Even the best microphones aren’t perfect, and sometimes they can’t regulate unwanted sounds. Whether you’re singing or speaking, rogue noises can intrude upon your audio, rendering it flawed or completely unusable.
I was struggling with these issues until I discovered pop filters and foam microphone covers (windscreens). As their names suggest, these are filters that screen out extraneous noises, resulting in purer audio.
I also learned that they’re not interchangeable. Each filter functions differently and is used in different situations. Each one works better with specific microphones.
Here, I’ll discuss a pop filter vs. foam cover, so you can decide which one is right for you.
Why You Need to Use Filters for Your Mic
I highly recommend using microphone filters, because they screen out noises made by wind, breath and high-end/low-end issues. They also eliminate popping sounds created when singing or saying certain consonants. Filters keep saliva off the microphone, as well as dirt, dust and debris.
Some filters are designed to be used indoors, while others are intended to be used outdoors. Because of this, they shouldn’t be used interchangeably
Read on to learn all about selecting the mic filter that’s right for you.
Things to Consider When Buying a Microphone Filter
Microphone filters may look like simple devices. However, there are numerous features to take into consideration when you’re debating between a pop filter vs. foam cover.
Pop filters are generally between four and six inches. The smaller ones limit range of motion, because the singer or speaker has to be positioned just-so in front of them. If you have a smaller mic, a smaller pop filter is probably best.
Larger filters, though, are less restrictive, allowing the user to focus on what they’re doing, rather than how they’re doing it.
Keep in mind, though, that larger filters can weigh down the microphone. Lavalier mics are one of the smallest mics which means that there’s no need to buy a huge pop filter for them. If you want to choose the best lavalier mic click here.
Make sure the filter installs easily and stays put.
A gooseneck’s quality is just as important as the filter’s quality. Find one that doesn’t sag under the weight of the filter and needs incessant repositioning.
It should also be easy to bend into place.
Curved filters provide more microphone coverage, accommodating performers who like to move freely.
Flat filters are less expensive than curved ones. However, you must be careful to speak or sing directly into the mic so that you’re less likely to create plosives.
Pop filters come in both woven nylon (which is considered to be the industry standard) and metal mesh. If you want a more classic sound, your best bet is nylon. If you prefer a more modern style, check out metal mesh filters.
Here are more details about what a pop filter is and what it does.
A pop filter is the circular device resembling a lollipop that’s placed between a microphone and someone who is singing or talking.
What is a Pop Filter’s Purpose
Its specific purpose is to filter plosives. These are popping sounds (thus the filter’s name) created when you expel sharp gusts of air.
Condenser mics are more susceptible to plosives than others.
Plosives are comprised of six hard consonants. In order from strongest to weakest, these are P, B, T, D, K and G.
The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” contains the plosives T, K and D. Another good example is “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” It abounds in P and K plosives.
Pop filters also help minimize sibilance (also called fricatives). Sibilance is snake-like hissing caused by pronouncing or singing an S or Sh sound. A good example of sibilance is, “She sells seashells beside the seashore.”
Pop filters direct air downward, which allows sound to pass straight through to the mic. This is known as diffraction.
Choosing a pop filter can be challenging, especially if you’ve never used one before. In four information-packed minutes, Bandrew of Podcastage helps you navigate through pop filters by demonstrating and ranking the effectives of seven of them.
This includes free ones that come with mics to pricier models.
- Pop filters minimize plosives and sibilance
- Eliminate problems with the high and low end. This also makes the recording easier to edit
- Protect the microphone from saliva, which can corrode it
- Easy to use
- When properly placed, a pop filter can help users stay the correct distance from the mic
- Not as effective as windscreens for reducing background noise
- Some metal pop filters slightly whistle
- Can suffer from the proximity effect
- If you’re doing video work, it will block your face
- If you’re doing voiceover work, you’ll have difficulty seeing the copy
What It’s Best For:
Pop filters are excellent for indoor use to diminish plosives and sibilance when using voice over microphones. Without one, your audio can sound abrasive and amateurish. They’re essential for doing high-quality voiceovers, podcasts and YouTube videos that keep your listeners engaged.
New to podcasting? Then you’ll want to check out this video by Edward Smith. You’ll hear comparisons of mics with and without pop filters, as well as pop filters vs. foam windscreens.
