I didn’t knew much about a pop-filter and a windscreen.
I worked in the local radio station for a couple of months before deciding to start my podcast. Yet all that time it never occurred to me that I should understand how recording equipment works! And when I had to buy my own small recording set-up, I was overwhelmed. I was puzzled about a number of things, including pop-filters and windscreens. It took me a while to figure out that the two aren’t entirely the same thing.
If you are like me, you know your craft, but you have your apprehensions about the tools, this post is for you!
Pop-filter is a layer of mesh (fabric or metal), that’s placed in front of the microphone. As the name indicates, its job is to filter out the popping sounds that occur when you speak plosives like P and B into the microphone. On the other hand, a windscreen is a foam cover that is put on the microphone and prevents the wind and background noises from interfering in the recording.
Now you might say, okay, that’s fine, but which one do I need for my podcast set-up? Let’s dive deeper and find out the answer!
Warning: recently I was asked to help to fix a recording. And unfortunately, the audio quality was really poor, due to many pop sounds, and heavy breathing. It was basically uneditable. Luckily we managed to save parts of the recording after hours of work and also got a guest to agree for a quick follow-up session, where some of the lost material was captured again.
My friends risked losing precious material just because they wanted to save few dollars on a pop-filter (check price). Don’t make the same mistake.
Pop-filter vs Windscreen
In a nutshell, both pop-filter and windscreen remove unwanted noises from getting recorded. They also prolong the life of the microphone, by protecting it from the moisture, salt, and bacteria that could land on its surface from your saliva.
But there are a few differences between the two. Let’s take a look at the fine details.
What for should I use pop-filters?
Using a pop-filter is an easy way to remove plosives from your podcast. Plosives refer to the splitting or popping sound produced when you speak consonants like P and B. Plosives are a natural part of human speech, and your microphone will record and amplify these sounds in the recording. A pop-filter diffuses or spreads out your voice before it hits the mic, thus filtering out the plosives.
Where are pop-filters used?
If you are recording a podcast inside a recording studio or your home, there is no reason why you should not have a pop-filter. They are inexpensive, and easy to set up. And they help you make a top-notch podcast. There is a wide range of pop-filters available to suit every budget. You can choose one that is feasible for you.
Some mics come with no filter in a box, so an externally mounted pop-filter is a must. A popular examples here include:
- Rode Procaster (check current price) – awesome dynamic mic
- AT 2020 USB+ (check current price) – very popular USB mic
Why should I use a windscreen?
A ‘windscreen’ or a ‘foam’, is simply a piece of foam, that’s put over your microphone. It tightly sits on the mic body and absorbs any air before it could hit the diaphragm of the mic. This results in the removal of wind and background noises from the recording. If you have never recorded outdoors, or you are a new podcaster, you might not be aware of the effects of wind on sound recording. The harmless wind can result in a low-rumbling sound in your podcast.
This effect also occurs sometimes when you move the boom arm of your mic-stand too quickly.
QUICK TIP: heavier mic stands are more stable and will save you from generating those unwanted noises. Here are few stable mic stands we recommend with additional info on how to pick a stand depending on your mic type and recording conditions.
Now you can’t rely on the winds and the outdoor conditions to plan your podcast recording. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a windscreen on the mic at all times, and avoid elements of nature from ruining your recordings.
Where are windscreens used?
It is strongly recommended that if you like to take your microphone outdoors for podcast recording. The foam would give you superior results than what you would get if you use your bare microphone in windy conditions. It diffuses the wind and stabilizes the air pressure near the mic while allowing the sound to pass through.
It is also great for bringing down the level of background noises that sensitive mics sometimes pick up. And you don’t even have to worry about carrying an extra object, as it snugly fits around your mic.
Some microphones come equipped with a pop-filter. You should absolutely go ahead and use them as their manufacturer intended. Some examples include here:
- Shure SM7B (check current price) – best dynamic microphone
- Shure MV7 (check current price) – best USB microphone
On the other hand Rode Podmic (check current price) may look like it needs a filter, but actually has a build-in pop-filter that works very well, so you don’t have to add an external filter.
Pop-filter and Windscreen- Are they interchangeable?
But would a windscreen do the same job as a pop-filter? Do you need to buy a pop-filter if you have a windscreen, or vice-versa?
