How Does a Pop Filter Work?

Whether you’re a voice actor, a singer or voice over artist, you want to know that you are using the best equipment possible to produce crystal clear, smooth vocals – right?

Whether you’re a voice actor, a singer or voice over artist, you want to know that you are using the best equipment possible to produce crystal clear, smooth vocals – right?

Well, when it comes to recording your voice, there’s actually a lot more to it than just plugging in your microphone and boom – you’re done.

While the quality of the microphone is the most important piece of equipment you can buy as a voice artist, the quality of the recording also depends on a few other things.

One of the most important microphone accessories in the pop filter.

What is a pop filter?

Pop filters are an essential piece of equipment when it comes to recording vocals. A pop filter is a device that is placed between your mouth and the microphone to cut out certain sounds and frequencies that you don’t want getting onto your recording.

As the name suggests, the main purpose of pop filters is to filter out ‘popping’ sounds when recording your voice.

This popping sound is predominately created when you say or sing words with ‘P’s’ and ‘B’s’ in, these are called plosives.

Another example is when someone with lots of power behind their voice speaks or sings into the microphone, the air pressure can cause the microphone to pop.

Why you should use a pop filter

If you’re not convinced that pop filters are worth the money and extra set-up time, I compiled a list of advantages that will explain why pop filters are undeniably useful.

  • pop filters minimize plosive sounds making it into the recording and causing distortion and/or an unpleasant ‘pop’ sound
  • pop filters also minimize sibilance which is the hiss sound you produce when saying words that start or end in ‘s’
  • pop filters cut out high- and low-end issues, making the editing process much easier when it comes to editing out unwanted sounds
  • they protect the microphone from moisture when you speak/ sing, so your microphone will last longer

How does a pop filter work?

The pop filter is placed in front of the microphone at varying degrees depending on the volume and power of the vocalist.

It attaches to the microphone stand and are large enough to protect the entire surface area of the microphone.

The tiny holes within the material let sound through whilst simultaneously blocking the issues mentioned in the previous point, including plosive sounds, sibilance, volume pops and moisture from the vocalist’s mouth from damaging the microphone.

Where should the pop filter be positioned?

Where you place the pop shield in relation to the microphone can actually have a big impact on the overall sound of your recording.

The best place to put it depends on how powerful the person using it will be but, in a nutshell, the further the pop filter is from the microphone, the more effective it will be, and fewer pops will get through.

That being said, the further the pop filter is from the microphone, the further your recording artist will be from the microphone and depending on how loud and powerful their voice is, this could hinder the level of sound produced.

You might be forced to increase the gain, which is fine in moderation but beyond a certain point, too much gain can result in distortion.

Increasing the gain will also result in more background noise, which can further ruin the quality and clarity of your recording. So, you need to find the right balance.

Generally, if your vocalist is going to be softer and quieter, the pop filter should be minimum two finger spaces away from the microphone (if the microphone is sitting in any form of casing the spacing should be counted from the outer casing not the microphone itself).

If the vocalist is loud and powerful, the pop shield should be further away – at least twice as far from the microphone to make sure any plosives and/or sibilance can get through.

The best thing to do, though, is to play around and experiment with it until you find the best placement for the pop filter.

Types of pop filter

There are two main types of pop filter to look out for when choosing which one will best suit your needs: mesh or metal.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each.

Mesh pop filter

Pros:

  • the mesh type is the standard pop filter used
  • generally affordable
  • good for beginners
  • small holes are great at removing plosives

Cons:

  • small holes can result in blocking out the high frequencies, which could hinder the overall sound
  • easy to break

Metal pop filter

Pros:

  • more durable than the mesh material pop filter
  • typically, they will have wider holes
  • they tend to be quite compact too, so they won’t feel so bulky and, in the way

Cons:

  • they can be fragile devices that, if not stored properly, can be easily bent out of shape
  • as it is metal, it could produce a whistle tone overtime
  • can be expensive

How to make your own pop filter

If you’re not in a position to purchase a pop shield, there are ways to make your own that will do the trick, especially for demo tracks. Whether a DIY method would produce good enough results for professional standard recordings is debatable.

All you need is a thin, hollow circular object, you can use an empty roll of duct tape or a sewing circle – anything similar to these should work.

Next, you need a pair of pantyhose, it doesn’t really matter what kind as long as they have tiny holes – ones with different patterns won’t work as well you just need a simple pantyhose.

Cut a large patch out of the pantyhose and stretch it to cover one side of the sewing circle (or duct tape roll etc.) and secure it.

That’s it! Just make sure you fully stretch out the pantyhose, so you can see all the tiny holes.

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