When singing or talking into a microphone and you hear plosive noises like “B” and “P,” by all means, you need to get a sound filter to lessen those problematic sounds. Your options are pop filter vs. windscreen.
The choice between a pop filter and cheap foam that fits a metal screen is entirely up to whether you will do your recording outdoors or indoors. Outdoors, the wind is the issue. Indoors, it is preferable to use a pop filter because it reduces high frequencies to a lesser amount.
What Is a Pop Filter?
Have you seen your favorite singers recording their vocals in a studio? Did you notice a black and circular device standing in between them and the microphone?
That thing is called a pop filter, and it is made of thin metal or nylon mesh. It is installed onto the microphone stand through a metal mount. When you sing or record your voice, you stand a few inches away from this filter.
The job of a filter is to eliminate annoying pops in sound recording. Those annoying pops are called plosives. Plosives are blasts of air coming from the singer’s mouth when producing explosive sounds, such as Ts, Bs, and Ps.
These sounds generate air blasts that directly hit the microphone, causing it to carry too much load and produce unpleasant sounds. While it is not necessary to use such a filter each time you perform in front of an audience, it is required that you use it every time you record vocals.
What Is a Microphone Windscreen?
When you use a microphone outdoors, it is exposed to the elements, especially air. If a blast of air hits, it breaks up against the edges in the inlet and air vortices inside. It also produces a howling sound.
Thus, microphones used outdoors need foam or fur cover called windscreen. The covering material breaks the air before it reaches the microphone. In the studio, microphone covers are used because singers produce explosive consonant sounds described above.
Therefore, without microphone protection or shield, quality live sound or sound recording is next to impossible. Plosives bombard the ears of the listeners with hurting sounds.
The materials in windscreens – such as foam, wire gauze, or fabric – form significant acoustic impedance. Low particle-velocity changes that create sound waves can traverse with minimum attenuation. On the other hand, the cover impedes high particle-velocity air to a sizeable extent.
Manufacturers carefully consider the thickness of the material. Increasing the thickness of the material means better wind attenuation. However, too much thickness may compromise the quality of audio with high frequency.
All windscreens and pop filters affect sound quality. Foam filters, however, are poor at keeping quality sound and reducing pops. Mesh filters affect the sound though not that much.
Expert Tip: If you use a windscreen, you can recognize a difference if you place it between you and the microphone. The difference is subtle, but you can feel it is there.
However, it may not be proper to use a windscreen indoors. It does work to reduce wind noise outside, but when used for indoor recording, it may muffle the sound and somehow reduce the sensitivity of the microphone.
As a microphone user, you must learn to pronounce words without popping. Other than that, microphone placement is also a factor to consider when reducing popping. Off-axis placements can decrease both popping and fricatives.
Differences between Windscreen and Pop Filter
These two devices have different applications, as their names suggest. Generally, you use a pop filter if you are recording in a studio. That helps for preventing physical air from hitting the microphone’s diaphragm.
A windscreen, on the other hand, reduces wind noise. That is why professional TV reporters use it outside when interviewing people with handheld microphones and in live TV shows aired from the outdoors.
The usual material used in making windscreens is foam. Windscreens are devices designed to fit snugly over a microphone casing. Many microphone models come with a built-in screen in the grill for protection of the small parts inside. An example is an ATM510 model.
Nonetheless, these models can still benefit from the additional protection that a windscreen can provide. One of the best windscreens for the ATM510 microphone is the AT8114 model. Note that using a windscreen can dampen higher frequencies more than a pop filter can.
Pop filters work differently. They are made of transparent mesh or foam and placed in front of the microphone in a recording studio. This device is originally implemented using an embroidery ring with leg stockings placed between the microphone and the vocalist.
People who commonly use pop filters are streamers, podcasters, and singers. Streamers use these devices as they usually get over-excited and tend to speak loud or shout. These devices can cut any potential sound distortion coming from the microphone.
One benefit of using a pop filter is its ability to prevent saliva from coming in contact with the microphone. Saliva can build up in the microphone and cause damage over time. Thus, it can also help in ensuring that your microphone will last for a long time.
Windscreens work as protective tools. It is because they provide an extra layer of protection to the tip of the microphone where it has more weight. That is the area where the microphone picks up sound. Also, the windscreen will protect the microphone from dents or scratches.
Expert Tip: In any case, use a windscreen or a pop filter and not both. Using both devices at the same time will not produce a different result. Use a filter for studio recording where you stay in place throughout the recording.
On the contrary, use a windscreen if, during recording, you move your body (or the microphone) as animated singers do. Also, use a windscreen when hand-holding a microphone. If several vocalists simultaneously use a microphone, it is also best to use a cover instead of a windscreen.
Is a Windscreen or Pop Filter Better for Streaming?
Using Pop Filter for Live Streaming
If you do live streaming for video games, sports, or anything else, you must make sure you have quality audio from your microphone. A question in the world of streaming that people throw is whether they need to use a pop filter on their microphone or not.
When positioned correctly, pop filters can deliver quality vocals due to the reduction of plosives. That makes these devices highly useful for live streamers.
However, pop filters are sometimes bulky, which means they can block the view of the streaming person. If the streamer is on camera, a bulky pop filter can obstruct the view of the audience. Proper microphone and filter positioning must be achieved for clear viewership on both sides and sound clarity.
Expert Tip: Remember that plosive energy quickly dispels through the air, so positioning the microphone away might not work enough to avoid plosives. If your streaming environment is not soundproof, distancing away from the microphones may sometimes result in poor audio quality. Thus, pop filters are a necessary accessory if the place where you live stream is not soundproof.
So, the advantages of using a pop filter are two:
- Reduced plosives
- Improved audio quality
The lesser advantage is related to its size. Because pop filters are usually larger than the microphone, the user is provided with a bigger area to focus their talking on.
However, the size can be a disadvantage in terms of the view. That is more obvious for streamers who need to focus on a screen, or comment on a live event, or engage in a conversation with a guest.
What about using a windscreen for streaming?
Windscreens are not as effective as pop filters in reducing plosives, but they can provide insulation against wind and filter plosive noise to a certain extent.
Some manufacturers of microphones include custom-sized windscreens in their packaging. You can also find universal windscreens that fit a variety of microphones. Portable and inexpensive, windscreens also provide protection to a microphone.
Advantages of using a windscreen for live streaming include:
- Ease of use
- Pairs with Omni-directional microphones
- Ability to reduce excessive background noise
- Great to use for outdoor streaming where there is minimal wind interference
Windscreen disadvantages include:
- Foam tends to dry and weaken as time goes by. The resulting flakes can fall into the microphone.
- Not as effective as a pop filter for decreasing plosive energy
- Foam can absorb high frequencies that can generate dull sound
Windscreens are best for outdoor streaming that must sound clear and free from random wind noise. These devices are helpful in situations where streaming is a one-time presentation and a do-over is not possible.
Pop filters and microphone windscreens serve the same purpose for a live streamer or a sound recording artist. Both devices are designed to improve vocal sound production.
The main difference between these devices is related to the part of sound they eliminate. Windscreens are designed to be used outdoors to eliminate the sound of the wind. Pop filters, on the other hand, are designed to minimize sound pops. These devices are often used indoors.
This article tackled the aspects you need to consider when deciding what device to buy for your situation and needs. Post your comments or questions below.