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To Pop Filter or Not – Are Pop Filters Necessary?

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Nearly every photograph of a voice over talent at the mic in a studio session includes one. But, just because they’re everywhere, does that mean you really need a pop filter? Are there ways you can position yourself with the microphone to get the same result?

Let’s take a look at why popping sounds occur, what is a pop filter 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 Does a Pop Filter Do for a Microphone?

Pop filters are handy.

Using a pop filter cuts out issues on both the high end and the low end making for easier editing of the recording and ultimately, better sounding demos, auditions and finished work.

Some people swear by pop filters and would never record without one, but you have to decide what work best for you.

Here are the pros of using a pop filter along with alternative solutions to still get great sound quality 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 the high and the low end 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 helps preserve your equipment.

Things to Consider When Buying a Mic Pop Filter

Size

The size depends on how large your mic is – you 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.

Shape

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.

Mounts

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:

  1. Speak off axis (i.e. not directly into the microphone but from a different angle)
  2. Smile when you speak to prevent popping of Ps and Bs
  3. 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 popscreens and filters available on the market, with the right one for you depending on your needs and budget.

Here are 2 different types of pop filters to consider and their pros and cons:

Nylon Mesh Pop Filters

Pros

  • Great for beginners
  • Inexpensive
  • Standard in the music/performance industry
  • Great for removing plosives

Cons

  • Audio can be hindered – 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
  • Durable
  • Tends to be smaller, meaning it won’t  be in the way

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 make sure that the focus of your recordings will be the excellent sound quality and that any unwanted noises will be filtered out and not picked up by your microphone. You can learn more about choosing the right microphone to go with your pop filter. 

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Comments

  • Howard Ellison
    January 11, 2011, 7:39 am

    Yes, YES! Though, as with everything, it depends on your voice and how close you generally work. Any plosive is a post-prod chore, and even the very low pitched, entirely inaudible puffs may create a click if an edit is subsequently placed in the middle. That might happen in a studio far, far away!
    The filter also protects the mike from physical rubbish that escapes the mouth, without impeding the wanted variety. I’m still happy with my home made filter… courtesy of a circular hole in one of my wife’s tights. Howard (Devon, UK)

    Reply
  • Ken Budka
    January 11, 2011, 9:05 am

    Hi Stephanie,
    Good subject for discussion, thank you. I use a pop filter in my studio and it does make a world of difference reducing plosives (P’s & B’s) and helping make the editing process more efficient. I also work to move slightly off-axis specifically with words beginning with P or B and quickly return to my mic’s sweet spot.
    The trouble I find with speaking across the mic or completely from an angle is it changes the sound of my read slightly, sometimes more than slightly. Every mic has a certain spot that complements your voice, generally from directly in front and a certain distance back from the mic. Because that richness comes from being on-axis, the pop filter is important.
    Good stuff this Vox Daily…thanks for putting it out there.
    Ken

    Reply
  • Eric L.
    January 11, 2011, 10:50 am

    I think they are very important, unless the person using the mic is very good at not “p-ing in the microphone,” as we like to say!

    Reply
  • Rich Fallis
    January 11, 2011, 10:57 am

    Pop filters are handy. But if you don’t have time or money, you can put a heavy sock over your mic, and get the same effect. And if you have some echo in your recording area and can’t afford a recording booth, try this: Get a largish box and glue egg cartons through-out. The sound will be deadened nicely.

    Reply
  • Bob Derro
    January 11, 2011, 11:28 am

    Apples and Oranges Steph.
    It varies per person, application and model of mic.
    Bob

    Reply
    • Brian Kirchoff
      December 7, 2017, 7:28 am

      Bingo.

      Reply
  • Jamie Muffett
    January 11, 2011, 11:31 am

    I see no reason not to use a pop filter. Any sound lost through the pop filter would usually be de-essed or EQ’d out anyway (quite high frequency sounds). I’m not convinced by the speaking across the diaphragm idea, I would say that any cardioid or uni-directional mic would pick up more room to voice noise doing it that way.
    Just my humble opinion.

    Reply
  • RK Brown Jr.
    January 11, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Hi, All !!
    I use a Blue Snowball and have no problem with ‘pops’ (or plosives).
    The microphone has three (3) settings, two of which are cardioid (full and partial) with the third setting as ‘omnidirectional’.
    Setting 1 (partial cardioid) seems to eliminate ‘pops’, even ‘straight on’.
    RK Brown Jr

    Reply
  • John Ardelean
    January 11, 2011, 1:57 pm

    I don’t like the way they choke the frequency range (the cover type) of the mic, but I accept them as necessary. I use the mounted, free-standing type to get the benefits of the full frequency range of the mic while still averting most of the pop.

