To Pop Filter or Not: Are Pop Filters Necessary?
Nearly every photograph you see of a voice actor during a studio session features a pop filter. However, just because they’re pictured everywhere, does that mean you really need a pop filter? Are there ways you can position yourself with the microphone to achieve the same result?
Let’s take a look at why popping sounds occur, what pop filters are, and why microphone pop filters may be necessary.
Why Do Popping Sounds Occur?
Generally, plosive sounds are those heard on letters like P and B, and they occur naturally in speech. If you imagine that you are holding a lit candle in front of your mouth while you’re speaking, these sounds would make the flame flicker.
Popping sounds can be heightened if you have your mouth too close to the microphone when recording. The plosive sounds interact with the microphone’s diaphragm, producing an output signal. A pop shield or filter acts as a barrier between these sounds and the microphone, with the aim of eliminating them altogether in the final product.
What are Plosives?
Whether you’re recording in a DIY vocal booth or a professional studio, plosives are sounds that you should definitely be aware of when you’re recording professional voice over. Pop filters and microphone placement are by far two of the most common tools to avoid plosives during the recording phase.
Watch this handy video for a demonstration on how to assemble your home studio setup, use a pop filter, and be strategic about your microphone placement to best avoid plosives:
What Does a Pop Filter Do for a Microphone?
Pop filters are handy.
Using a pop filter cuts out issues on both the high and low ends, making for easier editing of the recording and, ultimately, better sounding demos, auditions, and finished work.
Some voice actors swear by pop filters and would never record without one, but you have to decide what work best for you.
Here are the advantages of using a pop filter, along with alternative solutions to still attain high-quality sound if having a pop filter does not work for you:
Advantages of Pop Filters
- Pop filters are great for indoor use
- Using a pop filter cuts out issues on both the high and low ends, which makes it easier to edit out unwanted sounds and frequencies
- They eliminate the popping sounds caused by the mechanical impact of fast moving air on the microphone
- They help to minimize plosives like Ps and Bs, and can cut down on sibilance (the hissing noise that can come from overly apparent S sounds)
- They help keep moisture off the mic, which preserves your equipment
Things to Consider When Buying a Mic Pop Filter
The size depends on how large your mic is. You’ll want a diameter that suits both your microphone and your style of recording. For example, if you move around a lot when you are recording, a pop filter with a larger diameter may be best suited for you.
There are different shapes available on the market. Flat filets are more cost effective, but require you to speak more directly into the center. Curved filters, on the other hand, allow you more range and movement while you are recording, as they work from any angle.
The mount the filter comes with is an important thing to consider as well. Most pop filters come with a gooseneck mount that screws into the filter frame and the clamp. You want to make sure that the gooseneck neck is long enough so that you can attach the filter in front of the microphone correctly.
Don’t Have a Pop Filter or Won’t Use One?
Here are a few tips you can use to get a similar result:
- Speak off axis (not directly into the microphone, but from a different angle)
- Smile when you speak to prevent popping of Ps and Bs
- Put a pencil in front of your lips to create a barrier that helps break the air
How to Make a Microphone Pop Filter
You can buy pop filters from a supplier, or, if you’re particularly creative, you might consider making your own pop filter for your home studio (DIY Pop Filter tutorials are easily found online).
What are the best pop filters and pop screens on the market?
There are tons of pop screens and filters available on the market. The right one for you will depend on your needs and budget.
Here are 2 different types of pop filters to consider, as well as their pros and cons:
Nylon Mesh Pop Filters
Pros of nylon mesh pop filters:
- Great for beginners
- Standard in the music and performance industries
- Great for removing plosives
Cons of nylon mesh pop filters:
- Audio can be hindered, meaning high frequencies are often removed
- Nylon is delicate and can be easily damaged
Metallic Mesh/Metal Pop Filters
Pros of metal pop filters:
- Designed with wider holes, which has less effect on high frequencies
- Tend to be smaller, meaning it will be less obstructive
Cons of metal pop filters:
- The metal sheet is thin and can be easily bent if you are not careful
- Over time, metallic filters can develop a slight whistling sound
Pop Filter Takeaway Tips
When deciding to purchase a pop filter, just make sure to test out as many as possible to ensure that it fits your voice and your microphone, giving you the best possible result.
A good pop filter will ensure that the focus of your recordings is the excellent sound quality, and that any unwanted noises are filtered out and not picked up by your microphone. You can learn more about choosing the right microphone to go with your pop filter.