So, you’ve got yourself a nice microphone, and you’re ready to get started recording at home.
Problem is, you’re hearing a lot of weird P and B sounds in all of your recordings.
Did you get a bung mic? Is it something to do with your audio interface?
Or, maybe, there’s something wrong with the acoustic treatment in your home studio.
Whatever it is, it’s ruining your recordings, and you need to solve that problem ASAP. Luckily, there’s a pretty simple solution:
The humble pop filter.
In this article, we’re going to answer a few of your burning questions:
- What is a pop filter?
- Why do I need one?
- What are the different kinds of pop filters?
- How do I use a pop filter?
- What are the best pop filters to buy?
So, let’s get started!
So, what is a pop filter?
A pop filter is a small circular (usually) section of mesh or metal that singers and audio engineers install in front of their microphones when they want to record vocals.
Some microphones come with them, but these tend to be more consumer-focused mics.
If you’ve brought a professional quality microphone, then it probably didn’t come with a pop filter.
What these handy little devices do is tackle plosive sounds like Ps and Bs, reducing them or taking them out of your recording altogether.
Let’s take a look at how they work.
Why do singers need pop filters?
To get a really good handle on how pop filters work and why you need them, you need to know a bit about how microphones work.
Inside a microphone capsule, you’ll find a thin membrane of material (usually gold-sputtered mylar these days), which is what initially reacts to the sound vibrations traveling through the air.
When those vibrations hit the membrane, it moves back and forth as the airwaves do.
It may be helpful to think about a speaker here. When you pump music through a speaker, you see the speaker cone move back and forth, which acts upon the air around it and that’s how you hear whatever it is you’re playing.
The mic membrane works in the same way, but backward. The air vibrations move the membrane, which then gets turned into an electrical signal via some form of transduction (there are different kinds of mics that work slightly differently).
You don’t need to know too much about the transducer element, but what you do need to know is that the air works upon that membrane, called the diaphragm.
With me so far? Cool.
Imagine then, that a sudden rush of high-pressure air might push the diaphragm beyond its intended limit, much like when you pump too much low-end into a speaker and it starts to clap and distort.
That essentially what plosive sounds (Ps and Bs) can do to a mic diaphragm.
The pressure created by your pursed lips breaking open rapidly (to create those kinds of sounds) creates a rush of high-pressure air that acts upon the membrane in a way we don’t want it to, and it sounds terrible.
And once it’s in a recording, it’s really hard to get rid of.
The pop filter essentially breaks up the airflow of those plosive sounds, so by the time they get to the mic capsule, the pressure is evened out and there is no ugly pop present in your recording.
That’s why singers need to get a pop filter.
The different kinds of pop filter
Not all pop filters are made equal.
The main kind of pop filter you’ll find is the mesh filter, which uses a cotton or polyester mesh material, not unlike pantyhose to help break up that airflow.
Mesh pop filters are light, affordable, and quite effective.
The other type of pop filter you’ll find is the metal pop filter, which seems a bit odd, but they actually do a great job!
The reason metal pop filters have come around is that some engineers complain that pop filters dull the high frequencies a little bit.
Pound for pound, metal pop filters are generally a little more expensive.
There’s one other kind of filter around, though they technically aren’t considered ‘pop filters’ per se: the windscreen.
Windscreens are generally made of foam, and they slide over the mic grille itself, rather than sitting in front of it.
However, the main idea behind the windscreen is to block out wind noise when recording outside. Makes sense, right?
How to use a pop filter
Pop filters are actually super easy to set up, and given this (and the fact that they are pretty cheap and can drastically improve your recordings), you should 100% be getting one.
Here’s how to set them up:
Most pop filters are attached to a gooseneck with a clamp at the end.
You simply position the clamp on the mic stand and tighten, and then adjust the gooseneck so that the pop filter is sitting right in front of the mic capsule.
You’ll want to make sure the pop filter is a couple of inches from the mic itself, so it doesn’t rub up on the mic grille and make any sounds. It also helps you to keep a consistent distance from the mic, so your positioning is on point!
Here’s a quick video to help visually explain how to set up a pop filter:
10 top pop filters to kills plosives
Stedman Corporation Proscreen XL
The Stedman Corporation Proscreen XL is a seriously professional pop filter.
It’s a 6-inch screen with a proprietary, patented material that performs better than mesh windscreens without dulling the high frequencies.
The surround of the screen has a super-thin profile, so it won’t interfere with your vocal performance or cause any ugly comb-filtering.
The heavy-duty vinyl shrink gooseneck feels sturdy and is easy to adjust, and it has a high-quality clamp for attaching to your mic stand.
The knob for tightening this clamp has a nice touch – it’s finished in a soft nylon material that is less likely to scratch or damage your gear than harsh metal knobs.
All in all, the Stedman Corporation Proscreen XL is for pro-engineers, for sure.
On-Stage Stands ASFSS6GB Dual-Screen
If you’re dealing with a vocalist with super harsh, aggressive plosive sounds (you know, like rappers or overly enthusiastic podcast hosts), then the On-Stage Stands ASFSS6GB Dual-Screen might be a good choice for you.