    Reply
  • Heather Costa
    January 11, 2011, 2:00 pm

    I do both! I use a pop filter and speak across the mic with most reads, especially with plosives unless I’m doing more of an intimate sound.

    Reply
  • Mike Elmore
    January 11, 2011, 2:01 pm

    For me it depends on the mic AND the room I am in. Mostly the room though. I think the voice type also plays a role in how much of a change to the sound you want…is lost.

    Reply
  • Debra L Anderson
    January 11, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Seems like I have never been able to get away with not using a pop filter…I always enunciate more than I should because of my singing training and teaching…its just a habit…so I have to be aware of this more when voice acting.

    Reply
  • Stephanie Riggio
    January 11, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Use both. I have never been told not to use a pop filter….and I’m not a big popper anyway. Has to be a high quality one, though. The cheapies do muffle a little bit.

    Reply
  • Dave Maciver
    January 11, 2011, 2:04 pm

    I’m with Heather, I do both. In fact I talk right at the top of my pop filter.

    Reply
  • Heather Costa
    January 11, 2011, 2:05 pm

    I agree with Mike, there are certain mics I use in certain rooms where I can use a pop filter and talk directly into the mic w/o worrying about plosives. As far as pop filters, I LOVE my metal one, hate the mesh one…

    Reply
  • Mike Elmore
    January 11, 2011, 2:07 pm

    On a related note, I have been using this dual pop filter and it works well for me. I use it for promo work where I am right up on the mic…probably not great for thinner voices.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=19048821…3080&nma=true&rt=nc&si=Pd5ZEwe%252F8PFWv97Rui%252FYbBiO63Y%253D

    Reply
  • Lance Blair
    January 11, 2011, 2:08 pm

    If the mic is more than six inches away and the diaphragm is at eye level there should be no need for a pop filter. For close micing, they are essential, even when correct technique is applied. The metal ones are no good and create resonances.

    Reply
  • Glad Faith Klassen
    January 11, 2011, 2:11 pm

    ‎…I also use both. …and usually talk off the rim.

    Reply
  • David Tyler
    January 11, 2011, 2:18 pm

    The pop filter has 2 purposes: 1) to diffuse plosives and 2) to protect you mic from spit which will rust your microphone.
    BTW, I prefer a mesh filter…for me the metal filter adds sibilance as air blows through it.

    Reply
  • Doug Jeffery
    January 11, 2011, 2:19 pm

    I’ve always felt they only help, don’t hurt. It seems to me that talking across a mic can change the sound.

    Reply
  • Dan Popp
    January 11, 2011, 2:27 pm

    Well, sure, you can work the mic so as not to need one… except if you get a little animated and want to move your head! To me, the very slight high-frequency loss (not in the same range as sibilance, btw) of a nylon mesh pop filter is worth it, in order to save the occasional irreplaceable take.
    Foam filters are usually a no-no; not only do they dull the sound, but the foam dries out over time, and tiny particles flake off and get into the mic, onto the diaphragm. Bad. The Sennheiser 416 is an exception because its metal mesh is finer than most, and protects the mic from such things.
    No one has perfect mic technique all the time. Use a pop filter.

    Reply
  • Randy Lundgren
    January 11, 2011, 2:33 pm

    Use them regularly to control plosives. Rather prevent plosives than try to fix later…

    Reply
  • Mukti Garceau
    January 11, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I agree with David & Doug and talking across the mic does change the sound…

    Reply
  • Tim Black
    January 11, 2011, 2:48 pm

    I don’t use a filter. If you smile during your plosives, you’ll never pop.

    Reply
  • Nick Montague
    January 11, 2011, 2:50 pm

    Yes they are most helpful. Pop filters mic socks all of the above are extremely important

    Reply
  • Peggy Tisone
    January 11, 2011, 3:06 pm

    In every off site studio I’ve been in, they use a pop filter and for my voice, they want me to position “across” the filter….that’s how I do it in my studio as well.

    Reply
  • Bob Christy
    January 11, 2011, 4:04 pm

    With my Manley I use the pop filter but on other mics I have been able to work without one but saying that it really depends what I have to record style wise.

    Reply
  • Erick Abraham
    January 11, 2011, 4:05 pm

    No filter for me…except for my coffee filter but that’s for coffee…and not a mic.

    Reply
  • Bill Nevitt
    January 11, 2011, 9:05 pm

    I’ve tried using a pop filter, but, I use byfocals to read and pop filter obscures my view of the scripts. I prefer to use a mike sock; seems to provide same benefits but doesn’t block my view of the copy.
    Has anyone else tried this? Results? Thx BN

    Reply
  • Elyk Aer
    January 11, 2011, 9:30 pm

    Of course! Too many people peak and it just uses up time and energy re-recording everything.