Well, to answer to it frankly, it will not stop your voice from popping out as a pop-filter does. It is not a complete substitute for it, although it does reduce the extent to which the recorded voice pops-out. Since it’s pretty inconvenient to use a pop-filter outdoors, a windscreen is a good trade-off. Later, you can try eliminating the plosive while editing the recording.
As you gain more experience as a podcaster, you will realize that while both types of equipment don’t work the same, sometimes you have to be flexible and find new approaches to get a noise-free recording. There might be moments when you have to use a windscreen in place of a pop-filter, or a combination of two, and rely more on post-production to bring perfection to the podcast.
For instance, many podcasters like to shoot accompanying videos along with their podcast. If you want to put up a video of your recording on Youtube, you might not want a big pop-filter covering your face. In this scenario, it might be a good idea to use a windscreen alone, or a combination of windscreen and pop-filter.
If you are looking for a recommended video setup to record your podcast, check those suggestions.
Should I buy a pop-filter or a windscreen?
This is a question that many new podcasters ask. And you can keep scouring the internet for answers. But if you want me to share my two cents of advice, then here it is!
For recording indoors, pop-filters are a clear choice. But you can’t take your pop-filter everywhere. There are times when you would need a windscreen- that’s when you are shooting outdoors.
Luckily, both don’t cost a lot. And they are easily available too.
That’s why I don’t think you need to choose between the two unless you are on a shoe-string budget. I would say go ahead and purchase both a pop-filter and a windscreen as a part of your recording set-up. You can use them separately or together and achieve desirable results.
BUYING TIP NUMBER 1: While pop-filters are universal and there is a one-size-fits-all pop-filter (check price), when it comes to windscreen you need to find one designed for your mic, to make sure it sits tightly on your mic.
BUYING TIP NUMBER 2: Start with choosing a microphone (see our quick mic buyers guide). They find out should you buy a pop-filter or a windscreen.
When do you know you should replace your old pop-filter or windscreen?
There are fabric pop-filters and there are metallic pop-filters. The metal ones, of course, would last you for years. But many folks opt for a nylon one as it essentially does the same work but costs less. You can clean the nylon pop-filter periodically, and replace it when it tears up.
I prefer to change the windscreen of my mic once every three months. But that’s no hard and fast rule. Windscreen, after all, is a piece of foam. It can last longer or get worn out quickly, depending on how much you use it. And when you see when the foam is breaking down or accumulating gunk, it’s time to buy a new one.
Types of Windscreens
I have discussed a lot about the differences between pop-filters and windscreens. But making purchase decisions is never easy. That’s the downside of having choices! Windscreens also have different types, and each provides a different level of noise reduction.
There is the common foam windscreen, and then there are two more types. Let’s understand all three of them.
Foam– This is the most common type of windscreen. When you buy a new microphone, a foam windscreen is always supplied along with it. Such foam windscreens work absolutely fine indoors and provide 15 to 20 dB of voice attenuation. The foam is usually made of polyutherane. While the accompanying foam works well in an indoor recording environment, you can consider buying a foam of higher density if you want to take your mic somewhere outside.
Wind jammers– Windjammers are windscreens that consist of a combination of foam and faux-fur. There are variants where the faux fur comes attached with the foam. While some of them have the two parts separate, and you can put on the faux-fur over the mic.
Wind jammers are highly suitable for recording a podcast in an outdoor environment. The fur allows the air to move around freely. The results are superior to what can be achieved by using the foam alone; you can get up to 25 dB in noise reduction by using wind jammers.
Baskets/ Blimps– Imagine a large capsule made of plastic mesh. That’s how a basket or a blimp windscreen looks from the outside. On the inside, there is a thin layer of foam. Blimps have a large circumference, which provides more space between the moving air and the mic, as compared to the other kinds of windscreens. This helps in a greater reduction of wind noise.
Many artists also use a faux fur windscreen over a blimp to achieve very high levels of noise reduction, say up to 50 dB. While this is a great way to bring down the noise, it can also result in unwanted losses of high-frequency sound. You can rectify that by boosting the high-frequencies during post-production.
To Sum it Up
The choice of windscreen depends on the conditions in which you plan to record your podcast. I would strongly recommend you always keep the foam on the microphone, and opt for a basket or wind jammer based on what the situation demands.
Also, I would advise you to do a trial recording with your pop-filter and windscreen, rather than hoping for things to fall magically in place during the actual recording. That would help you put your best foot forward if you invite guests or other podcasters for a recording.