A pop filter refers to a screen that serves as protection for microphones.
It’s the shield that helps lessen or totally eliminate the ‘popping’ sounds made when air moves at a fast pace through the microphone and causes a disruptive, unflattering noise.
A must-have item for any home or professional studio and is a contributing factor to the difference between professional and amateur recorded vocals.
P's & T's
These ‘popping’ sounds crop up the most when pronouncing aspirated plosives like the ‘p’ in ‘problem’ and the ‘t’ in ‘time’. Pop filters have been designed to fix this so that the sudden loudness of the plosive does not interfere with the input capacity of the microphone.
In practical terms, the pop filter material limits the sound made by the plosive so that it does not reach the diaphragm of the microphone when recording vocals in the studio.
Although microphone pop filters diminish popping sounds, they are not so successful with regards to sibilant sounds. Sibilant sounds refer to sudden sharp bursts of air, usually accompanied by a faint frequency, heard while pronouncing letters such as; “s”, “z”, “c” and “sh”.
The way to combat this is called ‘de-essing’ which needs an explanation all of its own.
Why is a pop filter important?
- Serves as a sieve. As earlier stated in this article, pop filters sieve out those disruptive plosive sounds that may spoil the vocal or voice recording and so consequently, your song.
- Keeps moisture off the microphone. Acting as a sort of shield for the microphone, it helps to keep moisture off it and thus helps prevent mechanical faults with the microphone.
- Protects against natural salt. Saliva contains salt and has the characteristic of being corrosive. In the course of hitting a pitch or a note you inadvertently release saliva, which thanks to the pop filter, does not reach the microphone, which increases its durability.
The standard pop filter that is made of layers of stretching acoustically semi-transparent materials like woven nylon over a frame and it usually comes with a clam and a flexible mounting bracket.
The metal pop filter is another type, which has a fine mesh metal screen in place of the woven nylon.
A microphone pop filter is not the same as a microphone windscreen. Microphone windscreens are typically used for outdoor recordings and on stage whilst microphone pop filters are used in recording studios. Regardless, pop filters are more acoustically transparent than windscreens.
DIY pop filter
You can make one by stretching material from tights or stockings over a kitchen sieve or a loop of wire and positioning it accordingly.
One method is to simply cover the entire microphone diaphragm with a thick football sock, eliminating any possible plosives.
Pop shields should not be fixed directly to the microphone because if done so, the vibrations will be transmitted from the shield to the microphone and massively interrupt the vocal take.
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