If you do any type of outdoor recording or presentations, a foam mic cover is the best choice for this scenario.
Types of Pop Filters
Two types of pop filters are available: nylon mesh and metallic mesh.
Nylon Mesh Pop Filters
Nylon pop filters are made of a double layer of nylon stretched inside a plastic or metal hoop. The first and second layers dissipate your breath and intercept plosives before they reach the microphone.
Did you know you can make a DYI nylon mesh pop filter? All you need is a wire hanger and a pair of pantyhose. Simply bend the hanger into a circle, and cut off one leg of the pantyhose, but leave the foot.
Slip the nylon over the hanger, pull tight, trim off the excess material and tape into place. That’s it!
The Beatles famously used pantyhose mic filters during their impromptu 1969 performance on the roof of Apple Records.
I thought this video by Mike Delgaudio of Booth Junkie was extremely helpful in showing how a pop filter’s price doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. He does a rundown of pop filters, their effectiveness and whether they change the incoming sound. (Complete with waveforms!)
Mike also explains how to perfect your diction to diminish plosives.
Metallic Mesh Pop Filters
These disc-shaped filters are made of woven metal mesh or perforated metal. They have wider holes than nylon filters and provide the best noise shield.
This is because metallic mesh filters have specially shaped openings that deflect gusts of air downward, while having less of a detrimental impact on high frequencies.
Some metal mesh pop filters also have a layer of nylon mesh. Many users believe that metal filters have a more professional appearance than nylon ones.
A foam cover, or windscreen, is a porous, polyurethane cylinder that fits securely over a microphone’s grille.
What is a Foam Cover’s Purpose
Whereas a pop filter is used to control plosives, a windscreen’s primary purpose is to block out the sound of wind. Windscreens are about half an inch thick and filter gentle breezes up to two miles per hour.
Many manufacturers include custom-sized windscreens with their mics. Universal windscreens are also available that fit over a variety of microphones. Inexpensive and portable, they also safeguard the mic from moisture.
Like the pop filter, a windscreen dissipates low frequency interference caused by bursts of air. However, it disperses air from all sides, rather than only the front.
- Great for working outdoors to capture sound with minimal wind interference
- Pairs with omnidirectional mics
- Ease of use
- Reduces excessive background noise
- Foam dries out as time goes by, and the flakes can fall off and into the microphone
- Not as effective as pop filters for reducing plosives
- Foam absorbs some high frequencies, which can dull the sound of your recording
What It’s Best For:
Windscreens are ideal for outdoor recordings or presentations that must sound clean and free of random wind noises. This is especially crucial if you’re in a situation that’s a one-time opportunity, and a do-over won’t be possible.
Types of Windscreens
There are two other versions of windscreens in addition to the foam type.
Also known as windsocks or, more disturbingly, dead cats, windjammers are fluffy, synthetic fur covers that fit completely over a microphone. You’ve probably seen them on boom poles at outdoor interviews and sporting events.
Windjammers are lined with polyurethane foam for extra wind interference reduction. They are fitted over blimp-shaped microphones, which have their own built-in windscreens. This adds an additional layer that makes the windjammer even more effective.
Windjammers are also used with shotgun mics.
Dead cats with strands of fur that are 1.5 inches or longer are more effective than shorter ones. The fur obstructs wind while permitting audio to go through, without sacrificing the mic’s high-frequency response.
Dead cats handle strong wind of approximately 15 miles per hour.
Large, pill-shaped windscreens called blimps, baskets or zeppelins (no relation to the band) provide the most effective level of wind protection.
Since blimps contain the entire microphone, surrounding it in an open chamber, they completely safeguard it from disturbance coming from all directions.
Using a dead cat along with a blimp can make it even more resistant to wind.
- What Is A Pop Filter & Why You Should Use Them
- Make an Effective Microphone Pop Filter Out of Paper
- How to Get Rid of Sibilance & Plosives in Your Vocals
- How to Make a DIY Pop Filter
Microphone filters are valuable pieces of equipment, because there’s one for all circumstances, whether indoors or outdoors. They’re also versatile devices that work with any type of mic, including the best XLR microphones. If you’re debating about a pop filter vs. foam cover, this article should point you in the right direction.