Audio engineers and musicians use microphone preamps as an essential part of their equipment. Whether you’re recording vocals or instruments, a good mic preamp will make the sound much better quality.
The best microphone preamp should have phantom power for condenser mics, line in and out jacks to connect your other devices, low noise and distortion levels, high output level capability for recording loud sounds like drums without distortion from distortion overloading the input circuitry.
If you are looking for a new microphone preamp, then this article is just what you need!
Mic Pre Amp Buyers Guide
What Is A Pre Amp?
A microphone preamp is a critical yet often overlooked piece of equipment. This little box sits in between your microphone and mixer or digital audio interface. Microphone preamps offer multiple options for sound shaping, including phantom power, compressor, and EQ, limiting. Phantom power is a 48v DC that allows condenser microphones to operate with the correct voltage.
If you already have a mic, then you will need a preamp to use it correctly in your audio setup. If your microphones don’t come with one, or if they are old and the preamp has become obsolete, then you may want to consider buying an external preamp for future recording needs. Most common condenser microphones accept 48V phantom power, but dynamic microphones do not.
Preamps are something that may be overlooked due to their lack of necessity for most home studios. However, a proper preamp can add a dynamic element to your recordings that you won’t get otherwise.
Why And When Do You Need A Microphone Preamp?
Suppose you are looking for more out of your audio (be it voice or instrument), then you will probably need a preamp. Having an external pre-amplifier can help you get a more dynamic sound, giving more room for editing and mixing down the road when recording vocals.
If you are looking for a richer, fuller sound from your electric guitars or bass, a pre-amplifier will give you more control over your pickups.
What Are The Different Types Of Microphone PreAmps?
There are three main types of microphone preamps: active, passive, and direct injection. They each offer their unique features for recording quality sound.
Active microphone: Functional units require external power from a battery or a power supply, while passive units run solely off the voltage of the microphone.
Direct injection: If you are looking for a straightforward, basic unit, then a direct injection preamp may suit your current setup. This standard-design doesn’t offer any EQ controls and is much cheaper than other preamps on the market.
Passive microphone: A passive pre-amplifier is a common choice for many home studios since it’s cheap, can be powered by phantom power or an external DC supply, and provides low noise.
All in all, mic preamps are one of the best pieces of recording equipment out there. Whether you are looking to boost your vocals, mic your electric guitars or generally improve the sound quality of your audio, a preamp is worth looking into.
What Is A Channel Strip On A Mic Preamp?
A channel strip doesn’t necessarily refer to an actual piece of equipment, but rather it refers to all the available controls that come with most mic preamps. The standard channel strip includes gain control, 48v phantom power, and an equalizer.
How Do You Determine Which Microphone Preamp Is Best?
There are many different kinds of mic preamps on the market, each offering its own unique set of features for recording quality sound. If your current setup contains a microphone or two that don’t have a preamp built-in, there are a few things you should consider before buying an external preamp.
If your main focus is vocal recording, you will look for a preamp with a high-quality preamp channel strip. Make sure the unit has 48v phantom power and a high input gain to provide maximum sound quality in the end.
When choosing an external pre-amplifier, the most important thing is making sure it can handle the microphones you are currently using. Ensure the preamp can accept phantom power if your microphones require it and have a high enough gain to provide adequate sound.
Obsessing over specifics like this can become very complicated and time-consuming for most home studios; however, there are many good resources that will help choose the right piece of equipment for your needs.
If you are looking for a pre-amplifier, check out our review section to find one that meets your standards and needs. Be sure to check out the forums as well for advice and recommendations from other users!
Best Microphones Preamp 2021
Manley VoxBox preamp is essential for many engineers. It has a beautiful preamp section, a limiter, de-esser, and an EQ. This is a fantastic solution for anyone who wants great sound in one box. This unit is stunning to look at and record, thanks to Manley’s superb US-made craftsmanship, meticulous design, and attention to detail. It’s been a pleasure to work with you every time.
