Review Of The Pauly Ton Superscreen Pop Filter
Recently I heard about a pop filter - that thing (usually round) that you see placed in front of microphones to helps prevent certain mouth sounds, mostly p-pops, from causing unpleasant sounds in a vocal recording - that actually DOES prevent p-pops. So I was eager to test it out for myself.
In my experience, if you are using a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) microphone, which is extremely sensitive, a pop-filter is a must. But though they usually help, they never completely prevent those explosive p-pops from finding their way into the recording. If we want pop-free recordings, we are forced to edit them out (see our article - How to Fix a “P-Pop” in Your Audio With Sound Editing Software) after the fact, which takes quite a long time.
Some folks (me included) try lining up 2 or even 3 pop-filters in a series in front of a mic in a desperate attempt to prevent p-pops altogether. These folks are usually disappointed.
But when I read about the Pauly Ton Superscreen Pop Filter, I was willing to pay the rather astoundingly high price (compared to the typical $20-$70) for one of my own if it actually did prevent p-pops at least 90 percent of the time. I would make up the extra cost in time savings after just a couple of voice-over jobs. So I ordered one and tested it. The results of my test are below, along with audio samples from recordings I made with both the Pauly Ton and a $33 Shure "Popper Stopper."
First though, what did I like about the Paluy Ton? I have to say that I've never seen a sturdier or more "industrial" looking filter than this. It looks like it seriously means business - battleship gray and hefty. They say it's built to last a lifetime and I believe that. Heck, it looks and feels like it would survive the apocalypse! The gooseneck is also amazing. It's totally silent and moves so smoothly and effortlessly that it's very clear you're dealing with a well-designed and well-built piece of gear. It's sturdy and pliable at the same time, which is no mean feat. The fabric is also different from most pop filters, soft and delicate, yet guaranteed to last, again, "for a lifetime." It was designed to simultaneously prevent the bad sounds (p-pops caused by plosives) from the mouth, while leaving the quality of the rest of the audio untouched. Folks say that some pop filters remove some of the "airiness" or other desirable vocal qualities along with the p-pops, which is not a good thing. People pay good money for their microphones and recording rooms. So to reduce or prevent plosives at the expense of recording quality seems a bad trade-off.
The Not So Good
The price. This thing costs $300! Now if you think long-term, and realize that you'll never have to buy another pop-filter again, it starts to make a bit more sense. And if it actually DOES stop p-pops dead, like advertised, then it would be worth it for sure. Like I said earlier, it would pay for itself in just 2 or 3 months in time-savings alone if it could prevent MY plosives from having to be edited out in post-production.
Now let me state right up front that everyone is different, which means that the severity/strength of a plosive will vary greatly from person to person. There are some folks who say they never need a pop filter AT ALL (!). In my world, that's crazy talk. I can't even imagine that world, because my plosive-foo is strong (and not in a good way). Also, there are those who say that the Pauly Ton has stopped all p-pops for them when no other pop filter would. That might be true for them. So I encourage you to try one out, in case you are one of those people. As you will shortly hear, I am most decidedly NOT one of those folks.
As you will hear below, the Pauly Ton Superscreen did not do much better than the Shure Popper Stopper at knocking down the p-pops for me.
I recorded three separate tracks of myself reciting the nursery rhyme, "Peter Piper," which is full of plosives. That is probably no text in the universe that has so many "P" sounds so concentrated in just a few lines - perfect for a test like this.
The first recording was me reciting directly into my Rode NT2-A microphone (through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface), in cardioid mode, with no pop filter at all. Then I recorded the same thing, only with the Pauly Ton filter between my mouth and the mic. Finally, with everything else the same, I recorded myself with a different pop filter - a "Popper Stopper" - in the same position as the Pauly Ton had occupied.
Both pop filters reduced the p-pops by quite a lot. But neither one performed noticeably better than the other in this regard. The Pauly Ton is also supposed to result in better quality audio AFTER it reduces p-pops, as it supposedly allows the rest of the voice recording to come through, when cheaper filters do not. I gotta say, I didn't hear any difference in audio quality either.
But that wouldn't be a scientifically valid test, since I knew which was which. You need at least a "blind" test in order for it to mean anything. So I had the lovely Lisa Theriot (my wife and fellow voice-over actor and singer) come to the studio and put on the headphones (Audio-Technica ATH M50s). I played both samples for her several times, in pairs, asking if she could detect any difference in plosive reduction. She couldn't. Then I asked if she could detect any difference in overall audio quality and tone. She couldn't.
We repeated the test with her voice and came up with the same results.
So, for us at least, the Pauly Ton was not the answer. That isn't to say it wouldn't be for you or for someone else. That's why I encourage you to test it for yourself. Everyone's voice (and lips and tongue, etc.) are different.