    Reply
  • Larry Murphy
    January 11, 2011, 9:30 pm

    I have a mic sock and a pop filter because I need to.

    Reply
  • Jan Anderson
    January 11, 2011, 9:32 pm

    I think it’s a preference thing. Some people don’t need them, but most find them to be VERY helpful.

    Reply
  • Nicole McMillan
    January 11, 2011, 9:32 pm

    I like having a pop filter for live on-air work, but for editing, there’s usually a pop-filter option. So I find the pop screen a situational thing.

    Reply
  • Gary Brefini
    January 12, 2011, 12:40 am

    Good pop filters are sonically transparent and saves a take that would have been perfect except for the pop…plus if you love your microphones you save that sensitive cartridge from hurricane force (seriously) wind gust that exist in that short distance from your lips to that mike element…anyone owning a ribbon mike should definitely use one.

    Reply
  • Fred Corcoran
    January 12, 2011, 12:46 am

    Must have !! They keep my beard hairs from getting stuck in the little holes 🙂 and save a lot of editing.

    Reply
  • Andrew John
    January 12, 2011, 6:03 am

    I use one, and removed the old windshield from my mike. However, I did still detect a pop or two, though not as bad as they once were, and have added the windshield back. I was worried that the combination of the two might reduce quality, but – without doing some kind of spectral analysys, which I can’t do – it’s hard to notice any diminution. I don’t have a wife with or without tights, so had to buy one! Five and a half quid. It didn’t break the bank.

    Reply
  • Douglas Voice
    January 12, 2011, 11:35 am

    Pop filters also prevent moisture from the mouth- either spittle or the breath- from entering the microphone and degrading the components, and eventually the sound of the mic.

    Reply
  • Howard Ellison
    January 12, 2011, 2:25 pm

    Sometimes a pop will get through, awkwardly in the middle of a word – for example apple. Rather than re-record, I wonder if other people do this: select just the pop in your editor, apply low pass filter, maybe from 200 downwards dependent on your voice pitch at that instant. Because the tonal dip is so brief, the chances are you won’t notice it.

    Reply
  • Howard Ellison
    January 12, 2011, 4:41 pm

    Dear me! Distracted. Re the 2.25 pm post: I did of course mean HIGH-PASS filter used in editor to take out an individual pop. Sorry!

    Reply
  • Jack de Golia
    January 13, 2011, 12:01 pm

    With a snowball mic inside a Sumo box lined with sound proofing, and off to the side, I don’t have popping issues so don’t need a screen. It’s a decidedly low-tech set up, but I’ve gotten bookings, and the quality seems great.

    Reply
  • Linda Milkes
    January 13, 2011, 5:17 pm

    For me, a pop filter is definitely necessary, because I really pop my p’s!

    Reply
  • Fred Symington
    January 14, 2011, 11:57 am

    Using a pop filter is a matter of proximity and the type of mike used. If some one speaks from 3 feet away from a condenser mike, certainly a pop filter is nothing more than an acoustically transparent piece of of unnecessary apparatus. If, however, you have a mike hugger, you will need a pop filter no matter what direction the voice comes from.
    A lower gain dynamic mike requires one to be closer to the mike. The mike will also perform it’s function better without a pop filter if the speaker’s voice and breath pass over the mike as apposed to a direct frontal attack.
    There is no one correct answer. The effectiveness of a pop filter is completely dependent on the mike-user’s personal style and the design of the mike.

    Reply
  • Stephen Johnson
    January 15, 2011, 9:42 pm

    Hello All-
    I’m new to Voices.com, though I’ve been in broadcasting half my life. So, hello everyone!
    I prefer the pop filter. I suggest trying it with and without on your own mic and see what you think. I’ve tried various techniques with and without. The double mesh filter I use solves the problem of pops and hisses.

    Reply
  • Isaak Whitt
    January 17, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I think if you’re like me, & have problems with Ps, Fs, Ts, & Ds overloading the mic pop screens are a must.
    Not to sound weird, but I’ve got big lips & I can’t speak naturally
    without popping the mic.