- Great midrange character
- It is compatible with the signal path.
- It is not as robust as other best microphone preamps
Professional vocalists and sound engineers are best suited for this product. VoxBox is a high-quality tube mic preamp that has received rave reviews from audio professionals and home recording enthusiasts. This is not an entry-level product.
Solid State Logic Alpha VHD
Solid State is a small company based in Oxford, England. They are focused on quality and not quantity. They have some of the most innovative technology on the market, and their units are among the top.
Solid State gear has been used by many of the most prominent names in music, such as Depeche Mode and Blink 182. They are often featured on TV and in broadcast news.
The Alpha VHD features some of the most striking features from their back catalog, including their flagship Duality console. Solid State Logic’s industry-renowned VHD Pre Circuits are featured in the Alpha VHD.
Variable harmonic drive circuits can also produce rich harmonic distortion. Solid State unit is packed full of unique and amazing features.
Your sound will be flawless and perfect, thanks to the preamp. The Alpha VHD has a remarkable ability to achieve gain levels up to 75db, which is impressive. The Solid State Logic mic pre-amp’s high gain range does not need to be used to unleash the unit’s quality. The low gain side will bring out every layer of your sound with a warm, analog warmth.
Other notable features include the 48v Phantom Power capability, mic/line xlr input and output, and hi-Z switches.
The front panel of the preamp has instrument and line inputs with impedance detection, and on the back are XLR inputs. Also featured is phantom power to adequately power condenser microphones.
This best mic preamp is for those who want the best. This preamp is robust and highly professional, but it also embodies quality.
- Professional preamp
- Innovative and powerful technology that can be implemented
- Reputation in the industry
- The VHD circuit cannot be bypassed.
- No xlr output for headphones.
This product is truly top-notch. Professionals are looking for the best. The Alpha VHD is the perfect tool to help you stand out from the rest and take your skills to the next level.
Universal Audio SOLO/610 1099
The Universal Audio SOLO/610, another standalone lunchbox chassis, is modeled on the Putnam 610 pre-‘s highly coveted because of their stunning tube coloration. It has a low cut feature, phantom, and variable input impedance settings, as well as D.I. capabilities. Input and phase are reversing.
This preamplifier has a single channel mic with tube circuitry and phase reverse. The ground lift allows you to disconnect the ground loop from the electronics nearby and eliminate any buzz or hum.
While the low-cut switch will take care of most of this, you might not want to use it, depending on what you are recording. This extra option is excellent.
- Due to its rugged housing, it is highly durable.
- Because of its small size, it is ideal for travel.
- Flexible tonality controls
- It could use some EQ adjustments or a compressor.
- It is costly considering its size.
The SOLO/610 is a highly colorful option for this price range.
Grace Design M101
Grace Design M101 is an impressive company that has grown from humble beginnings. Michael Grace started his own business in 1990, designing custom-made audio equipment for a small, niche clientele. Grace Design was founded in 1994 by Michael’s brother Eben. They quickly became known for their high-quality, high-performance mic preamps, which outperformed the rest.
Grace Design mic pre-amp has experienced steady growth over the years. Grace Design is now a well-respected company that offers a wide range of products featured in many studios and gig venues.
Grace Design is well-known for its high-quality, reliable mic preamps. The M101 preamp is no different. The M101 mic pre-amp features a steel case and an aluminum faceplate. It is crafted with passion, knowledge, and experience.
The M101’s level of functionality is one of its most striking and remarkable features. It features an instrument input, a 48v Phantom power switch, gains trim, ribbon and ribbon controls, filterability, and a regular power switch.
This best microphone preamp has a great sound. This preamp can deliver a 75db total gain boost, yet it is spotless. You can read many customer reviews about this product. One of the main themes is the absence of unwanted sounds or hisses, even at the highest ends.
Record using the M101, and then listen to the playback. This is all that the product needs. Preamplifiers with a lower quality preamplifier and pad front panel don’t stack as well as individual parts, sounds, and instruments. Each piece will shine with the required drive but without clipping or unwanted output.