Here are the audio samples of my voice. The first is obviously the one with no filter at all. The two that follow are the with the two filters. I won't tell you which one before you hear them. You can find the answer in the text that follows these audio players. If you don't want the spoiler, don't scroll or read the answer before you listen. Use headphones if you can.
|Pop Filter A|
|Pop Filter B|
Which Was Which (Spoiler)?
If you have not had a chance to listen and you don't want to know which filter was which, then don't read this yet. But if you want to know, then HERE IS THE SPOILER:
Pop Filter A was the Shure Popper Stopper ($33)
Pop Filter B was the Pauly Ton Superscreen ($300)
Great review Ken! Especially for those of us hopeless folks that fall victim to a bad case of "GAS" from time to time......a $300 pop filter has got to be better right? And thus, I need one right? 🙂
Thanks Keith. Well it deserved a try anyway. And like I said, in some ways it is unmistakably "better," such as in the workmanship and quality of materials. Plus, every voice is different. And for some folks, this thing may well kill all the plosives. But yes, it is a psychological thing sometimes that people buy the most expensive thing with the assumption that it is better - a bias called "perceived value." I am a big believer in the blind or double-blind test to find out what people REALLY think of the quality of something without knowing whether it came from an expensive brand or an affordable counterpart. Thanks for the comment!! What does GAS stand for anyway? My guess was "get all the stuff!":).
"Gear Acquisition Syndrome" The author of "Home Recording for Dummies" used that phrase....at least that was the first time I heard it. I thought it was funny....until I realized I had it. Ha!
Nice! Thanks for that. "Help stamp out GAS!!!":).
I correctly guessed that sample"B" was the Pauly Ton filter. I didn't think it was hard to distinguish it from the Shure. The difference was subtle, but to my ears it was clear. I'm not sure it was worth the huge difference in price, however. I just recently purchased a Stedman Proscreen ($50) and am quite pleased with the results. My Shure SM7B sounds more open and airy compared with the foam windscreens Shure includes with the mic, while homemade windscreens seemed to produce unpleasant coloration.
Thanks Gordon. I've heard good things about the Stedman Proscreen as well.
I was actually able to clearly guess that the Pauly Superscreen was Pop Filter B. It's a weird thing, you can feel a bit more clarity in the sound. (Yes, I know, it's extremely subtle)
But one thing I would add... to me, the way it sounds I would say that you may be way too close to the mic. Plosives aren't going to go into the pop-filter and disappear into another dimension! They need a bit of space. The way the demos sound, I would guess the filters were either way too close to the mic, or you might have been too close to the filter. Some sort of exaggeration has to be happening there!
I'm sure you were trying to really put them to the test, but you should not be getting THAT MUCH plosive sound with a pop filter.
I personally am so traumatized by the sound of plosives on a microphone that it actually gives me anxiety. I've been forced to learn to always turn my head when a plosive is coming..... I literally am aware of every P and B sound because, like you, I have strong plosives.
If the Pauly Superscreen can tame them better than the others I am interested.
I owned a "Dual Pop Filter".. it was a terribly cheap one! Like 17 bucks. But the design actually trapped air within two pop-filters. Sounds silly and simplistic but it worked amazingly (I definitely recommend it.)
It is the only pop filter I have EVER used that stopped plosives completely for me. The issue is that the loss of high-frequency content was so bad that I actually just didn't like how my voice sounded with it. It sounded duller.
I ended up choosing to stop using pop filters altogether, and I just do a series of crazy maneuvers to prevent plosives from ever hitting my mic at all. It's very difficult, but I retain audio quality.
I'm actually very pleased by this demo. The high frequency content ("air") in your voice was preserved in the 3rd recording. Maybe with a bit of mic positioning and technique, combined with a good pop-filter, I might finally be rid of this issue for good!! >:O
Thanks for your efforts and your good info 🙂
Thanks for the reply, Ronnie. Glad it helped.
I did not notice any difference in p-filter in both tests, but I honestly think your audio quality sounds much better with Shure pop filter, at least in my system. Thanks for clarifying this issue.
Thanks Alex! I appreciate that.
I was able to pick out blind (not having looked at the spoiler and with my eyes closed) upon a first partial listen on my studio speakers that B was better, both in terms of increased plosive blockage and retained high frequency "air". Well past the point of diminishing returns at $300, but indeed better. I won't be buying one soon but it's on the list for the future. The difference is subtle but substantial. I wouldn't buy it for an SM7B but if you're using a $3000 mic, every last bit counts in keeping that detail.
Thanks for the comment, Grayson! Yeah, I don't think you'd need one for an SM7, it being a dynamic mic. But large diaphragm condensers, a pop filter is pretty much a necessity for vocals.
Happy New Year!