    Reply
  • Jason Torres
    January 18, 2011, 10:36 am

    As a recording engineer and producer I can tell you that pop filters are invaluable. They can also, unfortunately, deaden a little of your high end. I recommend a metal, louvered pop filter. They cost a bit (about $50) but a. they do not cut out the hi end, b. they’re louvered so the air is actually forced downward, c. they’ll will last forever (nylon pop filters are easy to break) and d. are very easy to wash (nylon pop filters are notorious for being stinky.)
    PLEASE do not put a sock over your mic, as was suggested. It won’t work well. Also, don’t bother stapling egg cartons to your walls. You’re better off to put up drapes or temporarily hang a blanket. Ideally, get some Owens Corning 703 rigid fiberglass, put them in acoustically neutral sleeves and hang a few up at the mirror points from where you work. It’ll be night and day.

    Reply
  • Kevin Walsh
    January 20, 2011, 6:30 pm

    I use a pop filter for a variety of reasons.
    First, regardless of how good my technique may be, a stray plosive is occasionally launched toward the microphone. This invariably happens on that one perfect take and, naturally, the better the take, the greater the magnitude of the plosive and the greater the precision with which it will strike the microphone. So I think it’s an important safety measure. It also allows me to speak on-axis, instead of across the mic, which I like better. It also helps me maintain a good, consistent distance from the mic.
    A pop filter also prevents moisture, Nacho Cheese Dorito dust and whatnot from leaving my lips and taking up residence in my expensive microphone, which I treat better than some members of my own family. So even if you don’t use it as a pop stopper, you might think about using it to save wear and tear on your microphone.
    I use a Music Accessories Split Screen Pop Filter and it’s amazing. I can blow through it into the palm of my hand a couple of inches away and not feel the slightest breeze. It’s great.

    Reply
  • Emily Harris
    January 25, 2011, 11:47 am

    I am glad that people are mentioning what type of filter works
    best for them. I have a huge RODE filter, and found that it did
    cut a significant amount of the high frequencies, and the bass
    almost seemed amplified then James Alburger suggested that
    I get rid of the filter and just speak across the mic. I have been
    doing that lately, and usually it is fine, but I think I will try a
    mesh filter and see if that gives me the best of both worlds.
    Thanks for the imput!

    Reply
  • Jack Bair
    January 25, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Hi, It’s a given, I always use a filter because it protects the mic. It’s all per situation as to the fixes for plosives, and my fixes have no noticeable side effects. I use a pro metal curved mesh shield-works like a charm. Depending on how close or expressive, plosives can still be a problem so I either go off axis, smile, or here’s one I taught myself, during a passage of problem pops, simply place an index finger in front of the middle of the lips as if to say shhhhh – this cuts the plosive nicely. Experiment.

    Reply
  • JAY LLOYD
    March 8, 2011, 7:15 pm

    Frankly, I wonder why there’s so much yea-or-nay discussion about it. Everyone seems focused on the “sound” when it has an almost indiscernible effect. The main thing is what your hot breath and misty spittle do to your mic. When your breath cools, it condenses. The invisible, misty spittle collects. Together they will ruin your mic eventually. The bigger question is: Why wouldn’t you use one? C’mon…come up with just one reason? Anyone? Nuf said.

    Reply
  • steve hammill
    January 4, 2012, 10:58 am

    Old school radio talent learned mic techniques to manage pops, blasts, and sibilance through years with the mic open.
    That was then and this is now: the benefits of a pop or blast filter far out-distance the liabilities.

    Reply
  • Glen Kippel
    August 24, 2017, 5:09 am

    The very first pop filter (as opposed to a foam windscreen) was made out of a wire coat hanger and a piece of old pantyhose. Then other people saw that and a new industry was born. Proper mic technique dictates aiming the mic toward your mouth and pointing your mouth about 45 degrees away from the mic. Whether it is above, below or to one side is irrelevant. I have found that small-diaphragm condenser mics are more apt to pop than LDCs or dynamics. The problem with getting too close to a mic is that cardioid mics have some bass boost (proximity effect) when used close up, but of course when you back off you get more room ambience. The latter can be tamed by the use of acoustic panels, like foam, or a Reflexion Filter. It’s cheaper to get some moving blankets and hang them around your work space. Or, better yet, get a mic with a decent polar pattern that is cardioid all across the audio spectrum. Dynamics like the ElectroVoice RE20, Shure SM7B, Heil PR-30 or the older AKG D-707E are great. For condensers, I’ve had good results with an Oktava MK-319 and AKG C-1000S. If you’re just buying a mic, look carefully at the specs.

    Reply
  • R P
    September 21, 2017, 8:58 pm

    I’ve never had a need to use a pop filter, and I’ve never had any complaints from my stream viewers when I’ve asked them about it. Then again, my mic is up and left from me on a mic arm, so it doesn’t obscure my screens, but still picks up my voice clearly. I definitely think pop filters are situational.

    Reply