I’ve recorded vocalists in my home studio for almost 8 years now. I purchased a pop filter with my microphones when I got started, not knowing what they actually did, but have learned a lot since then. I’ve been asked by many of my students as well whether they are essential for recording vocals and recently, even got asked if you could use two pop filters.
The use of 2 pop filters may cause the loss of high frequencies in your recording, depending on the type of filter you use. You can alleviate plosives not only by 2 filters but also by the distance in the placement of the screen from the mic and by tilting the mic on its axis.
Although it may seem pretty straightforward, there are a lof details and things to consider when recording with pop filters and it is important to understand all of it if you want to be able to record clear crisp vocals that don’t have any ambient background noise and are free from pops.
Let’s take a look at what a pop filter is, how it works, the types, all its components, and how it can benefit you.
What is a pop filter?
The straight definition would from wiki is – A pop filter, pop shield, or pop screen is a noise protection filter for microphones, typically used in a recording studio. We can add to this definition and say it is usually circular in shape and is attached to the microphone itself or the microphone stand.
What is a pop filter used for?
A pop filter is used for two purposes in a recording studio. The first and main area of focus is that it gets rid of the plosive sounds that are created when a singer sings words that start with B or P, sometimes the letter M as well if the vocalist is really pushing the notes.
When a singer sings these consonants and moves into their vowel sound, the air is forced out of their mouths, almost like a rocket. This force of air pressure, if not controlled and stopped, can overload the microphone and make it peak, cutting out the sound and stopping the recording for that split second. This is really bad for the recording, because trying to get rid of it after the fact in your DAW it is almost impossible.
Hence, a pop filter is placed in front of the microphone to help stop those uncontrolled bursts of air pressure form singing. They work great and are a must-have for any recording studio.
The second reason we use them is not that commonly known but is a very cool side benefit of a pop filter. The pop filters’ side effect is that it stops spit from the vocalist hitting the microphone.
If you know anything about microphones and how they are made, you would know that they are susceptible to rust and deterioration from the elements, especially moisture. Pop filters are great for prolonging the life of your expensive microphones.
Can you use 2 pop filters?
Like with most audio questions, we can say that it depends. However, for a general guideline, if you are singing or the singer is singing very close to the condenser microphone, then there is no harm trying to use two pop filters for that extra shield against those aggressive plosive sounds.
Sometimes a singer, and more so with rock singers, will overemphasize their vocals and push their voices to some degree. You’d want to catch and stop those plosives before they are recorded, rather than having them recorded and trying to get them out with the production software your using.
There is one con, however, form using a pop filter unless you are using a metallic pop filter. Nylon pop filters tend to take out the high frequencies of a recording. So just be careful when experimenting with two pop filters. If you find you are losing your high frequencies, try tilting the microphone, so the singer is not singing directly in front of it, but slightly adjacent to it instead.
Something to consider is that more often than not, those plosives don’t come out very easily unless you compress the vocals to such a degree that they lose all life in them. Remember, its always better to get a recording that sounds great without it having been tampered with. Then it’s easy to work with and easy to make it sound great.
So, when you’re using your pop filter, what I suggest is try many variations unless you’ve already found some variation that works for you. Try one pop filter, try two pop filters and then also vary the distance from where the pop filter is in relation to the microphone.
Moving the pop filter or pop filters either closer or farther away from the microphone can alter the sound in subtle ways. Having it close to the pop filter and having the singer sing close can alter the proximity effect of the voice and the recording, so keep that in mind when setting up your pop filter.
Check out this video by soundpurestudios to give you a better understanding of what the proximity effect is.
What we want to do is record different variations and see which ones come out the best. Having two pop filters can help your recording if you’re struggling and those plosives that are cutting right through the mix, ruining your vocal takes.
Remember that two pop filters won’t harm your mix if you do it correctly. If it seems like there is a sheet in front of the singer’s vocals when recorded, and the high frequencies are gone, then re-evaluate and try a different tactic. Just remember to always go with your ear and with what sounds good in the end.
If you don’t know what exactly a pop filter is, then you’re in luck because I detailed all the need to knows and in’s and outs of a pop filter for your benefit.
What is a pop filter made out of?
There are two types of pop filters in terms of what they are made out of, metallic mesh pop filters and nylon mesh pop filters.
Metallic mesh pop filters
Metallic mesh filters are durable, they last long and they are significantly smaller in terms of size so they can be way less obstructive if you’re working in a closed vocal booth with limited space. They are designed with wider holes rather than that of their nylon counterparts, and this has less effect on the higher frequencies when recording vocals.
