Pop Filters: The Secret to Perfect Vocals

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By Martin Kristiansen

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If you’ve ever wondered why your favorite podcaster or YouTuber’s audio quality sounds so much better than yours, a big part of the answer might be that they’re using a pop filter.

In short, a pop filter is a simple device that attaches to the end of a microphone and helps to reduce popping and other negative sound effects caused by certain speech sounds, known as plosives.

The best part? They’re pretty affordable and offer tons of value. Professional pop filters can be found for as little as $20 in your local music store. With some creativity, you can even build your own functioning pop filter by using a nylon stocking or a piece of t-shirt.

This article explains the ins and outs of pop filters. Let’s get right to it!

Plosives

Before we take a deep dive into the world of pop filters, you should know what plosives are. Place your palm in front of your mouth and say “plosives.” Notice the blast of air from your mouth when you pronounce the “p”? That’s plosives!

The naturally occurring blast of air is produced when certain consonants are pronounced. When recording vocals, it is important to be aware of plosives because they can cause the mic diaphragm to move abruptly, causing a popping sound in your recording.

Plosives occur when we speak or sing the letters “p”, “b”, “t”, “d”, “k”, and “g”. A pop filter’s primary purpose is to disperse the air coming from your mouth in different directions. Doing so will distribute the big air blast into smaller ones that won’t get picked up by a hot microphone.

+ Read more on Flypaper:Our Favorite Microphones for Podcasting“.

How Does A Pop Filter Work?

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A pop filter works by providing a barrier between the plosive sounds your mouth makes and the microphone it’s being recorded on. It generally consists of a thin metal screen, typically made from nylon or wire mesh, which is stretched tightly over a frame.

The mesh disperses the air coming from your mouth in different directions. Doing so will distribute the air blast into smaller ones that won’t get picked up by the microphone’s capsule.

Do I Need a Pop Filter?

While you don’t necessarily need a pop filter to produce good-quality audio, it can certainly help to reduce unwanted noise and make your voice sound more polished and professional. If you’re serious about improving the quality of your voice recordings, investing in a pop filter is undoubtedly worth considering.

Additionally, pop filters prevent saliva from getting into the vocal microphone, making it last longer as water can damage its internal electronics.

Sure, experienced vocalist knows how to control their voice and can make the necessary adjustments to their mic technique. In addition, you can position the mic a little off-axis from your mouth, preventing you to speak straight into the capsule.

Still, pop filters make 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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How To Use A Pop Filter?

Pop filters can either be mounted to a microphone stand or a boom arm. They have a universal clamp that can be attached to the stand’s gooseneck by loosening a bolt. To secure the pop filter to the clamp, you’ll have to screw it on.

The pop filter should be positioned in front of the microphone’s on-axis, close to the mic without touching it. 2 to 6 inches is a good rule of thumb but you’d want to experiment with placement and double-check that no popping sounds occur.

+ Read more on Flypaper:Our Favorite Audio Interfaces for Home Recording in 2022“.

Different Types To Consider

Even if all pop filters pretty much look the same, two main types of mesh can be used: nylon and metal.

Each material has its own benefits that make it ideal for different situations. As an example, nylon pop filters are more affordable and easier to find, while metal pop filters tend to be more durable and provide better sound quality. Ultimately, the best choice for you depends on your needs and budget.

Nylon Pop Filters

Nylon pop filters are the most popular type of pop filter and the industry standard for home studios. They’re made of a thin layer of nylon that catches any saliva or other liquids that may come out of your mouth as you’re singing.

Furthermore, they’re generally cheaper than their metal counterpart. However, nylon is not the most durable option as it rips easily. Additionally, the soft characteristics make nylon harder to clean and it also tends to slightly reduce high frequencies.

Key Features

  • Diffuse the air
  • Reduce plosives before they enter the microphone
  • Double-layered
  • Wider than metal pop filters

Metal Pop Filters

Metal Pop filters use a single layer of metal. Due to the solid material, metal pop filters are very easy to wipe with a cloth without damaging the mesh.

Furthermore, the solid material reflects plosives more effectively compared to nylon pop filters. Some recording engineers argue that they’re too deflected, making the vocals lose the human feel.

Key Features

  • Redirect the air
  • Deflect plosives away from the microphone
  • Single-layered
  • Generally smaller compared to the nylon counterpart

Nearly every vocal recording session features a pop filter attached to the microphone. They’re an important and inexpensive piece of equipment for anyone looking to record spoken word or singing.

So do you need a pop filter? Well, not necessarily, but they’re an easy way to get rid of annoying popping sounds caused by plosives. Additionally, they’re inexpensive and will extend the life of your microphone by protecting it from saliva.

So there you have it!

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by Ryan Lott, Com TruiseJlinKiefer, and Kimbra: Vocal Creativity, Arranging, & Production.

Martin Kristiansen is the founder and chief editor of HomeStudioIdeas. I’ve been playing, recording and producing music for the last 10 years.

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