What Is A Pop Filter & Why You Should Use Them
What is a pop filter for? You probably see them in most of the youtube videos you watch, especially the videos that belong to home recording musicians and singers.
Being in the recording studio industry for some time now, I was surprised when I had a client who wanted a pop filter because he thought it could reduce background noise. No wonder everyone who was new in recording wanted pop filters! I mean we see it all the time in videos, it must be a big deal, right?
If you thought a pop filter could reduce background noise, it doesn’t. However, don’t feel let down. After all, all of us learn new things everyday right?
So What Does A Pop Filter Do Anyway?
A pop filter serves 2 purposes. Its main purpose is to eliminate ‘popping’ noises when you sing or speak into the microphone.
When we say words which has ‘plosives’, for example words like ‘people’ & ‘pain’ which has a ‘p’ in the word, the sudden air pressure would cause the microphone to overload.
Same goes when someone laughs into the microphone. The air pressure would simply cause the microphone to pop.
So pop filters are placed in front of the microphone to help eliminate this fast moving air. Pop filters are usually attached to the microphone stand itself so you’ll need a microphone stand too. If you only have a podcast styled table microphone stand then you won’t be able to attach the pop filter.
The second purpose of a pop filter is to prevent the saliva from vocalists going into the microphone. This to me is an extra thumbs up when using a pop filter.
The salts from our saliva have corrosive content and so a pop filter definitely helps prolong the life of the microphone. Although it isn’t much, it can save your microphone from smelling bad and falling apart.
So I Guess I Really Need A Pop Filter?
So seems like you’ve to go and buy a pop filter now to make good recordings, right?
You don’t necessarily need a pop filter. A simple microphone technique is to position the microphone a little off axis to the vocalist’s mouth. So, the vocalist does not sing directly into the microphone but is somewhat singing sideways to the microphone.
You should know that sometimes using pop filters tend to make your vocals sound less bright. It’s usually the singer’s voice and the type of microphone you’re using that is giving you that dulled sound, it’s still worth to try recording without the pop filter.
Another alternative to the typical woven nylon is a pop filter made out of wire mesh. The negative side to metal types would be more the increase in price compared to the pop filters with woven nylon. However, I personally feel the woven nylon types are better in handling plosives.
How far should the pop filter be from the microphone?
How far you place your pop filter really depends on the amount of energy you or your client is going to express when recording. The further the pop filter from the microphone, the lesser the pops will be.
However, distance means that you will need to increase your microphone gain. More gain means more room noise.
So, take it like, a louder harder kind of singing, the pop filter should be about a palms distance from the microphone. If you’re recording softer intimate singing, you can place the pop filter about 2 to 3 fingers away from the pop filter.
This is just the rule of thumb that I use when I record for myself and for other people.
The part for you is to experiment and find proper distances that suit the room ambiance and when the vocals are in your mix. Familiarize yourself with the style and genre of what you or your singer will be recording.
It’s not rocket science. Just experiment and I assure that you will nail on a good spot.
Can I Make My Own Pop Filter?
Yes, you definitely can! It’s actually quite easy to make your own pop filter.
All you need is sewing circle and grab your sister’s worn out pantyhose. Ok, actually maybe you can buy a cheap pantyhose from the store. Put the pantyhose over the sewing circle and that’s it.
The biggest challenge in this DIY method is figuring out how you’re going to attach your homemade pop filter to the stand. When I made my own pop filter, I used a shirt hanger to do that.
Take note of the different types of microphones though. Most condenser microphones require the use of a pop filter but most vocal dynamic microphones actually have pop filters built in the cone. So, in fact, you don’t need a pop filter if you’re recording with a vocal dynamic microphone.
You might look cool with a pop filter and dynamic microphone setup but it definitely isn’t cool when your recordings sound dull at the end of the day.
Final Tip: Pop Filter Alternative
If you’re away from your studio without your pop filter and you happen to need to do a vocal recording, there is a brilliant alternative to a pop filter. Some producers try putting a pencil in front of the microphone to block plosives, but I have a better alternative. Ready?
Simply put a sock over the microphone! Works well as a pop filter and is sure easy to find or pack. Just remember to use a clean sock or risk the vocalist fainting before you get any solid recordings.