That’s because it’s fitted with two layers of mesh pop filtering to make sure nothing is getting through at all.
Be aware that two layers of mesh might affect the high-end of the frequency range in a way you don’t quite want it to, but you can also add nice little high shelf EQ on the way in to make up for it.
The On-Stage Stands ASFSS6GB Dual-Screen has a nice flexible gooseneck and a sturdy C-clamp with a nylon knob for adjusting the positioning.
Oh, and it’s only like $30, so it’s not exactly going to wreck your budget!
Auphonix 6-inch Pop Filter
Need a cheap solution to kill those nasty plosive sounds? Then grab this guy, the Auphonix 6-inch Pop Filter.
It says it all in the name: it’s a 6-inch pop screen in traditional mesh style, and it performs quite admirably.
It slides in at just over $25 (pretty damn affordable), and even comes with an eBook with a tonne of helpful recording tips! Too cool!
Oh, and you get a 12-month money-back guarantee, so what’s there to lose? Except for those damn plosives, of course!
Shure PS-6 Popper Stopper
Here’s a product from a mic brand you’ve no doubt heard of: Shure.
So, you can be damn Shure it’s going to be good (sorry, had to).
The Shure PS-6 Popper Stopper is a 6-inch windscreen (pretty standard), and hardly breaks the bank at $40 or so.
The main difference that the PS-6 offers over other pop filter options is that it has a whopping four layers of mesh to keep plosives at bay.
If you need a seriously heavy-duty option from a brand you know and trust, then you can’t look past the Shure PS-6 Popper Stopper.
Blue The Pop
Speaking of microphone brands that everyone knows and loves, check out this epic pop filter from Blue Microphones.
The Pop from Blue takes a slightly different approach to most of the pop filters we’ve looked at so far.
Rather than be a 6-inch circle of mesh, it takes on a rounded rectangular shape that actually curves around your mic.
This means your vocalist can move around the mic a little more if they are enthusiastic. And they are less likely to come outside of the pop filter boundaries.
Plus, the curved design reduces ugly reflections and comb-filtering from the edge of the pop filter.
The Pop has a sturdy silver gooseneck and strong mount, making a super useful universal pop filter.
Mikrofonen Hakan P110
Taking a first look at the Mikrofonen Hakan P110, you’d be forgiving for thinking that it’s some kind of dish scrubbing brush.
Let me assure you, it is not. It is in fact one of the best pop filters on the market,
The open mesh design of the Mikrofonen Hakan P110 means no reflections or comb-filtering from the otherwise hard edge of the pop filter, reducing complaints from sound engineers of poor sound quality when using this pop filter.
The speak foam that is used to construct the P110 is water-resistant, so it won’t get saturated with spittle over time (like regular pop filters sometimes do), and the foam disk is completely washable, making the Mikrofonen Hakan P110 one of the most hygienic units on the market.
WindTech PopGard 2000
The WindTech PopGard 2000 is another curved pop filter, but this time with an interesting twist.
Unlike pretty much every other pop filter on the market, it doesn’t use a gooseneck to mount in front of your mic.
Instead, it has a couple of elastic bands attached, kind of like a shock mount, allow you to mount the WindTech PopGard 2000 directly on the mic body itself.
As a result, it’s only compatible with certain microphones; more or less your standard large-diaphragm condenser shape with a front-facing capsule.
It’s pretty damn cool if you’ve got one of these kinds of mics, though, as it is super compact and portable.
Plus, I’ve often found that with cheaper pop filters (and even some more expensive units), the strength of the gooseneck deteriorates over time, making it hard to get the pop filter in position.
Neewer are pretty well-known for their ridicopusly audio and lighting equipment, and the NW(B-3) fits that bill for sure.
I mean, it’s literally only $10, and it does a pretty solid job of reducing plosives in you recordings.
And there’s no sacrifices here, either. It’s a 6-inch filter, just like it’s competitor, offers a strong gooseneck mount with metal clamp, and has a two-layer screen.
Here’s another cheap pop shield, this time from Nady, another producer of cheap and cheerful microphones.
It’s more or less the same as other pop shields, but it only costs $20. Plus, the gooseneck mount is quite long, so it’s great for anyone using a boom arm stand.
Avantone PS-1 PRO-SHIELD
Last on our list is the Avantone PS-1 PRO-SHIELD.
This one is kind of the best of both worlds, being a metal mesh shield with a curved design.
That means it fits nicely around your mic (hopefully and Avantone one, cause they are damn awesome), so you can get it nice and close to the mic capsule for those soft, intimate vocal tones.
The gooseneck and clamp feel sturdy and built to last, and the nylon adjusting knob is nice and large which makes getting a solid grip on the mic stand easy.
Oh, and it’s backed by a 5-year warranty, which is pretty impressive as far as pop filters go!
Pop filters are pretty simple devices, sure, but they are ridiculously helpful, and can seriously transform your vocal recordings.
They are an essential part of your home studio setup, so you’d better grab one or two!
And now you’ve got no excuses, as we’ve reviewed 10 of the best ones right here.
So pick one, get it set up, and get to recording!