Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recording Tip 10: Always use a good pop filter when recording vocals

This seems pretty simple that most people know this, but it’s really worth a discussion. When some singers sing they can really hit certain consonants very hard. The ones to watch for are “b” “p” “th” etc. When those consonants are hit hard there will be a big bunch of air that rushes to the mic capsule and causes a pop. Some singers are better at not doing this than others, but you as the engineer need to put a pop filter in place to help that not to happen.

You can buy a pop filter, be it a metal one or one with a nylon mesh. You can even make them yourself with a needlepoint ring and pantyhose. By the way, if you do that, please use an unused pair. A good friend of mine once had an engineer in his home studio make one with a pair of his wife’s used pantyhose. My friend was about to sing, approached the mic, breathed in, and as he said, “Got a big whiff of foot” and almost gagged on the spot!

If you’re mixing and find a pop, you can used a filter at the offending spot and write over it with a high pass filter. Audiosuite in PT is a good way to deal with it. Put the filter at the point where the pop is gone and write over the file. Leave some space on either side to do a crossfade.


  1. I've been using the Shure SM7B almost exclusively for vocals lately and I found that it sounds best when the singer is right up against the filter on the mic. It just doesn't sound the same to me with a pop filter. Like you said, I just use Audio Suite plug ins to remove pops and hisses, well worth the effort to get the richest sound.

  2. Hi Pedro,

    I'm referring to most mics one would use for vocals, which unlike the SM7, don't have a built in pop filter.

    But if you're using the SM7 with the built-in pop filter, I'd bet you'd be fine without an external one. Some people take the built in one off, but for me, that's a part of the sound, so I leave it on. The same goes for the SM58, Beta 87, etc. mics built for stage useage. With these mics I wouldn't use an external pop filter.

    Now having said that, no doubt the next time I'm using it, who knows? I may prefer it off! And if that the case then I'll use a pop filter.

  3. Or have the mic at different angles to avoid the p'sss and s'ssss. Sometimes I have the vocalist sing over the mic and this helps in avoid sibilance.

  4. @Andy, I did the same thing, but that was only because I had some jackasses in the studio and they tore my pop filter, I got a new one later on (double filter) and ended up not having to re-do the vocal track, I check and see if there's boomy-ness with a low pass filter and it helps me filter it out later when i put a highpass filter in it's place

  5. With both you guys, Andy and the numbered follow. Yeah, sometimes angling the mic will help. P-pops and the like are especially common with folks coming from dramatic stage work. It's almost impossible to get them to realize this is like film. You're not reaching the guy in the can go easy. But after years of that those habits die hard.

  6. Off on a slight tangent, I met a guy who was recording a metal vocalist who varied between screaming and singing very rapidly. He found any pop filter/mic combination was unfriendly to the mix. So on a whim he tried a pencil technique (between vocalists lips and the diaphragm) he'd picked up from somewhere (maybe tapeop =p) and he got the results he was looking for!!

  7. I think you are really great. I have read through your articles and posts. they are great and it gives me a sense of thoughts. A pop filter or pop shield is an anti-pop protection against noise for microphones, typically used in a recording studio. It is used to reduce cracking and ringing in the recorded speech and singing. A good sound track can make or break your recording. The quality of your audio is often the make-or-break aspect of your recording.
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