, and type you should get.

I’m going to answer all the questions you could possibly have about pop filters in this post.

Pop Filters Provide 3 Main Benefits

  1. They stop bursts of wind produced by pronouncing the letters “p” and “b”—referred to as plosives—when speaking or singing into a microphone. These bursts produce an ugly sound in the recording and can potentially damage the capsule in the microphone that captures the sound.
  2. They stop spit from getting into the microphone.  While microphone grills do stop most of the spit that can fly out of the mouth of an enthusiastic singer, some will invariably make its way past the grill and onto the capsule.  This affects the sound of the microphone and can damage it over time.
  3. A well-placed pop filter can help inexperienced singers to maintain proper distance from the microphone.  Inexperienced singers almost always move closer and further from a mic between takes, resulting in takes that can be difficult to edit together.  Having a pop filter can serve as a measuring stick.

Is a Pop Filter Necessary?

If you are recording the human voice, you almost certainly need a pop filter.  While some dynamic microphones—especially those modeled on the Shure SM58—have a pop filter built right into the dome, very few large diaphram condenser microphones do.

Large diaphram microphones (LDC) are extremely sensitive and delicate pieces of equipment.  As stated above, the bursts of wind that are produced when we pronounce the letters “b” and “p” are almost always picked up by these mics. They sound terrible and can even damage the mic.

If you don’t want bursts of breath in your recordings and you are using an LDC, a pop filter will prevent them from hitting the capsule.

What Effect Does a Pop Filter Have on a Sound Recording?

Using a pop filter doesn’t have a dramatic effect on the recording, but it does have an effect nonetheless.  The video below demonstrates a recording with and without a pop filter.

As you probably hear, the pop filter attenuates some of the high frequencies, but not enough to negatively impact a performance.

What Types of Pop Filters Are There?

Pop filters are typically made of either a nylon mesh or a metal grill.  Both have slight effects on sound and variable durability.  Keep on reading to figure out which is probably best for you.

Nylon Mesh Pop Filters

nylon-pop-filterBenefits

This is the type of pop filter that I use in my own home studio.  This type of pop filter is a circle with a black nylon screen stretched across it.  The material is soft like pantyhose and produces almost no reflections of the sound that passes through it.

Drawbacks

Since this type of pop filter is made out of nylon, the screen will wear out, tear, or get loose over time.  This will require you to either learn how to replace the screen or buy a new one.  If you take good care of the pop filter and/or don’t use it very frequently, this may not be an issue.

Additionally, nylon mesh pop filters do filter out some of the higher frequencies.  If you’re going for a crystalline, bright sound in a vocal recording, you’re probably better off with a metal grill pop filter.

Finally, if you’re charging people for recording, you might want to consider what the pop filter looks like.  The pop filters that I use in my personal home studio look cheap.  If I were charging people by the hour to record, I probably would start with the metal grill pop filter since they look a lot more professional.

Metal Grill Pop Filters

Benefits

metal pop filter

This type of pop filter is a black metal grill that goes between the singer and the microphone.  They are extremely durable and should last a lifetime without any maintenance or repairs.  Additionally, they do not attenuate any frequency range the way a nylon mesh pop filter does.

Metal grill pop filters also look a lot more professional than the nylon mesh equivalents.

Drawbacks

Metal grill pop filters also affect recordings.  Given their hard surface, they could create additional reflections of the sound that will be picked up in varying degrees depending on the sensitivity of the microphone.

Pop Filters to Avoid

First tip: don’t buy a pop filter that attaches to the mic or shockmount.  If you happen to get a particularly powerful plosive pounding into your pop filter (get it?) it could shake the microphone.  I don’t recommend pop filters with the following kind of design:

 sE Electronics Dual Pro Pop Filter

Best Pop Filters

sE Electronics Dual Pro Pop Filter

What’s great about the sE Electronics Dual Pro Pop Filter is that it has both a nylon and a metal grill pop filter.

This allows you to one or the other depending on the singer.  While a metal grill pop filter is probably best for a louder singer, the nylon pop filter is less likely to create reflections that will actually be picked up by the microphone during a softer, more nuanced performance.

Check price on Musician’s Friend

 K&M Pop Killer Double Layer Pop Filter Black

Best Nylon Mesh Pop Filters

K&M Pop Killer Double Layer Pop Filter Black

This is the pop filter that I use in my own home studio.  It’s durable as anything and does exactly what it’s supposed to do.  It’s also really inexpensive.

Check price on Musician’s Friend

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