This is one of the most asked questions from people who are new to recording. We are all familiar with the sight of a mesh placed before a mic in a professional recording studio. However, not many people have pondered the reason why it was placed that way.
Here’s What A Pop Filter Do
Pop filters’ main objective is to attenuate the plosive’s energy, which has a high chance of exceeding input capacity.
Each mic has a different design, providing unique capacity limits, which will cause “clippings” if exceeded. In other words, pop filters are here to combat clipping.
What Are Plosives And How Does It Affect Your Recording?
In simpler terms, plosives are sounds occurring when someone pronounces specific breath-heavy consonants such as “P” and “B.” The air escaping their mouth will strike the capsule of a mic, producing overwhelming air pressure.
As a result, they will create a windy sound or even a popping sound if the pressure is strong enough.
The best way to check for plosives is to hold a candle before you and speak to it. If the sound is plosive, you will observe that the flame flickers a little bit.
The closer your mouth to the mic during the recording process is, the louder the popping sound will be. It will interact with the diaphragm of the mic and produce an output signal on its own.
As you can guess, this signal will muddle up your recording significantly if left alone. A prime example of this damage is something that you are familiar with, broadcasts, especially school broadcasts.
If you pay attention, you will notice that these broadcasts have lots of banging and clicking noises. Those noises are the result of plosives muddying a recording.
That’s not all, as there is also a phenomenon that we call the “proximity effect.” This effect increases bass build-up as the sound source gets near to a mic.
Not many know, but the proximity effect, when coupled with plosives in the human voice, can make some loud noises. This issue is especially problematic if you use a condenser mic, as these mics usually have light and sensitive diaphragms.
It is not that bad for dynamic mics as they tend to have higher SPL tolerance. However, they can still be affected; that is where pop filters come in.
The Reason Why People Using Pop Filters
There are two major purposes for equipping a pop filter.
First of all, it’s to eliminate all of the “popping” noise we talked about previously. Pop filters will destroy these noises from the source, letting your recording be as clear as possible.
However, we doubt that many people are aware of the second use of this device, despite its popularity. When we speak, sing, or do anything that produces sounds, we let out a lot of saliva.
This amount of saliva will get higher as you increase the sound output. As such, vocalists belting notes out can also unknowingly spit out lots of saliva.
The saliva will undoubtedly land on the microphone and then damage its electrical content.You see, our saliva has a high percentage of salt, which is highly corrosive in nature.
As a result, no electrical component can survive prolonged exposure to saliva. There is also the issue of the mic starting to smell bad.
Having a pop filter not only keeps your mic clean and long-lasting it also eliminates “popping” sounds. Next, we will find out exactly how the pop filter can do so.
How Do Pop Filters Operate?
Most people believe that there is some complicated concept behind the pop filters, but that’s not true at all. A pop filter is simply a mesh screen being placed right in the front of the mic.
You see, the bulk of any sound will travel through this mesh with no issue, aside from some high-end loss. However, that loss is not at all consequential if we are talking about the big picture.
Plosives, on the other hand, will hit this mesh and break apart. As a result, there is no longer a concentrated air blast striking the microphone but a stream of dispersed air.
There are, of course, plosives so focused that they can get through the mesh relatively intact. That is why most pop filters have not one but two mesh layers.
Anything that can pass through the first layer will undoubtedly be taken care of by the second. You just need to remember to place your pop filter at a minimum a few inches away from the capsule.
Doing this will ensure that there is a sizable air gap, adding to the protection of the mic.
Should I Worry About High-Frequency Loss?
For the most part, the answer is no, as the highs that nylon pop filters absorb can hardly make any difference.
Most of us, after all, are not specialists that care about doing anything perfectly. If you do want to retain all the high-frequency sounds, we suggest looking into metal pop filters. These things have meshes that are more widely spaced, letting the majority of higher frequencies pass through.
Naturally, those holes are still not big enough for any plosives to sneak in. They will still break right at the moment they make contact with the mesh.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most asked questions that we encounter while researching. They can provide some further insights for you.
1. What Can I Use Instead Of A Pop Filter?
In spite of pop filters being the easiest way to take care of them, there are still other methods.
You can minimize the damage of plosives by ensuring that the capsule and the vocalist are slightly off-axis. Doing so will prevent the vocal from hitting the mic directly.
Some experienced vocalists are aware of this issue, so they tend to adopt this position by themselves. After all, this position is also capable of reducing some sibilance.
2. Can Pop Filters Block All Plosives?
The short answer is no, as pop filters are still meshes so that some plosives will get through. Our only option to eliminate these lucky plosives is to edit the recording and perform “selection-based recording.”
After selecting the plosive, pull an EQ up and prepare a high-pass somewhere upward 200 Hz. You will immediately notice the difference.
3. How Far Should Pop Filters Be From The Mic?
The answer to this question depends on how much energy you can put out while recording.
However, you must keep in mind that the distance between the pop filter and the mic is proportionate to gain. A higher level of gain almost always means more noises.
After reading through this article, we hope that you can now clearly answer the question, “what does pop filter do.” All in all, pop filters only serve two purposes, to eliminate plosives and keep the mic clear off your saliva.
Aside from these purposes, we have also answered some of the most seen questions from people researching pop filters. We believe that you will find some useful information from those answers.