Ambient and reflected sound can be a real nuisance when you’re recording in a studio or in front of a live audience. However, using a reflection filter or microphone isolation shield will block this extraneous noise and keep it from ruining your sound. Reflection filters come in handy when you’re using a highly sensitive microphone on acoustic and vocal tracks. And they’re especially important when you’re recording in a noisy environment.
Primarily, a reflection filter provides a sound-deadening foam screen behind your microphone that blocks out environmental noise. Some models also wrap partially around your mic and this design blocks any unwanted noise from entering.
Ambient sound from the environment is a problem that many performers face. There are quite a few scenarios in which a reflection filter will make a real difference in the quality of your recordings. A few professional models earned a reputation for their quality over the years, but you could even make your own reflection filter if you’re on a tight budget.
Why You Need a Microphone Filter
You want your hard work to shine when you’re finally ready to record. And you don’t want your costly studio time wasted with multiple takes due to ambient noise from your surroundings. If you’re working from a home studio, it’s even more important to have a microphone filter. Even in the most carefully constructed home studio, noise from other rooms can carry from a variety of sources. The sounds from heating and cooling vents and plumbing pipes can carry from one part of a building to another. A sensitive microphone will also pick up sound vibrations from footsteps or closing doors. These vibrations will certainly affect the quality of your home studio recordings.
Many artists record videos to post to social media to promote themselves. If you’re recording videos of your performance in front of an audience, a reflection filter on your microphone is a must-have. They’ll block out much of the noise from the crowd. Every musician loves an appreciative audience. However, that applause can result in background noise on your music videos. And that can be off-putting to potential fans. Most of them want to hear you, not your audience. When recording live performances, whether audio or video, a reflection filter on your microphone lets you enjoy the applause without so much of it ending up on your music video.
How Reflection Filters Work
Reflection filters effectively preserve the clarity of your voice as you record yourself by blocking unwanted sounds from jumping into the mix from behind or around the microphone you are using. The way that these types of filters function is by erecting a physical barrier between the microphone and all areas that unwanted sound can originate from.
Typically, a sturdy aluminum frame fits directly onto your microphone stand and holds a number of acoustic foam panels that help to hold back unwanted noise vibrations as they move through surrounding air. In addition to blocking out incoming noise from various directions, these filters also help to completely stop localized echoing of your vocals while you sing and speak. This drastically improves recorded sound quality overall by limiting the number of confounding reverberations occurring at once in the microphone’s small and limited recording space. Reflection filters are also usually quite easy to carry and set up.
What Kind of Reflection Filter Do You Need
Too often, the question of what equipment is the best for your situation comes down to your budget. Ranging from around $60 to $80 each for a mid-range model, the good news is several reflection filters are on the market to fit your wallet.
With this in mind, your recording environment will likely be the second consideration. If you do most of your recording in a home studio, portability might not be your top priority. If you’re on the road and recording promotional videos, you’ll want to choose a lightweight model.
Another crucial variable is the noise level in your recording environment. For this reason, several reflection filters have diffuser panels on the back. These panels don’t just block noise from entering your microphone, they diffuse and reflect the sound away from it. A flat panel on the back might be adequate for recording in the studio, but if you’re using your microphone filter primarily for recording live performances, a model with a diffuser panel will yield better results.
Another factor to consider is the configuration of your current equipment. Although most reflection filters come with hardware that adapts to a range of mic stand sizes, make sure that the one you choose secures to your existing stand solidly.
Popular Reflection Filters for Your Mic
Take the above four factors into consideration when choosing a reflection filter. An assessment of your budget, your recording environment, the ambient noise level involved, and your current equipment will result in a list of must-have features for any mic filter you purchase.
A reflection filter is an investment in the quality of your sound, and many popular models offer good value. Most of these models are well-priced and suitable for home studios and live gigs. On the high end, the sE Electronics model provides the highest isolation levels for a professional grade studio or for home studios that don’t have any acoustical dampening.
