The Three Main Types of Pop Filters
Choosing the best pop filter for voiceover recordings gives you confidence to have great session results. You won’t have to worry about ruining takes with excessive plosive hard consonant sounds. Plus, your microphone will last longer without wet breath and spit hitting the microphone. There are three main types of pop filters: nylon mesh, metal, and foam windscreens. Nylon mesh and most metal pop filters are flat circles on the end of a mounting arm. There is a subset of metal screens that fix directly onto microphones, especially for shotgun microphones. Finally, foam windscreen pop filters are the kind of covering seen on news microphones. They rest on top of the microphone, covering all of the outer metal casing surrounding the microphone’s diaphragm.
In my studio, I use metal and foam windscreen pop filters. I have the custom metal filter that previously came with the Rode NT1 kit. For my Rode NTG3 shotgun mic I have the metal Octo-842S pop filter made by The Hook Studios. This filter attaches directly to the microphone. Lastly, I have the Rode WS2 foam windscreen for my Rode Procaster. It’s a perfect fit for it, but also fits most Rode microphones. And all together, each pop filter is a great fit for each microphone. Choosing the best pop filter for voiceover depends on what mic you are using and the related pros and cons of each pop filter model.
The Pros and Cons of Each Filter Type
Nylon Mesh Pop Filters have the most transparent sound. They diffuse sound evenly to slow it down before it hits the microphone. However, they are not the most effective at stopping extreme plosives from popping the microphone.
Metal Pop Filters change the direction of the sound away from the microphone and are more effective at stopping plosives. The con is that they shave off a little of the frequency response below 80 Hz and above 10 kHz. Is it very noticeable? No, not very much. Otherwise, they would have been rejected by professional studios long ago. The “pro” trade-off of effective plosive control is well worth it. The Steadman Proscreen XL is the best known of the metal pop filters. I previously used one in my home studio before I bought the Rode NT1 custom filter, which has a smaller visual profile and is dual-layer, unlike the Steadman.
In some ways, old-school foam windscreens are my favorite pop filters and my personal pic for best pop filter for voiceover. They do take off a bit of the high end, but they don’t have the same effect on the low end. Furthermore, using them allows you to put your mouth right up to the mic if you want to do a whispery read or use the proximity effect of increased bass when speaking closely to the microphone. Also, if you want to have more than one person using the same mic, then foam windscreens are the only way to protect from plosives for all 360 degrees around the microphone.
The Best Pop Filter is No Pop Filter
Finally, the best pop filter for voiceover is no pop filter. All pop filters will affect the sound, although in very minor ways. There are many ways to avoid creating plosive sounds so that you won’t need a pop filter in the first place. A quick fix is to set up a High Pass Filter on your microphone or mic preamp. After that, proper mic placement will solve most issues. Stay at least five-to-six inches (12-to-15 cm) from the microphone. Either place the microphone about 30 to 45 degrees off-axis, or have the microphone slightly above the mouth with an over-slung mount (see below)
Mic placement can help reduce plosives, but ultimately, it’s up to the voiceover actor to control their breath and not hit their hard consonants with such aspirated breath. This is especially a problem that American voices face, as the consonants are hit very hard. But, with the right training and practice, (especially with a focus on nasal breathing) the best pop filter for voiceover is none at all.