Over the fence about whether to get a pop filter?
For a simple tool, you might assume all pop filters are the same. When you get a microphone, investing in a pop filter isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
However, as you go through the process of learning the how-to’s of recording vocals and getting familiar with them, you’ll find out just how essential pop filters can be.
When you’re first starting out, it can be tricky finding what pop filter works best for you. You might not know what size or shape works best to accompany your mic, or maybe you don’t know much about the features that come with this product.
No worries, we’ll give you the play-by-play on all things pop filter, how to make the right choice for you, and what to consider when getting one. We’ll even throw in some of our own personal picks.
- 1 So what are pop filters exactly and do you really need one?
- 2 Purpose of using a pop filter
- 3 How to use a pop filter correctly
- 4 Types of pop filters
- 5 Are Windshields the same as pop filter?
- 6 What to consider when choosing a pop filter
- 7 Our Top 5 Pop Filter Picks
- 8 The Verdict…
So what are pop filters exactly and do you really need one?
Here’s a quick recap for those who don’t know what pop filters are.
The reason it’s called a pop filter is pretty self-explanatory - it removes pops and thumps that are otherwise known as ‘plosives.’ Plosives are excess air and vibrations developed through pronunciation (particularly letters B & P). These plosives overload and disrupt the microphone's diaphragm, creating sensitive, distorted frequencies.
These plosives are an obstacle you don’t want to deal with when you’re recording. If you want a seamless output while keeping your mic protected, then the answer is yes, you need to get a pop filter.
If an audio file is sent with plosives in it, the majority of the time it will be rejected and sent back. While some vocalists can reduce or even remove plosives from their performance, it’s variable. This uncertainty is why almost all studios have a pop filter in their recording arsenal.
Furthermore, microphone grills are prone to rusting over time, due to saliva from the performer. A pop filter can benefit your microphone by acting as a protective wall, preventing accumulating saliva from getting into your mic.
Purpose of using a pop filter
With plenty of options on the web, it can be tough filtering through products (pun intended). You need to understand what exactly you’re using the filter for by narrowing down your options. Is it for a live performance, recording in a studio or home practicing?
Deciding this immediately helps to sift through tons of options.
Recording in a studio is, in itself, a tough ordeal, making sure you remove plosives without negatively affecting the audio makes life easier.
You’ll find that most recording studios have the best and most expensive brands when it comes to pop filters. This is because sound engineers don’t want to go through the process of editing (I'm looking at you DeEsser and Multiband Compressor) to lower the offending frequencies.
It’s much easier to clamp up a pop filter in front of the mic and skip that whole procedure.
You also don’t want to be singing or speaking to an audience, and have them hearing distortion blasting through the speakers.
To the average person, many of the live performers you watch don’t seem to be using a pop filter. Or are they?
The truth of the fact is they do.
Much like the Shure SM58 (one of the most commonly used live mics) the pop filter is built into the mic via a meshed ball.
Practice at Home
If you’re just starting out on the road to pop filters and consider yourself to be a casual at-home practitioner, it might be wise to get a less pricey option.
Some people even go as far as to get an old pair of tights and stretch it over a sewing hoop. While this sounds like a cheap alternative, it’s not effective when it comes to plosive reduction.
Fear not, we’ll provide you with some inexpensive, standard industry filters later on.
How to use a pop filter correctly
So you’re probably wondering how to use a pop filter?
It’s pretty simple.
Most pop filters come with a clamp that can be fixed to a mic stand. The clamp is attached to a flexible pipe-like support called the gooseneck. The gooseneck allows you to position the filter in any way you want.
The filter should act as a protective wall, placed between you and the microphone. And there you have it; you’re ready to get started!
Setting up your pop filter isn’t rocket science. However, there are a few effective tips you should take into consideration while getting started.
- TIP #1: You want to try and keep a 4-6 inch distance between the filter and mic. It shouldn’t be any closer than that to avoid plosives from disrupting.
- TIP #2: You might also want to slightly tilt the filter at an angle with the mic. This is particularly effective if you have a smaller sized filter since they are closer to the mic.
Types of pop filters
So what exactly are pop filters made out of? There are two main pop filter types: nylon mesh and metallic mesh.