No offense, but this test is highly flawed in a number of ways. First off, there is no way you can test both filters with the exact same vocal take, so there will be variances in the two takes that will make it hard to notice precise differences.
In addition, you didn't note how close the pop filter was to the mic, and how close the vocalist was to the filter. Yes, they might perform the same with the vocalist/filter 5-6 inches from the mic, but what about extremely close micing? If the Pauly can remove more plosives at 2" away from the mic, it suddenly becomes worth the money.
I tested it in use the way most people would use it - the filter 3-4 inches from the mic and the mouth 2-4 inches form the screen. Results were indistinguishable. If the benefits can only be obtained in a super specific and tightly defined set of circumstances, then I would have expected that to be part of the published parameters. But it wasn't. You're right about how different everybody is, and that ins't a small issue. All I can offer is that if you can afford it, try it for yourself. Test it agains a cheap popper stopper and see if it is hundreds of dollars better. It might be - for some. Your mileage may vary. IT clearly was not worth it for me or my wife.
Thanks for the review and all the work you put in.
I was looking to buy one of these because I want to save time in having to edit/fix the plosives in ProTools. The selling point of this brand of P-popper being able to soften plosives while offering AIR really appealed to me.
I think where you lost me was when you said you were using a Rode NT2-A ($500 Mic) as opposed to say a Telefunken ELAM or a Flea 49 and a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface as opposed to something like a Burl Audio AD convertor or Antelope Goliath.
In my life's migration from entry level gear (as mentioned) to each stage of better quality Mics, Preamps, AD/DA convertors, Monitors, headphones and their amps, room treatment, clean power and yes, even cables – I've learned the good stuff is absolutely critical in order to be able to capture and discern the nuances of recording sound.
In summation, if our gear ain't up to snuff, how are we supposed to be able to hear the difference between "air" if it ain't even there in the equipment's capability to capture it in the first place?
Kind regards, David
David - Thanks for the comment. Yes! That was exactly the reason why I bought this pop filter. But in real life, it didn't do the trick. We'll have to agree to disagree on a lot of stuff, though I don't disagree that higher-end gear sounds better for many things. What I try to get across is how to get the best out of whatever gear you have, regardless of how expensive it is. There are lots of people spending tens of thousands on mics and converters who STILL make crap recordings because they don't don't know how to use it. Conversely, if you DO know how some basics, you can make even the less expensive gear sound great.
But regardless of the cost of the gear, it wasn't the ability to discern differences in subtle air or elusive frequencies that we were looking at here. It was simple ability to reduce or prevent plosive/p-pops. The expensive pop filter could not prevent p-pops better a $25 pop filter. That is pretty objective, which is why I put in the audio samples.
I am sorry, but this A/B test to compare the effectiveness of these two pop filters is not valid.
Both pop filters were placed very close to the microphone, and the voice-over talent was speaking too close to the pop filter.
I own the Pauly Ton Superscreen (Yes, I paid $300 too) if Don Lafontaine was using it, I had to use it with my Manley Cardioid too (Don used to use the Manley Cardioid) LOL
I have done many A/B tests using the Pauly using microphones my Telefunken U47, Neumann U87 and M149 with other pop filters, including the Popper Stopper, and the only pop filter that comes close to the Pauly is the JZ PF pop filter ($120) made in the United States by JZ microphones.
The JZ is, in my opinion, one of the best pop filters that exist, but the Pauly is superior.
Because it eliminates pops and other air-flow-caused noise of the human voice with no sonic degradation. The price went down to $199 but still, I think price is steep.
What I don't like the JZ PF's gooseneck because it does not stay in place, they should correct that.
To achieve good results and eliminate the plosive sounds of the Ps, Ts, and Ks it is a must to place the pop filter at the correct distance from the mic and read the script at the correct distance from the pop filter.
My two cents!
Spanish VO Actor / Studio Owner.
Thanks for the response Victor. I did test the filter at varying distances both from the mic and the mouth. the results on my voice were the same every time. I didn't feel the need - given that the results were unvarying - to provide an audio sample of each of those tests. What I did put up was representative of the differences I heard ON MY VOICE. But as with many things in audio recording, responses to different voices can be remarkably variable.
There are mics (expensive ones as well as cheap ones) that sound fantastic on one person's voice and terrible on somebody else.
So my advice here is for people to use their ears and make test recordings against similar pieces of gear. Sometimes people can convince themselves that something sounds better simply because it costs more. I rail against this idea because people sometimes end up paying money they can't really afford for something that isn't really helping that much. HOWEVER, if you do a blind test and definitely notice a difference, BY ALL MEANS, invest in that gear. But make sure you do it for the right reasons. Not because a famous person uses it, or it is expensive.
I'm not saying the PT isn't great for anyone - just not for my voice.
Thanks again for your comment.
