When recording audio with a microphone, you sometimes end up with an annoying popping sound in the background. A pop filter is one recommended way to prevent these popping sounds, but is it necessary with a Blue Yeti microphone?
Yes, regardless of what brand of microphone you are using, you should try to use a pop filter. Pop filters are very cheap – only a few tens of dollars even for the best ones – so they are undoubtedly worth buying. Without a pop filter, you could end up with occasional popping sounds in the background of the audio the microphone records.
Why are pop filters required for a blue yeti?
Popping sounds occur on microphone recordings usually caused by saying or singing words containing the letters b or p.
If you put your hand just in front of your mount and try saying a few words beginning with the letter P or B (puppy or biscuit for example), you will notice a small puff of air when you say those particular letters.
In contrast, keep your hand there and try some words containing softer sounds (orange or rice for example) and you will notice no sharp puffs of air.
These puffs of air caused by these letters are referred to as plosives. This is a phenomenon that affects all microphones, including the blue yeti.
Why are plosives bad news for recording?
This puff of air causes a sharp spike in the volume of the recording picked up by the microphone. This sharp rise in volume will lead to clipping, a distorted sound when the soundwave peaks above the ‘maximum output volume’.
You can see from the image below, which shows a basic soundwave that there is a certain amount of ‘headroom’ in an audio signal when you are recording which allows you to raise the volume slightly as you talk or sing softly and more loudly.
But a plosive causes such a jump in volume that the sound wave goes above the maximum output amplitude and that part of the soundwave is simply lost (clipped off).
The reason this is such bad news is that there is no real way to get that clipped sound back. The data is never captured by your recording software.
It is very difficult to edit your audio recording to get rid of plosives afterward and keep it sounding normal.
There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a podcast interview or perfect vocal take and realizing you have to do it all again!
How does a pop filter help?
A pop filter is one of the easiest ways to avoid these popping sounds.
It is effectively a small shield that you place between yourself and the microphone to stop those annoying blasts of air from plosive sounds.
The pop filter contains a semi-transparent material. This could be densely woven, tightly stretched nylon on cheaper models like the one in the picture below.
Or it could be a metal grill on more expensive models.
It is a very low tech device compared to many other things in the home recording studio. But it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this.
A good microphone such as a blue yeti deserves and requires a good pop filter.
What type of pop filter should I use with a Blue Yeti?
Several different pop filters work well to reduce popping sounds with a blue yeti microphone.
There is a filter that is made by the same manufacturer, which may be the best choice. But there are many different pop filters that work well with the blue yeti, even though they were not specifically designed for it.
The company that created the blue yeti also created a pop filter for their company’s microphone. This is the blue universal pop filter. One great thing about this pop filter is how flexible it is. You can attach it to the stand that holds the microphone and adjust it to the exact position you want.
The pop filter I personally use is the Auphonix 6-Inch Pop Filter. It works fine most of the time, you can simply attach it to the bass of the Blue Yeti or if you are using a microphone stand you can attach it to that.
Be wary of buying a metal shield type pop filter such as this one. As they specifically state they are not suitable for the Blue Yeti.
What distance should a pop filter be from the Blue Yeti?
Some people assume a pop filter should be placed right up against the microphone. But actually they are more effective when placed further away.
The pop filter spreads the sharp sound caused by the plosive noises in all directions, stopping the sharp gust of air hitting the microphone in one spot. But it still needs some space to do this, which it won’t have if you place it right next to the microphone.
The usual best practice rule is between 2 and 3 inches from the microphone.
This gives enough space for the plosive noise to spread out but it means you aren’t so far away that you risk losing quality and detail in the vocal recording.
Is a windscreen the same as a pop filter?
You will probably recognize these devices from news reporters’ microphones. They are small caps often made of foam that fit over the end of the microphone.
They are there to serve a similar function as the pop filter. Except instead of shielding the microphone from unwanted wind caused by your voice, they shield it from unwanted wind caused by the weather.
Windscreens are great if you are planning on doing recording outside or on the move. Potentially podcast interviews where you won’t always be in your own studio.
You may be tempted to just get a windscreen instead of a pop filter as they are cheaper and don’t tend to ‘get in the way’ as much. However, if you aren’t going to be out and about and most of your recording is to be done in your home studio, a pop filter is still a better option.
Windscreens do soften plosive sounds but they don’t guarantee the complete elimination of them. I have recorded on the move with a windshield and still ended up with plosive sounds.
If you want to guarantee a smooth recording with your Blue Yeti I would recommend getting a pop filter.
Other ways to stop plosives in the meantime
So you may have ordered your pop filter but are waiting for it to arrive. Or perhaps you want to know what to do if you ever find yourself recording without one.
Well, there are a few tips and tricks of how to record without one and minimize those plosive sounds.
You can, to some extent, consciously avoid blowing too much air toward the microphone when speaking into it. Being especially careful when speaking words that contain b and p sounds.
You can also make sure to speak into a microphone at the right distance. If you are too far away, the audio will be too quiet, and if you are too close, the mic will record unwanted noises. You can test your microphone by using words that start with b or p at different distances. See how close you can get to the microphone without causing popping sounds.
Another trick is to avoid aiming your mouth directly at the microphone. Aim your mouth just slightly to the side of it. Your mic will still record your voice loud and clear without you speaking directly at it. Gusts of air must hit your microphone straight on to cause popping sounds.
Can you make your own pop filter?
Yes, although it could sound worse and not be as reliable as a good store-bought filter.
Merely putting a sock over the microphone might be enough to prevent popping sounds, but the audio quality will be unacceptably low.
If you want to give making a pop filter yourself a try, you should use nylon rather than cotton. Nylon will not reduce the quality of the sound nearly as much as most fabrics will.
Attaching nylon to a metal disc of the right size might give you a passable filter. You will also need a way of attaching the disk to your microphone. Using bendable but strong metal wire, such as a coat hanger, might be the best way to go. It might work half decently well if you do a good job making it, but a store-bought filter is better. Store-bought filters are also much more adjustable than anything you could make by hand.
The video below shows you how to do this step by step.
Can I use two pop filters to be extra safe?
It should not be necessary to do this. A single filter, unless it is of poor quality, should be more than enough to prevent the air from getting through. Some people might get good results with two filters, but a single filter should be enough. Two filters may reduce the quality of your voice recording.
So in conclusion, it is well worth investing in a pop filter for your Blue Yeti microphone.
In relation to most equipment in a home recording studio, they are very cheap. And although you can use techniques and tricks to try and minimize plosive sounds. A pop filter will give you peace of mind to so you can speak or sing loudly and clearly directly into the microphone without worrying about the recording being ruined.