A pop filter, pop screen, or pop shelter is an anti-popsicle noise control filter for microphones, commonly found in a recording studio setting. It acts to eliminate or minimize popping noises produced by the mechanical impact of vibrating air on the mic's diaphragm during recording or singing. The various types of pop filters are spring balances, piezoelectric, and bulk dampers. A pop screen or pop shelter can be applied to any microphone that uses a diaphragm to isolate the electrical signals from the acoustic vibrations of the diaphragm. When a microphone has a good sound reproduction, the result is often an audio distortion.
In addition to boosting audio quality, a pop filter can be used to enhance a live performance. With the addition of a pop screen or pop shelter to a live streaming setup, audience members and performers will hear the audio from both the front and back of the stage. This eliminates echo from one side of the room to the other. A live streaming setup can also improve the vocalization of a lead singer as the audience hears more than just their voice.
As with any electronic device, a pop filter has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that it can be manually adjusted for any desired effect. However, if you are using the device in a live recording environment, you must be aware of your surroundings and any potential distractions. If you can not adjust the device, you may find that you inadvertently mute your own instrument. Another disadvantage is that the volume can be controlled only by pushing a certain number of sliders, which makes controlling the volume more difficult when trying to match the song's intensity with the level of amplification used.
Another advantage to using a pop filter is that it can help eliminate unwanted background sounds. These sounds can hamper the quality of the recording. A pop filter can remove these sounds and make for a more dynamic recording, especially in live performances.
Pop filters can also be used to reduce any excessive amount of "plosive energy" in the sound. In music production, the term "plosive energy" refers to any sudden change in musical tempo that can create an unstable listen. This can often be created by using excessive reverb or chorus effects. Using a pop filter can remove any excess plosive energy that could potentially affect the dynamic of the piece. It also removes the need for an expensive reverb tank.
A pop filter can be beneficial in any recording situation. However, one key factor to consider is the acoustic character of a song. Acoustic instruments such as brass instruments, steel drums, cymbals, and maracas require a different technique for adding depth to their sound. Most pop songs do not require the use of additional instruments to achieve the same goal, which makes them much simpler to record. The use of a pop filter can really add depth and texture to a vocal pop recording.
Some popular examples of this type of effect include hits from the era of the Beach Boys, the Nelly Furtado band, and many others. When using mics for this effect, it's common to place the mics as close to the front of the speaker as possible. Many people think that the closer mics will pick up more "pops", but for most recordings, the closer is actually the better choice. The closer mics are able to pick up more "pops" because they tend to capture the sounds closer to the mic and thus will pick up less "dust" during playback.
Using a pop filter with an omnidirectional microphone produces a unique sound that is similar to the air flow over a windshield in a traffic accident. The difference is that instead of the windscreen being obstructed by objects in the air (like traffic) this effect occurs when the airflow is blocked by the mic. For this effect, we place the microphones 10 feet away from the front of the speaker. Recording producers and engineers using this technique often use the word "windscreen" because there is no physical obstruction, just an obstacle in the audio path. Because this technique does require the user to place the mics directly in front of the speakers, it's good practice to make sure you have room to move the speakers around in the room while you record.