If you tested both pop filters at different distances, it would be helpful to post those recordings where you read farther away from the pop filters, so people can listen and have an idea of how effective these pop filters are when used at the right distances: from the pop filter and from the microphone.
With all due respect, it is difficult to believe that your results were unvarying, you are an accomplished recording engineer, a professional voice-over talent and you are using top of the line pop filters; the Popper Stopper filter is a good pop filter too regardless of its price, it’s not as good as the Pauly but it should do the job.
To clarify things, I bought the Pauly because it is the best pop filter money can buy and works, not because Don Lafontaine used it; I was obviously joking “LOL".
IMHO if an individual can afford condenser microphones like the ones I mentioned, spending $199 (Pauly’s current price) for the best pop filter is not a big deal, even for the subtle advantage of “no sonic degradation”.
I agree with you that each voice is different and also that people should not buy gear based on price or which famous person uses it, but the sound of the consonants P, T, and any other plosive consonant has nothing to do with the voice, it has to do with “articulation”: how we move our lips and tongue to articulate vowels and consonants.
A plosive sound will always cause a "popping sound" when hits a microphone diaphragm, regardless of the type of voice or gender of the performer.
The sound is, in essence, "air beaten", pop filters are intended to reduce or eliminate popping sounds caused by the mechanical impact of “fast-moving air” hitting a microphone, especially condenser ones.
A good pop filter, regardless of its price and or brand, should be good for any popping sound created by any human voice when used correctly - including those popping sounds created by you “your voice”.
Happy New Year!
Out of curiosity, what do you consider "the correct distance" from a pop filter?
“A” (not “the”) “correct distance” from the pop filter, would be the one that works for what’s being recorded.
You did a test recording a spoken word (voice-over), for this application, the distance of the mouth from the pop filter should be at least two inches from the pop filter for an intimate voice-over read, and, from four to five inches for energetic types of read.
In regards of “a” (not “the”) “correct distance” of the Pop filter from the microphone, I would recommend placing the pop filter two to four inches from the microphone, never less than two inches from the microphone.
Very similar distances to the ones you said you used.
In order for these kinds of screen-type pop filters to be effective, the mouth should be about four to six inches from the microphone. I am not a musician or an expert in music recording but I would say that these distances should work to record singing voice and the singer should sing farther away from the microphone and the pop filter for high-energy songs.
Nowadays the Pauly comes with different types of mountings, one of them is the one that attaches to the microphone using an adjustable rubber band that is attached to a metal piece that has two holes to screw the pop filter, one hole is at about two inches from the microphone and the other one at about three inches from the microphone. That gives us a clear idea of what Mr. Hilmar Pauly thinks are two optimum distances to place the pop filter from the microphone.
I am sure that you already know all I have mentioned above 🙂
Thanks for the clarification. Always willing to have different points of view.
Thanks Ken, for the great demonstration. I've used tons of pop filters in the past, and am ultimately still searching for the best one. From all of the reviews I've read about the Pauly Ton so far, I would have expected much better performance. I was this close to purchasing one, until I heard your soundfiles. I've been using the Stedman's for a while now, and from my ears, they're the most effective that I've found so far, but I'm not happy that saliva, spittle, spray, whatever you want to call it, can find its way through the Stedman's small holes, and into/onto my microphones capsules. I work in a radio broadcast environment, where we/I encourage talent to get right on the mic, so I need something that works for my particularly unique application. I use a lot of pop filters between 9 radio broadcast studios, so that kind of eliminates the Pete's Place Blast Pad (@ $300 ea.). I guess I'll keep searching, but I'll next be looking at the Hakan P110.
Thanks for the reply, Dave! I'd be really interested if you come up with a pop filter that is significantly better than the standard ~$20 ones. Best of luck!
I can hear clearly more of the high frequencies in sample B than in A. However, I'm not sure if the difference is really the popfilter. The problem is that the timbre of the voice is always gonna be slightly different. Even if you move your head just a tiny bit, it will affect the sound, so in order to really know the effect of the pop filter, you'd need a large number of takes and compare their average frequency spectrum. I'm here because I discovered that my popfilter takes away up to 3 dB at some frequencies and interference with reflections off the mounting has an increadible effect on the high frequencies. Still it was not possible for me to spot the difference initially, as takes would vary much more in quality. Only when comparing the best takes with each other, it's as if something opens up without the filter.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’m on an iPhone or what, but use the Pauly since you have it. Pretty incredible difference in sound and plosives. Great voice over tone.
I don't have it anymore. I returned it because it didn't work (to my ears anyway, nor my wife's) any better than the popper stopper - at least on our voices.
I found the result quite clear
The Pop Filter A sounded quite harsh to me
The Pop Filter B was a much nicer sound indeed.
I did not cheat I looked at the results afterward.
I do quite a bit of Audio recording in my life.
Great you have these on the web.