What is a pop filter?
Pop filters are an essential tool for anyone planning to record vocals.
From recording singers and voiceover artists to podcasting and streaming, we all have to deal with the same problem.
Plosives are the annoying p, t, k, b, d and g sounds that basically cause a burst of air to burst out of your mouth.
When this happens the air hits the diaphragm of the microphone.
This translates to an ugly distorted sound in the recording, which, in most cases, is impossible to remove in post-production and even harder to deal with in live scenarios like podcasting and radio.
To solve this we can use a tool called a pop filter.
The job of the pop filter is to disperse the burst of air so that it doesn’t hit the microphone’s diaphragm.
Different Types of Pop Filters
Pop filters come in many shapes and sizes and a lot of them cost only a few bucks.
However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for and using a cheap pop filter, or the wrong type of filter can alter the character of your vocal recordings in unwanted ways.
So make sure you understand the differences between each type and how they could possibly affect your recording.
Nylon Mesh Pop Filters
Nylon mesh is essentially two layers of nylon fabric stretched around a plastic frame. The small holes in the nylon weave allow air to pass through while dispersing it enough to avoid hitting the microphone’s diaphragm.
The problem with a lot of nylon mesh pop filters is that they tend to cause a reduction in high frequencies so make sure you are buying a well designed filter and not just the cheapest available pop filter on amazon.
They also tend to rip easily and are difficult to clean. However, they are a lot cheaper than metallic mesh pop filters.
Metallic Mesh Pop Filters
Metallic filters are made out of one sheet of metal with holes in it. The difference between metal and nylon mesh is that the metallic sheet can be engineered and shaped so that they can have bigger holes that will still disperse the air enough to stop it from hitting the microphones diaphragm.
The advantage of metallic mesh pop filters is that because the holes are bigger, they tend to have less of an effect on the quality of the vocal. So if you can afford to spend a bit more on a pop filter, make sure to go for a well designed metallic pop filter.
They are also easy to clean and will last longer. Just be careful not to leave them in places that can cause the mesh to bend.
You will typically see two shapes of filters. Curved and flat.
Curved filters wrap around the mic, so they cover more of it. This could be useful if you have two people talking or singing into one mic. Or if the person using the mic tends to move around it.
Flat filters require you to speak or sing directly into the center of them. In most cases they are cheaper than curved filters.
Here are the top 4 best pop filters for the Audio Technica AT2020:
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Stedman PS101 Proscreen
The PS101 Proscreen is a high quality metallic mesh pop filter. It does a great job of dispersing plosives, however, some people have reported it adds a metallic, whispy character to vocals.
- Screen size: 11.7cm,
- Size: 50cm
- Weight: 165g
- Fabric: Metallic
- Shape: Flat
Easy to clean and great at stopping plosives just be aware of the hissy character it could add to vocals. This might not be a problem if you have a less sibilant or darker microphone than the AT2020. Still a viable option in the $50-100 range.
A widely recognized brand in the production community. The PS-6 is well known for doing a great job at a low cost. It also comes with a metal gooseneck and clamp.
- 15.4 x 8.3 x 1.8 inches
- 12 ounces
- Fabric: Nylon
- Shape: Flat
If you want to go for a lower cost option in the $30-50 range,this nylon mesh pop filter is for you. It works wonders and I haven’t had any complaints about it.
AT2020 Foam Windscreen Pop Filter
This one is more geared towards podcasters and streamers. The thick foam shell wraps around the mic and is more of a windshield than a pop filter. It does a great job of blocking out wind and plosives but can affect the character of the vocal as it tends to dampen higher frequencies.
- Thick foam shell
- Protects from wind, plosives and saliva
- Snug fit
If you are only using your AT2020 to record voice overs, or for podcasting or streaming, then this is a great choice. And sitting in the $10-20 range makes it super affordable!
MXL PF002 Universal Metal Mesh
MXL is not an extremely well known brand. However, this is a great little filter for the price. It also comes with a gooseneck and clamp.
- 16 x 9 x 2 inches
- 1 pound
- Fabric: Metallic
- Shape: Flat
If you want a metallic mesh and have a low budget then this is a good option in the $15-30 range.
Choosing the right pop-filter comes down to your budget and intended use. For the purpose of vocal recording my personal favourite is the Shure PS6. It won’t break the bank and sounds the best in my opinion.
If you are only planning to use this for live streaming, podcasting, radio or voice overs then the best option is hands down the AT2020 Foam Windscreen Pop Filter. Not only is it the cheapest option on the list. It doesn’t require any pesky clamps and goosenecks for fitting and does a really great job of blocking out wind and plosives.