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Both pop filters and foam covers can be invaluable when it comes to getting a clean vocal recording.
Both are relatively inexpensive microphone accessories, but which is better?
Read on to learn about all the differences between pop filters and foam covers.
Pop filters and foam covers aren’t the most exciting of purchases, but both can be invaluable when it comes to getting a clean recording.
Why?Because without them, your mic will pick up unwanted sounds such as plosives (harsh sounding T’s and P’s) as well as wind noise.
Both are relatively inexpensive accessories that any recording enthusiast should have. But which is better? Do you need both? When should you use one over the other?
The Difference Between A Pop Filter and Foam Cover
A pop filter is for studio use and is practically essential for recording vocals as it eliminates unwanted plosive sounds. Foam covers will also help control plosives but are more generally used for reducing wind noise in outdoor recordings.
Foam covers also stop spit and moisture from getting inside the microphone and thus are good in a live music setting where one microphone is being shared by many artists night after night.
You’ll most likely have seen a singer recording vocals in a studio using a pop filter (it’s usually a circular design with a thin piece of nylon mesh attached to a mic stand below the shock mount).
A pop filter is integral to getting quality audio from a vocal recording as it helps to eliminate nasty T and P sounds that can show up if you’re recording into a mic without one.
Microphone filters like this deflect the incoming sound and therefore reduce any unwanted side effects that are very difficult to remove in the editing process. This is particularly true when compressing a vocal track as these plosive sounds will be brought forward in the mix.
A foam cover (also known as a wind muff or mic sock) is actually used for a similar reason, but rather than removing plosives its job is to eliminate any wind noise that you might pick up on your mic.
Which Is Better: A Pop Filter or Foam Cover?
This question is the same as asking which is a better guitar, a Tele or a Les Paul? Which is a better mic, a dynamic or condenser mic?
Both will have a positive impact on your audio quality but choosing which is better depends on what you’re recording.
For example, if you are recording a singer in an acoustically treated recording studio then you probably don’t need to worry too much about external noise being picked up on the mic. You’ll also likely have your singer quite close to the microphone, which will naturally cause more plosives.
In this case, a pop filter will be much more suitable than foam material.
However, if you are recording outside then you need a foam cover. The wind will also be a big problem and (unfortunately!) we can’t control the weather. While a standard foam cover will still help here, there are even more heavy duty solutions available if you happen to be in a particularly windy location. One example is the RØDE Deadcat.
Does A Foam Cover Work As A Pop Filter?
A foam mic cover will help tame some of the plosives in your recording, but not as effectively as a pop filter. Some popular vlogging and podcasting mics such as the Shure SM7B come with their own foam covering.
You will find in general that a foam cover will be designed for offsetting higher pressure-wind sounds rather than the short sharp popping sounds that can be picked up when recording vocals or speech.
It will undoubtedly have an effect on the audio quality of the recording but it won’t work exactly the same as a pop filter. Similarly, a pop filter won’t be as effective as a foam mic cover when recording on location.
Of course, you’d probably want to use a shotgun microphone (or something similar) rather than a studio condenser mic when recording outside.
Should I Use Both A Pop Filter and Foam Cover?
There really isn’t any need to use both. You won’t have any use for a pop filter outside, and if you have a pop filter in your studio then there’s no point using a foam cover on the microphone as well if your goal is to reduce plosives.
Your pop filter should be enough, and if its not, it’s time to get a new pop filter.
Should I Use A Pop Filter or Windscreen For Streaming?
That depends – are you streaming outside or inside?
If outside then a windscreen or foam cover will undoubtedly help. If you’re inside then a pop filter will do just fine.
But similarly, it’s worth considering whether your audience is really going to be focusing on the plosives in the first place.
If you’re a gaming streamer for example then a foam mic cover could be the best option as a pop filter will likely cover some of your face. On the other side of the coin, if you’re live streaming a music set and the focus is on quality audio, then a pop filter is more likely the way to go.
We’ve all heard the term ‘get it right at the source’ and this is definitely true for any kind of voice recording.
One of the reasons is that once that recording is captured, there’s no guarantee you can go back and re-record if you discover any issues!
You might find that the plosive sounds are not all that noticeable at first, but once you start adding compression and reverb, they will stand out like a sore thumb.
So long story short, it’s definitely worth investing in a pop shield. You can usually grab one for $10-15.
Does A Pop Filter Remove Background Noise?
A pop filter doesn’t remove any background noise, unfortunately. Whilst one will help the overall quality of your vocal recording there are a number of things that can contribute to a good recording.
For example, acoustic room treatment will really help with room reflections that your mic will pick up. If you’re recording at home then making sure any unnecessary electrical equipment is turned off will also help (the whir of a computer fan for example can get really annoying on a recording).
A good take will depend on several factors. A pop filter is one of these but taking into account other external noises is extremely important. Where possible, you need to reduce noise at the source and not just simply work around it.
Can I Just Put A Sock Over My Mic?
Technically you can do it, but we really wouldn’t recommend it. Foam covers have been specifically designed for their purpose so why wouldn’t you spend a few extra dollars making sure you’re getting as clean of a recording as possible.?
Besides, if you’ve invested in a good mic and gear, it would be a shame to ruin the recording at the last stage.
A set of foam covers will set you back around $10 (although its worth checking if you need one specific to your mic). If you’re really strapped for cash, it’s worth checking out our guide to the 7 Best Budget Microphones Under $50.
You can use your mic without a pop filter but the success of your vocal recording will depend on which mic you have.
The Shure SM7B as we mentioned comes with its own foam cover, and as it’s a dynamic mic it makes it much less sensitive than a condenser which means you can probably get away without using a pop filter.
The Shure SM58 is another popular mic most commonly used in live sound. This has a metal mesh that helps with plosives but it’s not totally immune to them either. Despite being legendary for their live applications these are often used in studios as well.
However, if you are using a condenser mic for recording vocals, we really would recommend using a pop filter. The mic’s sensitivity means any plosives picked up are going to be a nightmare further down the track in the mixing process.
If you’re recording an instrument such as guitars or drums, you won’t need a pop filter as you won’t pick up any plosives.
Do Expensive Pop Filters Make A Difference?
If you’re just starting out then it’s probably fine to buy a cheap pop filter.
However the more you spend, the better quality you will get not only in the ability to reduce plosives but also in the quality of the filter itself.
Pop filters can be tricky to position correctly and so spending a little extra money can get you a better, more adjustable pop filter that is easily moved into position and more durable than a cheaper one.
How Far From The Mic Should A Pop Filter Be?
Typically a pop filter should be positioned a couple of inches from the face of the microphone. This gives the filter enough space to not accidentally tap the mic and acts as a good “buffer zone” to stop the singer from getting too close to the microphone.
Buying a pop filter or foam mic is fairly crucial to getting a top-quality recording without any unwanted plosives or distracting sound.
Like a lot of music production topics, there isn’t one hard and fast rule to getting a good recording, more a combination of several factors. But this is one area where a clear difference can be heard which is hard to ignore once you notice it.
Finally, you also need to think about your recording location – acoustic treatment and spending a bit of time finding (and building) a quiet location will help your recordings even more than a pop filter or foam cover. So if you are concerned about getting the best quality recordings without unwanted room reflections, next you should read 7 Best Acoustic Foam Panels For Home Studios.