- Robust construction and stylish design
- Preamp with high functional features
- Amazing sound enhancement capability
- The m101 has no complaints, which is impressive considering there are other more affordable and versatile options.
This one is a great choice. It looks fantastic, and we love the solid construction, sleek design, and functionality. This preamp is about sound quality. This is one of the best microphone preamps for professionals because it can reach levels of 75 dB while still producing a clean, crisp sound.
Universal Audio 710 Twin Finity
Universal Audio’s 710 Twin-Finity mic preamp is a great deal. The best of both worlds is available with solid and tube tones. You can even mix them.
Twin-Finity features a microphone input, balanced lead, and instrument input. This allows for vocals, guitar, and other instruments. The 710 includes a Class A FET mic preamp, solid-state, and a Class A tube mic preamp.
The tone blending knob allows you to get the best of both worlds, with tube and solid-state tones. Dual gain controls on the 710 Twin-Finity allow you to increase your audio’s stage while adding vintage color.
Twin-Finity allows circuit blending, giving you a wide range of tones and colors. The 710 Twin-Finity also features a gain control, a level control, a high pass filter, and a -15 dB pad. It may surprise you to learn that all this is contained in a compact half-rack unit.
- It is lightweight and can be stored in a rack.
- This allows you to mix and match many colors.
- It is versatile and yet simple to use.
- It is not very durable or rugged.
- The back of the unit has mixed inputs.
Universal Audio’s 710 Twin-Finity preamp is excellent if you need a wide range of tones. This best mic preamp for guitarists, mainly because of the creamy saturation and drive. Vocalists will find their voices sound better with the 710. The 710 Twin-Finity is recommended to anyone looking for a small preamp that can be used in the recording studio and traveling.
Focusrite is part of the Focusrite Group, which includes 4 exciting brands: RedNet, Novation, Focusrite, and Amplify. These impressive and fast-growing companies are making a solid presence in the audio engineering and sound equipment software niches.
They have the best gear for musicians and engineers, whether you are an amateur or professional. It is no surprise that the OctoPre is their most popular preamp. It has a multi-channel of exceptional quality, which has won industry awards.
OctoPre’s impressive sound boost can be attributed to its built-in ADAT (light pipe output), which can support ranges up to 110db. Its anti-clip technology is another reason. It will not lose its sound even when it is exposed to extreme levels of output. This mic pre-amp is an excellent choice for drums as it features 10db pads that prevent overdrive. Click here to find Overdrive Pedals.
The unit’s generous distribution of LED input meters is another impressive feature. This unit is simple and makes life much easier, especially in complex environments like bars, clubs, and concert halls.
- 8 channel-preamp of award-winning quality
- A high-quality piece of equipment
- A precise and useful LED display
We agree with other reviews that this preamp is five stars. Multi-channel is plenty and allows for a lot of flexibility and maneuverability. The sound quality is excellent, and it can handle even the most extreme output levels. This product is of the highest quality.
Rupert Neve Design 511
Although it may sound strange, the title is accurate. The Rupert Neve Designs 511 mic pre-amp sounds like the 5017 mic preamps but in a small lunchbox-sized unit. The Rupert Neve Designs 511 preamp is the most recent model in the 500 Series.
The 511 combines all the best parts of the 5017 mic preamps with the 5012 high pass filter and Silk/Texture circuits from the Portico II. The 511 is a true workhorse and sounds great thanks to all of these components.
You can hear the Neve sound with the preamp. Rupert Neve designed the Silk tone shaping, which adds a warm, vintage sound to recordings. You can choose from warm, rich sounds or something more contemporary and clear.
The 511 includes a sweepable filter, which was first used on the Neve 5012 preamp. High pass filters are great for eliminating rumble and reducing muddiness in your signal. They can also be used to make precise adjustments.
The preamp 511 also features trim, phantom, polarity reverse, and gain controls. This preamp does not have inputs. It connects to a mixing station but can be connected to an audio interface or computer with a Neve 10 series module.