As you would expect, the cons would be that they are slightly more expensive than nylon pop filters. If not maintained well over time, they can develop odd sounds, which could be considered a whistle when you record vocals, and could even rust and deteriorate.
The last thing to note is that if you have a vocalist who likes to use their hands to express themselves when they sing, and they grab onto the pop filter, it is very is easy to bend and damage.
Nylon mesh pop filters
This is what you would most commonly find in most home recording studios. It’s cheap and durable, and it works pretty well in all respects. It’s great for people who have never done recording before, and its better than nothing. It’s great at its job by removing those plosives form the mix and keeps the spit out of your $500 microphone, bonus!
A couple of things to note about nylon pop filters is that because it is made of nylon, it can easily tear if manhandled. The nylon is woven tightly together and can sometimes lead to loss of high frequencies when you record, so be careful of that, especially when deciding to use two pop filters for your recording.
Watch this YouTube video by Audio University. They will help you decide which pop filter you should get if you are looking to buy either a nylon or metallic pop filter.
What are the benefits of a pop filter?
The two benefits of a pop filter we already discussed were the fact that they are great for getting rid of those plosive sounds and the fact that they can prolong the life of your microphone by keeping spit, sweat, and moisture off of it.
Another benefit of pop filters is that they tend to cut out issues regarding very high and very low frequencies. This is great for when your mixing because it can limit unwanted sound in your vocal recording and make it is easier to get rid of.
One last benefit we could include is that having a pop filter looks professional in any recording studio, and singers and prospective clients respond better if you have one. A singer feels more comfortable and will be able to give you a better performance. Rather have them feel comfortable and get a good recording than make them feel like they have to hold back and adjust their voice because you don’t have the necessary gear.
Are 2 pop filters better than 1 pop filter?
Again, this depends on the situation. We’ve already discussed that it is fine to use 2 pop filters if the situation presents itself. However, two pop filters are not necessarily better than one. With recording music, the go-to phrase that has been around forever is “less is more.”
As I said before, nylon pop filters cut out high frequencies in some cases. Rather than using 2 pop filters, try putting the microphone on a tilt instead, thereby making the singer sing adjacent to it.
Do I need a pop filter if I don’t sing?
If you don’t sing or don’t record vocals, then it is probably not necessary for you to invest in one. However, they are relatively cheap, and there might come a day when you need to do a vocal take.
Other instruments like drums and guitar do not generate sound the same way a vocalist does, and drums come with their own specific recording microphones for each section of the kit. Sometimes guitars and bass are not even recorded with a mic and are plugged in via your audio interface and recorded directly into your DAW, so there is no need for one.
How badly do I need a pop filter if I do sing?
In my experience in recording vocals, I would suggest that it is a must-have. You could put the microphone on a tilt, as mentioned before, and have the singer sing adjacently into the microphone. However, you do get vocalists who have never recorded before and are nervous, and to get good takes out of them are difficult.
Even if you sing yourself, you don’t want to worry about standing indirectly in front of the microphone and be aware of all other little details when recording your vocal take. You want to be relaxed and confidant.
Watch this YouTube video by French Toast Phillip, and you will see just how a pop filter destroys those plosive sounds and that without it, your recording will be subject to pops and peaks and spikes, which might be very difficult to get rid of when mixing.
What can I use instead of a pop filter?
You can defiantly make a pop filter yourself and all you need is
- Wire hanger
- Rubber band
- Wire clippers
I wouldn’t suggest using socks as they will cut too much of the high frequencies out. You might not notice this if you’re a male singer but you will definitely hear this when recording female vocalists.
All you have to do is cut the wire hanger with the wire clippers and crudely construct the circular shape of the pop filter. Then just pull the pantyhose over it and hold it in place with the rubber band
Watch this YouTube video by C-Threep Music who shows you exactly how to construct your own home-made pop filter using the technique I’ve just described.
In conclusion, you can use two pop filters for your vocal recording, however, there are factors to consider when you do.
You have to consider that nylon pop filters remove the high frequencies and if you use two filters, those frequencies may be lost altogether.
You should also consider alleviating the plosives with distance, by placing the pop filter father away from the microphone. Remember if you move closer to the microphone, and depending on the microphone and the directional pattern it is set up with, proximity effect could occur.
You could also try putting the microphone on a tilt, if you don’t have two pop filters or any pop filters at all. This will help alleviate the direct air pressure from the vocalist’s mouth and prevent popping to a certain degree.
Lastly, you could use a combination of pop filters, distance, and putting the microphone on a tilt to get the desired vocal take you need.