Monoprice Microphone Isolation Shield
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This black, foldable model has a 3/8-inch threaded mount, a high-density noise absorbing foam face, and a vented backplate. All constructed of sturdy and stable metal, some of the Monoprice features include a dual clamp mount that attaches to mic stands or booms up to 1.25 inches in diameter. However, note that the unit’s overall weight of 11.5 ounces may make it necessary to provide a counterweight for longer booms. It also comes with a 3/8-inch to 5/8-inch adapter for mounting on a stand. When opened up, this reflection filter measures about 23.5 by 15.4 inches, with a depth of 11 inches.
Griffin Studio Microphone Soundproofing Acoustic Foam Panel
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This Griffin model is an affordable and high-quality microphone isolation shield ideal for voice recording. The Griffin shield comes with five panels to surround your microphone with 2-inch thick, high-density noise absorbing foam. Griffin designed the Studio model to act like a mini recording booth, which makes it perfect for podcasts, narration, and other voice acting work.
One of its most outstanding features allows you to adjust the outer panels. This lets you block noise from specific locations. It also allows you to change the mic filter angle to accommodate two or more users. This feature comes into play for podcast interviews and vocal duets. Another benefit is its adaptability to a wide range of mic stand sizes, from 0.6 inches to 1-1/8 inches. The adjustable panels open up to 6 by 16 by 13 inches, but you can fold the unit up for portability. However, at 12 pounds, this reflection filter is best reserved for studio work with a desktop-mounted microphone stand.
Marantz Professional Sound Shield Live
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Constructed of sound-deadening EVA foam, the Marantz Sound Shield Live is made of one heavy-duty curved metal panel and attaches to any standard size microphone stand. Weighing just over 3 pounds and measuring around 17 by 12 by 11 inches, it is one of the more portable isolation shields. The back panel isn’t just stylish; it also works as a diffuser. It will reflect the sound of noisy venues, like festivals and nightclubs, away from your microphone. The deep curve that isolates your voice and the diffuser back panel combine to make it an excellent choice for recording live performances.
Neewer Portable Microphone Acoustic Isolation Shield
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Made of a lightweight metal alloy, the Neewer microphone isolation shield features sturdy acoustic foam and measures 16.7 by 12 by 6.1 inches. At just over 2.5 pounds, its light weight makes it perfect for taking on the road. With the diffuser back panel, it makes the ideal portable reflection filter for live gigs. If you’re continually lugging equipment around, you’ll appreciate its compact size. Neewer provides 1-3/8-inch and 1-5/8-inch adapters as well as mounting brackets and screws for mounting on a range of mic stands.
sE Electronics Reflection Filter Pro Portable Vocal Booth
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On the high end sits the sE Electronics Reflection Filter Pro Portable Vocal Booth, when only the best will do. It features six layers of protection to absorb any ambient noise. This professional-grade reflection filter provides the protection of an entire sound booth at a comparatively affordable cost.
If you’re recording at home with no other soundproofing, the $200 price tag may be considerably less than installing acoustical dampening. This model is a particularly good choice when your home studio has to serve other functions due to space limitations. Weighing in at just 8 pounds, this reflection filter protects an area 14.5 by 12 and is 8-inches deep. The sE PRO provides you with the best protection available outside of a sound booth.
How to Build a Microphone Isolation Booth
On the other hand, if you’re really on a tight budget and only have a few dollars to spend, you can build a small isolation booth for very little money. This mini sound booth is great for recording narration, podcasts, or even overdubbing video. You can also use it to record vocals for layering during post-production when the studio is booked up, and you’re on a deadline.
Should You Purchase a Reflection Filter for Your Mic?
The reflection filter is a subject of continuing and sometimes heated debate among home voice actors, podcast hosts, and home studio owners. Some insist that a microphone isolation shield gives them a crisper and purer sound. Others, however, maintain that simply hanging a blanket behind your microphone provides the same results. So the question is, is a microphone reflection filter really worth the money?
The answer depends on how bright you want your vocals to shine during your performance. It doesn’t matter if you’re recording your next big hit, producing jingles for a client, or showing off your talents in a live music video. You should take every advantage you can to elevate your performance and leave every listener with a good impression of your talents. Don’t let ambient noise, or even audience appreciation, drown them out.