What is a Pop Filter? Do I need one?

Do I need a pop filter for recording vocals?

If you’re learning about music recording and production, chances are, you’ve heard of pop filters! You may not know what a pop filter is, and why it would be useful. We’ll break down what a pop filter is, and when you need to use one.

Pop Filter for recording vocals

What is a pop filter?

A pop filter is a piece of mesh, typically mounted on a plastic ring, that you can attach to your microphone or mic stand. Most pop filters are made out of nylon threads, but some are made of metal.

If the pop filter mounts to the mic stand, it will typically have a flexible arm so you can position it right in front of your mic.

Some microphones, like the Aston Spirit, come with a built-in pop filter, or have one that mounts directly to the microphone. However, even if your microphone didn’t come with a pop filter, you may need to get an external one for certain uses!

Why do I need a pop filter?

There are two main reasons you want to use a pop filter with a condenser microphone. The first is to avoid recording plosives, and the second is to protect the delicate parts of the mic.

Reason #1 to use a pop filter: Plosives

Pop filters are usually used when recording the human voice. When recording singing or voiceovers, you’ll typically want to use a pop filter. The reason for this is to avoid plosives. A plosive is what happens when you say a word with heavy consonants. Air will leave your mouth at an increase speed, making impact with the diaphragm of the mic. That will lead to a popping sound getting recorded along with the vocals. This plosive sound is highly distracting, and you should avoid it by using a pop filter.

If you hold your hand in front of your mouth and say something with lots of plosives (“he bought the bracelet” or “Prince paid the price”), you’ll feel lots of air hitting your hand. When that air hits the microphone, it will make a loud popping sound.

When to use a pop filter?
The pop filter goes between your mouth and the microphone

Reason #2 to use a pop filter: Protect your mic

There are times besides recording vocals that you may want to use a pop filter. If you’re recording a kick drum, wind instruments, or any other instrument that will move air towards your delicate microphone, it’s not a bad idea to use a pop filter. This is not a consideration when using dynamic mics, but if you’re recording with a large diaphragm condenser mic, it’s better safe than sorry!

Do I need a pop filter?
This kick drum microphone has built in padding to protect the diaphragm
Do you need a popfilter?
You can visibly see the diaphragm in this condenser mic (the circle that you can see behind the grille), so it’s not protected from air

Why are some engineers using two pop filters?

Sometimes, when recording especially plosive-heavy vocals, I’ll combine two pop filters. Often times, the built-in pop filter on some mics is a flimsy piece of metal, and it could be letting too much air through. Combining two pop filters is an easy way to make sure your vocal recording doesn’t have too many plosives coming through.

Should I get a pop filter? Which one should I get?

If you’re planning on recording with a condenser microphone, you should 100% get a pop filter. Even if your mic comes with a built in pop filter, it might be smart to get an adjustable pop filter that you can attach to your mic stand.

Metal pop filter

Gator Frameworks Metal Screen Pop Filter with 12.4-Inch Gooseneck (GFW-POPFILTER-MTL)
  • Metal Screen Pop Filter with 12.4-Inch Gooseneck
  • Shields Vocal Recordings from Popping Sounds while Preserving Vocal Quality
  • Clamps to Most Standard Microphone Stands or Boom Shafts up to 18mm in Diameter

Metal pop filters are a slightly pricier pick, but they let slightly more air through. That means your vocals will maintain a slightly breathier, more crisp high end. If you’re picky about your vocal tone and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, a metal pop filter will offer a better sound.

Nylon Pop Filter

  • Double layer material
  • Compatible with virtually all mic stands
  • Avoid plosives in your recordings

This style of pop filter is cheaper, and easier to take care of. Unlike metal pop filters which run the risk of bending, this pop filter is made of rigid plastic. If you’re looking for something that will do the job, and you don’t have to baby, grab one of these bad boys for your mic stand!

Proper use of a pop filter will make sure you’re using your condenser mic to record the best vocals you can, and you’re keeping it safe! If you’re new to recording with condenser mics, or want to upgrade, check out our condenser mic roundup here!

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About the Author: Adam Sliger

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I'm the founder of makethatlouder.com, and a producer, musician, and songwriter based out of Orlando, FL. I have 10 years experience producing and owning a commercial recording studio. I write and produce music for artists, TV, and for my solo project, Night Winds. When I'm not writing and recording, I'm into food, coffee, and riding rollercoasters!

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