I have some corn cobs that have the filter option and have tried the medico filters and balsa ones. The medico paper filters tend to get a bit messy and goopy after a bowl while the balsa filters work WAY better and really don’t impede the taste. For me the balsa filters keep the smoke dry and you can get 2 or three uses and they don’t get goopy when you’re done. I generally do a 1 and done with them since they really aren’t that expensive and only really use them on aromatics.
Which is still a feature on Falcon pipes (coil of pipe cleaner in the aluminum bottom) and a good one as well. Effective moisture trap, no I’ll effects on flavor.Alongside Issac's last point about pipe cleaners and airway cleanliness, one big difference between the balsa and the paper filters (besides materials), is that a balsa absorbs from the outside in, while a paper element absorbs from the inside out. And unlike a raw balsa, good paper filters have a film outer shell, trapping most of that slop in the element.
What I've found is that difference does slightly affect the cleanliness of the stem filter chamber, with the papers leaving a little less than a balsa to mop out later. YMMV.
As to pipe cleaners themselves acting as filters, that was a feature in one old model that we covered over at the Codger Cabin, the Smokemaster in which a pipe cleaner, bent and inserted aside an aluminum condensing rail in the stem, acted as a moisture absorber.