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Microphones are one of the most critical links in the chain of recording. Skillful placement of microphones is the first step to getting great recordings. 
Just listening to someone sing or speak, you might not notice the intricacies of the human voice. Specifically, there are some syllables that really stand out, especially when they are recorded by microphone. The most troubling syllables are s's, which exhibit sibilance, and plosives, like b's, p's, and t's.
While tackling sibilance is worthy of its own post, it's quite easy to tame plosives. Let's look at the mechanics of plosives when it comes to microphones.
A microphone uses a diaphragm, usually a piece of metal, to register changing air pressure and translate it into electric current. 

Plosive syllables involve a brief, rapid expulsion of air, which a diaphragm can't process gracefully. The impact of that syllable on the diaphragm creates temporarily intense vibrations that microphones turn into distortion.
A vocal recording with plosive issues is marred by muddy booms of distortion that correspond with each plosive. The sound distracts from the quality of the recording, even when every other syllable is clear and smooth.
The solution is to interrupt the wind by using a pop filter. Pop filters are either foam covers for the microphone or a mesh screen that sits between the vocalist's mouth and the microphone. The filter interrupts the plosive wind, dissipating its force, while allowing the important information of the syllable to reach the diaphragm at the same level as other syllables.
It's a simple, elegant solution that takes an amateur sounding recording and immediately takes it several notches closer to pro quality. While foam filters are designed to be used on a specific microphone, a mesh filter is equally useful on all microphones, and is a small investment to really improve the quality of your recordings.
If you've been recording vocals without one, and are wondering how you can improve the recording quality, look no further. Pop filters are standard in professional studios, and even if you don't have the fancy gear that they use, you can get professional grade vocal recordings by using a pop filter.