Nylon mesh pop filters
Nylon mesh is made by two layers of thin fabric tightly stretched around the filter border, with a small air gap between them. This air gap helps stop plosives from infiltrating the mic. We took a closer look at these types of pop filters to see exactly what makes them a great choice, and what doesn’t.
Though many vocalists and podcasters prefer nylon mesh, it comes with a list of cons.
So what are the alternatives to nylon mesh pop filters?
Metallic mesh pop filters
Metallic mesh filters have become increasingly popular in recent years. The filter is simply made up of a thin sheet of metal with holes specifically designed. These holes redirect the air, blasting it away from the microphone.
While this all sounds great, there are some downsides to metallic pop filters.
Dual layered pop filters
A Dual layered filter presents itself as the best of both worlds, with one layer of nylon mesh and the other metallic.
While this sounds like the jackpot of pop filters, it’s not exactly the case. As discussed previously most of the disadvantages of both are ultimately combined into one. Adding to that, unless tightly knitted, the nylon mesh layer can develop a dulling in your voice.
Are Windshields the same as pop filter?
Before we move onto to the next section, we feel it’s important to shed light on certain misconceptions. Windshields, while widely advertised as being similar, are not the same as pop filters.
Windshields are a foam sleeve that goes on top of the microphone. The main purpose is to soak up saliva and prevent the influence of slight breezes.
When it comes to plosives, you’re better off getting a pop filter.
What to consider when choosing a pop filter
So you’ve made your mind up on getting a pop filter? There are a few things to look into while you’re shopping for your new pop filter. These factors, if appropriately evaluated, save you a lot of searching time and disappointment.
The size of filter ultimately depends on how big your mic is. If you have a small mic you won’t need to look for a filter with large diameter, whereas large ones definitely will.
Big diameter filters help vocalists who like to move around a lot. However they can be heavy and weigh down the mic.
Smaller ones are lightweight keeping everything intact; however, they restrict movement of the performer. If you have a big microphone, it would be able to withstand the weight of a larger pop filter so definitely go that route if you can.
With so many pop filters on the market, there are different shapes to choose from but we recommend sticking with the following:
- Flat filters - More cost effective, but require you to speak directly in the center, and plosives can still be audible if not done correctly.
- Curved filters - Cover more angles of the mic, giving more room for the performer to work with but they do normally come with a higher price tag.
While it’s an important factor, many people disregard the type of mount the filter comes with. Majority of pop filters use a flexible gooseneck that screws to both the filter frame and the clamp.
There are two critical factors for mounts: gooseneck length and clamp width.
The size of the gooseneck is obvious. If the gooseneck is not long enough, you won’t be able to put the filter in front of the mic correctly.
Same goes for the width of your clamp. You’ll find that a lot of pop filters on the market have an adjustable c clamp. This type of clamp ensures you can mount your filter on any mic stand or boom.
Our Top 5 Pop Filter Picks
Now that you know everything you need to know about pop filters and selecting the right one for you, we thought it best to offer you some of our top picks.
The NADY MPF-6 is one of the most common and bestselling pop filters in the field, mostly because it won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
While there are countless cheap pop filters out there within the same price range, the reviews don’t come close to the NADY. Most of these pop filters are made poorly with flimsy material and goosenecks don’t stay in place. The NADY stays true to its promise of quality and durability.
With a traditional nylon mesh, it holds up to being highest standard in the industry. As we discussed before some clamps don’t fit all diameters. However, the NADY’s adjustable clamp fits most microphone sizes. If you’re new to pop filters or not looking to splurge, NADY is an inexpensive option with a seamless reputation!
The Bottom Line: The NADY MPF-6 is a great choice for those on a tight budget looking for something that does the job. However, be aware that the nylon mesh material may cut off those high frequencies we care about.
If you got a little more to spend the STEDMAN PS101 is an ideal option. While significantly more expensive than the NADY MPF-6, STEDMAN is also made of a metallic mesh.
Furthermore, it's thinner and smaller in size than most pop filters ensuring it’s not in the way while being sufficient for even large condenser mics.