- Silk features allow for a wide range of color options and tones.
- Combines the best parts of Neve gear into one.
- It is about the same size as a lunchbox so that it can be carried around easily.
- This preamp does not have microphone inputs.
- Use only with a preamp channel rack module or mixing console.
Rupert Neve Designs’ 511 is a portable, amazing-sounding unit. It is recommended for larger studios, engineers, and producers who are more experienced. The 511 must be used in conjunction with a single-channel rack or console.
The 511 can also be used with a computer via the rack unit. If you don’t have $1000+, it may seem not worth it to pay that much just for the Neve tone.
Focusrite ISA One
The original introduction of The ISA One design in the 2000s was the ISA 110 topology. It included a Lundahl L1538 Transformer and Zobel network.
The ISA One transforms Forte’s sound into a desktop preamp.
It has a mic/line/instrument input selector and an input impedance selector that can match any mics. You can also use it to monitor latency-free via insert send/return and cue mix.
- The ISA One’s sound is described by many users as taking a blanket off of your mic. Many people loved the unit’s clarity and frequency balance. Now, users are reporting that it affects their vocals and instruments such as guitar, bass, and drums.
- It is important to note that the unit does not EQ your sound but rather enhances musical sounding harmony. This adds polish and depth without making the sound too bright or shrill.
- People who don’t see any benefit from the gear and decide it isn’t worth the cost are those with negative reviews.
- Other comments indicated that purchasing a new sound system was not an upgrade to their existing great gear.
The ISA One is an excellent option if you are looking to get along with big rigs. Many users have praised the ISA One for delivering a significant improvement in recording quality.
However, some users who already have great rigs reported a slight decrease in quality. If you are one of these users and would like to make harmonically more decadent tracks, get the ISA One.
This is the second review of an ART product. ART is well-known for producing top-quality equipment at an affordable price. They are known for their reliability and strength.
TubeOpto is high-quality and robust. The TubeOpto has eight channels, making it ideal for racking at the center. Many sound engineers strive to add great tube sounds to their output. This is true for both professionals and amateurs.
This comes with a high price tag, as a quality tube mic preamp can be pretty expensive. ART Tube-Opto, an ART product, has wholly discredited this assumption.
Single-channel has 24-bit ADAT digital audio quality. Eight tube mic preamps accompany them. Each singel channel supports gain and volume controls as well as low-frequency roll-off switches. This unit packs a punch and offers a wide range of functionality.
The sleek and robust design features a metal faceplate and casing. Additional features include two hi-z line inputs and eight TRS balanced outputs that are one-quarter inch. ART Tube product is exceptional and very affordable.
- Professional mic pre-amp
- Multifunctionality and versatility
- Amazing value for money
If you want your money going further and you’re looking for a preamp that will be the heart of your setup, this unit is for you. TubeOpto delivers the same quality output as more expensive mic preamps, but with a tube sound. This is a top-quality product at a great price.
PreSonus DigiMax 8-Channel
This is the second PreSonus product we have reviewed. It shows the quality of the equipment they create and the speed at which they are establishing themselves. This is especially true when you consider PreSonus was founded in 1995, while the other companies listed on this list were established in the ’80s.
PreSonus releases have a strong reputation for being reliable, low-cost mic preamps that do the job. The PreSonus Digimax D8 is no exception. This unit is robust and reliable and could support the needs of a whole-home recording studio.
Its eight channels and wide dynamic range are the reason. The PreSonus is an excellent value for money and a real bang for your buck, even considering its price tag.
This is often used via a light pipe, with the D8 performing all the heavy lifting. In larger configurations, the quality of this preamp shines through. It can also support most microphone types due to its built-in phantom power.
It can be used to power a PA system and has variable input. As we have already stated, the preamp’s phantom power can be a problem for different microphone types. The switch is located on the back of the unit, making it difficult to access. If rack-mounted, it is difficult to reach as it is located on the back of your unit.
