When it comes to recording vocals, a pop filter is an essential studio accessory. You’ve probably seen microphone bundles which include a stand, XLR cable, and of course, a pop filter. We’ll explore the main difference between a foam mic cover vs a pop filter; while these accessories appear similar, they do work slightly differently.
What Is a Pop Filter and What Does It Do?
The most common type of pop filter consists of one or two layers of nylon mesh stretched across a round frame. It’s placed in front of the microphone; not right on top of it, but several inches back. Another style of pop filter is metal in construction, and while it does the same thing, it works a little differently. More on that soon.
A pop filter performs one major purpose: to minimize the impact of plosive sounds hitting the mic’s diaphragm. Letters like p, b, g, d, t, and k all carry a lot of acoustic energy behind them. The recorded result is a big popping sound, and you can quickly identify their shape in the waveform. Pop filters can’t always remove plosives completely, but they can do a good job of reducing their power.
When Should I Use a Pop Filter?
You should use a pop filter any time you’re recording vocals. If you’ve ever been to a working studio, you’ve probably seen a vocal mic set up with a pop filter attached. It’s just something that’s always normally used for this type of recording.
Apart from keeping plosives to a minimum, there’s the added benefit that positioning a pop filter a few inches away from the mic capsule forces the vocalist to stay off of it a bit — great for inexperienced singers who might get a little too close.
Metal vs Mesh Pop Filters
The main difference between metal and mesh pop filters is how they attempt to reduce the acoustic energy behind plosive sounds. Mesh filters diffuse the air and try to slow it down before it hits the mic. Metal filters many times have intricate designs that redirect plosive energy rather than disperse it. The end result is similar.
A major advantage of metal filters is that they’re easier to clean and they’re very durable. However, they’re also more expensive than nylon.
What Is a Foam Mic Cover & How Does It Work?
A foam mic cover, sometimes called a windscreen, is a foam ball or “sock” that slides over the microphone capsule. Usually these are reserved for use outside when wind can cause problems. Think about newscasters delivering a message on-location and the microphone they’re using; it has a foam cover/windscreen to minimize outdoor ambience.
Now, there’s a different type of foam cover that’s becoming popular in the studio — especially home studios without acoustic treatment. Heavy-duty foam covers, such as the Kaotica Eyeball, are large structures that completely enshroud the mic capsule from room ambience. They’re made to deliver clean and accurate recordings in less than ideal acoustic spaces, i.e., a bedroom studio.
When Should I Use a Foam Mic Cover?
There’s truth that a foam mic cover can also reduce plosives to a certain extent, but that isn’t its primary purpose. You’d most likely use a foam cover if you’re recording location sound, or setting up for a live event that’s outdoors. That way you can be sure you’ve done what you can to keep outside ambience like wind from wreaking havoc on the sound.
As far as foam covers like the Eyeball go, those are made for the studio. In fact, this design features a built-in pop filter for the vocalist to sing into, while the foam sphere isolates the microphone from room reflections.
Foam Mic Cover vs Pop Filter: Which One Is Best for Me?
If you’re recording in a decent to well acoustically treated studio, you’d be better off with a pop filter to keep vocal plosives at bay. If you’re recording outdoors for whatever reason, then a foam cover will protect your audio from wind. And finally, if you’re recording indoors in an untreated space, the all-in-one foam sphere with built-in pop filter is a fantastic tool.