STEDMAN is widely praised for reducing more plosives and additional sounds than most pop filters on the market. Also, its wired mesh doesn’t affect the high frequencies in the process. With a 13-inch gooseneck and an adjustable C clamp, it gives plenty of room to clip onto all sized microphones stands and booms. Don’t let the pricey figure of the PS101 impact your choice, STEDMAN offers a lifetime warranty on this product.
The Bottom Line: We love the STEDMAN’s versatility with mounting different mic; the metallic mesh is just the cherry on top. But we aren’t too sure if its price tag is suitable for the average user.
The AVANTONE PS-1 PRO-SHIELD takes a different approach, breaking out of traditional circular design with a semi-cylindrical arch shape.
The curve ensures the protection of your mic through a 180-degree angle, hugging the mic rather than sitting in front of it.
While most metallic mesh filters are woven with wide holes to allow high frequencies through, Avantone narrows the gap slightly.
With an all metal construction, Avantone promises a durable, resilient pop filter without bending, breaking, or ripping; while easily cleaned with a cloth.
Slightly cheaper than the Stedman, the Avantone promises the same result in terms of high-frequency loss.
The gooseneck length, however, is significantly shorter than Stedman coming it at a shy 8-inches. You needn’t worry too much as the PS-1’s adjustable clamp fits most microphone stands and booms, making up for the gooseneck length.
The Bottom Line: When we first saw this design, we thought “this is one unique filter!” And that’s not all; the metal construction appeals to our never-ending desire for durable resilient products. With an expensive product like this, we assumed the features would be up to par. However, we thought the 8-inch gooseneck length definitely dragged this product down.
Next on the list is Blue's pop filter confidently named ‘The Pop.’ With by far one of the classiest and more sophisticated designs on this list, the presentation is key with this pop filter.
Crossing most beginners’ budgets, ‘The Pop’ stands in the same price range as the STEDMAN. However, as we’ve learned, pricey pop filters reflect equally appealing features and effectiveness.
With a metallic wire mesh and body, it promises durability and success with removing the nuisances of those B’s and P’s. While we don’t advise this filter for lightweight mics, as the bulky mass of this filter can weight down smaller mics, it’s a perfect choice for larger counterparts. With an almost semi-cylindrical shape, Blue assured 'The Pop' would wrap nicely around big and small mics.
The Bottom Line: This is easily the classiest looking filter we’ve seen! With the wire mesh, it was a champ in terms of doing the job. We didn’t like the heft of ‘The Pop’ as it weighed down a lot of smaller mics. We also found it strange that BLUE made a pop filter that doesn’t fit well on their own microphones (such as the Blue Yeti).
Last but not least, the WETECH’s pop filter is the perfect example of dual-layered filters on the market. With a U shape design, the WETECH covers the diaphragm area giving tons of space for performers to move around.
The metallic mesh removes all plosives leaving high frequencies to pass through seamlessly.
While all the other options we have given you have had a traditional gooseneck attached, the WETECH is a little more contemporary in its design. Instead, you directly mount the filter on to the microphone, by placing the mic between the internal frame of the filter.
With no gooseneck and a plastic frame, this filter is lightweight, so it doesn’t weigh down the mic or take up too much room.
Best of all, it stands in the same price range as the NADY MPF-6; so you don’t have to break the bank to get all these great features packed into one small product!
The Bottom Line: We thought this one was a pretty solid product. With great features and no gooseneck, we were intrigued to find that this little filter was as affordable as our humble NADY. Our problem was that unlike the others, the WETECH attaches to the mic. This limits us to how far the distance is between the filter and the mic, also allowing vocal vibrations to travel to the mic through the filter.
As a vocalist, getting a pop filter is one of the best investments you’ll make – other than purchasing the actual microphone!
With plenty of cheap and robust options on the market, there’s no excuse NOT to grab one for your next session.
All of the products we have listed will do the job above and beyond without complications. However, the STEDMAN P101 tops the list for us in terms of professional gear. While it’s above the average consumers’ budget, everything else makes up indefinitely. With a resilient filter and body, the metallic mesh removes all trace of plosives while allowing high frequencies to pass through with no cuts.
With bulkier options on the list, the Stedman’s lightweight mass ensures it won’t get in the way of a performer, and won’t weigh down the mic.
However, if you’re still starting out and on a tight budget, the NADY MPF-6 comes at an affordable price and will do you absolute justice.