- A versatile and powerful unit
- Preamps of high quality
- Fantastic value for your money
- It works great in the middle of a more extensive setup.
A fantastic unit that is powerful, sturdy, and versatile. It is an excellent choice for your home studio and can support various systems, even at a modest price. This unit is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a powerful, reliable model at a low price.
This was the highest-rated condenser microphone preamp under $300 at the time of publication.
The versatile mic preamp DBX 286s has built-in vocal processing capabilities.
It begins with a solid-state mic preamp with variable gain, phantom power, and an 80Hz high pass filter.
Its beneficial compression, expander gate, and de-esser sections are what make it stand out. They also allow for flexibility in other preamps and provide convenient but profound control over the sound, making it suitable for various vocal styles and musical instruments.
- Many people report that the preamp can do everything, from podcasting to recording at home to performing live and that it does it very well.
- Remarkably, the preamp’s sound quality has received a lot of praise for its affordability.
- Its value for money is a strong point. This makes it affordable for beginners while still offering enough features for more experienced users.
- Some users complained about the inability to select input and output options.
- This prompted some users to modify or replace their cables so that the unit works with their existing gear.
The DBX 286s is a reliable, versatile, and affordable mic preamp that you can rely on.
PreSonus BlueTube DDP
PreSonus is a relatively new company compared to the other names on this list. Established in 1995, PreSonus quickly rose to prominence in the audio equipment and live sound software and hardware industry. They are well-known for their preamps and software, signal processors, and mixers, monitors, speakers, and mixers.
The Blue-Tube drive is stylish with its eye-catching blue faceplate. It also has illuminated input levels meters. The vacuum tube preamp is 12AX7, and it supports a solid-state gain stage, making it a dual-path.
PreSonus Blue-Tube preamp is an excellent choice for anyone looking for something versatile and a true all-rounder, as it has mic and instrument inputs.
This also features integrated tube drive saturation control, an 80hz high pass filter, and a minus 20db pad. It also has a reverse polarity switch.
This Blue-tube preamp is not a top-of-the-line, innovative, and specialist unit. It is, however, a simple, great unit that provides versatility and decent functionality, which is not something you would find in multiple best mic preamps.
- Variable functionality
- Stylish design
Overall, this preamp is the best choice for anyone who wants to cover a wide range of bases using a single-channel mic. We like that it is a get the job done product. This preamp may be proper for you if you don’t care about being the best on the market and you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Cloud Microphones CL-1
Cloud is a great company that has a rich and long history. Cloud microphones CL is known for its commitment to using environmentally-friendly packaging and manufacturing processes. They strongly believe in American-made products.
The CL-1 Mic Activator (also known as CloudLifter) is a truly outstanding product. It is remarkable that Cloud clearly had a purpose and an end goal when they created CL-1 and have undoubtedly successfully reached it.
This product is a combination of balance, finesse, and professionalism. Cloud wanted to solve a problem with CloudLifter that plagues many preamps. This is how you can increase the sound output without adding unwanted noise.
Cloud has solved this problem. The CL-1 can be used with almost all microphones and can increase your output by over 25 dB using Phantom Power.
The CL-1 is ideal for all passive dynamic microphones (click to see the leading guide) and recording into DAW interfaces. It can also clean up loud amps and bring out lower-end sounds such as acoustic.
- This adds significant gain and power to your output
- It is hushed and reduces noise.
- Compatible with many systems
Cloud is a great company. The CL-1 is a great product. Rarely do you find a product that solves such a complex problem in such a well-balanced way? It is a must-have purchase for audio engineers and enthusiasts who are interested in sound engineering.
The Avalon VT-7737sp channel strip is a classic that does wonders for vocals. It adds warmth and color to the mix while also providing a compressor and EQ of top quality. These are a must-have for home recording that specializes in R&B, rap, and pop. It’s a great bass guitar D.I., and it’s a common practice.
