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Author Topic: Pop Filters: Which Work? Which Suck? The Lowdown  (Read 5184 times)


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Pop Filters: Which Work? Which Suck? The Lowdown
« on: July 19, 2017, 04:56:48 pm »

Here is my experience with pop screens and their physical, rather than emotional, effect on the vocal sound entering and exiting*:

First, I agree with Bob Ohlson's comments on another forum: if you can avoid a physical barrier between a vocalist and a sensitive condenser microphone, avoid it. Physics dictates that every barrier to an acoustic wave comes with audible side effects. But sometimes there is no choice and the sacrifice has to be made. How much of a detriment to either sound or pop protection?

Here are the choices and trade-offs:

Steadman-type corrugated single metal screen with holes
    Advantage: good transparency. Problems: spit protection is minimal, and (my main beef) the metal plate resonates and rings. Try to ping it with your knuckle and you will notice it. I found the distinct frequency of the resonance objectionable for recording fidelity: the resonance frequency will accentuate certain notes.

Hakan and similar open-cell foam screens
    Advantage: acceptable level of pop protection with minimal, but still audible high end and transient loss. Problem: comb-filtering with audible peaks. My speculation: as the holes in the foam are largely identical in diameter, resonances from standing waves are multiplied and amplified

Pauli and similar dense, double-layer nylon mesh screens
    Advantage: near optimal pop protection. Problem: audible muffling of highs and loss of transients, plus resonances in two areas, due to standing waves: the mesh layers are parallel, and the mounting ring, though perforated, has an endless number of parallel surfaces formed by the flat, hard frame. Its resonance frequency is determined by its diameter

Cheap double-layer nylon screens, home-made or bought
    Advantage: good transparency when the stocking material is not too dense; worse, same or   
    better pop protection as all the others, but at low cost. Problems: some comb filtering,
    depending on mesh weave and ring diameter, and audible loss of high frequencies   
    (see c.)

I have not included here any of the circular or semi-circular pop shields that mount on or next to the mic, like the famous Abbey Road in-house U48 contraptions, or Brauner’s handmade custom pop-cylinders. There are too many to list, but the same principles of physics apply as with any pop screen: a compromise ranging from good transparency to good pop-protection, but never both in one device.

For my work I keep coming back to a wooden, rather thin, 6” crochet ring bought at Sears for 99˘, covered with two layers of black pantyhose material (talk about emotional attachment!), and mounted on an old plastic mic mount. It’s quite transparent, and offers reasonable pop-protection at a ridiculously low price.

*I find it most helpful to test any screen directly with mouth-to-ear, rather than through listening via lossy recording and playback:
put your ear where a mic would be, as the vocalist speaks or sings into the screen. Ears are an astonishingly reliable test instrument!
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
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