Have you ever looked at the front of a microphone and noticed it’s either guarded by a shield or covered by a piece of foam, and wondered what they do?
These are pop filters and foam filters, which have two distinctly different jobs for improving the sound quality of your audio recording.
Today we’ll take a look at each of them, and lay out the differences and benefits of using each of these methods.
Pop Filter Versus Foam Filter
Whilst a pop filter will be used to remove plosives, which are sounds that are carried by consonants such as ‘k’ or ‘p’, a phone filter is like a windscreen.
Which means that it shields the microphone from winds and it will remove the annoying air sounds from the recording.
Whilst both aim to improve the recording of your audio, they can be used in different situations, and depending on the type of audio that you are recording, will likely depend on the type of filter that you will use.
A Closer Look At Pop Filters
You can easily spot a pop filter by a mesh screen that is placed in front of the microphone before recording. Most microphones will come with a pop filter that can be easily removed or inserted.
However, if a microphone does not come included with a pop filter (see also ‘AT2020 Pop Filter‘), they are usually very cheap and are easy to set up.
Its main role is to remove popping sounds or harsh consonants from a voice recording. These are known as plosives, and what happens is when you make these sounds, it will hit the microphone which will cause your voice to essentially pop out.
This sound will hit the screen first and the sound will be dispersed before it reaches the microphone. They are typically made from nylon or a wire mesh, which are shown to be the most effective at preventing plosives.
This can be distracting for a listener, and it can ruin a recording as it can temporarily take a listener out of the conversation. It’s also harsh on the ears and can make a recording sound almost unlistenable.
Plosives or an actual part of human speech, however, the reason that you would want to protect your recording from these is the day they are magnified in an audio recording.
With a condenser microphone (see also ‘What Is A Condenser Microphone?‘), the plosives will sound extra harsh due to the proximity effect.
This is why we always recommend you use a pop filter, especially when you are recording indoors and are directly talking into the microphone.
A Closer Look At A Foam Windscreen
If you’re going to be using a microphone outside, then we recommend you go with a foam windscreen, which will cover the entire microphone.
Because this method is so effective, many mics will come equipped with a phone windscreen (see also ‘Mic Windscreens‘) as a standard issue.
If you have tried to record outside, then you know how sensitive a microphone will pick up even the slightest of breezes.
Recording without a phone windscreen and using a microphone may result in your voice being inaudible due to consistent wind blasts.
This is another distracting element of poor sound recording, and if all you can hear is the blowing of the winds and your voice continues to nip out, your audience is going to tune out very quickly.
If your microphone doesn’t come with a phone windscreen, then we recommend that you purchase one as these are also not that expensive. They should fit snugly into the microphone and it will protect the capsule from the elements.
Another issue with using a microphone outside is that it can cause damage to the capsule, and using a phone windscreen will protect the sensitive parts of the equipment.
Manufacturers will typically use open cell foam which will help to achieve noise reduction without reducing the overall quality of the sound.
The wind blast will move in and around the foam structure, and the sound waves or reach the microphone capsule without compromising on quality.
There’s nothing worse than listening back to a recording with lots of wind elements, so avoid this headache in the post-production process and use a foam filter.
The Major Differences
Whilst you might be leaning towards one or the other, here are a few important points to give you a better idea of each filter.
A pop filter will remove plosives, whilst the foam we used to protect the microphone from wind last.
You should not confuse these as the same function, and they cannot be substituted for one another, i.e. a pop filter will not protect the microphone from wind, and a foam windscreen will not protect against plosives.
Consider the type of audio recording that you’re going to be doing, and then favor one or the other.
For example, if you are going to be recording the audio from a studio environment, with interviews and lots of talking, then you’re going to want to prioritize using a pop filter.
If you are going to be conducting audio recordings in an external environment, then a foam windscreen is going to be ideal for you.
However, you should also consider using both at the same time. This will be ideal for the podcast recorder that wants to do a recording outside, such as an interview.
You could also use a windscreen phone in an indoor setting, to protect against a sudden gust of wind coming through the window, or other unexpected noises.
Also, it’s worth considering the type of filter you’re going to be using, and how and how compatible they are with your microphone.
Whilst a pop filter (see also ‘Homemade Pop Filter‘) will be universal and can work with any microphone, a foam filter will need to be specifically made for your model.
Bear this in mind when purchasing a new microphone, as you may not be able to transfer over your foam filter if you already own one.
Whilst they offer completely different benefits to your audio recording, they are both useful in certain situations, and can even be used in combination to ensure that your recording is as high quality as possible.