The desktop Avalon M5 is just the preamp from a single channel strip. The price difference is not worth it, as most of the cost remains due to the chassis and preamp. However, the standalone option is available.
A friend asked me once to keep his 737 strips during his move. It stayed with me for six months, and We almost wept when We had to return it.
It did a lot more for me than I could have imagined, mainly when we used it in a voice booth. This is a must-have item for anyone who has a studio. I will be purchasing it soon.
If we were playing bass or keyboard live, we’d do this and mix it before we let the sound guy take over. Vocals are also possible.
- This adds warmth and brightness to instruments and vocals.
- It includes a compressor and EQto allow you to adjust the tone and control dynamically.
- To enable stereo tracking, two VT preamp units may be linked together.
- It can cause EMF interference in other gear, such as guitar amps because it has a high-output circuit but low noise.
- It is costly and not recommended for those with limited budgets.
This is one of the best mic preamps for professional and advanced producers. It can be used in a studio, whether it’s a home studio or pro studio.
Behringer Ultragain Pro MIC2200
Behringer is a company that doesn’t need an introduction. They were established in 1989 and are one of the most respected musical equipment manufacturers on the globe. They will be well-known to almost every musician, recording artist, and audio enthusiast.
The MIC2200 is renowned for its professional quality. It is the best choice when you need the most natural sound and the highest level of clarity. It doesn’t matter if you use the console or DAT recorders; this will significantly improve your output.
Although it only has two lines, it is pretty quiet. The 12AX7 vacuum tube, which is built into the unit, adds warmth to the mix. The vacuum tube mic can be connected to any sound source. This will ensure that the sound is clear and crisp, and distinct in the overall mix.
The unit is functionally excellent, with two fully adjustable eqs covering bandwidth, level, and center frequency. Mixing is easy with the 12 segments LED that allows for precise cutting.
- High quality, professional preamp
- This unit is one of the quietest on the market
- This adds warmth, depth, and clarity to your output
- Excellent LED display
An outstanding product. Ultragain Pro is a quiet unit that provides clarity and warmth. It’s not easy to find one like this. This is a top-of-the-line product that should be mandatory for anyone who values professionalism and quality in their mixes, as many reviews will confirm, another great release by Behringer.
Do I Need A Mic Preamp?
The audio signal from microphones is weak, so they need a preamp to translate it. The microphone’s small output voltage makes the work of translating sound into an amplified line-level signal much more difficult for your audio interface and home recording software – which needs that more robust Line Level input to produce high-quality recordings.
That means if you want the best possible sound quality out of your mic with no noise or unwanted background sounds, using a suitable microphone pre-amplifier will do wonders!
What Is More Critical Mic Or Preamp?
Some engineers will argue that buying a good microphone is the better investment when you’re just starting. This argument makes sense if you’ve never been in an engineering session before, but preamps and equalizers are essential for audio quality!
Do I Need A Mic Preamp If I have A Mixer?
In conclusion, we find that you do not need a preamp if you have a mixing desk. All mixing desks come with some preamplifier built into them to boost the microphone signal up so it can be processed down your chain of cables and sound equipment.
Do you Need A Preamp For Active Speakers?
You can connect your turntable/preamp directly to an ACTIVE speaker for a more dynamic sound. An active speaker is self-powered and does not require anything else, such as an amplifier or stereo system, to work.
Active speakers will always have power cords that are plugged into the wall outlet.
What Is The Difference Between An Amplifier And A Preamplifier?
Amplifiers and preamps are both used to amplify audio signals for different purposes. A preamp boosts a weaker signal path to be sent on a line level, while an amplifier increases the volume of any given input before sending it out to speakers.
Finding a microphone preamp that will suit your needs can be daunting. With so many options available, it isn’t easy to know what you should look for in the first place.
Luckily, we have done some legwork for you and compiled this list of four great products with specific features each one offers that may help make your decision easier.
Hooke Audio hopes our article has helped answer any questions about choosing the best product for your need!
Last update on 2021-09-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API