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I've done a fair bit of podcast recording using a headset that has a small integrated foam windscreen over the mic. I never thought much about it, until we recently purchased some wireless headsets that do not have windscreens over the mic -- and I could swear I've heard a lot more breathing noises on calls as a result.

So, I bought these aftermarket foam windscreens to put over the mic boom on the headset:

headset / lavalier microphone windscreens

I received it, installed it, and did a little on and off testing while breathing directly on on the mic in exaggerated fashion using the loopback skype call service.

It indeed does make a big difference; without the windscreen the breath noises are very loud and peak-y. With the windscreen, you can still hear the breathing, but it goes from "loud shrill uncomfortable white noise" to "oh, someone is breathing".

Given my positive test results, I am wondering why any microphone would ship without a windscreen. It's just an inexpensive piece of foam that seems very effective in my (limited) testing, so is there any downside I'm not understanding that would cause manufacturers to skip adding a windscreen to their microphones?

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I don't have any headset to test this with anymore, so consider it anecdotal; but headsets that have a bad curve and tend to brush up against beard grain/stubble can still cause a really obnoxious, and occasionally worse, scratching sound. Though perhaps no worse than what it would do to the bare microphone. Completely unrelated; if you're getting any sort of breathing bleed, you should position your microphone better. Level with, and away from, your nose. –  VxJasonxV Aug 29 '11 at 23:56
    
"breathing directly on on the mic in exaggerated fashion" -- I'll report tomorrow how that affected my dreams tonight. –  jmfsg Aug 29 '11 at 23:57

3 Answers 3

A lot of mikes do ship with windscreens (since they are quite inexpensive), the ones that don't often aren't for voice - you don't need a windscreen on a mike amplifying a guitar, for example.

Traditional foamy windscreens wear out too - the foam breaks down, they get full of gunk and quite nasty. A really dirty foamy can actually affect recording quality, blocking out some of the high end.

There are also alternatives to windscreens for vocal recording as well, such as pop filters and "dead cats"... what you use depends on the microphone you have, what you're trying to record and the conditions you're recording in.

A pop filter is a better choice for a large diaphragm microphone meant for broadcast quality recording - and heck, they make double pop filters if you're really poppy!

microphone pop filter

The "dead cat" or "blimp" or "windmuff" type of microphone windscreens are meant to block out outdoor wind noise. They create a dead air space around the suspended microphone, taking a lot more wind noise out than a foamy could.

dead cat microphone windscreen

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+1 on the dead cat. They can make a tremendous difference when recording outside. –  Joe McMahon Sep 1 '11 at 23:09

It indeed makes a difference.

I'm not understanding that would cause manufacturers to skip adding a windscreen to their microphones?

Maybe they want you to buy extra accessories?

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I bet this is the truth! +1 –  Rory Alsop Nov 10 '11 at 10:40

For a fixed headset to use in the office, especially in a hot-desk environment I wouldn't see any need in a windscreen, as the more important point is positioning of the mic away from your breath. I have mine just to the side of my mouth - close, but no wind noise.

For a mobile phone headset for use outside - you definitely need something!

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